As we step into Proverbs chapter 3, we see Solomon once again addressing his kids (“my son…”) and us with the benefits of seeking wisdom.
Solomon covers a variety of topics in this group of writings, all with the central theme of seeking after and obtaining wisdom and understanding. For each topic, Solomon addresses the subject, then provides the benefit of following his commands.
Here is a quick overview of the topics for chapter 3:
- Introductory remarks (vv. 1-4)
- overall benefits (vv. 1-2)
- Love and faithfulness (vv. 3-4)
- Faithfulness to the Lord (vv. 5-12)
- Trust in the Lord (vv. 5-6)
- Humility (vv. 7-8)
- Honor (vv. 9-10)
- Enduring discipline (vv. 11-12)
- Blessings and benefits of obtaining wisdom (vv. 13-18)
- Wisdom found in Creation (vv. 19-20)
- Safety and Protection (vv. 21-26)
- Neighborly relations (vv. 27-30)
- Avoiding wickedness (vv. 31-35)
As Solomon begins today’s instruction, he instructs us to put his commands in our hearts (v. 1). This means not just carrying around his instructions in our heads, able to recite them to anyone who asks, but rather, to put them in the very center of our being, to be remembered, practiced in daily life, and shared with others.
Solomon tells us that the benefit of putting these commands in our hearts will “… will prolong your life many years…”. In the English NIV translation, this sounds like one thought. In the Hebrew text, this is actually two thoughts. The first thought, “prolong your life”, is about longevity of life. The second thought, “many years”, is about the fullness of those years, what makes all those years worth living. Solomon then concludes verse 2 with the third benefit “… and bring you peace and prosperity.”, which in the Hebrew text is one word (“shalom”) that covers both.
Verses 3 and 4 are parallels to verses 1 and 2, where Solomon builds and completes the picture of the benefits of obtaining and living out wisdom in our daily lives.
Verses 5 and 6 are the likely the most-quoted verses out of chapter 3. When Solomon says to “Trust in the Lord…”, this means to put our full weight on God – all of our good, all of our bad, our cares, our fears, our worries, everything. Solomon contrasts trusting in the Lord with the opposite, that of leaning (trusting) in our own understanding of life. To trust is to have faith that God will be able to hold us up and sustain us. We put our full trust in a chair to hold us up when we sit down; and so God wants us to fully trust Him with our lives including all our cares and concerns. Solomon makes this comparison to show that God is reliable and can be trusted, and our own understanding of life is not reliable.
Solomon moves on to verses 7 and 8, where he reminds us to not be wise in our own eyes, in our own estimation. Again this is a parallel to verses 5 and 6. Instead, Solomon reminds us to fear the Lord, to honor and respect the Lord, because the Lord has a higher level of wisdom and insight than we in our limited understanding will over have.
Will we always get life correct, or right? No. We live in a fallen world, and we make mistakes and bad choices along the way. Solomon reminds us that God disciplines us because He loves us (vv. 11-12). God’s discipline is not punishment, but correction, to change the course of our lives for the better, to be more like Him.