I wish you all a very happy and fruitful new year, filled with God’s choicest blessings for you that trust in Him with all your heart !
Last week, at the end of the old year 2014, we considered Proverbs chapter 2 which speaks about the blessings that God given wisdom brings into our lives. Here Solomon speaks to his son (1:8,10,15 ;2:1; 3:1,11,21 etc.) – perhaps Rehoboam, who became his successor. Solomon himself was privileged to have received an unusual measure of the gift of knowledge and wisdom from God (2 Chronicles 1: 12). Thus, under the supervision of the Holy Spirit he was able to write down such wisdom from God also for our benefit. I remind you then that this is not Solomon’s own wisdom that is dispensed here. No! He speaks of a wisdom that is given to Him from God, and as such it is absolutely true, infallible, and profound. This godly wisdom is a precious gift. It is the ability to see life as God sees it.
As we face the year of our Lord 2015 I can think of no greater desire on the part of any Christian but to walk in wisdom, making one wise decision after another , and reaping the benefits of wise living as we walk through this year and through this life on our way to the heavenly city . Sadly, sin often gets in the way , and for this reason we ought to be all the more glad that we have a Saviour , who not only forgives us all our sin and foolishness, but who calls and enables us to walk by the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:16), whom He has sent to be with us and in us (Jn. 14:17) and to help us by means of His inspired Word - such as this book of Proverbs.
The contrast to the wise man in Proverbs is the “fool”. We want to avoid his company. Proverbs 13:20 says: “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” The Bible helps us to stay out of harm’s way, if we are willing to embrace and live by its wisdom . Wisdom doesn’t come easy. From chapter 2 we understood that godly wisdom (2:6) comes from the diligent and prayerful searching of the Word of God (the image here is derived from mining – 2:4). May the LORD give you a heart in 2015 to desire the company of the wise, and may you have a heart to diligently follow His teaching and His commandments. The Bible is a book full of wonderful promises.
With this in mind let us consider Proverbs 3 :1-12
In this section we find 5 great promises.
Just a brief word about promises. An unconditional promise says : “I promise to give you a thousand dollars for your birthday!” A conditional promise says, “I will give you a thousand dollars for your birthday, if you do well in your school exams!”
So , note firstly that Bible promises generally have conditions (if… then) attached to them. This is the case also with our text. There are 5 wonderful promises here for you, but they are all attached to conditions.
Secondly, we need to remember that what is promised may not come exactly in those terms. There may be exceptions. However the spiritual reality that lies behind the wonderful things such as long life (3:1,2), the promise of a good reputation and success (3:3,4), the promise of guidance and blessing (3:5,6), the promise of health and strength (3:7,8) and the promise of wealth and abundance (3: 9,10) will generally come to those that obey the Lord Jesus Christ. God is known to be generous. This is the promise even of Christ in the gospels in Matthew 19: 29 where He promises His disciples who have forsaken everything to follow Him: “you will receive a hundredfold, and will inherit eternal life”. Notice, however, that there is a condition attached to their rewards - they leave houses , brothers , sisters, parents, lands for Christ’s sake.
Thirdly, we need to remember that a believer may experience a time of ‘leanness’ or apparent lack of blessing . This may be due to sin or disobedience , in which case God withholds His blessings for the purpose of chastisement, or there may be (as in Job’s case) a time of divine testing when God intends to teach us profound lessons. This may be a time when the believer is sorely afflicted , His life appears to be totally ‘unblessed’ , but not for reason of personal sin, but for the sake of God’s greater glory ( e.g. John 9:3 – the man born blind)
We have established the fact then that God generally makes conditional promises. He attaches His promises to our obedience. John Calvin said it like this: “As God gives Himself to us in His promises, we must give ourselves to Him in duties”. As we seek God’s wisdom and God’s blessings for ourselves and our families in 2015, I pray that we may understand this and take it to heart.
And so we note firstly that the wise son does not forget the teaching of his father (he listens!) : [3:1] My son, do not forget my teaching (“torah”), but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you. To such a son is promised length of days … and peace (“shalom” – a sense of rounded wellbeing). Obedience to parental teaching that is based on the Word of God leads to blessing . This fact is even entrenched in the 10 commandments : “Honour your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.” (Ex. 20:12). God’s Word is given to us fallen people to give us hope and a future. Ultimately it points us forward to eternal life ( life without end) in heaven . The condition is that we need to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ with all our heart. May your year be filled with obedience to God’s Word , and may you be of long service and blessing to this earth and God’s to church.
Secondly, Solomon says: “Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart.  So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man” (3:3). The wise son is furthermore exhorted not to let steadfast love and faithfulness forsake him. These are two keywords in the OT vocabulary of the Bible. Steadfast love (Heb. hesed) and faithfulness (Heb. 'emet) are both attributes of God. This is how God deals with His children. Now if we understand this , and if we make this a way of life (wear this as a symbol around our neck ; better still - have this truth engraved upon the tablet of our hearts) then we must not be surprised that we find ourselves loved by God and man on this account. This unstable , unfaithful world sits up and takes notice when they see a steadfastly loving and faithful man and woman. Such people are shelters to a hurting society. We miss them sorely when they are taken from us. May we be committed to a life of steadfast (principled, consistent) and faithful love in 2015 , and may the LORD be pleased to bless many other through your consistent life!
Thirdly,  Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. The wise son learns to trust in the Lord , by listening to his father’s sound teaching , embracing this teaching for life, always remembering and imitating the character of God. To “trust in God” and to "not lean on your own understanding" is an important distinction. The one is the wisdom of God and the other is the wisdom of man.
To trust God with all your heart means firstly that there must be personal faith in God. Faith is the key to the fulfilment of every promise - Jesus was always looking for faith when He healed people. Secondly, to trust God means that we are not to lean on our own understanding. We are not to live by our own conventional wisdom. Thirdly we are to acknowledge Him in all our ways - in every way (all the details of our life). Be consistent with all your life . What you are on Sunday at church you ought to be at home and at work in the week. The promise here in Proverbs 3:6b is that He will direct your path. One of the wonderful facts of the Christian life is that even though it is not always easy to be a Christian, it is generally straight forward path. God’s ways are straight and clear. “The steps of a man are ordered by the Lord, when he delights in his way; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the Lord upholds his hand.” (Psalm 37:23,24). May your walk with God in 2015 be characterized by clarity and not by confusion as you actively trust the Lord with all your heart.
Fourthly ,  Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones. Here we learn that the wise son understands three things: humility (a correct concept of the character of God), the fear of the Lord (a pervasive sense of the presence of God) and holiness (obedience - a constant awareness of our obligation to God). The promise connected to this act of obedience and understanding is that of healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones. It is true of course that Christians will become ill and die at some stage , but the point here is that a humble Christian, who fears the Lord and obeys him, will have a settled and quiet heart. Therefore they will be less prone to stress, high blood pressure and all the stress related diseases that come upon us when we ignore these three things . I pray that 2015 will have less health issues for you, as you make your theology (what you believe about God) count. There can be no doubt that our modern society is stressed out and over medicated. Could it be that reviewing your life according to God’s Word would bring healing to your bones?
Fifthly,  honour the LORD with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce;  then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine.” The principle of honouring the Lord with our material substance is well established in the Bible (e.g. Prov. 11:25; 19:17;22:9; 28:27 ; Malachi 3:10ff ; 2 Corinthians 8 & 9) . It is one great way in which we firstly acknowledge in thankfulness all our belongings as from His hand and secondly we invest that which we give in His kingdom . The more people become true Christians the more livable and prosperous our society becomes. The application of this is what we read in Matthew 6:33 . May you be enabled to be generous in your giving in 2015, and in turn be not surprised when God prospers you in turn.
We have seen then that God’s blessings are attached to obedient living . As you prepare for this year resolved to obey God (and this means spending much time in His presence) my prayer is that you will be able to sense that you are engaged in wise living ! Secondly, my prayer is that as we live wisely so our society will benefit from our God given wisdom. We desperately need a reformation of morals and manners in our day. May God be pleased to do this through you wherever you live and work. Amen !