Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Proverbs 3:11- 20 “Appropriate Words for the Beginning of the Year - A Reminder , an Encouragement and a Vital Theological Principle .”

We ended the   last year and began this  new year  with  some meditations from the book of Proverbs.  At this time of our church life   our focus  is on the need for  biblical wisdom.  I have previously  reminded you  that  wisdom is not necessarily obtained by reading wise books . They  are important , but the reading of many books does  not necessarily  make a wise man . “There are”,  as one  black American preacher once said,  “many educated fools”.  Spurgeon  reminds us in this regard that   “Solomon made a book of Proverbs , but a  Book of Proverbs won’t make a Solomon.” [1]  Reading the Proverbs  itself will not make you wise. It is God  who made Solomon  wise, and He alone can make you wise.  Solomon received  His  unique wisdom from God  Himself  (see 1 Kings 3:10-14) and THUS was able to write it down for our benefit.  Brothers and sisters , pray that  in these sacred pages  we may not only read of  some amazing wisdom , but that we may be  possessed by  such wisdom , which is the gift of God  to us ! As we  face the year of our Lord 2015   I would like  to remind you that reading your Bible  and coming to  church on a Sunday  to hear God’s Word explained,  will not necessarily make you wise. The Word of God must be combined with humble prayer , as we saw in  Prov. 2:2-5  “… making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding… calling out for insight… seeking it like silver… searching for it as for hidden treasures… then you will understand the fear of the  LORD and find the knowledge of  God. ”  
Let us pray!

Proverbs 3:11-20

We saw last week  that  Proverbs 3 began with  5  exhortations [2]  to which great  promises  for  believers  were attached. We also  saw that  these   blessings  ( length of days,  favour and good success in the  sight of God and man ,  etc. )  are conditionally  given  to the  believer . Believer’s  must learn to obey in order to  obtain God’s blessings.  We are not here referring to the unconditional gift of eternal life which God  gives to  us  unsought, unearned and undeserved in Jesus Christ  His Son . The Bible  here  refers  to  what must happen once  we   have been converted. Having been enabled to believe , we  must obey  God ! When  the Lord  Jesus  had chosen His disciples, the next thing He did was to tell them,  “Follow me!” [3].  My prayer is  that you and I may   hear the voice of the  Good  Shepherd   clearly in 2015 , and that  we may not only hear, but that we may obey Him  as we follow Him in the company and the  fellowship  of believers  joined  together  at Eastside Baptist Church . 
From the Scriptures we observe  time and again  that a  united church  gathered  under the doctrine of the apostles,  gathered in prayer and in fellowship,  regularly  observing  the ordinances    is a strong  and a wise  church. [4]

As Solomon  now  continues to counsel his son  in Prov.  3:11-20  we  continue to build  on these foundations  as we observe three  further   God –given wisdoms   that we ought to prayerfully receive and  build  into  our  lives :

1.      A Reminder :  God disciplines those whom He loves : [11] My son, do not despise the LORD's discipline or be weary of his reproof,[12] for the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.

This text needs to be read  in conjunction with  Hebrews 12:5 . As you  consider 2015,   let this word of wisdom  find a place in your heart .  Many modern  Christians   cannot stand the thought   of it , as they are  trapped in the   false , unbiblical  wisdom of many popular teachers who prophecy nothing but  health , wealth and prosperity, and thus  bring about a false sense of peace and security  and dependence upon  idols and not  the LORD . Becoming a child of God  means to come into a new household  in which we learn  under the discipline of our loving heavenly Father . In the light of this   fact we are reminded not to despise  the Lord’s discipline nor  to  be weary of his reproof . To despise  God  means to resent God’s dealings  with  us , or even failing to see that it is His hand at work in our life !  May the Lord Himself teach you the value  of   appreciating  His loving discipline  and learn to make a distinction between  chastisement  and  punishment as Spurgeon does  so helpfully  in these following  words[5] :

“ God’s people can never by any possibility be punished for their sins. God has punished them already in the person of Christ; Christ their substitute has endured the full penalty for all their guilt, and neither the justice nor the love of God can ever exact again that which Christ has paid… but yet while the sin cannot be punished, while the Christian cannot be condemned, he can be chastised; … as a son he may be chastised on account of sin. Folly is bound up in the heart of all God’s children, and the rod of the Father must bring that folly out of them. It is essential to observe the distinction between punishment and chastisement. Punishment and chastisement may agree as to the nature of the suffering: the one suffering may be as great as the other; the sinner who while here is punished for his guilt may suffer no more in this life than the Christian who is only chastised by his parent. They do not differ as to the nature of the punishment, but they differ in the mind of the punisher and in the relationship of the person who is punished. God punishes the sinner on his own account because he is angry with the sinner and his justice must be avenged, his law must be honored, and his commands must have their dignity maintained. But he does not punish the believer on his own account: on the Christian's account it is to do him good. He afflicts him for his profit, he lays on the rod for his child's advantage; he has a good design towards the person who receives the chastisement. … The rod has been baptized in deep affection before it is laid on the believer's back. God does  not afflict willingly, … there cannot be anything punitive in it; you must never say — “Now God is punishing me for my sin.” … He is chastising you , not punishing you ; …There is no hot displeasure in his heart. …. It is simply because he loves you, because you  are sons, that he therefore chastises you.

When we as earthly  fathers discipline our children, they may not like it at the time . But   Hebrews  12:11  helpfully  reminds us : “ For the moment all discipline  seems painful rather than pleasant, BUT LATER  it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those that have been trained by it .” 

2.     An Encouragement  : In pursuing Wisdom  you will get more than the World can offer!  [13] Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, [14] for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold. [15] She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her. [16] Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. [17] Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. [18] She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called blessed.

Having  heard this reminder of God’s  fatherly  chastising of us  we may thank God (perhaps only later)   that through this  means  we have  been privileged to find wisdom. Many testify  to having learned much in the University of hard knocks!  Understand this . We are not  born with wisdom ! We need to find it, and when we have found it  is a  source of blessing…. Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding! Solomon says that  those who find  this wisdom  are  blessed (see Psalm 1) .  This wisdom is  so much better  than possessing  silver[6], gold ,  jewels . We are so much richer  for knowing  God’s truth  than the richest man in the world is in  having his material wealth .  Consider the benefits of wisdom , beginning with v. 18  : She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called blessed.  The imagery of the tree of life is used  three more times  in Proverbs ( 11:30;13:12;15:4)  and it is  obviously a  reference to the tree of life in Genesis  and in Revelation . So  long life  in v.16 is really ‘ looooong life’  not  necessarily  in terms of this life ( some believers do die young) , but  certainly  in terms of eternal life.

The point is that by pursuing the way of wisdom, a person can obtain the best things God has to offer. What good is an expensive house if there's no happy home within it? Happiness, pleasantness, and peace aren't the guaranteed by-products of financial success, but they are guaranteed to the person who lives by God's wisdom. Wisdom becomes a 'tree of life' to the believer who takes hold of her, and this is indeed  a foretaste of heaven.  

And again ,  note the promises associated  with  wisdom … “ long ,life… riches and honour … pleasantness , peace …”.  Alexander Mc Laren reminds us this this regard ,  “No doubt such promises are to be taken with limitations; but there need be no doubt that, on the whole, loyal devotion to and real possession of heavenly Wisdom do tend in the direction of lengthening lives, which are by it delivered from vices and anxieties which cut many a career short, and of gathering round silver hairs reverence and troops of friends.”
Now here is a  necessary warning  : If you seek  wisdom in order to  get these blessings , you will  not find her , for  the love of wisdom is  linked to  a person  revealed by God  to us in the flesh. So once again  we must be reminded   that  the only complete peace,  and sense of well- being comes from obeying Wisdom, or what is the same thing, from following Christ. Peace with ourselves, the world, and God, is always the consequence of listening to Wisdom – to our Lord Jesus Christ . Jesus,  has become  the incarnate Wisdom of God . He  is Himself ‘the Tree of Life in the midst of the paradise of God.’  Take hold of Him  by faith , and keeping holding on stubbornly to Him  through all  your  temptations  that may come to you this year ! slack our grasp.

3.      A Vital Theological Principle  :   Remember  the God  has made the  Heavens and the Earth! [19] The LORD by wisdom founded the earth; by understanding he established the heavens; [20] by his knowledge the deeps broke open, and the clouds drop down the dew.

What an important truth  to live by as we make it our aim to live wisely in 2015.  Solomon here affirms in agreement  with  Genesis  1:1ff and   John 1:1-3,14  and  Job  38-41 that God  is  the Source  and Creator .  It is particularly  John’s gospel that directs us to the fact that Christ is the wisdom of God  as  we are here reminded that He  has created the  earth (see Prov.  8: 22-31). 

All  this  has profound implications upon our   thinking. What you see around you , did not come from nothing . It did not   happen by random  evolution.  The Bible always speaks about intelligent design. You see there  has  been  a great battle going  on for more than 100 years now ,  contesting  the fact that there is a personal Creator –God,   who has  made the heavens and the earth.  Since Charles Darwin  (1809-1882)   there has been a sustained attack on the biblical account of creation  through  substituting  this with  the atheistic doctrine of  impersonal, evolution  by chance. Proverbs would call this foolish, and so must we.   It is important  to affirm in our own  day  what the Bible teaches about the creation of the heavens and the earth . This is  the wisdom of God  and  to move away from this is foolish .  No wonder that following this , Solomon says to his son : “ My son , do not lose sight of these- keep sound wisdom and discretion, and they will be life  for your soul…  then you will walk on your way securely …” (vv.  21-23

SUMMARY  : Three principles for wise living  along the way into 2015 
  
(i) Remember  that God loves you and treats you as His child . This includes  the fact that He will chastise you .
(ii) Pursue  biblical  wisdom  and you will get more than the world can offer you .
(iii) Remember  that  God is  the Source  of all that is made !



[1] Quoted  by Gary Brady , “ Heavenly Wisdom “ , Welwyn Commentaries , p.13
[2] See last week’s sermon
[3] E.g.  Matt  4:18,19  ( Andrew and Simon Peter)  ; Matt. 4:21,22 ( James and John)  ;  Matt.  9:9  ( Matthew) ;  John  1:43 ( Philip)
[4] Acts 2:42; 4:23-31;
[5] A sermon (No. 667) delivered on Sabbath morning, October 28, 1855  by C.H. Spurgeon at New Park Street Chapel, Southwark.
[6] See Prov 2:4 

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