Sunday, December 31, 2023

PROVERBS 3:5-8 “TRUST IN THE LORD” - OLD YEARS EVE MESSAGE

 


It is fitting that the last day of this year today falls on a Sunday, or as we prefer to call it – the Lord’s Day. We are bidding 2023 goodbye and look forward into 2024, comforted by the fact that despite a globally chaotic 2023 we may know that this world remains in God’s hands. For me personally it is also fitting to end my labours as a pastor of the Eastside Baptist Church among you on the Lord’s day. 

I do so solemnly and yet gratefully.

I have chosen this particular text from the book of Proverbs for this occasion, because it has been in many ways an anchor text for my life and ministry. In my pastoral practise and counselling, in hospitals and in many other settings I have shared and impressed this text   upon the minds and hearts of many people, young and old. Therefore it is fitting that I use this portion of sacred Scripture as my last word in my capacity as an outgoing pastor of the Eastside Baptist Church, as I commend you to the Lord with these words. I shall of course continue to use it, along with all the Bible, as  long as the Lord lends me breath. 

And now to the text.

1.      Introduction (3:1–4)

3:1–2 The father (Solomon) begins with two admonitions: “my son, do not forget…” lit. do not cut yourself off from my  authoritative teaching (Heb. torah), but “keep” (lit. guard) my “commandments”. The two admonitions in turn are linked to two promises, which are conditional upon the son’s obedience: (i) “length of days and years of life” and (ii) “peace” (Heb. Shalom-  indicating  a sense of holistic well-being)

3:3–4 These verses contain two further admonitions urging the son 

(i) not to let go of the virtues of “steadfast love and faithfulness” (Hebr. chesed -  covenantal faithfulness ) but to 

(ii) “bind them around your neck” – i.e. let these virtues  be  prominently  and visibly displayed  in his life (see 1:9).

Life needs a solid foundation. The Jews saw this in the Torah. We see it in the completed revelation of God which ends in Jesus (Hebr. 1:1-3). He is the fulfilment of the law. Let us  therefore make it our aim,  with all our heart,  to display  the Lord Jesus prominently in our lives. Let our lives be attractional displays. Let us find favour and good success in the eyes of God and man (3:4). Let us see how we may do this..

2.      Main Body (3:5–10)

3:5–6 Three admonitions (3:5–6a) challenge the son to “trust in the LORD”,

·         entirely—“with all your heart[1]

·         exclusively—”do not lean/ rely on your own understanding”

·         extensively —“in all your ways acknowledge Him”

Charles Bridges says of these verses, that this is 'the polar star of the child of God- faith in his father’s providence, promises and grace'[2]. This is the North Star - and just as in old times  it guided  ships  in the ocean, these verses are able to guide the child of God in their life.

To trust the LORD means to put one’s entire confidence in God because He alone knows the complete picture. The word “trust” here (Hebr. batach) means literally to lie helpless, facedown- like a captured person. It is a picture of a man totally stretched out on his face before God. He is totally subjected to His will.  This reminds us of the Lord Jesus,  who  "fell on his face, and prayed ... not as I will, but as you will" (Mt. 26:39).

Self-confidence, trusting in our own abilities  by contrast is dangerous because of our own limited knowledge and understanding. It is not safe to trust in ourselves!  We must acknowledge Him in all  our ways,  literally “know him” (Hebr. yadah, “to know” - intimately and personally). It describes experiential knowledge (Prov.1:2). It is the knowledge David spoke about in his counsel to Solomon at the end of His life:

“And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve Him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches all hearts, and understands every plan and thought. If you seek Him, He will be found  by you, but if you forsake Him, He will cast you off forever." (1 Chr.28:9).

Our trust in God grows as we learn more and more about Him. The more we know God, the more we get to know Him and trust Him, the easier it becomes to commit our ways to Him. Trusting God cannot be separated from intimacy with God. If we do this, we are assured of this promise: “He will make straight your paths”. The verb “to make smooth; to make straight”… (Hebr. yashar) indicates the making of the way free from obstacles cf. Isa 40:3. By trusting God, He will make the way smooth for the believer, even among many challenges, helping you to reach your heavenly goal.

3:7–8 Two admonitions:

(i)                 one is negative, warning the son “not to be wise in his own eyes” (i.e. not to be an arrogant know-it-all). Be very  careful in  making your own understanding, whatever seems reasonable and logical according to your temporal, human understanding  the measure of all things. You may yet find  that your thinking may be absolutely foolish when measured against the Bible. Learn to pray (Prayer is trusting God!) that you would be filled with the knowledge of God's will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding (Col. 1:9; Eph. 5:17).  Indeed, our greatest challenge in this life is to learn to think God’s thoughts after Him.

(ii)               The other admonition is positive, exhorting his son to “fear the LORD” (3:7) – which is the beginning, the starting point of knowledge (Prov. 1:7). Again the keeping of this command leads to two promises 

(a) that knowing and trusting God brings  “healing to  your flesh” (lit. navel[3])-  The image here is of the health-giving nourishment  which  flows from the mother’s body through the umbilical cord into her preborn baby’s body. The navel thus  symbolizes  the nourishing of the flesh – the  whole body  

(b) refreshment (lit. drink)  to the bones (i.e. skeleton). The  fear of the Lord is a healing flow into our sin-sick souls. It is the marrow or nourishment-drink, refreshment for our bones.

The wellness of flesh and bones signifies holistic, physical and spiritual health i.e. wholeness to body and spirit.

3:9–10 Here we find a single admonition followed by two promises. The admonition relates to the public worship of God. To “honour the LORD” means to think of Him as supreme and to show it publicly not only with our lips, but also with our lives... such as honouring the LORD with our wealth (3:9a) … expanded by “the giving of our first-fruits” (3:9b) … the giving of the very best. The double promise in 3:10 indicates that God will reciprocate with abundance to those who honour him with their wealth.

Conclusion (3:11–12)

The conclusion urges the son to embrace the LORD’s discipline because such discipline is rooted in love. It reflects the essence of a true father-son relationship. Hebrews 12:3–12 provides an authoritative commentary on these verses.  As Christians we need to learn to see ourselves as in God’s hands, and if in God’s hands, then in the hands of our heavenly Father. This means that  the sum-total of our experiences, the hills and the valleys, God’s encouragements  and His fatherly chastisement  must be  received as from His hands. 

SUMMARY

Our brief meditation has been on the nature  of  true  godliness  which  manifests itself   in

(i)                 3:1-4 Embracing the teaching (Torah- which has its end and perfection in Jesus), rooted in the covenantal disciplines of love and faithfulness. This really pleases God.

(ii)               3:5-8 Evidenced in  an experiential  trust in the LORD -  intellectual humility

(iii)             3:9-10  and seen in  actual works  such as  submission of material wealth to God’s rule  and patient acceptance of divine discipline (3:11–12).

APPLICATION : Reflections and Resolutions 

As  we find ourselves at the end of 2023, facing 2024 it is good  to use this text to make  some godly resolutions. 

Here are  4  questions, resolutions  and promises  taken from our text for our consideration 

1.      How have I related to God’s Word? 

Have I forgotten His teachings? Have I sinned against God’s commandments? Have I been a visible imitator of God’s steadfast love and faithfulness?

Resolution: Get to know His Word better in 2024 

Promise: A better quality of life - length of days (better quality of real living) and real peace; more favour  and good success in the eyes of God and man.

2.      Have I trusted God’s Word more than my own understanding? 

Have I acknowledged Him (made it my business to get to know Him more and more)? Have I been too wise in my own eyes?

Resolution: Trust God more implicitly; be more suspicious of my own capacities to understand; get to know Him better; fear Him; turn from all evil.

Promise:  I will be guided by God. He will make straight my crooked paths; my psychosomatic ills may disappear.  

3.      Have I honoured God in my life ?

Particularly with my wealth? Have I observed the First- fruits principle?  

Resolution: Be more deliberate in honouring God practically.

Promise: barns filled; vats bursting – meaning that you will know that you have more enough, when God becomes your Provider.

4.      How do I relate to God’s discipline? 

Have I perhaps despised Him for it? Have I become weary of it?

Resolution:  Learn to appreciate God’s discipline.

Promises:  Discipline is a sign that God loves you and delights in you.

I leave you now in God’s good hands, and trust  that the good work which He has begun in you He will be pleased to complete (Phil. 1:6) 



[1] The “heart” commonly refers to the mind as the center of thinking and reason (Prov. 3:3; 6:21; 7:3). It includes the emotions (Prov. 15:15, 30), the will (Prov. 11:20; 14:14), and thus, the whole inner being (Prov. 3:5). The heart is the fountain of all wisdom, the source of whatever affects speech (Prov. 4:24), sight (Prov. 4:25), and conduct (Prov. 4:26, 27).

[2] Charles Bridges: Proverbs, Banner of Truth,p.23

[3] Hebrew word for "body" = umbilical cord, navel (the source of nutrition in utero).

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PROVERBS 3:5-8 “TRUST IN THE LORD” - OLD YEARS EVE MESSAGE

  It is fitting that the last day of this year today falls on a Sunday, or as we prefer to call it – the Lord’s Day. We are bidding 2023 goo...