Friday, January 6, 2023

Obedient Minds, Obedient Hearts (Proverbs 3:1-2)

My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace will they add to you. [Proverbs 3:1-2, ESV]

What good is knowledge if it is never put to use? What good is wisdom if never applied? When I began my study of the book of Proverbs, I began to see my life change as I followed what the Holy Spirit inspired Solomon to write. I could share many examples of how I have been blessed when I have kept these commandments, but I think that Solomon does a much better job in describing the blessings that come with keeping these commandments.

In 1 Kings 3, we learn about how Solomon became so wise. Verse 3 tells us that “Solomon loved the LORD”, and that Solomon walked “in the statutes of David his father”. Solomon loved the Lord, and Solomon had been blessed with power and success. The Lord speaks to Solomon in a dream, and says to him, “Ask what I shall give you.” [1 Kings 3:5, ESV].

In other words, God asks Solomon what he would like to receive. Solomon’s response shows that he had his heart in the right place, and that he already had a great deal of wisdom:

And Solomon said, “You have shown great and steadfast love of your servant David my father, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you. And you have kept for him this great and steadfast love and have given him a son to sit on his throne this day. And now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of David my father, although I am but a little child. I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of your people whom you have chosen, a great people, too many to be numbered or counted for multitude. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?” [1 Kings 3:6-9, ESV]

There are several aspects of Solomon’s request that stand out. Solomon begins by thanking the Lord and recounting the ways that God has been faithful with his father. Solomon goes on to give God the glory for Solomon being king, saying that “you have made your servant king”. Solomon tells God how he is “but a little child”, and that he does not know how to lead God’s people. Given his lack of understanding, Solomon asks for God to give him an understanding mind, so that he can lead God’s people.

Solomon gave glory to God, recounted the ways that God has been faithful, approached the Lord with humility, and asked for an understanding mind, so that he can lead God’s people. The way Solomon responded was pleasing to the Lord, so God grants Solomon what he has asked for.

It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. And God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or the riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, behold, I now do according to your word. Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you have been before you and none like you shall arise after you. I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that no other king shall compare with you, all your days.” [1 Kings 3:10-13, ESV]

The final part of the Lord’s response to Solomon is very similar to the passage that we will discuss in this essay.

“And if you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days.” [1 Kings 3:14, ESV]

As we have just read, the wisdom that Solomon had was from God, and was given to him when he approached the Lord with humility and a heart that was set on pleasing God. Solomon had wisdom from God, so let us examine the first two verses of Proverbs 3, knowing that Solomon was a man of unmatched wisdom.

My son, do not forget my teachings, but let your heart keep my commandments,

Solomon addresses this to his son. Some may interpret this to be a reference to one of Solomon’s biological sons, but others believe that Solomon is referring to those who are learning from him. My view is that Solomon is telling us that we are viewed with affection (which reflects the way God corrects us because He loves us), while reminding us of our place. In 1 Kings 3, God tells Solomon that he will have a wise and discerning mind that will surpass the wisdom of anybody. We are reading the words of a man with a mind unlike any other, and we are to learn with humble hearts. We learn from Solomon as a son learns from a father. We learn from Solomon as Solomon learned from God. Just as Solomon approached the Lord with humility and a desire to know what is right, so too should we seek the righteousness of God with the humility of a servant.

We must not forget the teachings of Solomon. The ability to remember something is dependent upon our minds. If my mind is not ready to learn, I will not learn. I must prepare my mind to receive the Word of God, and I must commit the Word of God to my memory.

We must also keep these commandments with our hearts. As opposed to remembering them with our minds, we must love them with our hearts. One learns many things, yet he will use only that which he loves. I know how my car works, but I do not wish to become a mechanic, so that knowledge of my car will rarely be used, and the potential benefits of applying that knowledge will never be realized. I know how to sin, but I hate sin, so I avoid sin as much as I can, which stops sin from “bearing fruit” in my life. Solomon tells us that we must let our hearts keep his commandments, meaning that we must have a love for his commandments. Remember, Solomon’s wisdom is from God, so when Solomon tells us that our hearts should keep his commandments, we must recognize that these commandments are from the Lord. Therefore, I will refer to these commandments as being from God, rather than being from Solomon.

When we desire to remember the Word of God, and when we love God and His Word, we will see the blessings that come with keeping God’s commandments.

for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you.

Verse 2 tells us about the blessings that will come when we keep the Lord’s commandments. When we follow God’s commandments, will we live longer? Verse 2 tells us that our lives will be lengthened when we follow the Lord’s commandments, but I believe that the meaning is more than us having longer lives. Let us refer back to 1 Kings 3:14, where God tells Solomon that, if he keeps God’s statutes and commandments, God will lengthen his days. God gave Solomon his wisdom, and God told Solomon that He would lengthen his days if he followed God’s commandments. Through the book of Proverbs, we are able to receive God’s commandments. Therefore, we are able to keep God’s commandments, and we are able to see God lengthen our days.

For that reason, I believe that verse 2 is describing the lifetime of blessings that will come when we follow God, pursue His righteousness, and keep His commandments. God will reward those who seek Him, so we should seek Him regularly.

Furthermore, by keeping God’s commandments, we will receive a gift that we all need: peace. Peace is truly wonderful, and true peace can only come from the Lord. My experience is that the peace that comes from God is similar to the joy that comes from God, in that both peace and joy are not something that we experience for one moment, but not the next. Peace is something that permeates every aspect of our lives, giving us comfort, regardless of our circumstances.

So, how can we apply Proverbs 3:1-2 to our lives? First, we must accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. The first step in receiving the blessings that God promises to those who seek Him is to make the decision to follow Him. Second, we should regularly spend time studying God’s Word, learning to love Him more, and learning what He expects of us. Third, we must apply God’s Word to our lives, so that we can fulfill the second requirement of Proverbs 3:1.

When you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, when you seek His righteousness, when you meditate on His Word, you will develop a personal relationship with God. God loves each and every one of us, and He desires to know us. As you grow in your relationship with Christ, you will learn to recognize His Voice (He speaks to people), His desires (God will reveal portions of His will), His love for us (God’s work becomes more apparent to those who seek Him in earnest), and the way He works in us.

Loving God is something that every Christian must make a regular part of his or her day. Every day, we must decide to follow the Lord, to surrender our will to His, and to allow Him to work in and through us. Our love for God will make our lives infinitely better, more fulfilling, and full of peace and joy. God is good, and He loves you.


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