Those who are uncompromisingly vigilant will be blessed.
When we read familiar passages of Scripture, we can many times gloss over the depth of their instruction because we have seen them repeatedly and believe we know them fully. Yet, when looked at from a different perspective, whether in a different translation or another version, they can appear fresh and unique with some additional insights we may have missed.
In recently reading through the third chapter of Proverbs, I was struck by how many commands there are that relate to the vigilance required of one who is seeking to follow the instruction of Yahweh. When pulled out of the flow of the narrative and the back-and-forth rhythm of command/blessing, the commands by themselves become stark challenges that demonstrate the level of commitment required of those who would consider themselves disciples or followers of Yahweh.
- 3:1 – My son, don’t forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commands;
- 3:3 – Never let loyalty and faithfulness leave you. Tie them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart.
- 3:5-6 – Trust in Yahweh with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him
- 3:7 – Don’t be wise in your own eyes; fear Yahweh and turn away from evil.
- 3:9 – Honor Yahweh with your possessions and with the first produce of your entire harvest;
- 3:11 – Do not despise Yahweh’s instruction, my son, and do not loathe his discipline;
- 3:25 – Don’t fear sudden danger or the ruin of the wicked when it comes,
- 3:27 – When it is in your power, don’t withhold good from the one to whom it belongs.
- 3:29-31 – Don’t plan any harm against your neighbor, for he trusts you and lives near you. Don’t accuse anyone without cause, when he has done you no harm. Don’t envy a violent man or choose any of his ways;
As an aside, these last three verses are actually reiterations of some of the Ten Commandments:
- Don’t plan any harm against your neighbor/Do not murder
- Don’t accuse anyone without cause/Do not bear false witness
- Don’t envy a violent man or choose any of his ways/Do not covet
As we continue through this chapter grouping similar thoughts, when the blessings of the passage are all lined up together, a beautiful picture of God’s faithfulness and provision comes to light.
- 3:2 – for they will bring you many days, a full life, and well-being.
- 3:4 – Then you will find favor and high regard with God and people.
- 3:6 – …he will make your paths straight.
- 3:8 – This will be healing for your body and strengthening for your bones.
- 3:10 – then your barns will be completely filled, and your vats will overflow with new wine.
- 3:12 – for Yahweh disciplines the one he loves, just as a father disciplines the son in whom he delights.
- 3:26 – for Yahweh will be your confidence and will keep your foot from a snare.
Of course, with Solomon as the writer of the Proverbs, it is not surprise that he focuses on the value of attaining wisdom above all other disciplines we can fruitfully pursue. With the mention of wisdom and discretion, a long list of benefits naturally flows from his experience in receiving the wisdom from God that he had prayed for.
3:13 – Happy is a man who finds wisdom and who acquires understanding,
3:14-18 – for she is more profitable than silver, and her revenue is better than gold. She is more precious than jewels; nothing you desire can equal her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left, riches and honor. Her ways are pleasant, and all her paths, peaceful. She is a tree of life to those who embrace her, and those who hold on to her are happy.
3:21 – Maintain sound wisdom and discretion. My son, don’t lose sight of them.
3:22-24 – They will be life for you and adornment for your neck. Then you will go safely on your way; your foot will not stumble. When you lie down, you will not be afraid; you will lie down, and your sleep will be pleasant.
In the closing verses of this passage, the end results of righteousness are contrasted with those of wickedness. Again, separated out and grouped together, the contrasts between the consequences of wickedness and the blessings of righteousness become even sharper.
- 3:32 – for the devious are detestable to Yahweh,
- 3:33 – Yahweh’s curse is on the household of the wicked
- 3:34 – He mocks those who mock
- 3:35 – he holds up fools to dishonor.
- 3:32 – but he is a friend to the upright
- 3:33 – but he blesses the home of the righteous;
- 3:34 – but gives grace to the humble.
- 3:35 – The wise will inherit honor
To my way of thinking, the benefits in carrying out these commands of Yahweh far outweigh the negative aspects of the alternatives. Unfortunately, we see many of those negative consequences in the lives of those around us every day; this in and of itself is a testament to the reality, power, and truth of God’s word. We should be committed to the vigilant keeping of God’s commands if for no other reason than for our lives to be a testament to his faithfulness and blessing. This is the most powerful way we can shine the light of God’s grace and mercy into a world of darkness, and to continue to grow the kingdom of God as people are attracted to that light.
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