Let me start today by saying Happy Mother’s Day to my mom, love you mom. And to all moms and grand moms and to every woman who has the heart of a mother, a heart to care to nurture to bless to self sacrifice for the sake of another. Thank you for all that you do.
The place we’re looking at today in the Bible is in the book of Proverbs. I think one of the best way to even think about this book of Proverbs, is that it is something that a loving mother or father would write to one of their kids. This is the hard won wisdom of a parent, being shared to their son or daughter.
So I thought it was really fitting for us to look at it today. And today we’re going to be in one of the most beloved places here in the book of Proverbs, Proverbs chapter three.
Here we go.
My son, do not forget my law, But let your heart keep my commands; For length of days and long life And peace they will add to you. Let not mercy and truth forsake you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart, And so find favor and high esteem In the sight of God and man. Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. (Proverbs 3:1-6)
I love this place in the Bible.
It is warm-hearted, it is tender. It is parent to child. It is in many ways the secret to a full and rich and God blessed life.
If my children took this to heart, I would be a proud and happy father. And I have to say that if the people of Pathway Church took this to heart, I will be a proud and happy pastor. I have no greater joy than to hear that the people of Pathway Church are walking in truth, and are walking faithfully and diligently down the Grace Pathway.
Let’s take this beautiful passage of scripture apart, and look at it, verse by verse. This is called expository preaching.
My son, do not forget my law, But let your heart keep my commands; For length of days and long life And peace they will add to you. (Proverbs 3:1, 2)
Let’s start with this word law. This is the Hebrew word torah.
We can say that this is the sum total of all of the truth and teaching to us from God. In the Bible, The Torah is all that God has revealed to us in Scripture and everything he wants us to know.
This is the law. And notice that the in proverb, the Father says, My child, do not forget my law.
So this is Hebrew poetry, Hebrew poetry does not work by rhyming like English poetry, Hebrew poetry works by a combination of rhythm and parallel lines.
The authors of Hebrew poetry would state or restate the same idea in parallel lines. This is called parallelism.
Stay with me. There are basically four kinds of parallelism in Hebrew poetry. This applies to the Psalms, the Proverbs, the Prophets, the Law, all over scripture.
The first kind is called synonymous parallelism, stating the same idea the same way twice.
The second kind is called an antithetical parallelism. This is stating the idea one way and then restating it by denying its opposite.
The third kind of parallelism is synthetic parallelism. In synthetic parallelism, the idea grows, and the second line finishes the thought of the first line, but really doesn’t repeat anything in it.
The last kind of parallelism is called climactic parallelism. This is like climbing a ladder in terms of ideas. The first line is left incomplete, until the second or sometimes third line repeats part of it adds to it, and puts it over the top.
In all forms of Hebrew poetry the real magic happens when you compare and contrast the elements of each line with the line that is parallel with it.
All of that is to just set this up.
My son, do not forget my law, But let your heart keep my commands; (Proverbs 3:1)
My law goes with my commands… basically the same thing.
Do not forget goes with keep… these are opposites. (antithetic parallelism)
This word keep, contrary to popular belief, does not mean obey. It means to preserve, to protect, to lock it in the vault, when you take God’s word and lock it in the vault of your heart, something awesome happens.
My son is implied in both lines… my child, do not forget, my child, let your heart…
Your heart goes with nothing. There is nothing in the first line to match with your heart in the second line… The first line is kind of like a headless horseman.
For length of days and long life And peace [shalom] they will add to you. (Proverbs 3:2)
If I could sit down with you over coffee—or you can have tea, personally I don’t touch this stuff—I would tell you this, that having your heart and mind, filled with God’s Word, is the secret to a good and happy, and long life.
Lesson One – The grace you experience in your outer world, flows from the wisdom you store up in your inner world.
Does this mean you will be problem free. No.
Does this guarantee you a lifespan longer than the average. No.
This is saying that your years of life will be full and meaningful.
This is the life you would have crafted, if only you could. And this is the legacy. This is the gift of God to a person who orders their whole life around the Word of God.
The next verse, pushes even deeper.
Let not mercy [hesed=grace] and truth forsake you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart, And so find favor and high esteem In the sight of God and man. (Proverbs 3:3, 4)
Grace and truth are, in my humble opinion, the most important word-pair in the Bible.
Actually, there is a triad of words that have a kind of magnetic attraction to each other, like a planet with two moons: the planet is called glory, and it is locked in orbit with two moons called, grace and truth. (It’s an illustration…)
And normally truth leads to grace, and grace leads to glory. That’s how it goes.
Do not withhold Your tender mercies from me, O LORD; Let Your lovingkindness and Your truth continually preserve me. (Psalm 40:11)
Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, But to Your name give glory, Because of Your mercy, Because of Your truth. (Psalms 115:1)
Surely His salvation is near to those who fear Him, That glory may dwell in our land. Mercy and truth have met together; Righteousness and peace have kissed…. Righteousness will go before Him, And shall make His footsteps our pathway. (Psalms 85:9,10,13)
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
Here we have a caring father, or a caring mother, sitting down with a much loved child and telling them the most important bit of advice anyone can ever hear.
They’re telling them to orient their lives to the most fundamental frequencies that govern, not only the created universe, but, that flow from the heart of the One who created the universe too.
Lesson Two – Glory, grace, and truth, are the core operating system of everything.
Lesson Three – a life that is whole and sane must be harmonious with this operating system.
The doorway to all of this is the Word of God. This is our access to truth. This is our portal into reality. This is what saves us from walking on deceptive paths, and slippery slopes.
As you learn and grow in the Word of God, you commune with God, you walk with God. You grow strong. You resist the devil. You possess your possessions, and you experience all the grace that God has for you. You rise above sin. You grow in holiness.
This is what the Word of God will do for you.
This is why Bible study is so important.
There is no substitute for it, and never will be.
Lesson Four – Every moment you spend storing up wisdom in your heart, is a moment spent in both Scripture, and in personal communion with God.
It’s this truth that gives you access to grace, and it is grace that brings about the glory of God in the world, and in your life.
When you bind to grace and truth around your neck and write them on the tablet of your heart. God, binds glory around your life.
And so find favor and [good success] In the sight of God and man. (Proverbs 3:4)
This is pure respect.
This pure respect is respect from God. It is respect from the people in your life, and from the world.
It is the respect, won in the same way, that Jesus had:
And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. (Luke 2:52)
Lesson Five – True success in time and eternity is a life lived at the intersection of grace and truth. This is the glory of God in your life.
Verses 5 and 6 bring it all home.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. (Proverbs 3:5, 6)
This is a verse gets right in our faces.
We have two opposites here in antithetic parallelism, two conflicting choices. You trust in the Lord, versus you lean on your own understanding.
Think about that. Let that sink in.
According to this verse, when you lean on your own understanding, what are you not doing?
You’re not trusting in the Lord.
This is one of those verses a person can get really hyper spiritual about. The next line keeps us from that.
In all your ways acknowledge Him.
He doesn’t say, don’t acknowledge anything else.
Of course you acknowledge all the other factors.
This is not a license to be irresponsible. This is not permission to ignore your studies. This is not a directive to just go with your gut instinct. This is not God saying to throw away your understanding, or your analysis, or your due diligence, or your studies.
Lesson Six – When you make your daily decisions, acknowledge the Lord above all else. This is how grace and truth become your life’s experience, and this is how glory becomes your life’s testimony.
You either have a God-oriented life, or not.
When I say God-oriented, I mean God-centered. He isn’t just the sprinkles you put on the top, a little church, a little Bible verse, a little prayer here and there. He’s the main course in your life.
You either are living a God-oriented life, or you’re not. It’s that simple.
And there is no such thing as a God-oriented life unless the Bible plays a really big role in your life, because it’s grace AND truth.
This doesn’t mean that you are holy, and pious, and sanctimonious, all the time.
This doesn’t mean that you are religious and speak the language of religion at all.
This doesn’t make you better than anybody.
This doesn’t make you superior in the eyes of God.
When you Trust in the Lord with all your heart, you have good days and bad days, ugly days and beautiful days.
You have all the range of human experience.
Might be rough around the edges. You might say stuff you know you shouldn’t or do stuff you know you shouldn’t.
You might make choices you hope your church friends never find out about.
You’re still you.
You might remember a while back I talked about a button that was really popular when I was a teenager. It said, PBPGHNFWMY. Please Be Patient. God Has Not Finished With Me Yet.
None of that changes.
And it means that when you blow it, and you will, your recovery time is shorter, you come back to God more quickly. You are growing in this. You don’t turn away from him and stay away from him for very long.
You might stumble, but you get right back up and right back on this perfect path of life with God.
BECAUSE YOU’RE NOT PERFECT… THE PATH IS PERFECT.
To Trust in the Lord with all your heart means that you just know that God is in control and everything is going to be okay.
And when you have a God-oriented life, God’s promise is pretty awesome.
In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. (Proverbs 3:6)
This is climactic parallelism. This is the point the the whole paragraph is building put to.
The Hebrew here is pretty cool.
The New American Standard Bible translates it literally. He will make your paths straight.
If you’re on a roller coaster, you don’t want your paths to be straight. You want, up and down and left and right and upside down. That’s what makes a roller coaster fun.
But you don’t want to live on a roller coaster.
If your emotional life, your psychological life, your relational life is always a roller coaster, that’s the definition of misery.
Most of the time we bring that misery on ourselves, it’s self inflicted misery.
When God promises he will make your paths straight, he is promising he will straighten out the roller coaster of your life. This is a promise from God to take away the needless drama from your life.
Lesson 7 – A life of grace and truth is God’s divine drama reduction plan.
What’s that worth to you?
As long as we live in this fallen world, we are going to be hit with twists and turns beyond our control.
It’s a giant pain machine.
But even with that, God will straighten out the paths of your soul, so that, no matter what is going on in your external circumstances, your heart will be at peace.