Let’s say that I wanted to drive from Post Falls to Lemberg, Saskatchewan. Yes, Lemberg is a very real, tiny community in central Saskatchewan. It is northeast of Regina about 50 miles. If I was as talented as John Bunyan, I would make this trip into an allegory. I would cleverly tell you that “Lemberg” is the Canadian equivalent of “Celestial,” but I am afraid not even Bunyan was that skilled. I simply want to drive to Lemberg. Want sort of things should I do, or what things would I have to do, to get there?
First, I’d have to have a reason to go. At the last census, the population of Lemberg was only 274. There is no sense traveling that far to visit a place which has nothing of interest for me. I should try to determine the best route to get to Lemberg – there might be a dozen highways to take. Then it might be wise to see if the route I’ve chosen is in good condition. Since I’d be crossing into Canada, I better check that my passport is in order and that the port of entry will be open when I hope to cross. Lemberg is a long way off, it would be good to make a reservation for a motel or some other resting place. Oh, and I had better check to see that my car is in good shape – that it is running well, because 1042 miles is a long way to walk. And it will take money for food, gas and lodging along the way. Along with a dozen other things, perhaps it might be a good idea to check to see if I would be welcome.
Even though it might be hard to see, the Book of Proverbs is related to the Book of Romans. And what was Paul’s purpose in writing Romans? Didn’t he want to expound the doctrine of soteriology – salvation? He began with sin – with man’s wretched condition before the righteousness of God. And then he showed how in the sacrifice of Christ, the demands of the law were fully met. He told us that by repentance and faith in Christ, even the worst of sinners can be saved. In other words, he rationally explained how to get from where we are to Heaven.
Doesn’t Solomon also tell us about the narrow road which leadeth unto Heaven? His is not so theological, and he doesn’t describe the sacrifice of Christ. And he doesn’t so much tell us about our entry into Glory as he does the journey which takes us there. Solomon tells us what to expect along the road; what sights to see; what dangers lurk ahead. He gives us warning after warning. He tells us how to read to the road map; where to rest, and where to step on the gas. Without suggesting that Romans is not practical, Proverbs is a different kind of practical.
In reading these nine verses, I think that they break apart into two major sections. If we have made the best practical preparation and we follow the wisdom of others who have made trip before us – like Solomon…. Then we should be able to expect several wonderful blessings.
What does Solomon suggest we do in planning and beginning our trip to Celestial Lemberg?
“My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee…” We’ve asked this question before, perhaps in a different way, but to what son was Solomon writing? He must have had several dozen, if not several hundred sons. Was he writing strictly to his eldest? Rehoboam? I don’t think so. Perhaps he had all his children in mind, when he compiled his proverbs. But above and beyond that, it was the Holy Spirit who was preparing these words. And as far as the Spirit is concerned these are instructions to all of HIS children. If you are a child of God by faith in Christ Jesus, then these instructions are for you. And even if you are not one of the children of God, there is important instruction here for you. “Receive my words” – soak them up; don’t let them slip through your mind without being caught. You are on your way to Lemberg; it is absolutely essential that you travel the right road – properly. So “hide my commandments with thee.” Doesn’t that suggest meditation and memorization? Would you have to have a map to take you to Billings, Montana – half way to Lemberg? Wouldn’t it be beneficial to have the route all the way to Lemberg implanted in your mind? “Hide my commandments with thee.”
My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee; So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding….” What if I decide that the best way to Billings is through Pocatello, Idaho and Salt Lake City? If I get to my destination at all, it will be very, very late. The map says that Missoula to Billings on I-90 is without doubt the easiest and quickest route. “Incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding.” There is no doubt in my mind but that the Lord knows the best route to the Celestial City. He is the best source of traveling information.
When it comes to driving to Lemberg, I am not averse to checking Google Maps. Google tells me the distance and approximate driving time. It points out where there is road construction, and it offers alternate routes. I don’t have GPS on my phone, but I am willing to listen to Google’s instructions. Generally speaking, I obey what Google tells me.
In fact, I even go so far as to look for those instructions. Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures;” thou shalt get to Lemberg. My computer is a marvelous instrument, which does amazing things some times. But it doesn’t read my mind, and it has never brought up a roadmap without my asking for it. I have never CRIED or lifted up my voice begging Google to show me the way. I have never sought its advice as a miner looks for silver or an archeologist looks for hid treasures. I do have to put the right key-strokes down to get the directions I’m seeking. But Lemberg is not Heaven, and whether I ever go there or get there is relatively unimportant in the scheme of eternity. On the other hand, the destination to which both Solomon and Paul direct is infinitely important. Both arriving some day in the presence of God, and the journey to get there are extremely important. So important that “crying,” “seeking” and “searching” don’t even begin to describe the importance.
In this great journey, at least in this chapter, Solomon doesn’t describe our joyful arrival.
He is more interested in the quality of the journey. He wants his children to be moving down the right path, not getting lost or in any accidents. He wants us to obey the speed and driving laws of the states and provinces through which we travel. “My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee; So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding; Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; THEN shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God.”
Without suggesting that the fear of the Lord & the knowledge of God are attained by efforts of the mind… Without saying that by properly applying ourselves, or eating the forbidden fruit, we may be as gods, knowing good, evil and the best routes to Lemberg…. Fully realizing that it is by grace that we enjoy the least of God’s blessings…. IF we have no interest in “crying,” “seeking” and “searching” we will not have a prosperous journey. It is guaranteed that we will fall among thieves, be stripped of our raiment, wounded and left half dead. But if we are willing to follow the directions of the first four verses – “Then shalt we understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God.”
“For the LORD giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding. He layeth up sound wisdom for the righteous: he is a buckler to them that walk uprightly. He keepeth the paths of judgment, and preserveth the way of his saints. Then shalt thou understand righteousness, and judgment, and equity; yea, every good path.”
I wonder how many people in Jesus’ day went down from Jerusalem to Jericho without falling among thieves? How many of them set off in sound wisdom – God’s gift to the righteous. For how many of them was the Lord their buckler, because they walked uprightly. A buckler is a shield – Jehovah ” is a shield unto them that put their trust in him.”
The Oldfield’s recent trip through Billings and down to Denver was uneventful for us. But it was not so with everyone else. There was a car or two along the side of road, empty and with flat tires. Their owners didn’t think to bring spares. Foolish. The Lord “layeth up sound wisdom for the righteous,” but apparently not for those people. And there were skid marks where vehicles had slammed on their breaks and probably been in wrecks. The Lord preserveth the way of his saints,” but not for those people. We saw several cars pulled over for speeding or other offenses. The Lord layeth up sound wisdom for the righteous,” but not for those people. And how many lost their way at some point?
Lemberg is almost the same distance as Denver from here. 1042 miles is a long way and a lot can befall a traveler. The Celestial City may still be a long way from here for many of us. Wouldn’t it be beneficial to “understand righteousness, and judgment, and equity; yea, every good path”?