It no longer surprises me, but it always excites me, when God blends or links things together in my ministry. When the hymns selected by another person illustrate my message – as several did Sunday morning. Or as in this case, when the message Sunday night meshes with the next scripture in an ongoing series. A part of my theme Sunday was that “Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.” Here Solomon, as led by the Holy Spirit tells us how that we, like Jesus, can “find favour and good understanding in the sight of God and man” – verse 4.
As Solomon exhorts his son, the Lord exhorts all of His children – we who have been adopted into His family…
“My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart keep my commandments.”
As I say, Solomon was led of the Holy Spirit when he wrote these words. Jehovah through the Spirit says to us all, “Children, forget not my law and my commandments.” But let’s lay that aside for the moment and remember that we all live under our own system of laws. You might never steal; you are never tempted to shop-lift – ah, but you might lie when circumstances demand, as we see in the life of Peter. You would never consider adultery or fornication, but to lust or internally covet is another matter. You would never blaspheme, but to ignore or make light of the preaching of the Word, you might. We all have our own standards and laws, but Solomon was speaking of GOD’S laws and commandments. Herein is one of the responsibilities of the Christian – to make sure our laws match the Lord’s. “My son, FORGET NOT my law; but let thine heart keep my commandments.” Here is the problem, just like Peter with his vows of fidelity and love, he forgot them all when the friends of the enemy surrounded him at the fire in the courtyard.
I don’t hear the terms any more, but years ago, computer memory was measured and named differently than it is today. We used to talk about RAM – “random access memory” – and ROM – “read only memory.” My first computer had a hard drive on which to store information – something unheard of in its day. It had 10 mgs of hard drive memory, but I could also store information on a floppy disk – something as rare today as living Dodo birds. Then for a few years, I saved pictures on CDs, but the other day I bought a 256 gig flash drive. All of these remind me that we have different means of PERSONAL memory as well. We can remember things with our minds – We can memorize words and phrases, recalling them as long as our minds function well. But our minds don’t function well forever – do they?
Aren’t there other means of storing information – other places to remember stuff? There is such a thing as muscle memory. When I get in the car I put on my seat-belt; I don’t think about it or remember it; I just do it. And I don’t have to remember to open my mouth when my fork comes toward it; my mouth just opens. I think that there is a sense in which we can remember things emotionally. I can visualize the first time I kissed my wife; she was the first girl I ever kissed. She is the last girl I have kissed, and the only girl I have kissed outside of family members. Where is the memory of that first kiss stored? I don’t think its in my brain. There may be mental hard drives, floppy disks and flash drives on which to remember things. But Solomon tells us that the best place to store the things of God is not in our emotions or our brains. “My son, forget not my law; but let thine HEART keep my commandments.”
“For length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to thee.”
It is not that our memories shall give us long life, but our keeping of God’s precepts. “My law shall add to thee, length of days, long life and peace.” Can we say that all laws add good things to our lives? Do all our state laws increase the quality of life? Aren’t there times when the speed limit holds you back from something important? Are you sure that all the laws in regard to taxation are beneficial to you personally?
Despite what the unbeliever and the shallow-thinker think, God’s rules and regulations are highly beneficial. One man may think that God’s 8th commandment is holding him back. But “thou shalt not steal” is an excellent rule to implement; it will be a blessing throughout in your life. And to break the 7th command will not add length of days and peace to your life.
“For length of days and long kufem and peace shall they add to thee.” I couldn’t find a reasonable explanation of the difference between Solomon’s “length of days,” and “long life.” So I will call it “emphasis” and Hebrew poetry, which we will see regularly implements repetition. “Shalom” on the other hand is something we should be able to grasp. There is ample evidence that a peace-filled, calm heart will add days to your life and life to your days. So many Christians are driving themselves to early graves through their sins of worry and anxiety. Isn’t this why Solomon says in verse 5 – “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding”?
“Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart:”
This verse shows us how important it is to slow down sufficiently to let the truth wash over us. Solomon does NOT say “Don’t let mercy and truth escape; bind them to you; write them down.” What he says is – “Don’t let mercy and truth FORSAKE you.” You are not the active participant in the first part of the verse; mercy and truth are. They may decide to stay with you; or they may leave.
Remember that we might lawfully personify mercy and truth in Christ or the Holy Spirit. Or we could refer to them as two important blessings of Christ to us. And as we clearly see in “mercy,” it is not up to us to demand or maintain the mercy of any one else. So how can we hope to KEEP them from forsaking us?
By binding “them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart:” I remember goofing around with my friend Bob Comegys, probably in our first year of Bible school. I playfully and lightly punched him on the chest, but I nearly drove him to his knees. I didn’t realize that he was wearing his girl-friend, Debby’s, ring on a chain under his shirt. He was not going to let Debby forsake him even though she was a thousand miles away; he had bound her around his neck. How do we keep mercy and truth? Simply by making them precious to us. Debby’s ring dangling at the end of a chain was a constant reminder of Bob’s relationship to her. If we are constant in our rejoicing, and in our thanksgiving for, the Lord’s mercy and truth, then they will never want to forsake us. They need to be precious ornaments to us. The illustration may be crude, but if we continue to feed the stray cat; if we speak kindly to it, and pet it now and then, it will not want to go anywhere else.
Do you find what Solomon does NOT say to be interesting? For example he doesn’t speak about health or wealth? He doesn’t say, “Let not good health forsake thee.” Because, the truth is, no matter what your health is today, some day it will be gone. You may live to be 99 and not suffer a single serious illness or disease, but you will probably not live beyond a hundred. And your wealth will very likely be eaten up by inflation and taxes. So set not your affection on such things as these; don’t bind THEM about thy neck or write THEM upon the whiteboard of your heart. But mercy and truth are worth keeping. And even though they might depart of their own accord, if we maintain a warm place for them in our hearts, they won’t want to forsake us.
And then, “shalt thou find favour and good understanding in the sight of God and man.”
This so closely parallels Luke 2:52 that I wonder if Luke hadn’t read Proverbs 3 that morning in his personal devotions. “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.” Solomon’s “good understanding” is the Hebrew equivalent for “wisdom,” and it is sometimes translated that way. And the word “favour” is “chen” (khane), and it is translated this way 26 times, but it is “grace” 38 times. Solomon says, “If you forget not my law and keep my commandments, you will find grace and wisdom in the sight of God and man.” That is almost precisely what Luke said of the Lord Jesus.
Despite forcing me to consider this thought once again, I don’t understand it any better than I did last week. God’s grace is His “UN-merited favour” – which by definition we will never deserve, no matter how diligently we apply ourselves to His word and law. When we first experienced His grace, we were His enemies and unfit for anything but judgment. And yet if we fully appreciate God’s grace, He will be more inclined to continue to be gracious. Of course “wisdom” is directly related to our fear of the Lord, something over which we have some control in our hearts. These divine blessings should be considered miraculous in the light of our inherent wickedness. Praise the Lord that He is “gracious and merciful, slow to anger and plenteous in mercy.”
In a somewhat different way – that any of us find favour and good understanding even in the sight of our neighbors is miraculous as well. But aren’t these a blessing? Isn’t a good rapport with the people a round us a wonderful thing? A key part to that blessing is putting the things of God first in our lives. “My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart keep my commandments.”