1My son, do not forget my teaching,
But let your heart keep my commandments;
2For length of days and years of life
And peace they will add to you.
3Do not let kindness and truth leave you;
Bind them around your neck,
Write them on the tablet of your heart.
4So you will find favor and good repute
In the sight of God and man.
Solomon’s advice to his son and to youths in general is to not forget the teaching of God and to keep His commandments. The best way to live life is to hold to truth and to be kind with others, for this is wisdom. Those who walk in wisdom should expect to avoid the calamities that evil people tend to bring upon themselves, and they can be at peace in their hearts and often even with those around them. As much as it depends upon us, we should live peaceably with others. Wisdom and kindness go hand in hand, for those who are cruel and vindictive are foolish. Truth and kindness should be etched on our hearts and near to us always. This pleases God and brings His favor, and people in general will view kindness, honesty, and justice favorably as well (Philippians 4:8). But many times people are wrong, and thus God wants us to seek His favor above all and not succumb to the passing whims of man. What is of good repute is only ultimately defined by Him and His truth.
5Trust in the LORD with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
6In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.
The two verses contain potent truths. First, we are to trust in the Lord not just somewhat or a little bit but with all of our hearts. This is why James 1:5-7 says that God will give wisdom to those who ask in faith without doubting. We cannot trust God with our whole hearts and at the same time doubt that He will provide us with His wisdom. We need wisdom as we traverse this life, and God will give it to those who believe. Second, we are told not to lean on our own understanding. We must recognize our weakness and our dependency upon God and look to Him Who alone is sufficient. Trust must be transferred from our own human abilities and intellect to the power and wisdom of God. There will be things that we just won’t understand because we won’t see the whole picture as God sees. We just must trust Him and believe that He understands it all. Third, in everything we should acknowledge Him and credit and praise Him for all that is good and perfect in our lives. We don’t earn or merit His good and perfect gifts, but He is faithful to be gracious to us even when we don’t deserve it. He always deserves praise and thanksgiving from our hearts, and we must always remember that we can do nothing on our own apart from Him (John 15:5, Psalm 127:1). The result of our holding tightly to these three wisdom principles is that God will make our paths straight. This doesn’t mean that life will be easy, but it does mean that we won’t make it extra-complicated by entangling ourselves with evil. It doesn’t mean that we will never suffer, but it does mean that God will be with us every step of the way sustaining us and giving us grace to do what He will ask of us. It means that He will make us spiritually effective and efficient in doing His work as He opens doors and closes doors. As we walk in His wisdom, we will see where we should go and what we should do. What was crooked and confusing can be made straight and clear as we seek the wisdom of God.
7Do not be wise in your own eyes;
Fear the LORD and turn away from evil.
8It will be healing to your body
And refreshment to your bones.
Being wise in one’s own eyes is describing pride, haughtiness, and arrogance, things God hates. It is an attitude that searches for wisdom and strength within the flesh rather than from God. Trusting in self is the exact opposite of trusting in God, and inevitably it will lead people astray and into danger. Thus, we should instead fear the Lord and turn away from evil. The Lord will exalt the humble heart in due time, but the proud He must bring low. When believers struggle with pride and self-sufficiency in our hearts and minds, God will be faithful to bring us low so that we will see our desperate need and dependency upon Him. Then, from a place of brokenness, He can heal us, use us, and empower us for effective service by His strength despite our weakness. His power is perfected not in our strength but in our weakness, for then it is evident to all that what is accomplished is something that only God can do (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). Then He gets all the glory as He always should.
Turning away from evil and doing what is right is healing to our soul and also to our bodies which can and do often reflect the state of our spiritual and emotional well-being. Sin can make the body decay, for we are not right when we hold sin in our hearts (Psalm 32:3-4). God must allow us to break so that we do His will and confess our sin. Our spiritual restoration can make us feel better physically also. Wisdom is refreshment not just for the soul but even for the body. Doing things God’s way may be hard, but it takes fear and confusion out of the stress equation. When we let Him carry the load, the burden actually becomes easy and light. Nobody said faith was easy, but when we exercise faith we can expect Christ to do all the heavy-lifting.
9Honor the LORD from your wealth
And from the first of all your produce;
10So your barns will be filled with plenty
And your vats will overflow with new wine.
We must acknowledge that any and all wealth that we have is from God, and everything that we have is a provision from Him. He gives us strength to work, the ability to learn, and the energy to earn money. He owns even the cattle on a thousand hills because He has made it all (Psalm 50:10). All that we have is ultimately His, and we must always be ready, willing, and cheerful to do what God asks us to do with the resources, time, and energy He gives us. He will honor us for our faithfulness, maybe not with more prosperity on earth as some promise but certainly with eternal rewards.
God’s covenant with Israel in Solomon’s time involved the people faithfully giving to the work of the priesthood and then expecting God to bless the nation in return with much prosperity (Deuteronomy 11:26-31). God wanted to see if the people would trust Him enough to obey Him and then praise Him for His provision. As time went on, the people started holding back their first and best from God, and they were carried off into captivity (Malachi 1, 2:1-9). They forgot that God owns all and deserves to be honored and obeyed, trusted and acknowledged (Proverbs 3:5-6). In trying to get more for themselves, they actually missed out on the blessings of God which were far greater, better, and longer-lasting.
11My son, do not reject the discipline of the LORD
Or loathe His reproof,
12For whom the LORD loves He reproves,
Even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights.
God disciplines those sons and daughters whom He loves as Hebrews 12:7-11 explains. We should not despise His correction, but we should humbly receive it knowing that it produces in us further wisdom, holiness, and understanding. He is not cruel, mean, vindictive, or wrathful towards His own, but He trains us in righteousness so that we can learn His ways and understand that sin is harmful while good is helpful. That He disciplines us is evidence of His delight in us, and we will see evidence of spiritual growth and sanctification as a result of His gentle and effective surgery on our hearts. God must also root out the hidden sins and selfish desires of our hearts so that we can keep growing into His likeness. Discipline is not God losing His cool and lashing out at His own. It is more like a doctor working to correct what is wrong in a patient. God will be faithful to teach us, change our desires, and modify our behavior as we trust Him and desire wisdom.
When God allows consequences into our lives for irreverence to Him, it is a reminder of His love, and it is always to help His church be purified. In His love, He will hedge us in behind and before, gently lay His hands upon us, and keep us from doing something stupid. His protection and provision comes before discipline, for discipline is only necessary for those who begin to harden their hearts. We don’t want to take God’s discipline lightly, for the harder we press back against God, the harder He will have to work to humble us. Wisdom says to listen quickly, repent immediately, and enjoy the fellowship of Christ.
13How blessed is the man who finds wisdom
And the man who gains understanding.
14For her profit is better than the profit of silver
And her gain better than fine gold.
15She is more precious than jewels;
And nothing you desire compares with her.
16Long life is in her right hand;
In her left hand are riches and honor.
17Her ways are pleasant ways
And all her paths are peace.
18She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her,
And happy are all who hold her fast.
Solomon lauds the value of wisdom and understanding because it is a great blessing to those who possess it through Christ. It is more valuable than silver and gold and any riches that the world can offer. Wisdom is more precious to behold than priceless jewels, and nothing can compare with the value of God-fearing understanding. Those who walk in wisdom will find eternal life in Christ and can expect to avoid a lot of unnecessary pains and strife on earth. So many people suffer because of their own foolish errors and because they do not take God’s Word seriously. They create a god of their own making and prefer the pleasures of sin for the moment rather than a storing up on treasures in heaven. There is a lot of pain on earth that can be avoided simply by doing things God’s way. Those who faithfully believe in His wisdom will find that His way provides far more joy than any of the world’s perverted ways. They will see that He does exceedingly, abundantly beyond all that we could ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). He is that good and faithful, but sadly too many refuse to take His path of wisdom. Wisdom’s ways are soothing to the soul, pleasant to the spirit, and peaceful to the heart and mind. The tree of life stands for eternal life (Revelation 22:2, 14), and wisdom and salvation in Christ are one and the same because eternal life is found in wisely receiving Christ as Savior. In Christ are pleasures forever and fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11), and happy are those who hold tightly to His wisdom. Many think that God is a killjoy and that Satan is more fun. The reality is that doing things God’s way is man’s only hope at fullness of joy. Happiness is found through holiness, not through drowning in a cesspool of sin and disappointment.
19The LORD by wisdom founded the earth,
By understanding He established the heavens.
20By His knowledge the deeps were broken up
And the skies drip with dew.
Wisdom was present when God created the world because God defines wisdom. With great purpose, intelligence, and design, God spoke the world into existence. We are not the result of some cosmic accident or simply a bunch of evolved chemical compounds. By wisdom we have been created and by understanding the world was made. God clearly believes in Genesis chapter 1, and so should we. Wisdom begins in the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth. If we rewrite or read-in to the creation account, we will have rejected wisdom and fail to acknowledge the amazing wisdom of God according to His creative genius (Psalm 19:1-2, Romans 1:19-21). Even the water that was under the earth that was broken up likely at the time of Noah’s flood and the rain that now falls from the sky were systems that were thought up by God. Thus, even the deepest valleys and tallest mountains and the rain from the sky should move us to worship the God Who brought it all into being. It all shouts praise to His glory, and so should we. Wisdom readily sees this, acknowledges it, and praises God as Creator.
21My son, let them not vanish from your sight;
Keep sound wisdom and discretion,
22So they will be life to your soul
And adornment to your neck.
23Then you will walk in your way securely
And your foot will not stumble.
24When you lie down, you will not be afraid;
When you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.
25Do not be afraid of sudden fear
Nor of the onslaught of the wicked when it comes;
26For the LORD will be your confidence
And will keep your foot from being caught.
This really explains the benefits of wisdom toward those who hold tightly to it. Satan sets all kinds of traps for us, and evil people constantly try to ensnare us in their latest schemes and ploys. Discernment from God enables us to know how to spend our time, how to use our God-given resources, and how to invest our talents. We won’t have to stumble into the evil one’s traps and waste the time and resources God has given us if we walk in wisdom. Sure, we will always make mistakes (James 3:2), but without wisdom we would make endless mistakes. The longer we live and the more we grow in wisdom, we should stumble less and enjoy the security of doing things God’s way more and more. We won’t have to fear when we try to sleep because we will know that God loves us and that nothing can take us out of His hand (John 10:28). Even when temptation comes, God will always faithfully provide a way of escape (1 Corinthians 10:13). He will keep our foot from being caught by the devil’s many traps. This does not mean as in the case of Job that God will never allow bad things to happen to us, but it means that we can honor and worship Him even in difficult times. Whether we have much or little, the challenge is whether we will succumb to temptation or submit to wisdom. Wisdom will always be the best policy even in unpleasant circumstances. Wisdom is not afraid of hardship, but it does everything possible to avoid the snares of sin.
27Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,
When it is in your power to do it.
28Do not say to your neighbor, "Go, and come back,
And tomorrow I will give it,"
When you have it with you.
If we have the opportunity to do good today, we should do it today rather than waiting until tomorrow. This is unfair to the person who can benefit from good today, and it is simply arrogant and foolish to presume on tomorrow. When God opens doors, we need to walk through them. When we have opportunity to do good to another, we need to take it. Wisdom does not keep good back from somebody unnecessarily, for our God doesn’t ever treat us that way. If we are able, we should be quick to help meet the needs of others, and we should be even more diligent to not withhold gospel truth from those who need to hear it.
29Do not devise harm against your neighbor,
While he lives securely beside you.
30Do not contend with a man without cause,
If he has done you no harm. 31Do not envy a man of violence
And do not choose any of his ways.
Wisdom doesn’t even think about harming others for no reason. Wisdom doesn’t pick a fight, and it certainly doesn’t do wrong to a person who hasn’t done any wrong to begin with. Wisdom strives to live peaceably with all people, and it strives to be a peacemaker rather than one who likes violence for the sake of violence or for selfish gain. Violent people who like to try seize other people’s possessions and allegiances by fear are not walking in God’s wisdom. They are simply enjoying power for selfish gain rather than being a contributor to a secure and peaceful environment. We must never try to gain by violence or envy people who practice violence. Somebody always gets hurt when violence is given praise rather than wisdom.
32For the devious are an abomination to the LORD;
But He is intimate with the upright.
33The curse of the LORD is on the house of the wicked,
But He blesses the dwelling of the righteous.
34Though He scoffs at the scoffers,
Yet He gives grace to the afflicted.
35The wise will inherit honor,
But fools display dishonor.
Some live to devise wicked against their neighbor, but this is an abomination before God. Those who walk in wisdom and live uprightly will enjoy His closeness and fellowship. Those who are wicked are storing up the wrath of God, but the righteous will be blessed of God. Blessing means seeing the abundant mercy and extravagant wisdom of God manifested in our lives. Eternally, we will live forever with Christ if we have trusted Him by faith, and, even on earth, we will see the goodness of the Lord (Psalm 27:13, 23:6). The wise will be honored in eternity, and they may even be recognized as having wisdom now. Fools display dishonor, and societies that are wicked will praise foolishness rather than view it as the dishonor that it is. This is why what God thinks is always of absolute importance. God in heaven scoffs at the mockers and fools as they raise their voice in arrogance toward the heavens. He is not intimidated by their boasts or deceived by their devious ways. He knows that they will be punished, and He is faithful to give grace to the righteous. The wicked may afflict them, but God’s grace and an eternal perspective sustains the upright. His presence is their greatest blessing because God will set all things right one day.