The book of Proverbs is probably best known for its one-line wisdom soundbites, but chapter three really sets us up for what’s coming next by building a strong and necessary foundation. Nothing that follows would mean anything without this chapter.
‘My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you.’ (Proverbs 3:1-2)
When we look at the information available to us today it’s tempting to think that we’re in an intellectually privileged situation when comparing ourselves to the past. The internet generation is comfortable taking on enormous amounts of new information at record-breaking speeds from all over the world. It should make our ears prick up, therefore, when we read that Solomon made a point of telling his readers not to forget his teaching. If it was worth putting in the effort to remember this wisdom three thousand years ago, how much harder must it be today with the sheer volume of data that our brains must process whenever we log onto Facebook?
Living in today’s world makes it difficult to sift through and extract the most useful information, but we must sit up and take note of biblical truth when it’s presented to us. In order not to forget the wisdom imparted by Bible authors, commentators and preachers we’re required to concentrate when reading the Bible and hearing it preached.
In contrast to forgetting Solomon’s teaching (head knowledge), he instructs us to actively keep his commandments in our hearts. This is important. If Solomon had stopped after telling us not to forget, we could have been forgiven for being a rapist or a serial killer, providing we could quote the Bible. But God is smart, and closes off the loopholes we might otherwise leap on. It is indeed important for us to concentrate on biblical teaching, but in order for us to properly respond to Scripture we must move on to practical application.
Unfortunately, it’s very tempting to look at Scripture and not do anything. One of my biggest flaws must be that I’m happier discussing biblical commands in depth than I am actually obeying them. And Jesus absolutely hates that. His biggest criticism of the Pharisees must have been that they had ‘neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness,’ (Matthew 23:23) which led him to call them hypocrites and blind guides. The Pharisees no doubt had a good knowledge of Scripture, but they did not allow it to pierce them deeply, and were publicly rebuked by Jesus as a result. Let’s be those who actively seek for the Bible to shape our attitudes and lives.
Of course, the Bible is not rules. Looking at the world’s idea of Christianity you’d be forgiven for thinking that the Bible is literally a list of do’s and don’ts without any explanation as to why, but that’s just not the case; we have here a promise: don’t forget Scripture, actively obey it, and the result will be ‘length of days and years of life and peace’. Reading this passage it’s not hard to understand where some Bible teachers get their health & wealth theology: obey Scripture, have enough faith, and God will make you well! But that’s not what this is talking about. Solomon is basically telling us that if we completely submit to God in everything, we will enjoy the rest of eternity with him! These years of peace may not come to us right away; just look at the early church. Stephen was one of the first Christians, and the moment he started to serve meals to the poor he was falsely tried and stoned to death (see Acts 6-7). Yet, as he died, he was filled with joy as he saw the eternal peace waiting for him.
Will you commit to remembering God’s Word? Will you make every effort to obey Him? What will your motivation be? A sense of self-worth? The ability to lord it over those around you? Or the promise of eternal joy with our Lord and Saviour?