Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Proverbs 3:1-4 A Balancing Act

This week in the Bible study I’m involved with at my church (Beth Moore’s study of James), we were talking about submitting to God. Our teaching leader talked about the many verses in the Bible that tell us to submit to our governing leaders, our bosses (masters), to our husbands, to each other as Christians, and, of course, to God. She pointed out that the Bible has no verses that explicitly tell children to submit to their parents. Instead they are exhorted to OBEY. Because submission requires an act of the will based on reasoning, children are not really capable of making this decision, so the Bible basically says, “Do what your parents tell you to do!” It’s an acknowledgement of their need to be protected from themselves.

And the problem really becomes full blown during the teen years, when children are moving from childhood to adulthood, when they are in a position to make all kinds of mistakes and they are in a non-listening mode! Teenagers, even the best of them, are convinced that their parents are totally STUPID! How many times have you thought about your teenager, “If she would just listen to me! I’ve been where she is, and I just want to keep her from making the same dumb mistakes I’ve made!” This seems to be where Solomon is as he continues to plead with a son to seek and cherish wisdom:

My son, do not forget my teaching,

    but keep my commands in your heart,  
for they will prolong your life many years

    and bring you prosperity.  

Let love and faithfulness never leave you;

    bind them around your neck,

    write them on the tablet of your heart.  
Then you will win favor and a good name

    in the sight of God and man. (Proverbs 3:1-4) 

Solomon seems to be saying, “Son, just listen to me! Pay attention to what I’m teaching you. If you just cling to God’s Word, you will have a longer and happier life! God’s commandments aren’t meant to imprison you, but to actually set you free from sin’s entrapments and bondage. I want to help you avoid the pitfalls!”

After reading Jon Courson’s Old Testament Commentary, Volume 2, I did a bit of a word study this morning on the words in verse 3, love and faithfulness (NIV 1984), which are translated as mercy and truth in the King James Version. The Orthodox Jewish Bible shows the words as chesed, meaning kindness, and emes, which means truth. And these meanings seem to confirm what Courson has to say about verses 3 and 4. Courson says that the verses are telling us that we need to keep a proper balance of mercy and truth when dealing with people. It is important to show mercy and love to those trapped in sin, but we never shy away from also giving them the truth.

Courson uses the example of Jesus’ confrontation with the woman at the well in John 4. He treated her with dignity, gentleness, mercy, and love, but He honed in on her sin when He specifically called her out for having had five previous husbands and then living at that time with a man outside of marriage. Mercy and truth, kindness and truth, love and faithfulness to the truth must be balanced. This is wisdom! Solomon tells us to bind them around our necks and write them on the tablets of our hearts. Don’t forget them!

The promise? If we will keep God’s commands in our hearts, and deal with others in mercy and truth, then we will find favor with both God and man. I’m seeing every day at work how I must balance this attitude of mercy and truth, not just with my fourth graders, but with my coworkers. This is the only way I can possibly be a light. It’s one of the keys to my gaining Wisdom. I LOVE this book!  

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