Part II – The Art of Wise Living (Proverbs)
Sermon Title: Part II – The Art of Wise Living
Good News Statement: The LORD Blesses those who Trust Him
Preached: Sunday, October 10, 2021 at Dogwood Prairie and Seed Chapel UMC
Pastor Daniel G. Skelton, M.Div.
Scripture (NRSV): Proverbs 3:5-8 – Today’s scripture reading comes from the wise words of King Solomon: Proverbs chapter three, verses five thru eight. Listen to the wisdom of the LORD:
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not rely on your own insight.
6 In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
7 Do not be wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
8 It will be a healing for your flesh
and a refreshment for your body.
How many of you have ever made a dumb mistake? How many of you have ever made a poor decision? How many of you ever made a dumb decision about a relationship? About spending money? About not keeping track of time? How many of you have simply acted dumb?
During Homecoming week in High School, I delivered flowers to the wrong classroom. Instead of taking flowers to the person I liked, I ended up taking flowers to the classroom of someone who asked me out but I never gave an answer too. Not only was I dumb, but that situation was extremely awkward. While growing up, one of brothers attempted to ride his new mountain back down this steep hill. He made it down the hill, but failed to realize the small ditch at the bottom of the hill. Without knowing the condition of the innocent snowman in my parents’ front yard, my oldest brother decided to drive his new truck straight for the snowman. Let’s just say, the snowman didn’t see him coming; however, the snowman did leave his mark. My cousin attended a gym during college and for the check-in time she wrote, “10:00AM” and for the check-out she wrote, “11:60AM.” We have all done something we are not proud of. However, there is hope. And this hope is found in the words of Proverbs Chapter Three. Needless to say, we have to trust in the LORD before we see this desired hope which comes in the form of blessings.
Let us pray… Lord, Jesus, even though we wish sometimes things would be easy and simple, we know that that is not how life works. We have to be willing to put in the extra time before we see the desired outcome. Lord, I pray that all of us here today, say yes to the work that you have put before us because, Lord, we need to trust you with our whole heart. I pray that my words fall to the ground as your words settle in the hearts of all those before me. In your name we pray, Amen.
Proverbs 3:13-14 state, “Blessed are those who find wisdom and those who get understanding, for her income is better than silver, and her revenue better than gold.” As a side note, “her” is a reference to wisdom. Throughout the book of Proverbs, wisdom is personified as being a female, and she claims that she was present when God created the earth. This is clarified in the chapters yet to be explored.
Going back to verses 13 and 14. These two verses make a pretty bold statement: wisdom and understanding are more valuable than silver and gold, more valuable than any amount of money stashed away in the bank. Can that possibly be true? Is wisdom and understanding beyond the dollar amount that we give to silver and gold? I will let you answer that question for yourself!
Prior to knowing that wisdom is more valuable than silver and gold, King Solomon begins this section with the word “blessed.” The word “blessed” in verse 13, which means “to be favored” in Hebrew, actually occurs as two different words in the Bible. One of those words is used when God chooses to bless someone who has done nothing to deserve it: the word in Hebrew is barak. This definition of “blessed” reminds me of the simpleton and the lazybones who don’t want to work yet wants to know everything. The other Hebrew word is used when we have to do something in order to receive or attain a blessing: this word is eh’sher in Hebrew. Eh’sher is what is used in Proverbs 3:13. This blessing only comes to those who actively pursue wisdom and understanding, and who are willing to do the work in order to get the wisdom that God has for us (Proverbs 4:5).
Do you need eh’sher in your life? Do you need God to bless something in your life—your parenting, your marriage, your finances, your health, your kids, your home, your food, your neighbors, your church? Does someone you know need a blessing? Do you need a blessing? We are reminded in the New Testament of several individuals in which Jesus calls us to bless as we become disciples. These blessings are known as the Beatitudes and they are found in Matthew chapter five, verses 3-11: “Blessed are the poor in spirit…Blessed are those who mourn…Blessed are the meek…Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (they should read the Book of Proverbs)…Blessed are the merciful…Blessed are the pure in heart (those who trust in the LORD)…Blessed are the peacemakers…Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake (also known as martyrs)…and Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you.” Everyone, including you, have the ability and willingness to receive a blessing, to receive eh’sher. And when they do and when you do, we are all to “rejoice and be glad, for [our] reward is great in heaven” (Matthew 5:12).
King Solomon, like Jesus, is letting us know that with God in our heart, with the willingness to not give up (Galatians 6), receiving eh’sher is just around the corner. It is not for dummies, but for followers of wisdom and understanding. With wisdom, we bless all those who come before us. With wisdom, we become followers of Christ. And with wisdom, we hold true to the promises of God because we trust in Him with our whole heart.
Proverbs 3:13 says that “blessed are those who find wisdom and who gain understanding.” Remember from last week—”understanding” describes someone who is able to discern various good paths from bad ones and wise enough to actually know God’s preference! Colossians 1:9-10 describes this kind of person: it reads,
“9 For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God.”
Paul is saying that we are to pray without ceasing; and as we do so, we are to ask to be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding. In doing so, we receive and understand God’s revelation to us (the Scriptures), and we begin to understand how God’s wisdom relates to our own life. At this point, we actually obey what God’s Word says. We begin to “fear the LORD.” We become not only passive hearers of the word, but doers of the word! With both wisdom and understanding, the Bible says that as a result of our faithful obedience, God is going to “bless us” by making us fruitful in every good work. These good works are what ultimately lead up to verses 5-6. These good works include: health, prosperity, peace, and honor.
First, health: Proverbs 3:1-2 and 8 say that a benefit of wisdom is that we live longer. This proverb is not saying that you will never get cancer or that you won’t get in a car accident. It is saying that if you become wise and understanding, as a general rule you will make decisions that will bring less risk to your body. You won’t put yourself in dangerous situations, like going down a hill with a ditch at the bottom. We will confess our sin more quickly (Psalm 51:8), thus avoiding the physical consequences that accompany a guilty heart. As you begin to focus on your health, your wisdom will become a “healing for your flesh and refreshment for your body” (3:8). To gain wisdom, is to seek being healthy.
Second, prosperity: Proverbs 3:9-10 says that if we prioritize Kingdom giving right off the top it will cause us to pay better attention to how we spend the rest of our money. Do you remember the question I asked at the beginning: “Have you ever made a poor spending decision? One of my cousins buys random things because he has visions; but yet these purchases sit in his yard, covered by weeds and years of rust and wear. Proverbs has a lot to say about finances. It teaches that prosperity comes to those who work hard and earn money honestly, who give generously, who spend wisely, and who invest carefully. Proverbs resembles the words of John Wesley who stated, “Earn all you can, Save all you can, and Give all you can.”
Proverbs 22:7 which shares that “the rich rule over the poor and the borrower is the slave of the lender,” warns of the danger of excessive debt. Excessive debt will cripple you financially. All of us need a spending plan; it’s called a budget. God does not prosper us so that we can consume more; he prospers us so that we can bless others! And that is a beautiful thing. If you follow God’s prescription for finances, with God’s excess blessing you will be able to give generously to help others (2 Corinthians 9:7-11); and this giving comes in multiple forms. Needless to say, “Honor the Lord with your substance and with the first of all your produce” (3:9). Earn all you can, Save all you can, and Give all you Can and the Lord will bless you.
Third, peace. Look at Proverbs 3:2, 17, and 23-26. You will find a peace that guards your heart (your emotions) and your mind (what you are always thinking about). Proverbs 3: 17 says this, “Her ways—[the ways of Wisdom]—are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths—[those paths that are made straight by the LORD]—are peace.” Simply put, with wisdom, our paths have the potential to be filled with peace if, if, we learn to trust in the Lord with all our heart.
Remember Proverbs 3:5-6. Your paths will be “straight”—God removes the obstacles. The Bible says that we’ll still encounter tribulation—but we won’t experience the tribulation of our own making! Because of peace your sleep will be sweet as Proverbs 3:24 suggests. Although we may stray from the path of wisdom and begin walking down the path of folly, the Lord still gives us peace—a peace that guides us back home.
Fourth, honor. If you will walk in the way of wisdom, you will become more like Jesus in terms of people thinking well of you (Proverbs 3:4, 16, 35, cf. 1 Samuel 2:26 and Luke 2:52). Proverbs 3:4 says, “So you will find favor and good repute in the sight of God and of people.” Do you remember what the Fifth Commandment says? It says, “Honor your father and your mother…” (Exodus 20:12). Through honor, we give respect to those who teach us, who challenge us, and who walk beside us. If we choose to honor our Lord, we will inherit the wisdom of His Kingdom (3:35) and we will gain good repute in the sight of God and the people. We will begin to trust Him more, to love Him more, and to respect Him more. Proverbs 15:33 reads, “The fear of the LORD is instruction in wisdom, and humility goes before honor.” To fear the LORD is to give honor to Him. However, we must humble ourselves in His good works before we can receive the wisdom and instruction of His knowledge. We must begin to trust Him. When we trust Him, we will be blessed.
Sometimes we miss the wisdom and knowledge of our Lord and Savior; and we rely too much on worldly things. As we continue to gain wisdom and instruction about health, prosperity, peace, and honor, we will continue to develop trust in our LORD. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Trust in the Lord with all your heart and you will be blessed. Trust in the way of God, and not so much your desires, and you will be blessed. In trusting in Him and by acknowledging Him, the eh’sher –the blessing that we receive from God—will make our path straight. You will know when your path is straight because wisdom will bless your every step.
The LORD Blesses those who Trust Him and He is the one who gives health, prosperity, peace, and honor even when we do something that we are not proud of. However, you still have the choice: Do you want to walk down the path of wisdom or down the path of folly? The choice is yours…
Dear Heavenly Father, there are moments in our lives that we are not proud of, that we wish to forget. However, these moments continue to be remembered because we are still learning to choose the path of wisdom. Help us to trust you more so that we will be blessed by you in this life. Help us to choose your path of wisdom. Amen.
This week I encourage you to continue to read the Book of Proverbs: one chapter a day. As you do so, ask yourself, “What path do I want to take: the path of wisdom or the path of folly?” In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, go in peace as you live wisely and well in God’s world. Amen, Amen, Amen.