I miss my Nana. Yesterday, I wanted to phone her so badly. I loved the way she would call me “Dahlin” in her Deep South drawl and end our conversations reminding me, “I prayed for you and all my grandchildren today!” Makes sense I would think of her as I study Proverbs, where wisdom is often personified as a regal lady a lot like my Nana.
And oh, how I miss her wisdom—the practical kind like how to fry chicken fingers and the spiritual kind like how to pray bold prayers for my family. I’m thankful for the loving friendship between us that made me seek her out for advice and made her eager to share it. She wasn’t just passing along dry, how-to lessons. She was sharing her heart to bless me.
In the same way, Proverbs reads much more like that kind of family blessing than I think we realize. One-third of the book is an entreaty from parent to child to learn what will produce a vibrant, godly life. Chapters one through nine are addressed from a wise dad and Chapter 31 from a wise mom, both wanting their children to live in ways that bring blessing not only to themselves but to whole communities.
This is not knowledge from a guru on mountaintop. This is wisdom packaged in love, delivered from one heart to another.
Proverbs 3, where we will be for the next few weeks, is a perfect example of wisdom packaged in love. This wise father will point out that it’s not just his own love behind the words but the love of God, who “disciplines those he loves, just as a father disciplines the son in whom he delights.” (3:12). Let’s look, then, at some of the loving wisdom of Proverbs 3:1-4 and how to apply it. Imagine an older, wiser person whom you love reminding you of what really matters:
1 My child, do not forget my teaching,
but let your heart keep my commandments,
2for they will provide a long and full life,
and they will add well-being to you.
3 Do not let truth and mercy leave you;
bind them around your neck,
write them on the tablet of your heart.
4 Then you will find favor and good understanding,
in the sight of God and people.
Remember godly wisdom in an active way. We are meant not only to gather wisdom with our minds but also to allow wisdom to penetrate our hearts so that it affects our behavior. The result is a life marked by rich experience and well-being, but how do we do get godly wisdom ingrained in us so that it makes a difference? The New Testament writer James would say we have to activate our faith as “doers of the word not hearers only.” Or as our grandmothers would say, “Practice what you preach.” However, as people living after Christ’s resurrection, we have two advantages over those who lived in Old Testament times when Proverbs was written. Once we’ve accepted Christ as savior, we are no longer at the mercy of our sin nature, which always made our attempts at godliness fall short, and we have a gift that was only given to certain prophets and kings during Old Testament times. Christ’s own Holy Spirit has been poured out on all believers so that we can fully accept “the implanted word, which is able to save [our] souls.” (See James 1:21-25.) When we gather God’s wisdom and act on it through belief and obedience, the Holy Spirit transforms us from the inside out. He truly writes God’s wisdom on the tablet of our hearts.
Be characterized by truth and mercy. I love that picture with my grandmother at my wedding because she has just loaned me her diamond pendant necklace as my “something borrowed.” It made me feel like a princess and reminded me that my whole family was represented and carried near my heart when I walked down the aisle. I was also slightly nervous about losing it. I would have been a fool not to check several times that something so valuable was well-clasped around my neck. In the same way, we are to make sure truth (also rendered “faithfulness) and mercy are just as prominent in our characters. Like a necklace that we “bind around our necks” we make sure that truth and mercy don’t “leave us.” God’s wisdom is not just about gaining head knowledge—how to play the game of life well—but also about exhibiting his nature to the rest of the world. Yes, when we choose to honor our commitments, tell the truth, speak and act with kindness, and extend forgiveness, we are likely to “find favor and good understanding” with the people around us. But more importantly we experience God’s good pleasure and grace—his favor—because we behave in a way that represents our Father well. We carry his good name on the outside of us just as surely as we carry his grace and love on the inside of us. Wise children remember who their Father is and that his loving wisdom is meant to be on display to a desperate world.
This month I’m memorizing a portion of Proverbs 3 and would love for you to join me. Check out this video from my Facebook page for tips on understanding the book of Proverbs and adding wisdom to your memory bank.