Chapter 3

Further Benefits of Wisdom

My NIV divides Chapter 3 into 13 paragraphs, varying from two to six verses, which if you consider that "My son" introduces a major section, we have three "My son" sections, five paragraphs (ten verses) in the first section, three paragraphs (another ten verses) in the second section, then five paragraphs (15 verses) in the last section.

Respect God

Each of the five paragraphs in the first section is about respect for God, except the first paragraph is literally about the father's teaching -- but he got it from God, so it's almost the same. [read v.1-2]
1 My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart,
2 for they will prolong your life many years and bring you prosperity.
2Chr.1:12 tells us where Solomon's wisdom came from. Less obvious is where verse 2 came from (try Ex.20). Rehoboam did not follow his father's teaching, and while David and Solomon both reigned forty years each, Rehoboam only reigned a total of 17 years, and then died. He did not "live long in the land." His reign was continuous battle with the Northern Ten Tribes, so it wasn't prosperity either. The Golden Rule builds wealth, but war tears it down. Later in this chapter we'll see verses that say so.

Verse 3 starts with a curious phrase 'khesed w'emmeth' which is Hebrew for "Grace and Truth." Or at least that's how noted Hebrew scholar Walter Kaiser saw it. He taught at Trinity Divinity School when I was there, but I didn't take any courses from him (I was too busy trying to learn Hebrew to be able to cope with his lectures from the Hebrew). Anyway, he pointed out that this phrase appears all over the Old Testament, numerous times in the Psalms, but his focus was on Ex.34:6, where Moses went back up into Mt.Sinai after breaking the Tablets of the Law on the ground in fury over the idolatry of his brother Aaron. And God made Moses do the cutting of the second set so maybe he would be more careful with them.

"Then the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the LORD. And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, "The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in khesed w'emmeth, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation."
Then Dr.Kaiser turned to John 1:14, which had this same phrase, this same meaning, but in Greek. [read v.3-4]
3 Let Grace and Truth never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.
4 Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.
[Discuss] I think the significance of this very common phrase in the Bible is that God is about both love and kindness -- which is emphasized in pretty much all Christian churches -- and also truth (which is often ignored in many of those same churches). It is curious in Rev.20:8, the list of all the people excluded from the New Jerusalem, liars are listed with the cowards and unbelievers and murderers and idolaters, but there's no mention of the unkind or hateful. I'm sure they won't be there either -- it wouldn't be Heaven for the rest of us if they were there -- but they weren't singled out as specifically not there like liars and murderers.

What is the result of making both Grace and Truth a part of your very being? Other people -- and also God Himself -- will like you. I think that's a pretty good consequence. 

[read v.5-6]

5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.
These two verses are often quoted by Christians, and well they should be! Psalm 127:1 tells us that "When Momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy" or rather, if God isn't building, ain't nothin getting built. God is God, and nothing happens without His say-so. But God is also Good. These two verses are about us getting our own attitudes in line with that.

[read v.7-8]

7 Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil.
8 This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.
Are you seeing a common thread in all these verses? Each pair is another way to say: Respect God, and Good Things Happen. [read v.9-10]
9 Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops;
10 then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.
This is about honoring God with your finances, and God will give you plenty to honor Him with. It really works. Not like the "Name-it, claim-it" people teach, God is not a genie to do our bidding when we rub the lamp, but when we do things His way, Good Stuff Happens.


Two of the three paragraphs in the second section are explicitly about Wisdom, but if you recognize that discipline (the first paragraph) is an important part of Wisdom, then they all go together. [read v.11-12]
11 My son, do not despise the Lord's discipline and do not resent his rebuke,
12 because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.
Another way to see verses 11-12 is as another part of honoring God (the previous section), which makes the "My son" phrase less significant as a topic divider. How we divide up the verses is less important than what they have to tell us.

The point is that being a Christian is not always sunshine and roses, sometimes we get off-track and God gently (or not-so-gently, if we aren't paying attention) reminds us that His way is better. Most of you have your own children, you know how that works.

Now we get six verses telling us in several ways, why and how Wisdom is Good [read v.13-18]

13 Blessed is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding,
14 for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold.
15 She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her.
16 Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor.
17 Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace.
18 She is a tree of life to those who embrace her; those who lay hold of her will be blessed.
The Hebrew text has only one paragraph break in the whole chapter, here before verse 19. [read v.19-20]
19 By wisdom the Lord laid the earth's foundations, by understanding he set the heavens in place;
20 by his knowledge the deeps were divided, and the clouds let drop the dew.
This tells us not why Wisdom is good for us individually, but that even God benefitted (and continues to benefit) from Wisdom when He does His God thing (creating the universe, keeping things running even now).

Miscellaneous Good Advice

I didn't see any over-all theme in the final section of this chapter, it was more of a hodge-podge like the chapters after 9. [read v.21-26]
21 My son, preserve sound judgment and discernment, do not let them out of your sight;
22 they will be life for you, an ornament to grace your neck.
23 Then you will go on your way in safety, and your foot will not stumble;
24 when you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.
25 Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked,
26 for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being snared.
This paragraph is sort of like the Widsom verses before, but using other words. The first verse invites us to embrace good thinking, and the next five verses tells us the good consequences when we do. Choices and actions have consequences. We want good consequences, so make good choices.

Then come three pairs of verses, where the poetic form spans both verses. The first two are similar in two ways: Neither of them offers a reason or consequence, they just say "Don't do it." They also are specific instances of what Jesus called The Second Great Commandment (the Golden Rule), doing for the people around you what you wish and hope they would do for you. [read v.27-32]

27 Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act.
28 Do not say to your neighbor, "Come back later; I'll give it tomorrow" -- when you now have it with you.
29 Do not plot harm against your neighbor, who lives trustfully near you.
30 Do not accuse a man for no reason -- when he has done you no harm.
31 Do not envy a violent man or choose any of his ways,
32 for the Lord detests a perverse man but takes the upright into his confidence.
The third pair gives us a reason for avoiding violence, that God prefers peaceful people. "Blessed are the Peacemakers," Jesus said, "for they shall be called the sons of God." Solomon's own father, David, was denied the priviledge of building God's Temple because he was a warrior. Solomon -- whose name is derived from the Hebrew word for peace -- got that priviledge. There is a place for people who take down the Bad Guys, but peace is better.

Finally three quick 1-verse doublets contrasting Good and not-so-good  [read v.33-35]

33 The Lord's curse is on the house of the wicked, but he blesses the home of the righteous.

34 He mocks proud mockers but gives grace to the humble.

35 The wise inherit honor, but fools he holds up to shame.

Tom Pittman
2022 July 23