Last Sunday we celebrated ?Graduation Sunday.? We honored 19 of our graduates and prayed for them as they make important decisions about their futures. We all realize that the transition from high school to college is an important time in life. Young people have to make a decision about what college they want to attend, what career path they will take, what courses they will take to help them accomplish their goals, what kind of person they will choose for a mate, and what?s important to them in life.
When a young person leaves for college they will no longer have mom or dad present to give them moral guidance and boundaries. Mom and dad won?t be there to try and cut bad decisions off at the pass or to teach them discipline. Many young people look at this newfound freedom and think that they have arrived in Heaven at last. The truth of the matter is that with less influence and control from their parents young people have to spend much more time making some crucial decisions about what is important to them in life. Will they go to college and wreck their lives in loose living or will they go to college and by determination, dedication, perseverance, and prayer use the gifts God has given them to develop their character and walk in God?s purpose for their lives? Will they choose a career based upon how much they can make or will they base their decision upon prayer concerning what God desires for them to do? Will they choose a mate based strictly upon superficial, surface qualities like looks, personality, or popularity, or will they base their decision upon prayer and the character and spiritual commitment of the other person? These are important decisions that young people have to make. These are decisions that will help shape their future, either for the better or the worse.
It is not just young people who are faced with important decisions. We are all standing at the crossroads this morning and we must make some important decisions about our lives. What is important to you this morning? If you listen to society then you will quickly come to the conclusion that making money is important?the more you make the better off you will be. Another important item for many people is the pursuit of happiness. The general consensus is whatever you think will make you happy is what you need to pursue in life. There are so many things that make the ?Top Ten? list of what is important to people and they are making great sacrifices in order to pursue them. The problem is that so many of the things that we consider as important are not important at all. Even more important is this: we need to be very careful what we pursue in life because it, or they, might very well destroy us.
Today, in our study of Proverbs, we will hear the wise counsel of the young boy?s parents once again. Let?s read our Scripture for this morning found in Proverbs 3:13-26.
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. 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. 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. (Proverbs 3:13-26 NIV)
The Scripture that we are studying today can be broken down into three sections. First, in verses 13-18 we read about the value of wisdom for all people. Secondly, in verses 19-20 we read about the value of wisdom to God as Creator. Last of all, we see in verses 21-26 the value of wisdom for the son. Let?s take a look at our first section and seek to learn about the value of wisdom for you and me.
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. (Proverbs 3:13-18 NIV)
We read here in verse 13 the very first ?beatitude? of Proverbs. ?Beatitude? is kind of a strange word to those of us who don?t use words like that today, but even though we may not be familiar with the word ?beatitude? we may be familiar with ?The Beatitudes? which are the opening section of the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 5. The word, ?beatitude,? comes from the Latin word for ?happy? or ?blessed.? Blessed are those who pursue God, who desire to walk in His ways, and seek fellowship with Him above all else. In Psalms 1 we read another beatitude.
1 Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. 2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. (Psalm 1:1-2 NIV)
In Matthew 5 and Psalm 1 we can learn that blessings come to those who seek to walk with God. We see the same idea shared with us in Proverbs 3 where we are told that we will be blessed if we ?find wisdom? and ?gain understanding.? Once again we see that this is a pursuit and not a passive activity. You and I will never gain understanding by simply hoping that we will learn of God?s ways. We will never stumble upon God?s wisdom if we are living aimlessly. We must passionately pursue God to know God and gain His understanding about what is truly important in life.
We are told in verses 14-15 about wisdom?s great worth and value. Read along with me.
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. (Proverbs 3:14-15 NIV)
In these verses we see that those who give their lives in the pursuit of wisdom, the pursuit of God, will gain a great profit, far greater rewards than anything this world has to offer. Godly wisdom is more valuable than silver, it yields a better return than gold, and it is more precious than the finest rubies.
I don?t know so much about the value of these items so I did a little work this past week and found out that you can buy silver for $6.05 an ounce. That would be about $98.00 a pound. That?s pretty costly, but hold on because you haven?t heard costly yet. The latest price for gold is $388.30 per ounce. That is $6212.80 a pound! And you thought a gallon of gas was expensive! I probed a little further and found out that the most valuable ruby ever sold is a 38.12 carat stone found in Burma. In 1993 it sold for $5,860,000.00?that is $153,750.00 per carat. That?s a lot of cash my friends, but all of these together are not as valuable as the wisdom of God. As a matter of fact, verse 15 says that ?nothing you desire can compare with her.? What do you desire? It really doesn?t matter what you answer?if your answer isn?t the wisdom of God, or God Himself, then you are chasing after lesser things. The Apostle Paul wrote,
If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless. 7But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ?the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. (Philippians 3:4-9 NIV)
For the Apostle Paul there was nothing that could compare with the opportunity he had been given to know Jesus as Lord of his life. Knowing Jesus didn?t make Paul?s life any easier, but it sure made it more full. Knowing Jesus didn?t bring worldly wealth or great fame, but it did bring him a richness that the world knows nothing about and it put his name in the Lamb?s book of life.
You see my friend the reason Paul says that everything he had ever obtained or accomplished was rubbish compared to knowing Jesus and the reason the writer of Proverbs says that wisdom brings greater returns than silver, gold, or precious rubies is because toys, titles, accomplishments, and prestige do not make a life. You can make a great living and never experience real life. You can have enough money to buy a palatial house, but money can?t make a home. Fame can open doors for you to gain access into the presence of powerful people, but fame will never gain you entrance into someone?s heart. Money can buy you stocks and securities, but it will never get you eternal security. Proverbs and Paul knew this, but do we? In verses 16-18 we read,
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. (Proverbs 3:16-18 NIV)
We have already touched on the fact that Proverbs is not a formula for getting things from God. We need to avoid the mindset that ?If you do what is prescribed then you will get health, wealth, and a long life.? Long life, riches and honor, pleasant ways, and paths of peace are in God?s hands and we must trust Him for the path He leads us down in life.
There is something here in this section of Scripture that I want you to notice. Take a look with me at verse 18. We read, ?She is a tree of life to those who embrace her; those who lay hold of her will be blessed.? What I want us to notice is the ?tree of life.? In Genesis 2 we read about the creation. God makes a garden, the garden of Eden, and He places the man He had created in the garden. Turn with me to Genesis 2:8-9 and let?s read together.
8Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. 9And the LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground?trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (Genesis 2:8-9 NIV)
It was a lush garden. Everything that Adam and Eve could have ever needed was provided for them there in the garden. There were only two trees in the garden of Eden that are identified for us: the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Adam and Eve had access to the tree of life, but they are told to stay away from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. So what did they do? They ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil of course. As a result they were banished from the garden and we read in Genesis 3:21-24.
21The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. 22And the LORD God said, ?The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.? 23So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 24After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life. (Genesis 3:21-24 NIV)
From the time of the Fall and their banishment from the garden until today sin has enslaved humanity. Sin keeps us from God, from the tree of life. Sin blinds us from the blessing that is available to those who surrender their lives to living as God desires for us. What is interesting is that in the last book of the Bible we find the gateway to the tree of life opened once again. Take a look at Revelation 22 with me and let?s read together.
1Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. 3No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. 4They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever. (Revelation 22:1-5 NIV)
Isn?t that beautiful! I can?t wait for the day when sin will cease and those who belong to the Lord will walk about in the light of His presence with no distractions and no temptations. That day will come, but there is good news for you and me today. In Proverbs 3:18 we are told that we can lay hold of the tree of life by embracing wisdom, by living according to God?s wisdom right now. Who would refuse to lay hold of such a wonderful promise! Who would want to miss out on the wonderful, abundant life that God?s desires for us to experience even in this life!
In verses 19-20 we read about the value of wisdom to God as the Creator. Take a look at these verses with me.
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. (Proverbs 3:19-20 NIV)
There is incredible design and order in the Universe. We read here that God used wisdom to lay the earth?s foundation and to set the heavens in place. ?Earth and heavens? are a Hebrew way of saying that everything in the Universe has been put into its proper place by God. By God?s infinite knowledge he divided the deeps and designed the clouds to drop down sustenance for all living things.
I was listening to a sermon by Dr. Bruce Waltke on this section of Scripture and he mentioned that even the water drops that fall from the sky contain incredible design and order. Dr. Waltke said that God has designed rain drops in such a way so that as they fall through the skies and increase in speed they divide and remain small instead of gaining mass. Because of this design the water that falls from the skies doesn?t strip the trees and plants of their leaves. We could talk all day about the intricate design in creation, but suffice it to say that all of the design we see is a product of God?s wisdom and His benevolence towards us.
When you go back and read about the creation in Genesis 1 we see that ?In the beginning God created the heavens and earth.? (Genesis 1:1 NIV) We can find out more information from the second verse.
2Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. (Genesis 1:2 NIV)
In Genesis 1, before God speaks, we find that the creation was ?formless and empty.? The creation was chaotic; it was formless and void, or empty. Then God spoke, ?Let there be light,? and that which was formless began to take form, the chaotic began to become ordered, and the empty was filled with the beauty of God?s created order. God continued to speak during the six days of creation and more and more order and form came into being. There is a great lesson in this for us my friends.
Scripture teaches us that God knit us together in our mother?s womb, He created us. When we are born our lives are like the creation before God spoke order and form into it. When we are young we lack moral order, we lack discipline, our lives are formless, we lack God?s wisdom which shapes and molds our character and lives. The good news for us is that when we allow God to speak into our lives like He spoke into the formless creation, our lives begin to take shape and we see order come into being. What once was chaotic is now ordered by His Word and His will. What once was formless takes shape through the sanctification of the Spirit and the Word. What God?s wisdom did for the creation that we all enjoy will take place in our own lives as well when we allow God to speak into our lives.
Last of all we see the value of wisdom specifically for the son. These benefits that we read about in verses 13-26 have application for your life and my life as well as the life of the son. Let?s read together.
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. (Proverbs 3:21-26 NIV)
The father and mother tell their son that wisdom will bring sound judgment, discernment, a sense of peace, sound sleep, and an absence of fear concerning those things that bring down the wicked. These wonderful blessings are not brought about because the son is smart or has attended a conference on wisdom, but because the Lord is his confidence and keeper. The lesson for you and me is that the Lord is our life. As long as we walk in Him, abide in Him, rely upon Him, and pursue Him above all else then we will experience the peace and security that only He can provide.
In Proverbs 3:21-22 we hear the father and mother tell their son that he needs to stay focused on using sound judgment and discernment because they will be ?life? for him. Read along with me so that you can see what I am talking about.
21 My son, preserve sound judgment and discernment, do not let them out of your sight; 22 they will be life for you? (Proverbs 3:21-22 NIV)
What is ?life?? Is it lots of money, fast cars, and beautiful women?or men if you are a woman? Is it to have people know your name? What is life? The Hebrew word that is used here is a very interesting word. The word is connected with God. Life, real life that God intends for you and me, is found and experienced only as we walk with God in intimate fellowship. In Deuteronomy 30 Moses spoke to the people of his day and said,
15 See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. 16For I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess. 17But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, 18I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. 19This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live 20and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. (Deuteronomy 30:15-20 NIV)
Again in Deuteronomy 32 Moses speaks once again. Listen to the passion in his voice as I read this section of Scripture to you.
46he said to them, ?Take to heart all the words I have solemnly declared to you this day, so that you may command your children to obey carefully all the words of this law. 47They are not just idle words for you?they are your life. By them you will live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess.? (Deuteronomy 32:46-47 NIV)
?These are not idle words, they are your life.? The life that you have been searching for, praying for, and hoping would come one day has come. Life, abundant life, fullness of life can only be experienced in intimate fellowship with the Father. He has given His Son so that you and I might come to Him and experience the depths and heights of what He has in store for us. Won?t you invite Jesus into your heart this very morning? I will promise you that absolutely nothing compares to the riches that you will come to know as you walk with Him.