Proverbs 3:5-8, 19-20
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
6 In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
7 Be not wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
8 It will be healing to your flesh
and refreshment to your bones.
19 The Lord by wisdom founded the earth;
by understanding he established the heavens;
20 by his knowledge the deeps broke open,
and the clouds drop down the dew.
- Complete trust in God is our goal, and this trust is connected to having love and faithfulness written on our hearts (3:3)
- Fear of the Lord, and trust in the Lord heals our flesh, that is, our created natures (3:5–8)
- In response to the Lord’s guidance, we will be wise and generous with wealth (3:9–10)
- One of the many beautiful personifications of Wisdom can be found in verses 13–18, for the personified wisdom’s connection to God’s divinity, see Proverbs 8.
- Sound wisdom and a remembrance of these teachings leads to steadfastness in the face tumult, and the more “airy” discussion of wisdom in earlier verses gives way to concrete exhortations in verses 25–35.
Here, one of the most famous proverbs (3:5) deserves constant revisiting. In wisdom, all confidence in our own wisdom is put asunder because we are not to lean on our own understanding (3:5). Indeed, each of us is commanded: “[b]e not wise in your own eyes” (3:7). This is the great paradox of the wisdom literature we find in the Old Testament and present in many of the sayings of Jesus: we have to abandon all pretense of our wisdom and learn from the wisdom that comes from our Lord.
This wisdom comes to us in Jesus Christ. Notice, it is not Jesus’ teaching we are after, as if what Jesus teaches us could be separated from his very life. Jesus did not come to give us wisdom, but to make fools wise and the wise fools, and he does so by showing us that the path to wisdom itself is through him.
“The Lord by wisdom founded the earth; by understanding he established the heavens” (3:19). All creation, from heaven to earth, comes to us from God’s wisdom. Does this remind you of any New Testament passages? How about this one: “All things were made through [the Word], and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3). The Word (logos) has always been connected with God’s wisdom, because God is never without his wisdom, logos, and reason because, as John tells us, “the Word was God” (John 1:1).
This wisdom—the Word, the Son—is the thing that shapes all of creation. He is the intelligible “rhythm” of all creation. The writer of Proverbs is showing his son how to live in accordance with this rhythm, even if its full manifestation is not apparent. That is why he can only capture that rhythm in bits and pieces, scatterings of observations and exhortations. But for us, the wisdom of God has come near to us, clothed in the flesh of Jesus. Becoming wise, then, is no great mystery for us; it means being conformed to the very image of the Lord.
Lord, by your wisdom you created all things. You have even given your wisdom a face in Jesus. We give you thanks for that great gift, and the Wisdom you showed us in Christ’s loving sacrifice on the Cross. In this Lenten season, show us your wisdom by showing us more of your Son. Give us grace to be conformed to him, that in dying to the wisdom of the world, we might rise with him and partake in the wisdom that is your life.
- Michael Dearman