Proverbs 3:13-18 by Robert Dean
"Bless you." "Have a blessed day." Are these just airy greetings with little meaning? When we think of blessing and its synonym, happiness, we think of money in the bank, a big salary, vitality, and brilliant relationships. Proverbs tells us that God is offering us wisdom, which is worth more than all of these things and leads to true happiness. Nothing we wish for can hold a candle to wisdom. When we attain wisdom, we are promised enduring joy, long life, and recognition. The book of Proverbs explains the conditions God has attached to gaining His wisdom. Listen to this message to learn nine ways to help develop wisdom in your life and the ability to enjoy the exciting blessings that come with it.

How to Live a Blessed Life. Proverbs 3:13-18


Today it has become fashionable to use the term "blessed" and to overuse the term in lots of different ways. Christians greet one another with a greeting of blessing, or they say something over the phone like "bless you," or we hear phrases like "have a blessed day," and in response to the question how are you the answer is "blessed."


Historically we have examples of some statement of benediction, i.e. a saying of blessing, being a form of greeting in the early church. The danger is that when we overuse phrases like this they lose their significance. They become clichés, trite and trivial, and they are just something that we'd say that has no meaning or relevance and nobody thinks about it. In that way the words are diluted and they lose their real meaning. And one of the tools that Satan uses to attack Christianity, and has done down through the ages, is to assault the words that we use. From the very beginning Satan's temptation of Eve in the garden focused on a statement of God. He is focused on propositional truth, challenging the meaning of what God said. So words are important, they means things and they reflect ideas, and it is important to think about what we say, how we say it, and that we not be guilt of trivialization of especially doctrines that are as significant as being blessed by God; a term closely related to the doctrine of grace.


Sadly, these terms like grace, holiness, sanctification, tongues, have really been assaulted in the last 100-150 years, especially in our culture, and this has caused these words to have to be over-defined again and again because they have lost their biblical meaning within a congregation. Another word is "worship," a word that's meaning has changed in the last thirty years and no longer has the same connotation. In many churches the song leader is referred to as the worship leader, which totally changes the meaning. The pastor is the worship leader; the song leader is the song leader. Don't confuse the two. It is all part of worship but the highest form of worship is the study of God's Word, understanding and letting that drive us to greater devotion and obedience to God. So we have to be careful of the terms that we use and how we use them. 


In the Old Testament there are actually different words that are translated "blessed, bless, or blessing." There is the Hebrew word barak which relates to blessing, and that is almost always used of God, and God is the only one who blesses as the subject or the performer of that word. Then there is the word that we find in our passage here, ashere, which has more to do with the subjective realization of all of God's goodness to us in the application of His Word in our lives so that we experience the fullness of life as God intended for us to have. 


Proverbs 3:13-18 is a self-contained unit of thought within the lesson that the father is giving to the son. In the verses from 13 down to 35 at the conclusion of this chapter, the father is extolling and magnifying the blessings and the consequences of having wisdom. He is showing the son how important it is to have wisdom. He begins with talking about the value of wisdom in these verses and then he is going to say some thing starting in verse 19 about wisdom in terms of it eternal significance, relating it to the essence of God and His use of wisdom in creation. Then he is going to make application of these things starting at around verse 27.


As we get into this section he is really emphasizing to his son how to live a blessed life. We have to understand what it means to have a blessed life in the context. As we look at the structure here we see that this is called a chiasm—a literary way of organizing material, and in the ancient world especially there weren't such thing as font faces, underlining, italics, boldface, etc. to bring out emphases and so it was done stylistically. A chiasm is based on the Greek letter that looks like an X in the word christos for Christ. It looks like the left hand side of an X. So you can have an A statement, a B statement, a C statement; you can have eight or ten statements going down and then the eight or ten statement following mirror or reflect the statements made earlier. So for example, here the A statements are the first statement and the last statement, both of which emphasize blessing. The first verse, verse 13, looks at the father pronouncing the person who finds wisdom as blessed. In the last line, 18b, we read: "And blessed/happy are all who hold her fast [retain her]." So the last line reflects the first verse, verse 13. Then in the middle are two statements related to the value of wisdom in vv. 14, 15—wisdom is superior to the value of precious minerals. The benefits are then stated in vv. 16-18a.


The focal point here is the value and significance of wisdom emphasized in the middle section. It is usually the middle section that is sort of like the target that the point of the arrow addresses. That is the focal point of the passage.


Proverbs 3:13 NASB "How blessed is the man who finds wisdom And the man who gains understanding." I've always had a problem translating these words as "happiness." Because happiness is one of those words like "fairness." Fair means different things to different people. Some people think fair means just. Other people mean fair means everybody gets the same result. Other people thing fair means whatever they think is right or consistent with equal distribution. So fair is a nebulous concept. So is happy. Happy is a subjective term. We often think of a psychological state of euphoria. Because things are going well and we are uplifted, we are excited, our football team won a game or somebody that we like actually responded to us, or whatever it may be we have accomplished something and we feel uplifted. That is often what we think of in terms of happiness and that is a rather fluid concept. We can be up and the next day down, and it is dependent upon circumstances and events. That is not what this word is emphasizing.


But the word "blessed" also has its own problems because of the way it is used today. And it does seem to indicate, not happiness in that vacillating sense, but more of an enduring joy that is based on living life as God would have us live it. And despite our circumstances there is a fullness of life and a fullness of joy and tranquility and contentment that is the result of doing what God says to do and of the way He has graciously provided for us in the midst of our circumstances. So this first word "happy" is a translation of the Hebrew word asher, meaning blessed. It is a state of blessedness or happiness, which is how it is translated, but it is different from another word that is more frequently used, barak, or the noun form barakah.


This first verb, barak, is a word that is most often used in relation to God. God is the only one who is the subject of this verb; God is the only one who performs this action of blessing others. It is used of human beings blessing God, and in that sense it means to praise. So when Scripture says, "Bless God," it is an idiom for saying, "Praise God." We bless God by praising Him. We don't praise Him by saying "Praise God" or "Hallelujah." The way we praise God is by rehearsing and bragging upon what God has done for us. We tell people what He has done. We list items; we name specifics. It is concrete, not just saying "Praise God." Another way in which we have trivialized praise today is that we sing songs that rehearse these words of praising God, and we haven't praised God if we say praise God. Praise God means to list, enumerate or identify all of the ways in which God has graciously provided for us, graciously delivered us from negative circumstances, and all of the ways in which God has provided for us. That is how we praise God or bless God.


The second word, the word that we find in this context, is the word that describes more often our subjective realization of God's gracious benefits for our life. God provides for us, and through His Word as we grow to maturity our life is stabilized as we walk with the Lord and we apply His Word. We experience His provision in our life and that is what is meant by this word in terms of blessing. It is a sense in which we realize all of the fullness of what God has intended man to experience as God originally created human beings. This word is often used in a sense where man is expected to do something, whereas the first word, barak, is used in more of a grace sense that God simply bestows something freely upon people. With asher the idea is that there is something that we do in order to experience that blessing; there are conditions attached. One of the conditions that is stated in this passage is that if we want to experience the blessing of God then we must first acquire wisdom and understanding; it is not just bestowed as a free gift, it is not grace in that sense. It comes as a result of the study and acquisition of wisdom from a consistent focus on the Word, application of the Word, claiming promises, and letting our mind be transformed by God's Word so that we approach life as God would have us approach it. 


"Happy is the man"—the word "man" is adam, like the name of the fist human being. It not only refers to Adam as an individual but is a word that refers to mankind, both men and women. So we might translate this, "Happy is the person." " … who finds wisdom, And the man who gains understanding."


Proverbs talks quite a bit about this kind of blessedness. Proverbs 8:32 NASB "Now therefore, {O} sons, listen to me, For blessed are they who keep my ways." This is another condition. In Proverbs 13:3 we have to acquire wisdom; Proverbs 8:32 is a personification of wisdom speaking, and wisdom says that if we want to have this kind of happiness in life then we need to "keep my ways" or walk in obedience to wisdom, apply wisdom consistently in life. Proverbs 8:34 NASB "Blessed is the man who listens to me [wisdom], Watching daily at my gates, Waiting at my doorposts." So the emphasis here is not only on obedience as in verse 32 but also in attentiveness, seeking out what wisdom has to say, what is the wise course of action biblically. Again, it drives us back to the Word again and again and again to discover what God is saying to us through His Word.


The application of wisdom in terms of our neighbor: Proverbs 14:21 NASB "He who despises his neighbor sins, But happy is he who is gracious to the poor." We are not to treat our neighbor with disrespect, and in the context of this verse it indicates a neighbor who has difficulties or problems. In the parallel in the second line, happy is he who is gracious to the poor. The contrast is between despising the neighbor and having mercy on the neighbor. Since the parallel to neighbor is the poor we are dealing with a neighbor, someone in our periphery who is going through difficult times. Rather than treating them lightly we are demonstrating God's love and grace and mercy in their life. As a result of that we experience the fullness that God has for our life—described as happiness or being blessed.


Note: This is an individual decision; it is not something that is imposed by the government. Too often today we have a problem because the government has taken over, and takes over more and more things, like health care and welfare. It is the government saying, "I don't trust you to personally provide for the poor or the sick. We are going to take your money and we are going to decide the best way to distribute that." This is one of the most inefficient ways possible. Not only is it inefficient in terms of the bureaucratic distribution of wealth but it is also inefficient in the sense that it takes away whatever extra individuals might have to bless others with so that they don't have anything to give. The government has already taken most of it. The more the government takes away the less it allows the citizens to exercise their own volition and responsibilities in graciously blessing others and taking care of them. So it destroys personal responsibility and it destroys opportunities for happiness on the part of individuals in helping to contribute to these causes.


Proverbs 16:20 NASB "He who gives attention to the word will find good, And blessed is he who trusts in the LORD." This is a synonymous parallelism—the first line is restated in the second line. "He who give attention to the word," i.e. listening to the Word and applying it in the life, "results in discovering that which is intrinsically good." The second line parallels that, so we understand that heeding the Word is part of trusting in the Lord, relying upon Him, believing His Word to be true and applying. The result is that as we experience that which is intrinsically good in our life then it is fulfilling to our life as God designed us and we live optimally as God intended for us to live.

Another use of ashere is in Proverbs 20:7 NASB "A righteous man who walks in his integrity— How blessed are his sons after him." This is addressed to fathers. You walk in integrity. The Hebrew word there simply means in the wholeness of your honesty and righteousness, and because you as a father live a life of integrity then your children are blessed after that. 


The final use of the term in Proverbs is in Proverbs 28:14 NASB "How blessed is the man who fears always, But he who hardens his heart will fall into calamity." What this is emphasizing is blessed is the man who continuously walks in the fear of the Lord. If we are always walking in the fear of the Lord then we are building wisdom and understanding in our life. The person who has wisdom in the life and has acquired wisdom, as Proverbs 3:13 says, is blessed or happy. So the role of the fear of the Lord is significant in our spiritual life and spiritual growth.


As we look at Proverbs 3:13 about finding wisdom and gaining understanding, the word for "find" is the Hebrew word matsa. It indicates finding something as a result of a conscientious search for it. This is someone who is searching, diligently seeking wisdom and understanding, and that is the person who will have this blessed happiness in life because they have discovered wisdom and gained understanding. The second word for gaining is the Hebrew word puq, which means to obtain something, to offer something, to acquire something through purchase; investing time and energy in order to learn the Word and letting it shape your thinking.


The two words at the end of the verse, wisdom and understanding, are chokmah which emphasizes a skill. It is sometimes translated prudence, but it has the idea of application; and "understanding" which precedes wisdom. It is also an application though; it is from the Hebrew word bina which is the exercise of discernment, being able to choose the wise option. So understanding has to do with taking the doctrine that we learn, the teaching that we have studied, and then applying that into real time situations so that we can make wise decisions. The result of making wise decisions is that we grow in wisdom and we develop a life that exhibits a certain amount of skill in living because we know the Word of God.


So there is a flow in the way we acquire wisdom that we see in Proverbs. First of all, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. So we have to start with a healthy respect bordering on fear of the negative consequences of the Lord. He is in control and we know we need to submit to Him in every area of life. Because we fear the Lord we know that He has commanded that we know Him and know His Word, and so we have to arrange our lives in such a way that we can acquire a knowledge of the Word. That means that we have to make time every day to read our Bible, to listen to the teaching of God's Word, study it on our own, be in Bible class during the week. This has to be a priority. You can't get to wisdom without knowing the Word and you can't know the Word unless this is a disciplined procedure on your part where you have made this a priority so that you are there every time you can—whether you in the car, whether you are in the gym, or wherever you are going to listen to the teaching of God's Word or study it on your own so that you can some to that knowledge of God's Word.

We begin with the fear of the Lord as the beginning of wisdom and we acquire knowledge through the study of the Word. But knowledge isn't wisdom. Wisdom comes from application over time. We go from knowledge to understanding and then to wisdom. That is the way in which we grow. 


The principle is that if we want to have a fulfilled life, have happiness in life, apart from circumstances no matter what they might be, then we need to seek and acquire wisdom and understanding. Why should we do this? We spend our lives doing so many things. It is hard to carve out the time to really be a student t of God's Word because we are too busy chasing the dollar—and not always in a bad sense. There are obligations that are placed upon us and we don't have any other option.


Proverbs 3:14 NASB "For her profit is better than the profit of silver And her gain better than fine gold." The word "profit" is the Hebrew word sachar which refers to the results of trade. It is the profit. There is nothing wrong with making a profit, despite the fact that many in our culture want to assault the rich and raise their taxes as if acquiring wealth is evil. They want the government to be Robin Hood and take from the rich and give to them. But the reason they want it is because they, too, really want to be wealthy. But notice the writer here is validating the importance of profit. Silver and gold are valuable. He is not denigrating the acquisition of wealth. What he is saying is wealth without wisdom is an empty life; wealth without understanding of God's Word is not going to bring happiness.


As much joy as money will bring to people, and it does, the Word of God and wisdom from the Word of God is going to make people even happier. Because it is going to give the capacity to use the silver and gold that is acquired in life in a wise way that benefits. It will be used in a responsible manner to enrich not only your life and experience but also your family and those around you: for example, the neighbor that is destitute and in need of aid.


So there is a positive recognition of wealth embedded in the comparison that we find here. The profits of wisdom are better than the profits of silver. It is not saying that there is anything wrong with the profits of silver. The comparison doesn't work if the value of silver and gold isn't significant and isn't good. The comparison is that that is wonderful and it is great but wisdom is even better. This is not on acquisition of wealth but on acquisition of wisdom. 


Then he compares the value to precious jewels and whatever else you may desire in life. Proverbs 3:15 NASB "She is more precious than jewels; And nothing you desire compares with her." Whatever we might think might bring us happiness and joy in life, wisdom is more precious than beautiful or valuable things. Whatever we think will bring us happiness, wisdom will bring us greater happiness. That is his point.


This is a lesson that Solomon understood. When God told Solomon to ask for whatever it was that he would like to have and God would give it to him, Solomon responded by saying, "Give to your servant an understanding heart" (1 Kings 3:9). "Understanding heart" in the Hebrew is a listening heart, a hearing heart. It showed tremendous humility, and because he focused on true humility as his request God said He was not only going to give him wisdom but also everything else he could have asked for: riches, popularity, intelligence, etc.


Riches and honor are often used together in Proverbs. The word for honor is the word kabod in the Hebrew and it literally means "heavy." It came to be applied metaphorically to that which has significance or value and it came to be applied to people who had a weighty presence or a significant presence, as people who were honored. So riches and honor has to do with achieving a position in life where one has a certain amount of influence and weight because of one's wisdom.


Proverbs 8:18 NASB "Riches and honor are with me, Enduring wealth and righteousness." Wealth without honor and righteousness will disappear. It will be thrown away and it will have no meaning for the person who has it. But for the person who has integrity and honor and righteousness it will be used well. So the problem is not having wealth, the problem is having wisdom and integrity.


Proverbs 21:21 NASB "He who pursues righteousness and loyalty Finds life, righteousness and honor."  


Proverbs 22:4 NASB "The reward of humility {and} the fear of the LORD Are riches, honor and life." The Word of God doesn't have any problem with people who accumulate wealth. The problem is if they don't accumulate godly character along with it then the wealth will be misspent and abused. 


Proverbs 3:16 NASB "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." Peace is the Hebrew word shalom, which indicates health and wholeness as well as peace or tranquility and contentment.


In conclusion the father says, Proverbs 3:18 NASB "She is a tree of life …" This borrows from a metaphor going all the way back to Genesis chapter two where there were two significant trees in the garden. God told Adam and Eve they could eat from all the trees in the garden except for one: the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. There was another tree in the garden and that was the tree of life, and that tree of life shows up again in the eternal state as the river flows out from the throne of God and the river is lined by rows of the tree of life for the health of the nations. It is not that they are sick and need to recover health but it provides for an additional blessing and significance in the eternal state for those who have access to the tree of life.


In the garden of Eden there was a test related to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Adam failed because he sought wisdom from the wrong source. That was the temptation from the serpent: that God doesn't really want you to experience the knowledge of good and evil and so He doesn't have your best interests in mind, so you need to eat from the fruit of this beautiful tree, and when you do you will then be like God. What the allusion is here is that there is only one true source of wisdom and that is wisdom from God, and that provides a quality of life to whomever acquires wisdom. As a result all who retain wisdom are happy or blessed: " … those who take hold of her, And happy are all who hold her fast."


In conclusion, passages of Scripture that talk about blessing and how we acquire blessing. Remember, the word ashere (blessing) has conditions attached to it. The other word barak is a blessing that is freely given by God as a grace blessing to individuals. But in order to experience the full happiness and blessedness that God has for us, the fulfillment of life, we must meet certain qualifications. One of those is to acquire wisdom and understanding.


The first thing that must be acquired in life in order to experience a blessed life is a person has to be saved. He has to come to the cross and trust in Jesus Christ as savior. You cannot have a blessed life if you are unsaved. If you are spiritually dead, by definition you are divorced from the grace of God, divorced from the provision of God, outside of the family of God and still under the judgment and the consequences of spiritual death.


Psalm 32:1, 2 NASB "How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered! How blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity, And in whose spirit there is no deceit!" So blessedness here is related to salvation, having our sins forgiven and being in a state where our transgressions are not held against us.


As a believer the most significant requisite for happiness is to trust the Lord. Again and again and again the Scriptures make this brief point" "Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord."


Psalm 2:12 NASB "Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish {in} the way, For His wrath may soon be kindled. How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!"


Psalm 34:8 NASB "O taste and see that the LORD is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!" (Also Psalm 40:4; 84:5; 146:5; Proverbs 16:20) When we taste something we bring it into our life and make it part of our thinking. So we are to accept and receive the Lord and all of His Word into our life and we will have the experiential realization of His goodness. The result: "blessed is the man who takes refuge [trusts] in Him!" 

Psalm 84:12 NASB "O LORD of hosts, How blessed [happy] is the man who trusts in You!" 


Psalm 146:5 NASB "How blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, Whose hope is in the LORD his God." The hope aspect moves us from simply trusting in God for help to He is our hope. That is a future focus. He is the one in whom our confident expectation resides.


Isaiah 30:18 uses the term "waiting on the Lord," which is a synonym for trusting in Him: "Therefore the LORD longs to be gracious to you, And therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you. For the LORD is a God of justice; How blessed are all those who long [wait] for Him."


A third thing that we learn from the passages related to blessing is that the blessed man puts himself under the authority of the Word of God. The word of God is the defining issue in your life. This is seen is passages such as Psalm 119:1 NASB "How blessed are those whose way is blameless, Who walk in the law of the LORD."


Proverbs 29:18 NASB "Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained, But happy is he who keeps the law." This is a great verse for our generation because we live in a world where people cast off the authority of God's Word, they want to do whatever they want to do, they don't want the Bible or Christians telling them that there are absolute moral standards. But the Scripture says that happiness resides in keeping the law. For us that would be keeping the Word of God, the instruction of God's Word.


1 Kings 10:8 NASB "How blessed are your men, how blessed are these your servants who stand before you continually {and} hear your wisdom."


Psalm 1 addresses the issue of acquiring wisdom from a little bit of a negative: the man who doesn't do certain things. Psalm 1:1 NASB "How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!" Notice the progression: walking, to standing, to sitting. You start off walking around with the wrong crowd, you hang around with them, and then you just stand with them, sit down and reside with them in all of their human viewpoint error.


But this is what leads to real happiness in a person's life. Psalm 1:2 NASB "But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night." Delight is in the law of the Lord. He is excited about studying the Word and learning what God has to say to him. He meditates continuously. This is a figure of speech. It doesn't mean you are meditating on God's Word every minute or every second so that we wouldn't get anything else done, but it focuses the entirety of your life. You get up in the morning and focus by reading God's Word and as you go through the day you reflect back upon what you have read. God the Holy Spirit brings to your mind principles and promises for you to claim during the day, and your life and your thinking is shaped by the Word of God.


The result: Psalm 1:3 NASB "He will be like a tree {firmly} planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers." Notice that bringing forth fruit is in its season; it is not the same all the time. There are times when that fruit is manifest and times when it is not.


Psalm 1:4 NASB "The wicked [ungodly] are not so, But they are like chaff which the wind drives away." The term ungodly is usually a term referring to unbelievers. They shall perish, v. 6; they are not going to stand in the judgment, v. 5.


Psalm 1:6 NASB "For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, But the way of the wicked will perish." The way of the godly is to meditate on God's Word. That is what we are called to do, that is what is expected of us.


Blessedness or happiness is for the person who applies doctrine and grace to those around him. It is expressing the unmerited love of God through us and channeling it to those around us. Psalm 41:1 NASB "How blessed is he who considers the helpless; The LORD will deliver him in a day of trouble."


Proverbs 14:21 NASB "He who despises his neighbor sins, But happy is he who is gracious to the poor."


Psalm 106:3 NASB "How blessed are those who keep justice, Who practice righteousness at all times!" Notice God doesn't use pusillanimous words, wimpy, weak words, like "fair." He uses strong words like righteousness and justice. Those communicate things. How do we know justice? How do we know that absolute standard? We go to God's Word. Integrity is the path to happiness.


Happiness is for those who obey the Word. Isaiah 56:2 NASB "How blessed is the man who does this, And the son of man who takes hold of it; Who keeps from profaning the sabbath, And keeps his hand from doing any evil."


Blessed are those who have a lot of children. Psalm 127:5 NASB "How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; They will not be ashamed When they speak with their enemies in the gate." There is blessing from having children and raising them in the nurture and admonition of the lord.  


There is blessedness in work, in labor, in fulfilling that which God has called you to do in terms of your job and your career. Psalm 128:1, 2 NASB "How blessed is everyone who fears the LORD, Who walks in His ways. When you shall eat of the fruit of your hands, You will be happy and it will be well with you." Enjoying the production of your own labor. Not having the government come in and confiscate it through excessive taxation.


Happiness is for the one who is disciplined by God. We should be happy when God corrects us. Job 5:17 NASB "Behold, how happy is the man whom God reproves, So do not despise the discipline of the Almighty."


Finally the nation. The nation can be happy if they are focused on the Lord. Psalm 32:12 NASB "Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD …" But when that is removed from the public market place of ideas the result is that we are going to have a nation of people who are miserable. And that is exactly what we see in our country and in many countries in the world. There is such instability internationally and that is because as never before in history we have a world population that has more and more committed to a path against God than ever before. The only path of happiness is to focus on the Lord.


Psalm 144:15 NASB "How blessed are the people who are so situated; How blessed are the people whose God is the LORD!"