Proverbs 3:1-6 by Robert Dean
The only knowledge that translates into wisdom is knowledge of the Truth. Enmeshment with Truth is an inseparable relationship. Enmeshment in today’s language implies a dysfunctional relationship where one allows another to define him. In the spiritual realm it is a positive term where we aspire to be defined by, and inseparable from, the Truth of God. Truth acts as our protection from absorbing cosmic thinking. Understand the expanded meanings of mercy and Truth and the imagery behind writing them and binding them. Know that trust is based on specific principles of scripture. Applied trust is certainty that fear has lost its power to intimidate and motivate in light of the Truth that is written on our hearts.

The Key to Confident Living. Proverbs 3:1-6


Confidence is one of those interesting words we often hear. Sometimes it follows the hyphenated compound self-confidence. Self-confidence sometimes just means that we have a sense of who we are, that we have mastered whatever our area of endeavor is, and so we are confident that we can accomplish a task. And that, as far as it goes, is probably not a negative concept. But confidence ultimately has to be based in our life on one of two things. It is either based on the creator, on God, or it is based on circumstances, the details of the creation. Those are the only options. We ultimately ground our stability, our confidence, our certainty, our future hope and expectation upon God and God alone. And it doesn't just mean trust Him but it emphasizes something more specific; it is trusting in what He has revealed in His Word.


Confidence is the stress we will study today in the first six verses of this section, and we are going to see the key to confident living. The theme verse for Proverbs is that there is a way that seems right to man but its end thereof is death. So we have this choice, and often we don't know which way to go. What the father is saying to his son in the framework of the book of Proverbs is teaching him how to acquire the wisdom to make skilful decisions as we go through life. In the midst of crisis, in the midst of pressure and stress we have laid down a foundation in our soul that is based upon God's Word. And it has built a strength, a framework of stability so that it sets a course for our thinking. It takes time; it doesn't happen in a week, in a month, or even in a year or two. It happens as a result of being completely enmeshed in the Word of God so that the thinking of Scripture becomes our thinking. That takes time, and we have to make decisions every single day that we are going to make that a priority, and then over the course of time we see that strength develop. 


We have seen in our introduction, in the first nine chapters of Proverbs there are ten lessons on wisdom given by the father to the son. And though originally these proverbs were written down as a result of the teaching of the father to the son, it had as its teaching point to the people of Israel a framework and model of how parents, and fathers specifically, were to train their children. So that following the dictates of Deuteronomy the focus upon the Word and the wisdom and the doctrine of the Old Testament would be passed on from one generation to the next. The application for us is that we are to do the same. So the only way we get to that point in our spiritual growth where we move from just the information of Scripture—and it is amazing how many people don't even have the basics of information—is to make the Word our priority and learn to apply it. As we accumulate knowledge in our soul that gives us the information and the understanding we need to apply, and that is how wisdom is built. We can't get to wisdom without spending a lot of time in the Word. Reading our Bible once a year is a minimal expectation.


We saw in the first lesson in the first chapter the challenge to listen to the father's guidance and to reject the influence of the son's peers. That is so true today. It is not just something for young people, it is something for older people as well. We have so much chatter around us from the cosmic system that is constantly penetrating our defenses that we don't even realize how much worldly or cosmic thinking we have absorbed, how much human viewpoint foolishness has become a major part of the way we look at life. So we have to be challenged to listen to the teaching of Scripture.


Then from verses 20-33 in the first chapter there was a comment made as wisdom was personified, and wisdom rebuked the simple, the naïve and the open-minded.


The second lesson was in 2:1-22, dealing with the need of wisdom to protect us from the wicked. Now we are in the third section, which is on the promise of the Lord, His promise to guide and protect us; but we have a responsibility to guard the Word, to obey the Word, and to have our confidence in God alone. 


These verses are set in collections where we really have quatrastitches (4 lines), or in one case a pentastitch (5 lines), and each one is a different proverb; they are not one verse but usually two and sometimes three verses connected together. The first two verses here go together. 

Proverbs 3:1 NASB "My son, do not forget my teaching, But let your heart keep my commandments; [2] For length of days and years of life And peace they will add to you." What we see here is a challenge to the son to obedience. The father is anchoring his teachings even more strongly and orienting them to the Word and the command from the Lord. This is seen in several verses in this chapter. He is challenging to son to follow his laws and commands because they are the Lord's law and commands, not just because they are the father's opinions or ideas; these come from the Lord.


In the first verse we have an antithetical parallelism. In Hebrew poetry there is the rhyming of ideas, not words. Sometimes there is a synonymous parallelism where the first line is restated with similar words to give a better explanation or understanding. Sometimes there is an antithetical or opposite so that the second line expands on the first line by stating it in the negative. That is what we have here in the first verse. The positive command is to "not forget my teaching"; in contrast we are to let our heart keep his commands. We see a parallel between the idea of do not forget and keeping. So we understand that not forgetting the law doesn't mean that just don't have a lapse of memory but it really means to keep or obey, even guard, the law [teaching].


These two words are important as we look at this section. The word for "forget" is shakach, which has the idea of not forgetting, not having a lapse of memory or ignoring something. In many passages where it is a spiritual passage related to the Word of God it has the idea of "don't abandon or deny God." It is not simply talking about a memory failure. Don't go against the law [Torah]. This has the idea of instruction in the law—the commands of God going back to the Mosaic Law; it also has the idea of instruction or guidance for living. The son is commanded: Don't deny the Law; don't abandon the Law. The principle for us is that we are not to abandon, deny or ignore the Word of God; it is to be the highest priority in our life. If it is not it is easy for us to go against the Word. The second line says, "let your heart keep my commandments." That is the Hebrew word natsar which means to watch, to watch over, to keep or to guard something. We are to guard it, keep it, make sure that it is enshrined within our souls and within our thinking, and that it is the foremost content in our thinking. This is the foundation. 


Deuteronomy 4:9 NASB "Only give heed to yourself and keep your soul diligently, so that you do not forget the things which your eyes have seen and they do not depart from your heart all the days of your life; but make them known to your sons and your grandsons." So within the content of the Mosaic Law there is to be this family responsibility of teaching the Law and passing it down from generation to generation. It is the parents' job and the grandparents' job to teach and to train and equip children in the Word of God. It is not something that is to be delegated to the schools or the Sunday schools. The training in the Word of God in a biblical context is in the family. These other things like Sunday school are simply adjuncts. 


Deuteronomy 6:12 NASB "then watch yourself, that you do not forget the LORD who brought you from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery." One of the ways that they were not to do that was because they would be continually reminded of the rituals in the temple, rituals laid out in the Levitical offerings that constantly brought their minds back to what God had done in the exodus event. We have the same kind of thing in the Lord's table. We remember the Lord in His death; who He is and what He did for us.

Deuteronomy 8:14 NASB "then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery." "Proud," i.e. being arrogant is the idea; "forget," i.e. when you become arrogant and you abandon, deny or by the way you are living. Constantly remember what God did.

Deuteronomy 4:9 refers to forgetting the things your eyes have seen. That is the exodus event; 6:12 refers to the exodus event; 8:14 refers to the exodus event. These are all referring to something where God entered into human history and did something profound in delivering the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. The point is that this is a historical event in space-time history when God interfered with human history miraculously and delivered Israel. Christianity is not based on feeling or on some kind of mystical idea about God, it is not based on anything like any other world religion; it is based on the God who has entered into space-time history, the history of the human race, and has acted in the history of the human race.

Deuteronomy 32:18 NASB "You neglected the Rock who begot you, And forgot the God who gave you birth."

In the Psalms we see the same challenge. "Bless the Lord O my soul, and forget not all His benefits."

Psalm 106:13 NASB "They quickly forgot His works; They did not wait for His counsel." This is a rebuke of the exodus generation. [21] "They forgot God their Savior, Who had done great things in Egypt."

The promise is that if we keep the law, if we do not abandon God, and if we guard and keep His commandments—which means observe them regularly in our life—then they have a result: Proverbs 3:2 NASB "For length of days and years of life And peace they will add to you." Literally in the Hebrew this reads: "For length of days and long years And peace…" Length of time involves the quantity of life and the peace relates to the quality of life. It emphasizes that we will not only have a longer life—this was also contained in the commandment related to honoring your father and your mother—and an increase in the quality of life. The word shalom, translated "peace" here, doesn't simply means peace, the absence of conflict, but is also relates to a comprehensive kind of fulfillment or completion, a perfection in life and spirit which quite transcends any success which man alone, even under the best circumstances, is able to attain. It relates to a fullness of life. It qualifies in one's life every sufficiency and good fortune, free from hostility and lack, and so filled with inner contentment, delight and joy as a gift of God. It is a life of happiness and joy and contentment no matter what circumstances might be. 

This idea that obedience to the Word extends our life is also present later in this chapter in vv. 16, 17. NASB "Long life is in her right hand; In her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are pleasant ways And all her paths are peace."

Having begun with an emphasis on knowing and keeping and guarding the Word in our life, then we receive another exhortation in vv. 3, 4 to take what we have learned in terms of applying it in relation to mercy and truth, again reflecting an idea that we saw earlier. This is to be bound around our neck like a necklace. This buys into an imagery of a necklace with a symbol of protection. So it is the idea that mercy and truth protect us.

Proverbs 3:3 NASB "Do not let kindness and truth leave you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart." In the first line is the command. The next lines expand on that and they are in synonymous parallelism. Binding them is parallel to writing them; around your neck is a symbol of protection; writing them on the tablet of the heart is making this a part of the thinking of our soul. The result: [4] "So you will find favor and good repute In the sight of God and man." This idea is also repeated several times in the Proverbs.

Proverbs 7:2, 3 NASB "Keep my commandments and live, And my teaching as the apple [center] of your eye. Bind them on your fingers; Write them on the tablet of your heart." Again and again you need to learn the Word and make it so much a part of you that you can't live without thinking about what God wants you to do, and how does the Word of God apply to this decision and this situation.

The two words used here translated in the NKJV as "mercy" and "truth" are extremely significant words used in the Scripture. They are virtues that reflect the content of the father's teaching. The first word "mercy" is the Hebrew word chesed, the word that relates to God's faithful, loyal love. In human beings chesed is related to faithfulness and loyalty as a result of our understanding of God's Word. Truth [emeth] here has the idea of stability. A form of this word is used to refer to the foundation stones placed under the pillars in Solomon's temple to give them stability. So from that root idea of firmness or stability comes the idea of something totally dependable, something unchangeable, something unchangeable, and therefore something that is absolutely faithful. Mercy and truth are words that are emphasized throughout the Proverbs. In this particular structure using mercy and truth together emphasizes what is essential to have a life of wisdom and to live a life of skill. 

Proverbs 23:23 NASB "Buy truth, and do not sell {it,} {Get} wisdom and instruction and understanding." This emphasizes the priority of truth. We live in an era when people don't believe in truth anymore as an upper case, capital T, universal principle that applies to everybody in every situation in every culture in the world. Truth is whatever you find works for you is what our culture says. As Bible believers we reject that. There is one truth; it needs to be the priority; we need to buy it and not sell it. Some things are necessary in life and you never get rid of them. That is the foundation for the future. That is the idea here. Along with truth buy wisdom and instruction and understanding.


Proverbs 29:14 NASB "If a king judges the poor with truth, His throne will be established forever." This relates to leadership, any leadership. Truth becomes the foundation for being able to make judgments in life to help people solve problems and face issues in their life.


Isaiah 48:1 NASB "Hear this, O house of Jacob, who are named Israel And who came forth from the loins of Judah, Who swear by the name of the LORD And invoke the God of Israel, {But} not in truth nor in righteousness." This is a condemnation of the generation of Isaiah's time that had rejected the Lord. They just talked. There are as lot of people today who have just a superficial God-talk. There are even politicians who use Christianity or God-talk to try to put some sort of respectable façade on their evil ideas. People who reject God want to wrap up what they are doing in the cloak or veneer of biblical truth, and yet they deny it.


We often see these words linked together in Proverbs. Proverbs 14:22 NASB "Will they not go astray who devise evil? But kindness [mercy] and truth {will be to} those who devise good." These two elements, chesed and emeth, go together. 


Proverbs 16:6 NASB "By lovingkindness [mercy] and truth iniquity is atoned for, And by the fear of the LORD one keeps away from evil." God's grace and His faithful stability (His truth and integrity) go together. That is part of the integrity of God.


Proverbs 20:28 NASB "Loyalty and truth preserve the king, And he upholds his throne by righteousness." The opposite is true. If the ruler doesn't understand mercy and truth then his government becomes a government of rot and is antagonistic to freedom.


So by joining these two concepts together, mercy and truth, the father is linking these things together as a part of a necklace that provides protection and guidance for the person who applies the Word.

Proverbs 3:5 NASB "Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding." This verse gives us the positive commands as to what we should do. First of all, trust in the Lord. This is expanded and illuminated for us by the synonymous parallelism of the next line. Trust means not to lean on or depend upon or rely on our own understanding. That doesn't mean that we don't think. What it means is that we don't operate on human viewpoint understanding, on the limited information that comes from the basic systems of rationalism and empiricism; we rely ultimately on the revelation of God.


This verses is located within the context to how the son is to bind the teaching of his father around his neck to guard and protect him. This is done through trust. The word that is translated "trust" here in this passage is the Hebrew word batach, a word that has a very simple meaning: confidence. It emphasizes what one relies on for something, that which provides you with security. What is your ultimate source of confidence and security? It is what we often refer to as the faith-rest drill. When we put our confidence in God then we are able to relax in life situations whatever they may be.


It is sad to say that we are as guilty as many in our culture in that we have reduced the phrase "trust the Lord" to something that isn't much more than just a simple cliché. The Bible doesn't use it in and of itself. We trust the Lord in terms of some sort of revelation, some sort of content. We are trusting a promise, we are trusting a provision, we are trusting in a revelation from God in the Scriptures; we are not just mindlessly just trusting the Lord in and of itself as an independent concept. Often we hear this word used as a sort of non-specific generic motto that has reduced it to something that isn't anything more than something banal and platitudinous. It means something significant in Scripture. There is a specific statement that our trust wraps itself around. We are combining our confidence in a specific statement that the Scripture says.


Contextually in the book of Proverbs this goes back to the idea in Proverbs 2:6 that it is the Lord who gives wisdom. It is from His mouth that we receive knowledge and understanding. This trust means confidence in life. It is a sense of confidence that means that we are not worried or concerned about things anymore. We are confident that God is in control. It doesn't mean we are irresponsible but it means that we can relax because ultimately God is taking care of things. I am going to do thing I can do to the best of my ability but God is the one who takes care of all of the details, the consequences and the results. 


It is interesting that in the Septuagint the word batach is never translated with the pistis [pistij] word group, which means to believe. But it is translated with the elpis [e)lpij] word group which means to hope in something, to have confidence in something. That expresses the main idea of batach—to rely upon God, depend upon God, to have our confidence in Him. It emphasizes such a strong sense of confidence that we are just not concerned about the problem anymore. We are not going to lose sleep over it anymore because God takes care of it. 


There are several passages in Proverbs that reiterate this. Proverbs 16:20 NASB He who gives attention to the word [wisely] will find good, And blessed [happy] is he who trusts [has confidence] in the LORD." Having confidence in the Lord is parallel to heeding the Word.


Proverbs 22:19 NASB "So that your trust may be in the LORD, I have taught you today, even you." The second line expands on the first, but the reason we are instructed in the Word is so that we can be confident in God.


Proverbs 28:25 NASB "An arrogant man stirs up But he who trusts [confident] in the LORD will prosper." Notice the difference between being arrogant or self-assertive independent versus dependent or confident in God.


Proverbs 29:25 NASB "The fear of man brings a snare strife …" We are worried about people, about events and circumstances, and that creates a trap in our soul. "… But he who trusts [is confident] in the LORD will be exalted [be safe]." It's not because we did all the things we should do to be safe and secure—not that we shouldn't do this. But we can't ever lock every door and every window of our life. There are evil people and bad things that happen that are beyond our control. Even when the Lord is in control He sometimes allows things to happen in order to give us opportunities to trust Him, to be a witness to others, and apply the Word. So we can just relax and he confident in Him.


Jeremiah as a list of things we should not trust in. Jeremiah 7:4 NASB "Do not trust in deceptive words, saying, 'This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD.'" They were trusting in the superficialities of religious observance, religious ritual.


Jeremiah 7:8 NASB "Behold, you are trusting in deceptive words to no avail." We have a lot of people in this country who have put their trust in the lying words of religion and politicians. They are just building a house of cards that will easily fall down when adversity comes.


Jeremiah 7:14 NASB "therefore, I will do to the house which is called by My name, in which you trust, and to the place which I gave you and your fathers, as I did to Shiloh." Their confidence was in the temple, in the superficial worship, and so God condemned them. He would destroy it.


Isaiah 12:2 NASB "Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; For the LORD GOD is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation." Being confident in God means fear, anxiety and worry are out the door.


Isaiah 26:4 NASB "Trust in the LORD forever, For in GOD the LORD, {we have} an everlasting Rock."


Jeremiah 17:7 NASB "Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD And whose trust [hope/confidence] is the LORD."


Psalm 37:4-6 NASB "Psalm 37:4 NASB "Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, and He will do it. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light And your judgment as the noonday."

Psalm 56:3 NASB "When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You."


Psalm 91:2 NASB "I will say to the LORD, 'My refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust!'"


Things not to trust in. Psalm 44:6 NASB "For I will not trust in my bow, Nor will my sword save me."


Psalm 118:8 NASB "It is better to take refuge in the LORD Than to trust in man."


Psalm 62:10 NASB "Do not trust in oppression And do not vainly hope in robbery; If riches increase, do not set {your} heart {upon them.}"


Psalm 52:7, 8 NASB "Behold, the man who would not make God his refuge, But trusted in the abundance of his riches {And} was strong in his {evil} desire." But as for me, I am like a green olive tree in the house of God; I trust in the lovingkindness of God forever and ever.

Often we trust in our own goodness, our own righteousness. But God says in the Old Testament: Ezekiel 33:12 NASB "And you, son of man, say to your fellow citizens, 'The righteousness of a righteous man will not deliver him in the day of his transgression, and as for the wickedness of the wicked, he will not stumble because of it in the day when he turns from his wickedness; whereas a righteous man will not be able to live by his righteousness on the day when he commits sin.'"


The point being made in these verses is that our righteousness is not the issue, because all of our righteousnesses are as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). The Scriptures teach us that the only hope that we have is the righteousness of Christ. 


Proverbs 3:6 NASB "In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight."