Prerequisites for Pleading the Promise of Proverbs 3:5-6 (pt 1)




‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight’

I think these verses were among the first verses that I could recite off by heart. I expect I am not the only one. They are so full of encouragement, hope and promise. But though they sound good, do we actually know what they mean? Do we know what we are asking for? What are we expecting as we pray them through? How do we meet the condition of not leaning on our own understanding? What is our own understanding? What does it mean to acknowledge Him in all our ways? And how will He make our paths straight?

In order to answer these questions it makes sense to start at the beginning – the beginning of the chapter that is. Here we find some important principles that need to be in place if we are to know what it is to plead the promises of Proverbs 3:5-6. Verses 1-4 provide us with a command and a promise followed by a command and a promise. We will start with the first two.

Command #1
In Proverbs 3:1-2 we read of a father counselling his son;

‘My son do not forget my teaching but keep my commands in your heart. For they will prolong your life many years and bring you prosperity’.

Which teaching and commands are being talked about? Most probably teaching and commands taken from the Pentateuch – the first five books of the Bible. It was in these divinely inspired books that a father would be able to draw instruction for living in a way pleasing to God.

Today we have the whole of Scripture which provides us with everything that we need for salvation and a life pleasing to God. The apostle Paul, who was something of a spiritual father to Timothy, in 2 Timothy 3:14-15 says, ‘But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.’

Essential to pleading the promise is to have this salvation, a salvation which Paul tells us comes through faith in Christ Jesus. Faith in Christ Jesus doesn’t just believe in who Jesus is – both fully God and fully man. Nor does it just believe that He lived, died, and rose again for sinners. No. Faith in Christ Jesus, the sort that saves, believes that He lived, died and rose again for me. Do you believe that?

With Jesus as our Saviour we have God as our Father. As children of the Father in heaven we must take the exhortations of Proverbs 3:1; ‘do not forget’ and ‘keep’ seriously. In order to not forget something you have first got to know it. What God has revealed in His word, we have got to know. Reading the Scriptures and listening to them preached regularly is our joyful duty. We must pray for the help of the Holy Spirit and then give God’s word the best hours of our time and concentration in order to know what He is saying to us. Spiritual amnesia is the degenerative disease we will all suffer from if we find ourselves out of the word and fellowship. What should we do? Memorise the Scriptures. Mediate on them. Pray over them. Fill our heads and hearts with them. Write things down. Re-read. Rehearse. Revise. Remember!

To remember something in scripture is to put it into practice. Jesus’ words in Luke 17:32 provide us with an example. Jesus says ‘Remember Lot’s wife’. The Lord’s summons was not merely a call to think about the circumstances in which she died, but a warning not to love this present world as she had done. In other words, we must ‘keep’ our Father’s commands, not as a secret to ourselves, but as a saving, transforming, fulfilling manual for life. The more we know the Father’s will the better we will be able to walk in it.

Promise #1
Verse two of Proverbs 3 provides us with an immediate promise in doing this;

‘My son do not forget my teaching but keep my commands in your heart. For they will prolong your life many years and bring you prosperity’.

A better word than prosperity is peace – the word in the Hebrew is best translated shalom. God’s commands are guidelines for healthy living. In the natural order of things they will provide long life. They will lift our way of life. This is one of the many offshoots of coming to the Lord – He raises our way of life. This is not to say that if somebody dies young it is because they were being punished. Some people are sadly in the wrong place at the wrong time, are born with something, find themselves in a tragic accident, or fall victim to a terminal illness or disease. However, many do die young as a result of not keeping God’s law. There is a hint of this in the Lord’s words in Matthew 26:52, ‘for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.’ There is a broad principle here that our actions have consequences. But this promise is more than mere long life which if lived in misery is no life at all. This is a rich and meaningful existence characterised by peace.

Shalom means wholeness. The most attractive lives are those obedient lives where peace reigns. How wonderful to observe an elderly person or couple putting God’s word into practice and allowing the peace of Christ to rule in their hearts (Colossians 3:15). Were they born that way? No. They were probably born crying like the rest of us. Did old age make them that way? Not if others of their age are anything to go by. So what was it? It’s that in joyful obedience and humble dependence they can say with the apostle Paul, ‘I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances’ (Philippians 4:11).

The first prerequisites for pleading the promise of Proverbs 3:5-6 can be summed up by the chorus of a well-known hymn,

Trust and obey!
For there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus
But to trust and obey

Author: Sam Oldridge