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Wisdom Rewards Well (3:19-31)

Proverbs  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Introduction

Introduction

Introduction

For any item we value, we have a reason, or a list of reasons, for why we value it. The same would be true of people. This is presupposed when a girlfriend asks a boyfriend, or a wife asks a husband, “Why do you love me?”. By the way, one reason is not usually sufficient in these cases. You might want to prepare a list for this potential occasion.
Also, for what it’s worth, this question doesn’t usually go the other way around. Most guys aren’t asking their significant other, “why do you love me”. They may wonder, “Hey! What have I done lately to impress you”.
Either way, we have reasons for why we hold an item or a person as valuable. At work, you would consider an employee valuable because they have accomplished certain task or displayed a certain level of competency. You value a friend at school because they don’t make fun of me all the time, they laugh at my jokes, and they have a great personality. You value a specific pair of socks because they don’t make your feet sweat, they stay up all day, and they aren’t pink.
I feel this way about my computer. I was about to get rid of it and buy something bigger and better. If I opened up more than one or two programs, it would often freeze up. My Bible program requires a ridiculous amount of memory, and anytime it was open, I would struggle doing anything else. In Microsoft Word, I would be typing two or three words ahead of what I could actually see. I would try to open up the internet and would have time to do some reading in a book while I waited. It was extremely annoying, and I had gotten to the point of wanting a better computing experience. Following some counsel by our computer savvy elders, I switched out the hard drive for an SSD drive and put more RAM in the computer, and all of a sudden, my computer is crazy fast. My daily routine is all messed up now because as soon as I open a program on the computer, it opens, and I don’t have time to do all those filler tasks. I can now open my Bible program, a couple Adobe programs, read a book on Kindle, and write notes in Word – all at the same time. Now I have a list of reasons for why my laptop is amazing, and I’m looking forward to holding on to it.
In , Solomon offers his son a list of reasons for why wisdom is something worth holding on to.
Proverbs 3:19–31 ESV
The Lord by wisdom founded the earth; by understanding he established the heavens; by his knowledge the deeps broke open, and the clouds drop down the dew. My son, do not lose sight of these— keep sound wisdom and discretion, and they will be life for your soul and adornment for your neck. Then you will walk on your way securely, and your foot will not stumble. If you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. Do not be afraid of sudden terror or of the ruin of the wicked, when it comes, for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught. Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it. Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give it”—when you have it with you. Do not plan evil against your neighbor, who dwells trustingly beside you. Do not contend with a man for no reason, when he has done you no harm. Do not envy a man of violence and do not choose any of his ways,
ESV).

Hang on to wisdom.

Hang on to wisdom.

We struggle looking for somewhere to place our confidence and find our security. Wisdom extends her hand and tells us that security and confidence can be found with her. What has she done that would assure us that she can keep us secure?
Through wisdom, God established the foundations of the earth (3:19). The primary meaning of to fix firmly. The metaphorical usage would signify something which cannot be moved. “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers” ( ESV). “He built his sanctuary like the high heavens, like the earth, which he has founded forever” ( ESV). “The heavens are yours; the earth also is yours; the world and all that is in it, you have founded them” ( ESV). “Who builds his upper chambers in the heavens and founds his vault upon the earth; who calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out upon the surface of the earth— the Lord is his name” ( ESV).
In an interesting twist to our conception of the foundations of the world, we are told in Job that "He stretches out the north over empty space And hangs the earth on nothing” ().
Through wisdom, God established the heavens (3:19). Solomon tells us that “The Lord . . . by understanding established the heavens” ( ESV). In we read, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” “Heaven includes all that is above the earth . . . Heaven and earth together constitute the universe.”[1] Therefore, this verse poetically communicates that God created everything through wisdom.
Not only did God through wisdom establish, form and found His creation, but through wisdom continues to providentially and sovereignly control and sustain His creation.
This reality brings me a certain level of comfort in the midst of present day discussions about climate change. God established the earth and it continues to exist due to his supernatural sustaining. While we ought to care for it, motivated by the command by God and given to Adam to have dominion over and care for the earth, we can have a great deal of confidence in knowing that the earth was founded and continues to be sustained by the power of its creator.
Through wisdom, God broke open the deeps (3:20). As you consider the idea of deeps being broken open, your mind may go to a couple of places. In all of them you see the majestic and creative wisdom of God. First, we see at creation, “God made the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse. And it was so” ( ESV). Maybe instead your mind went to the time of the flood. “In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened” ( ESV). Or finally, you may have considered Israel at the Red Sea when God “divided the sea and let [Israel] pass through it, and made the waters stand like a heap” ( ESV). Regardless of which moment you consider, it was by wisdom that God directed and controlled the waters of the earth.
Through wisdom, God directs the clouds to drip with dew (3:20). If I were God, and I were to prove to you my value, I’m thinking that I probably wouldn’t lure you in with tales of how I produce dew. I think I would go bigger than rain and dew. And yet, Job also references rain as he displays the great, unsearchable, and marvelous things of God. “As for me, I would seek God, and to God would I commit my cause, who does great things and unsearchable, marvelous things without number: he gives rain on the earth and sends waters on the fields” ( ESV).
Is rain a great and unsearchable wonder wrought by God? Picture yourself as a farmer in the Near East, far from any lake or stream. A few wells keep the family and animals supplied with water. But if the crops are to grow and the family is to be fed from month to month, water has to come on the fields from another source. From where?
Well, the sky. The sky? Water will come out of the clear blue sky? Well, not exactly. Water will have to be carried in the sky from the Mediterranean Sea, over several hundred miles and then be poured out from the sky onto the fields. Carried? How much does it weigh? Well, if one inch of rain falls on one square mile of farmland during the night, that would be 27,878,400 cubic feet of water, which is 206,300,160 gallons, which is 1,650,501,280 pounds of water.
That's heavy. So how does it get up in the sky and stay up there if it's so heavy? Well, it gets up there by evaporation. Really? … What's it mean? It means that the water sort of stops being water for a while so it can go up and not down. I see. Then how does it get down? Well, condensation happens. What's that? The water starts becoming water again by gathering around little dust particles ...
What about the salt? Yes, the Mediterranean Sea is salt water. That would kill the crops. What about the salt? Well, the salt has to be taken out. So, the sky picks up a billion pounds of water from the sea and takes out the salt and then carries it for three hundred miles and then dumps it on the farm?
Well it doesn't dump it. If it dumped a billion pounds of water on the farm, the wheat would be crushed. So, the sky dribbles the billion pounds of water down in little drops. And they have to be big enough to fall for one mile or so without evaporating, and small enough to keep from crushing the wheat stalks.[2]
Therefore, hang on to wisdom (3:21). The point of verses 19 and 20 is quite simple. Wisdom is very valuable. It was what God used to create everything that is. It is what he continues to use to sustain everything he created. Therefore, Solomon directs the appeal to his son, “my son, do not lose sight of these.” These refer to wisdom, understanding, and knowledge.

Wisdom rewards well.

Wisdom brings rest to the weary soul.

You will have confidence in life (3:21-23). “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone” ( ESV). Have you ever struggled, wondering if you’re walking on the right path, doing the right things, accomplishing the right goals? When we trust in the Lord and find our confidence in Him (and His Word) we can have confidence that the life we are living is in accordance with His will. He will protect us as we rest in Him and trust and follow His Wisdom.
You will have confidence in sleep (3:24). Have any of you had struggles in your life that have affected your sleep? Do you lay awake at night trying to fix all the problems in your life while at the same time trying to stop thinking about them?
Daniel sleeps as God Works. And Daniel went in and requested the king to appoint him a time, that he might show the interpretation to the king. 17 Then Daniel went to his house and made the matter known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions, 18 and told them to seek mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his companions might not be destroyed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. 19 Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision of the night. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven. ( ESV).
Peter sleeps with imminent death. Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison. ( ESV).
As we trust in the Lord and find confidence in Him, our minds, that can often race with all the potential hazards, pitfalls, and dangers of this life, will be put at rest. We can simply rest in His love, care and providence. We know that only that which He allows to happen will happen and nothing will happen outside of His control. So then, I might as well go to bed and not worry about it.
You will have confidence amidst fear (3:25-26). “Do not be afraid of sudden terror or of the ruin of the wicked, when it comes, for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught” ( ESV). Clearly there are moments of fear in our lives, and quite often a certain level of fear is appropriate. There are a lot of bad and dangerous things that can happen. Yet, in the moments of our fear, we are to direct our attention and rest to the Lord and the reality that he is ever present with us. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” ( ESV).

Wisdom is a deterrent to the poor treatment of others.

Do not be stingy (3:27-28). In verse 9 of this same chapter, we can see that one of the areas in which we struggle trusting God is with our finances. This leads me to the following conclusion concerning verses 27-31. When one does not trust the Lord with their wealth, the treatment of others, in the area of wealth, is drastically and negatively affected.
If we struggle trusting that God is aware and in control of our financial situation, if we attempt to find financial security through our own means and our own wisdom, we will not likely be quick to dispense financial assistance to those around us who may need it.
Do not be contentious (3:29-31). If someone is more successful than me, if someone is in the way of my advancement, if I’m not trusting God to provide for me and direct my path, if I’m not trusting God’s providence and sovereignty in every situation in life; then my treatment of others is going to be poor. I will use other people to advance myself. I will injure them with my words and my actions if they keep me from accomplishing what I have established as most important. If God doesn’t work in the manner I see fit, I will take matters into my own hands, and people who may get in my way better simply watch out.
This is not what characterizes the individual who finds their confidence in and continues to lean on the Creator and Sustainer of all there is.

Conclusion

We need to step back a few verses to appropriately align where we place our confidence. Verse 26 tells us, “for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught” ( ESV). While wisdom has some wonderful rewards, our confidence is not in wisdom – specifically when we define wisdom as the ability to process God’s truth and apply it practically to daily life – but instead our confidence is in the Lord.
A pretty significant veer off the primary point. I think there may be value in offering an additional point this morning, a point not really flowing from the main point of this passage. The passage includes reasons for why the son is to value wisdom. That concept led me to the opening discussion about how we always have a reason or list of reasons for why we value something. In this passage we are to value wisdom because it was through wisdom that God created and continues to sustain all the universe. Wisdom is therefore extremely valuable.
The question that came to my mind, and one that I think we struggle with, not only in our culture, but in our church, was regarding why God values us. For everything we value, there is a list of positive qualities for why we value it. I think this is often why we tend to think that God’s love for us is dependent upon a list of positive qualities. We tend to think that God values us because we’ve done certain tasks consistently or not done certain bad habits or served in certain ways or have certain abilities. As well, the reverse is true. We tend to think that God doesn’t value us if those valuable realities aren’t in place. Yet, the truth is almost the opposite.
Titus 3:5 ESV
he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,
2 Timothy 1:9 ESV
who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began,
First God values us not because of what we offer him and the amazing things we’ve accomplished, but similar to the Jewish people, he values us because He is glorified through his work in the least impressive people.
First God values us not because of what we offer him and the amazing things we’ve accomplished, but similar to the Jewish people, he values us because He is glorified through his work in the least impressive people.
Deuteronomy 7:6–8 ESV
“For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
ESV).
God values and loves us because, for whatever reason, he chose to love us. He values us because we were created in his image and as image bearers we are valuable. He values us because we are in Christ and He highly values Christ.
God values and loves us because, for whatever reason, he chose to love us. He values us because we were created in his image and as image bearers we are valuable. He values us because we are in Christ and He highly values Christ.
As I was thinking through this concept this week I asked my family, “what do you value and why do you value it?” I found it interesting that they didn’t think of any of the types of things that I offered at the beginning of this message. Instead they thought of small gifts or letters that were from someone they loved. The letter, gift, or card were not inherently financially valuable, but they held great value because of who they were connected to and who they reminded them of. This is more in keeping with the value that God places on us. Because we are connected to Christ, he views us as valuable.
[1] Hermann J. Austel, “2407 שׁמה,” ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 935.
[2] John Piper, “The Great Work of God: Rain,” Desiring God (blog), November 19, 1998, Accessed March 8, 2018, https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/the-great-work-of-god-rain.
[2] John Piper, “The Great Work of God: Rain,” Desiring God (blog), November 19, 1998, Accessed March 8, 2018, https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/the-great-work-of-god-rain.
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