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. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones. -Proverbs 3:5-8
A proverb is a short, pithy statement of practical truth. It invites the reader both to think about it as a fact, but also to experience it. It says, in effect, “Try it and see.”
Biblical proverbs can be lighthearted, funny, or entertaining:
As a door turns on its hinges, so a sluggard turns on his bed (26:14).
Like one who seizes a dog by the ears is a passer-by who meddles in a quarrel not his own (26:17).
And sometimes they’re very serious and stern:
There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers (6:16-19).
The proverbial form is something that many people through the centuries have used effectively. One of my favorites is: “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”
Proverbs 3:5-8 captures a broad biblical insight that can make all the difference in the world when it comes to walking life’s pathway. What are the key points? I see three.
1) Our best personal insights on things aren’t a reliable guide.
This is very hard for our generation to accept because every day we are told that our views and insights are everything. What we think about things is just as important as anyone else’s opinion, and no one has the right to tell us otherwise. You have your truth, and I have mine.
But this doesn’t work at all when it comes to life’s most important matters. We are often totally blind to facts that seem obvious to others, and our emotions and desires frequently get us into unnecessary trouble. We are easily fooled and taken advantage of just because we can misperceive reality. A pilot who trusts his personal insights and judgments and ignores what his instruments are saying will be a danger to everyone on his flight.
Or have you ever driven across the desert in mid-summer and saw a huge lake of fresh water ahead of you…and it turned out to be an illusion?
2) If we will acknowledge God in everything we do, he will make our paths straight.
God is more willing to guide us through life than we are to be guided. Do we consult him before a big investment, a major decision such as college or marriage, or before accepting someone’s philosophy or new religious idea? When we call Jesus “Lord,” we mean that he is master and ruler of every single thing in life, not just “our personal savior.”
3) If we fear the Lord and deliberately turn from evil, the result will be health and wholeness of body and mind.
The product being advertised here is not that of Eastern philosophy (“inner peace”), but rather “shalom,” that more broad and comprehensive health of the entire person, a sense of harmony and well-being that extends even to the physical dimension.
We could probably create another proverb in this way and still be on track: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and health.”
So how could we respond to this good news in Proverbs? We can pray:
Lord, I may have drifted off the path of your guidance and wisdom too many times to count, but I now want to return to your way for me and from now on spend each day leaning not on my own understanding, but trusting you for yours. I want my crooked and confused pathway to be made straight. From now on, with your help I’ll take my cues from you.