By Archie England, Professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at NOBTS
Question: How can I live confident that my life is pleasing to God?
Archie England responds: To answer this, let’s investigate Proverbs 3, which concludes with two possible outcomes: blessing or cursing. Those living wisely will be rewarded with blessings, honor, and grace; those who don’t, will be cursed, mocked, and shamed (as fools).
First, Proverbs 3 presents several principles, along with corresponding benefits, in verses 1-12 (bound by “my son” statements). Six commands (three prohibitions and three exhortations) comprise this section: (1) Keep, 3:1; (2) Don’t let go, 3:3; (3) Trust, 3:5; (4) Don’t be wise, 3:7; (5) Honor, 3:9; and (6) Don’t reject, 3:11. Likewise, each command attaches a corresponding guarantee – 1) long life and peace; (2) favor and reputation; (3) straight paths; (4) health; (5) abundance; and (6) delightful, parental relationship. All six reflect what pleases God, that is, a life based upon the word of God. His Law is indeed the truth that prepares a “faithful child” for life.
But truth must be valued to make a difference. This is what the second section addresses (Prov 3:13-20). How well you live and please God is not merely based upon knowledge! No, it’s more so a matter of what you desire (3:15b). This is what’s emphasized. God’s wisdom and understanding provide far better benefits than money and jewels. Consumable riches yield only short-term values. The reward of what God values (wisdom, knowledge, and instruction) is eternal. Proof of this is the complexity of creation. That the heavens and earth exist, and exist so amazingly well despite the frailty of life, is the point. Only supreme wisdom could have imagined and created such a world. And, that kind of wisdom should be the object of every person’s desire!
The final section of Proverbs 3 shifts from concepts (principles and values) to ethical conduct. A blessed life must be constrained by a standard of conduct – His standard of conduct – the Law of God. Hence, seven short prohibitions selectively represent the essence of what kind of life pleases God. His first statement anchors the rest – don’t lose sight of wisdom and discretion. By them, there can be a good life, lived with confidence and security. Likewise, such a blessed life can be without fear, malice, jealously, envy, contention, or violence. When God is pleased with a person’s ways, “even his enemies [are] at peace with him” (16:7).
Proverbs 3 identifies three areas – our principles, values, and actions – that impact our ability to please God. What we think, say, and do definitely matters. So what’s shaping your life…God’s Word or Satan’s world?
Archie England Ph.D., is director of the Baptist College Partnership and Professor of Old Testament and Hebrew, occupying the J. Wash Watts Chair of Old Testament and Hebrew at NOTBS.