************ Sermon on Proverbs 3:13 ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on September 18, 2016

Proverbs 3:13-35
Proverbs 3:13
"Why Wisdom Matters"

Hillary and Trump think they matter, that they make a difference. But what happens when they die?
(Ps 103:15-16) As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; (16) the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.
Life continues when we die. Life continues as if we weren't even there to begin with. This is humbling to know. That no one is irreplaceable. That one is so quickly forgotten.

This is not true, however, for wisdom. Because wisdom matters. Wisdom makes a difference. Wisdom counts for something. That is the message of Proverbs today.

I Wisdom Enriches
A "Blessed is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding ..." (Prov 3:13). The word for "man" does not exclude woman. It is the generic word for mankind, for people, for the human race.

Proverbs emphasizes that the person with wisdom is blessed. To make sure we get this point, "blessed" is the first and last Hebrew word in verses 13-18. We can also say "happy, fortunate." Blessed, happy, fortunate is the person with wisdom.

B Why is this person so blessed, happy, and fortunate? Because wisdom enriches. Listen to what Proverbs says:
(Prov 3:14-18) for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold. (15) She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her. (16) Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. (17) Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace. (18) She is a tree of life to those who embrace her; those who lay hold of her will be blessed.
When we think of riches, we tend to think of gold, silver, rubies, stock options, IRAs, investment accounts, money. Do you hear what Proverbs is saying? "Forget about money. Forget about gold, silver, and rubies. Forget about stock options and IRAs. If you want true riches, aim for wisdom."

Why? Because wisdom makes all the difference in the world. Money can put food on the table, but wisdom puts laughter around the table. Money can buy a house, but wisdom makes it a home. Money can buy a woman jewelry, but wisdom wins her heart. Money can buy a farm or a dairy, but wisdom turns it into a vocation. Money can buy medicine, but it is wisdom that leads to a healthy lifestyle. Money can pay for a wedding but wisdom makes it a marriage. Money can buy a vacation but wisdom is needed to make it fun and relaxing. Money can buy things but wisdom brings happiness. Money pays a doctor to deliver a baby, but wisdom raises a child in the fear of the Lord.

Do not settle for money for yourself or your children. Aim for something higher and better. Aim for wisdom. Because "Blessed is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding" (Prov 3:13).

C More precious than silver. More costly than gold. More beautiful than diamonds. Do you know what wisdom is? Wisdom is a person. Wisdom is the Lord Jesus Christ. Wisdom is the Lord Jesus Christ and the fullness of the Gospel. Nothing I desire compares with Him. Jesus is the treasure that I seek. Jesus is a precious jewel. Jesus is my all in all. Jesus is my wisdom.

No wonder Proverbs can describe wisdom as "a tree of life to those who embrace her" (Prob 1:18). We are to think of the tree in the center of the Garden of Eden. Those who eat from this tree "live forever" (Gen 3:22). Isn't this the promise of the Gospel? Remember what Jesus said to Martha upon the death of Lazarus her brother?
(Jn 11:25-26) "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; (26) and whoever lives and believes in me will never die."
Come to Jesus, come to wisdom, and you will eat from the tree of life and live forever.

To have wisdom, to get wisdom, you need Jesus. That's why Proverbs begins by telling us the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Prov 1:7). Wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord. We need to know and love Jesus in order to obtain wisdom. We need to have the wonderful life that is possible in Christ. As baptism shows us, our old man of sin needs to die and the new man of righteousness needs to be made alive. That's the beginning of wisdom.

I ask you the same question Jesus asked Martha: "Do you believe this?" Do you believe you need Jesus? Do you believe Jesus is a precious jewel? Do you believe Jesus is more precious than silver? More costly than gold? More beautiful than diamonds? Is Jesus the treasure that you seek? Is Jesus your all in all? Is Jesus your wisdom? And, do you teach this to your children?

II Wisdom in Creation and Providence
A Remember, wisdom matters. Wisdom makes a difference. Wisdom counts for something. In verses 19-20 we see that wisdom matters to God:
(Prov 3:19-20) By wisdom the LORD laid the earth's foundations, by understanding he set the heavens in place; (20) by his knowledge the deeps were divided, and the clouds let drop the dew.

Evolution is taken as scientific fact by most people in our culture. People believe that the universe just happened. People believe the emergence of mankind is the result of sheer luck. The fool says in his heart, "There is no God" (Ps 15:1). In contrast, the teaching of the Bible is that God created all things, including mankind. And the tool God used was His own wisdom. Wisdom was all He needed: "By wisdom the LORD laid the earth's foundations" (Prov 3:19).

Think of the wisdom needed to make the universe: gravity, speed of light, mass, energy, biology, nuclear physics, chemistry, climate, marine biology, plants, insects, animals, medicine, the human body and its organs, and the list goes on and on. God in His wisdom made it all.

B That was in the past. In the present He sustains all things, even rain, by His wisdom: "by his knowledge ... the clouds let drop the dew" (Prov 3:20). I want you to think about the wisdom needed to make rain. Water needs to be evaporated into the sky. Which means water stops being water for a while -- it goes from a liquid to a gas. The wind needs to blow it from a water source to a place that needs rain -- no wind means water goes up and then straight down. The water then needs to condense around little particles of dust so it can gently fall as rain drops -- if it all fell at one time, it would weigh billions of pounds and crush whatever lay underneath.

The point is, even something "simple" like rain requires wisdom -- God's wisdom.

And, in Jesus Christ and by His Word and Spirit, God makes this wisdom available to you. The wisdom that created and sustains the universe can be yours. If you fear the Lord.

III Wisdom Provides Safety
A Wisdom matters. Wisdom makes a difference. In verses 21-26, Proverbs informs us that wisdom matters when it comes to sin and temptation:
(Prov 3:21) My son, preserve sound judgment and discernment, do not let them out of your sight;

(Prov 3:23) Then you will go on your way in safety, and your foot will not stumble;

(Prov 3:26) for the LORD will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being snared.

As we and our children grow in wisdom, God protects us from the land mines of sin and temptation that the devil and the world have hidden all around us.

There are all sorts of snares that can entrap us: alcohol and drugs, materialism, an office romance, love of money, pornography, gambling, indifference to suffering, hatred for our neighbor, covetous desires. Wisdom lets us see the sin and the shame and the hurt that are unleashed when we fall for these. Wisdom makes us back away or run away.

B Now, remember, wisdom is a person. Which means that when we face sin and temptation it is God -- in Jesus -- Who is our protection, our confidence, the object of our trust. In the final analysis, then, if you have wisdom " the LORD will be your confidence" (Prov 3:26).

You confidence is not in rulers and government but in the LORD (Ps 146:3-4). Your confidence is not in silver and gold (Psalm 49:12-13; Job 31:24). For to trust in any of these is like leaning on a spider's web which quickly gives way (Job 8:14-15).

What happens when wisdom leads you to trust in the Lord with all your heart? You will find the Lord is always there beside you to strengthen you (2 Tim 4:16-17). He is your companion, your fortress, your strength (Ps 46).

When you follow wisdom, every part of your body belongs to God and will be protected by Him. He keep your eyes from wandering (Prov 3:21), your neck from turning your face away from Him (Prov 3:22; cf Lk 9:53), and your feet from walking on the wrong path (Prov 3:23, 26).

IV Wisdom Matters to our Neighbor
A In the final section of our Bible reading, Proverbs tells us that wisdom matters to our neighbor.

Our world has been hijacked by sin and Satan. All around us we see a culture of death and selfishness. But wisdom leads us to help the needy, the hungry, the homeless, the refugee, the sick, the aged, the dying. Wisdom lets us promote a culture of life to help our neighbor:
(Prov 3:27) Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act.
This is wisdom speaking.

Our translation fails to reveal how totally radical wisdom makes us. Let me propose another translation of verse 27: "Do not withhold good from its owners." Radical, I say. Totally radical. Do you hear what Proverbs is saying? The good you can do belongs to your neighbor. Neither the state nor the church has the right to force you to be generous because the Bible says there is a right to private property. And, no one can walk into your house and start helping themselves to your things because the Bible says to them, "You shall not steal" (Ex 20:15). But what the Bible says to you is, "You shall not withhold good" (Prov 3:27). We sin against each other not only by the bad things we do but also by the good and beautiful things we withhold.

Do you remember what James says about this? About doing nothing to help the neighbor?
(James 2:15-16) Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. (16) If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?
"What good is it?" Good for nothing. Worthless. Empty.

Wisdom leads us into a culture of life where people love each other and help each other with the love of Jesus. All around us are endless opportunities to breathe life into hurting people.

B In our culture of death and violence wisdom leads us to protect each other. Proverbs makes this point in verses 29-30:
(Prov 3:29-30) Do not plot harm against your neighbor, who lives trustfully near you. (30) Do not accuse a man for no reason-- when he has done you no harm.
Proverbs mentions trust.

Trust is the glue that holds a community together. What do a husband and wife, for example, most need from each other? Trust. We all know what it is like to trust someone, and then he or she turns against us. That is painful. What does wisdom say to us here? Negatively, do not be a faultfinding, critical person, ready to pounce on a neighbor. That is a culture of death. Let us be like Christ Who defends us before the Father's throne though we deserve the opposite. Let's stick up for our neighbors. This is wisdom -- creating a culture of trust and safety in a world of attack.

C In our culture of death and violence, the wise keep their distance from the violent.
(Prov 3:31-32) Do not envy a violent man or choose any of his ways, (32) for the LORD detests a perverse man but takes the upright into his confidence.
Too many times today violent people succeed. A recent news story highlights how the internet has been turned into a culture of violence. Entire sites and blogs are dedicated to hate and violence. This is a culture of death and God detests it.

"Blessed is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding ..." (Prov 3:13). Wisdom matters, wisdom makes a difference. I hope you see that. With this in mind, I want you to notice how our Bible reading ends:
(Prov 3:33-35) The Lord's curse is on the house of the wicked, but he blesses the home of the righteous. (34) He mocks proud mockers but gives grace to the humble. (35) The wise inherit honor, but fools he holds up to shame.
Do you know what we have here? Here we have the Lord's list of winners and losers.

The wise who trust in Jesus and are like Jesus are the winners. They are winners because theirs is the honor of the risen and ascended Christ. But the fools who turn their backs on the cross are the losers because theirs is shame and fire.

Therefore, a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ is the most important think in life for you and your children.

So let me end by asking: What do you think about Him Who died on the cross for you? That man Who was betrayed, excluded, and humiliated? Is He your treasure? Do you desire Him more than anything else? Your answer reveals you to be either wise or foolish.
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