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Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the first fruits of all your produce,

then your barns will be filled with plenty,

and your vats will be bursting with wine.

(Proverbs 3:9-10) 















1. What thoughts do you have about the above and why?

2. How do you solve the conundrum that sometimes Proverbs seem to feel like a works-oriented religion, saying, “God will bless me if I…” when we know He blesses us simply because we are His? Do Proverbs oppose the Gospel?


2. Read Luke 15:1-3 and explain the context of the parable of the prodigal sons.

3. Read Luke 15:11-32 and comment on anything that stands out to you and why?

4. Watch this ten minute video from Tim Keller and share your notes and comments.


 Rembrandt portrays both sons in this painting.  

Prodigal Son - Remembrandt

5. Which one do you think is the older son, and why?

6. How was each son trying to be his own Savior? How do you try to be your own Savior?

I run to my idols when I am trying to be my own Savior. David Powlison says: Our desire for good things seize the throne, becoming idols that replace the king. Here is the wisdom that has helped me solve the condundrum. So often for me running to idols has to do with fear — fear that God will not meet me. Is it possible that the maxims of Proverbs that seem to tell us that God will bless our obedience are His way of letting us know He will meet us, and that we do not need to fear abandoning ourselves to Him? If, for example, I tithe, not to get health and wealth, but out of love for God, is it possible that God encourages me by saying, “Don’t be afraid you won’t have enough, for I will take care of you.”

This is the pattern I see in Proverbs. Just as the Gospel teaches us to love and trust God for He is good, so do the Proverbs. We do not follow these proverbs (caring for the poor, giving sacrificially, guarding our tongue) to make God bless us, but because we love Him. But, when we are afraid to obey, He gives usencouragement following the command in order to help us overcome the fears.  The error comes when we twist the proverbs in a Pharisaical fashion thinking, I want God to do this so I will do this. Or Unless I do this, God will get me.”

The health and wealth gospel preys on the desperate — it has permeated Africa and the prisons. It is so wrong, twisting God’s Word. (The Gospel Coalition is running a series of articles this month on what we can do about it — if you are interested: Africa Infested by Health and Wealth Teaching)

If we come to God just to get it will backfire. But if we love God for God, it is true that He often protects us from pits and showers us with blessings. That doesn’t mean we won’t suffer, for we will — but God will use our suffering for good.

7. Do you agree or disagree with my solution to the condundrum? Explain.

8. Read Proverbs 3 and slow down if anything quickens you. Contemplate. Comment.

9. If you were to apply the following proverb to your life today, what would it be, and how might this take faith in the goodness of God?


10. How does Proverbs 3:8 encourage you to apply the above?

11. See if you can see this pattern of a command followed by an encouragement in:

A. Proverbs 3:9 (command) 3:10 (encouragement)

B. Proverbs 3:11 (command) 3:12 (encouragement)

C. Proverbs 3:21 (command) 3:24-26 (encouragement)

12. Read Proverbs 4 and stop at anything that quickens you. Contemplate. Comment.

13. The heart of proverbs 4 is verse 23. Ponder and consider how you might better do this.


14. What is your take-a-way and why?

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  1. 5. Which one do you think is the older son, and why?
    I think he is the one standing up on the step, also dressed in a red robe, like the father. The father’s robe is spread out, kind of like sheltering wings. The brother’s robe’s folds hang down, closed. The father’s hands are touching his son, the older son’s hands are clasped together…they are not spread out toward his younger brother. His stance looks non-welcoming. This is his own brother, yet he keeps himself at a distance, perhaps not wanting to be soiled by his brother’s mess, or embarrassed at the spectacle before him, or angry that there seems to be no consequences for this brother but rather open arms.
    6. How was each son trying to be his own Savior? – From Keller…the younger son was trying to be his own savior by being very, very bad; the older son was trying to be his own savior by being very, very good. I think the younger son represents the irreligious…apart from God, we try to make other things our gods, things like career, money, status, entertainment, popularity, or love/relationships. Something has to give us meaning in life and something has to give us an identity; tell us that we’re okay. Keller once used the example of Rocky, “If I can just do/have ____, I’ll know I’m not a bum.” The older son thought his following the rules, slavish-ness, and obedience made him righteous. He represents the very moral, religious person.
    How do you try to be your own Savior? – Some red flags are when I do the right thing, like read my Bible, go to church, give…but I’m operating out of a sense of guilt, not joy. When I look to other things or people to be my identity or reason for living. I say I believe that I am loved unconditionally and only because of Jesus dying for me am I forgiven, yet I can find myself not resting in that; it’s in my head but not totally down in my heart. I become aware of it when I mess up and doubt God’s feelings for me, like He must now feel differently about me or not like me as much because I sinned or failed. So I’m still thinking His love is based on my performance.

  2. 4. Watch this ten minute video from Tim Keller and share your notes and comments.
    * The parable of the prodigal son was for the pharisees to hear. Jesus was telling the Pharisees this parable so the focus was on the elder brother, not the younger brother. 
    * The Parable shows that both younger brothers and older brothers are alienated from The Father’s heart. In both cases they are lost, the father has to come out and invite them in. What both of them want is the Father’s money not the father..The younger one wants his money only by taking it then taking off. The older brother wants the father’s money by being completely compliant. Two ways to get the Father’s things: One is by being very bad and the other is by being good and moral.
    * To the older brother Jesus might be his helper, but not his savior, the older brother is trying to be his savior. The older brother thinks and claims that he is with God yet underneath there is no difference.
    * The younger brother comes into the feast yet the older brother doesn’t. It means the bad boy is saved and the good boy is lost. THe good boy is not saved because of his goodness. The Gospel is neither religion or irreligion, morality or immorality. Religion operates on this principle I obey, therefore I am accepted. The Gospel is, I am accepted because of what Jesus Christ has done for me therefore I obey. THey are both coming to church trying hard to give their money and obey and love their neighbor as themselves but with two different motives, spirits, and results.
    * Elderly brothers are obeying God to get things-surrendering to him etc.. to get things, but Gospel believers obey God to get more of God.  Gospel believers resemble God, delight in God and want to have more of him. 

      1. And you are very dear to me-so grateful He has me here on your blog! 🙂

      2. HAPPY BIRTHDAY Rebecca! (3 days late!) 🙂

    1. My birthday wishes are back on page 1 so I’ll repeat…HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

      1. Thanks so much Susan! You are such a wonderful friend-much love to you!

  3. 5. Which one do you think is the older son, and why? I really want to believe that the older son is not in the picture, or is the farthest one in the back, removing himself from the situation as much as possible  but the cloak of the father and the cloak of the man standing nearest match  I cannot help but ponder the significance of this. The older son perhaps came to the situation, because that was the right thing to do, but couldn’t bring himself to actually engage warmly and so stands there in the midst, awkwardly. The cloaks match. Was this a gift from the father?  Does the son not realize the meaning of his father’s covering? Or was this something the older son bought to try to imitate his father? my thoughts go to the Pharisees that dressed elaborately to busy themselves with details and yet forgot the true reason for their dress. The rituals and processes that were intended to never have God far from our hearts, always reminded, turned to excuses for their superiority. While the older son is covered in matching garments, he does not produce the fruit. Though the trees look the same, one does not produce fruit and so is cast into the fire, remains lost.
    6. How was each son trying to be his own savior? How do you try to be your own savior? Each son was trying to gain approval. The younger from his peers, the older from his father  I try to be my own savior by trying to gain the approval of men, myself, and my God. To continually convince myself that “I’m not so bad…indeed! Look what I did that shows I am ‘good.'” Rest. Rest. He has approved, indeed! he created you, soul. Do not attempt to achieve, simply respond. What Grace! What love our Father has lavished on us! 
    And it strikes me: He was so good to make His gift such that when I am not “getting it,” there is unrest, in order that I might be drawn back to Him and the true Gospel.

    1. Jill – “He was so good to make His gift such that when I am not ‘getting it,’ there is unrest, in order that I might be drawn back to Him and the true Gospel.”  I appreciated that reminder this morning!  
      8.  Read Proverbs 3 and slow down if anything quickens you.  Contemplate.  Comment.  “My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.”  (v. 11&12).  It’s helpful to me when New Testament writers lift verses from the Old Testament – in a sense I ‘sit up and take notice”.  I then look for ways that God is amplifying and leading me to make application to my life.  The writer of Hebrews in chapter 12, verses 3-11 beautifully expands on these two verses from Proverbs 3.  The setting is an encouragement to endurance and perseverance…..it begins with lifting our eyes to consider Jesus…..and ends with “the peaceable fruit of righteousness.”  And all along the way – even through the painful discipline – the Father DELIGHTS in me!  
      Yesterday was one of those days that simply seemed to take on a life of it’s own and hour by hour I was making adjustments to the treacherous curves that kept being thrown into the mix.  Frustration and impatience threatened to bubble up in my heart throughout.  A sense of futility and “how does this really matter in light of eternity?” kept coming at me.  And yet….it WAS encouraging to me to reflect on these Scriptures and to consider Jesus……and to reflect on how He longs to refresh me in my weariness.  Accepting that “at the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant” (Heb 12:11…).  Elisabeth Eliot, who just went to be with Jesus this week, used to say “In acceptance lies peace” (perhaps an Amy Carmichael quote??).  So I am able then to accept that in the moment, there seems to be pain rather than pleasantness!  “But later….” there will be fruit.  

  4. Come To Me And Rest
    by Brent Helming
    Come to Me and rest. Come to Me and rest.
    Come find the peace to hold you through the night.
    Come find the strength to carry you through this life.
    if you will come, if you will come.
    Come to Me and rest.
    Come find the joy that lifts you from the mire.
    Come know My love let your heart be satisfied.
    If you will come, if you will come.
    Come to Me and rest.

  5. 6. How was each son trying to be his own Savior? How do you try to be your own Savior?
    The younger son, by his actions, shows that he didn’t think he would have a good enough life if he stayed with the father.   He just wanted to take the father’s money and then do what he himself thought was going to be a good life (thinking all wrong, of course!).   He was going to see to things himself and told himself he didn’t need the father –just the father’s money to make things work out right.   
    The older son stayed at home, probably doing his chores grudgingly but because he thought he had to in order to eventually get the father’s money.  He didn’t love the father, just the father’s money.   He thought he could make the father love him by doing work around the ranch, so to speak.   He was obedient but loathing every minute of it.  
    If I am not careful, my control idol begins to call to me, telling me I need to do more to guarantee the outcomes of my life — instead of fully relying on God as I should do.  I get more and more organized — seeing to every detail   (believe me this is easy to do right now as we are preparing for my daughter’s wedding).   Sometimes I get so tired and frustrated, and then I say,  “O God, why am I trying to do this stuff on my own?  Please take over again!    Sorry I was trying to take control.”     

  6. From Proverbs 3 what stood out to me was verse 7 – Do not think of yourself as wise, rather, fear God and resist or turn away from evil.  My take away from this verse is the word “self.”  As soon as I begin to congratulate myself, I have placed myself above God and allowed evil to dominate me.  Not a good choice.  So, the key is to immediately recognize the self-promotion and turn it into a God-promotion.
    I was also impressed with verse 31, Do not envy the violent and do not choose their ways.  With the growth of armed militia groups all over the world, it would seem that many people are evidence of this trend of envying violent people and their behavior.  We all need to pray that eyes will be opened to the sickness that drives this and to also pray against the pull of these groups – both groups overseas and groups who promote this lifestyle choice at home.  It is not God’s way!
    How would I use verses 5 and 6 in my life today?  We are in the midst of a potential crisis in our church.  Because I am unable to go into details, just know that an issue needs to be resolved and it needs to be based on God’s direction, not the direction of church bosses.  In dealing with my adult children, one rebellious and one compliant.  In both cases, I must trust God to keep our relationship in tact, yet at the same time give guidance when asked, and as always, pray God’s direction and dealing appropriately with each one in their respective situations.

  7. Happy birthday Rebecca!
    thank you everyone for your prayers. Means so much!
    10. This encourages me to acknowledge and trust because I need a healthy mind and body. I find this is true with ocd. When I trust I resist compulsions which overtime will heal my body and mind from scary trigger thoughts. God knows what He is talking about. He is our ultimate healer and physician.  I never thought about but I’m realizing His scripture is medicine for me.
    11.  I see it!
    12&13. I need to guide my mind and heart better by not participating in gossip. Should I even listen to it when someone over shares? Even in families it seems easy for people to share problems but really it becomes gossip. Speak well of others. Find the good. Continue to seek wisdom from my aunt who is so wise. I love her and am thankful for her. Re read  re read and re read the scriptures. Meditate on Hiis word and memorize it. 

    1. Thank you Natalie-it is such a pleasure to fellowship with you here. :))

  8. GOLD Natalie ” I never thought about but I’m realizing His scripture is medicine for me.” Amen!

  9. 7. Do you agree or disagree with my solution to the conundrum? Explain.

    Just thinking out loud —I was just thinking of how often with my kids I do give a “why” behind the command. Like when they were little, I might have said “don’t run in the street, you could get hurt”, but the deeper “why” was that I love them and was protecting them from harm. Or how at school, they can earn “tickets” for good grades or behavior. A parent’s hope is that the motivation for obedience will grow beyond a fear of getting hurt or a desire for another ticket, and that as they mature, the response of obedience begins to grow out of trust and love and seeing that our words were true, and for their best. 

    When I think about the “if” to the proverbs, I hear a call to obedience, and submission. If I attempt any of these things without a heart transformed by the Gospel, then it is works-based and I will wipe out quickly. But if my heart has first tasted of the depths of my need for Him, the grace of the Cross, the beauty of His immeasurable love for me—then I am soft, pliable. And then from that position of the heart, He can grow in me a desire to give generously, to trust in Him with all my heart. Not because I’m hoping to get another sticker on my chart, but because He is worthy and I know this to be true from His past faithfulness, because I love Him. 

    1. I loved this from you Lizzy…Obedience, trusting submission…not chart stickers 🙂

    7. Do you agree or disagree with my solution to the condundrum? Explain. 
    Yes, I agree with the conundrum solution. God can solve every problem we have, period.

    8. Read Proverbs 3 and slow down if anything quickens you. Contemplate. Comment. 
    The first verse struck me as promising; keep the Lord’s commandments close to your heart and you will live a long life of peace. I like that idea!

    9. If you were to apply the following proverb to your life today, what would it be, and how might this take faith in the goodness of God?
    I tell my husband all the time that God will provide for us always. I truly believe this. My husband struggles with the belief, yet everytime we get in a “pickle” with money, He “bails” us out at the last moment! It is truly unreal and my husband is starting to come to the realization that I have been right!

  11. 11. See if you can see this pattern of a command followed by an encouragement in:
    A. Proverbs 3:9 (command) 3:10 (encouragement)
    Honor the father and you will have plenty.
    B. Proverbs 3:11 (command) 3:12 (encouragement) 
    Don’t despise or be weary and He will prove His love to you over and over again.
    C. Proverbs 3:21 (command) 3:24-26 (encouragement)
    Be wise and the Lord will be near you to protect you.

  12. 5. Which one do you think is the older son, and why?I imagined the shadowy figure at he back to be the older brother, partly because he would not come in and partly because none of the others has quite enough contempt in their expression.

  13. 6. How was each son trying to be his own Savior?
    The younger brother had tried to break free from the constraints of being under the Fathers authority, he returned motivated by self preservation hoping by serving he could avoid starvation.
    The older brother was, I think, laboring under the belief that by serving the estate, holding onto the wealth, that one day the Father would die, and then it would all be his. He could be the head, in charge (i.e. God).
    As I was thinking about this the parable of the servants and the talents, how the wicked servant accused the Master of taking more than was rightfully His, “reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed,” The older brother seemed to have that sort of mindset towards the Father. He was taking a goat that rightfully belonged to him (the older brother) to celebrate the sinful younger brothers return.

    How do you try to be your own Savior?
    More and more, I see that I don’t really comprehend grace. I have to keep coming back to the truth that the gospel is a gift, free and unmerited.
     The counting of all the things of this life as loss, anything apart from my identity in Christ as a basis of worth, is a daily, sometimes hourly struggle. I don’t always fight the fight well. I compare myself to others and find myself lacking or worse yet, sometimes as somehow superior. I try to patch up my own righteousness.

    What an endless blessing the study of this parable is! That the Father pursues both the rebel and the hypocrite! I can take heart that he wants me to come into the feast too, no matter which of these wrong ways of thinking I see in my own heart at the moment.

    1. I so love it when you are here, Chris. Oh how your words always speak truth to my soul

  14. Keller’s explanation of the parable makes me wonder if this is what Jesus meant when he talked about the narrow gate and only a few would find it.  I know it’s a different context but that is what came to mind as he described how both the “sinners” and the Pharisees of today’s church are missing the point of depending on Jesus as our SAVIOR.  
    7-10.  I completely agree with the solution to the conundrum.  Proverb s 3:5-6 is one of my favorite scriptures and meditating on it serves to lift the burden of fear, stress, worry, etc, and brings me to a place of rest and reminds me of my inadequacy and need for a SAVIOR and that I HAVE a SAVIOR.  Verse 8 simply affirms the truth of God’s character, but isn’t the end-all-be-all motive for “leaning” on Christ.  

  15. 7. Do you agree or disagree with my solution to the condundrum? Explain.
    I agree that they are maxims rather than promises-that God will meet us and that we don’t need to fear abandoning ourselves to Him.  

  16. 8. Read Proverbs 3 and slow down if anything quickens you. Contemplate. Comment.
    Do not be afraid of sudden fear nor of the onslaught of the wicked when it comes;(Prov. 3:25) I have been experiencing increased anxiety lately (for no reason that I can pinpoint) and it feels like sudden fear. I’m also a little afraid of it.
    I honestly didn’t expect this at this point in my life. My kids are grown and mostly out of the house, I have grandkids now. I homeschooled my sons, participated in all of the church, sports, and Boy Scout activities and was busy. I poured out wisdom and encouragement and now I feel like a failure and hypocrite because I can’t seem to get it together.
    This verse doesn’t say that I won’t experience sudden fear: it says to not be afraid of it. That is something that I am going to keep in mind when I start to feel anxiety. Don’t fear it, but embrace the one who will always be there. Remember that he is in control. That is encouraging to me.

    1. Dawn,
      Thank you for your honest words.   This “empty-nesting” process is hard.   Yes,  “……when I start to feel anxiety.  Don’t fear it, but embrace the one who will always be there.”    Fear has become my signal to run, once again, to the One who won’t reject me.   Often.

    2. Don’t fear the fear replacing the internal self reproach replay tape of feel guilty because fear came over you.Good stuff Dawn.”Do not be seized with alarm and struck with fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom!”

    3. I’m sorry you are fearful Dawn. I will keep you close in prayer.

    4. Oh Dawn, I’m sorry…I will be praying for you.  I pray you won’t listen to the voice that tells you that you are a “hypocrite and a failure” – that isn’t God’s voice. In our weakness, He shows Himself strong. None of us will ever have it all together-I am definitely included in that, but He loves us.

    5. praying Dawn, for peace to cover

  17. 7. Do you agree or disagree with my solution to the conundrum? Explain.
    OK. Let me apologize for the length of this post. For those of you who want to understand my struggle with understanding Proverbs, I don’t know how to be briefer at this point. I feel that I am on the verge of an important breakthrough in understanding not just Proverbs, but  also so much of Scripture that seems to give a promise, but does not always come true in this life. I have known for years that Proverbs were not literal promises; like “if” you do this, “then” God will do that. This created a problem for me. It seemed there was a little voice in my head whispering, “You can’t really trust God or His Word. He won’t do what he says he will do.” Just like the snake in Eden saying to Eve, “Did God really say …? God does not really mean …?” As Dee says, I was unconsciously convinced that God would not “meet me”. 
    So then, the Proverbs are parables. The comparison to understanding the book of Proverbs in a similar way to Jesus’ parables has been a light bulb moment. I have been pondering this since we began this study. I should not basically ignore them as I have been doing.  As the ESV Study Bible points out,

    “Proverbs by nature deal with general truths … In biblical Proverbs, the consequences generally make God’s basic attitude clear, and thus commend or discourage behavior.”

    What this means to me is God’s heart for me is only good. He wants to bless me, to provide for my needs and my heart’s desires. He loves me, in fact, adores me, and wants to pour out rich gifts lavishly on me; just as a smitten lover longs to give all good things to the beloved, like precious jewels and beautiful clothing and palaces. 
    However, sometimes I must obey without the visible reward Proverbs seems to promise. God sometimes must allow hardship and deprivation to teach me that I do not really need earthly things that I have been so longing for, and in fact have been worshipping. I must see that all I really need is God. Just as in Hosea, God must take his beloved into the wilderness, causing her suffering so that she will see how much he really loves her, how it was him that gave her the wine and rich clothes, not her other lovers.
    So it is with me. My heart is dark and twisted. It is self-focused, like a spoilt child, demanding to rule the world and get its own way. I do not see that the things I want are really going to hurt me. He is my true Lover. I must love him for him alone. I must NOT love him for the things he provides.  
    Therefore, I must read Proverbs remembering that God’s heart for me is good. He wants me to obey so that he can show his heart to me. Sometimes he will give me the earthly blessing when I obey and sometimes he withholds the earthly blessing for a time and for a reason that I cannot yet understand. HE ALWAYS MEETS ME; whether in the physical blessing or in the denial of that physical blessing! He wants to give me the BEST thing: HIMSELF. There will come a time that obedience to God in right living, as shown in the Proverbs, WILL be rewarded. I can trust God’s heart!!! 

    1. Thank you Diane, for clarifying, for writing this out. In the snow globe that is my head, I have been trying to think through the same things. Your post brought tears to my eyes.

      1. I am glad my thoughts were helpful to you, Chris and Sherryl. I hesitated to post this, wondering if it would be understood. I know I am “in process”. I know I do not understand  all or am afraid I do not really “get” it yet. Yes, my head often feels like a snow globe as well. I am so wanting the penny to drop from my head to my heart and life.

    2. Diane, thank you for thinking out loud and processing here. This was really helpful to me. The quote from your ESV Bible is very helpful, that “In biblical Proverbs, the consequences generally make God’s basic attitude clear, and thus commend or discourage behavior.”

    3. Diane, This IS a golden post! Proverbs is like the Parables..  “Therefore, I must read Proverbs remembering that God’s heart for me is good. He wants me to obey so that he can show his heart to me.  HE ALWAYS MEETS ME; whether in the physical blessing or in the denial of that physical blessing! He wants to give me the BEST thing: HIMSELF.”

    4. Diane–never apologize! When you share, I feel like I am pulling up close on the floor, at your feet (I really have always had that picture with you, kinda funny!), but I just glean SO much from your wisdom–and THIS is BEAUTY

    5. Thanks for all of the gracious words of encouragement, everyone. We all sit on the floor with each other and turn our faces to the Lord who is our THE TEACHER.

  18. Powerful words and insight, Diane.

  19. Proverbs 4 verse 5 stood out to me.  Get wisdom and get insight…from my mouth.  Reminds me too often, when sitting with those who have just lost loved ones, of the one wish most people have – to have the advice and wisdom of the person who just passed on to heaven.  Why is it that we, even as adults, shy away from gaining wisdom and insight from our parents and grandparents, our older church members, and our elders in the church (those who have been elected or selected to shepherd us)?
    Verse 18 also struck me.  If I see it correctly, when we choose to walk in the righteousness of God, then what appears as the light of dawn, barely shining, will continue to grow and be brighter and clearer as we continue to choose the path of righteousness.  What could be more important that gaining the assurance that I am following the chosen path of God because I see it more clearly as a result of my choice to follow righteousness?  (This metaphor is especially important to me as I am now experiencing the development of the cataract in the eye for which I had surgery for the macular hole.  The growing cloudiness makes me long for being able to see clearly again.)
    Overall, the chapter seems to remind us to be attentive to those who have had more life experiences, more time to develop their relationship with God.  We should seek their counsel.

  20. 11. See if you can see this pattern of a command followed by an encouragement in:
    A. Proverbs 3:9 (command) 3:10 (encouragement)
    Honor God with my wealth and with the first fruits of my produce: Honoring God with my wealth, and really with everything he gives me..so my home, my ministries, my paycheck, etc. It is all His to be used for Him. I think it means to honor Him with it by giving it back in helping the poor, my church, being hospitable to others with my home.
    My vats will overflow with wine and my barns filled with plenty:  I think this means He will provide enough for me to keep giving to others out of a heart of Love and honor for Him. 
    B. Proverbs 3:11 (command) 3:12 (encouragement)
    Do not despise God’s discipline or grow weary of his reproof: I think this means not to refuse to yield to God’s discipline and reproof, for He is God and I am His. He isn’t out to ruin me or hurt me. He has my best interests in mind.
    He reproves those he loves and delights in: What drives me to yield to His reproof and correction? This does! His delight in me and passionate care and love for me. He is doing what is best for me and I can trust Him and yield to Him.  This brings such comfort in the pain of reproof. I just want to get to the place where I yield to Him every second of the day..I know I won’t until I am face to face, but I DO KNOW He is making me new. I am really excited that He is bringing me into a new season with Him as He is taking me into The Song of Songs, showing me His love for me. He is already breaking through the lies inside and is salving over some wounds inside so I can grow in resting in His Love.
    C. Proverbs 3:21 (command) 3:24-26 (encouragement)
    Command: My son, do not lose sight of these, keep sound wisdom and discretion: I think God is telling us to memorize-ingest, chew like cud over and over His Word..This is how we ‘don’t lose sight’ or forget. This is how we ‘keep’ sound wisdom and discretion. This is how the gumball eventually starts dropping.
    Encouragement: and they will be life for your soul and adornment for your neck: ‘life for your soul’ to me means His Word-He is The Word. He is Wisdom. He is life to my soul quenching my thirst which keeps me from being spiritually dry-in the wilderness..Either I am sucking in sand in the wilderness or I am breathing Him in and springs of Him flow from my mouth, my life. Either I am drying up in the folly of chasing after my idols or I am letting Him turn my messes into beauty. This is true wealth!! 
    Encouragement: 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: I can’t tell you how many times when I am afraid at night and during the day how God has come bringing verses, or stones of His faithfulness to mind as I cry out to Him..and He comforts me and lulls me to sleep at night trusting Him for whatever may happen. Yet there are times I fail to trust Him. It can be SO SO easy for me to place my confidence in my idol for comfort and control and get my foot caught in it’s trap. The tell tale sign is I become anxious. He says if He is my confidence rather than my idols-the fear melts away-AND IT DOES. He says if I place my confidence in Him He will keep me from being bound by anxiety and depression. I have been there with anxiety!! It is the darkest, most horrible place ever! I never want to taste that bitterness again for He is the sweetest most fulfilling taste ever!! 
    For He says to me, “You are altogether beautiful my darling, there is no flaw in you.” “Your eyes are like Doves.” “Your love delights me, my treasure, my Bride.”
    I think growing in confidence in Him means letting go of the idols I place my confidence in and place my confidence in Him-His Love for me. My idols don’t love me to give their lives for me but HE DID. They require a sacrifice, HE sacrificed Himself for me. They are ugly, He is beautiful. They are impatient and unforgiving, He is patient and VERY Long suffering. They bring death, He brings glorious life! They let go of me, He never will, How can I say yes to my idols and no to Him who loves and cherishes me so?  

  21. 7. Do you agree or disagree with my solution  to the conundrum? Explain.
    This is hard to wrap my understanding around! I’m taking the basic question of the conundrum: That the Proverbs seem to teach that obeying the rules will get us what we want from God. Then, comparing this to the parable of the prodigal sons. Through this parable, Jesus was trying to correct the distorted image of the Father. The younger son who ran away, hurt his father, and then returned; he thought that by presenting himself as willing to be a hired hand taking orders from his father, would get him accepted when he returned. The Pharisees thought that their obedience to the rules earned them their acceptance by God; they portrayed themselves in the same distorted image they had of God. Their god’s stance toward the sinner was hard, rejecting, distant. That’s how they acted toward those they considered sinners. In the painting, I see the two representations of God the Father…the Father that Jesus talked about is the one embracing his son, and the Pharisaical God the Father (how the Pharisees imagined Him) is the one standing rigid, looking down on the sinful little brother. This is important because how I see God the Father will affect how I approach the Word and all of life. If I see the proverbs as God wanting what is best for me because He loves me and wants to embrace me – even when I don’t do the right or wise thing and I fail – then I keep the right perspective that the main point is my relationship with Him. I err when I think I’d better follow all these proverbs because if I don’t, God is waiting to punish me.

      1. Susan, so so true how we can distort God. It is so wonderful how God has shown you Himself in the Prodigal parable. 

      2. It amazes me how much we can see in Rembrandt’s painting…so many layers and angles to it. I can see why Henri Nouwen contemplated it so much! Not until this week did I look at it from the angle of how the father in the painting and the one I believe is the older brother represent two ways to see God… the older brother is also the distorted God of the Pharisees.

    1. I love your thoughts about one of the figures representing the Pharisaical God the Father – “rigid, looking down on the sinful little brother”. This is a new perspective of the Prodigal parable and Rembrandt’s picture of it that I had not thought of. I have just started reading Philip Yancey’s “Vanishing Grace” and he points out that this is how most non-believers view God and Christians:

      “Non believers tend to regard evangelicals as a legion of morals police determined to impose their notion of right behavior on others.” (p. 16)

      So one of the questions I am pondering is “How do I portray grace to a world who views God and Christians this way?”

      1. Diane – what a provocative question you have posed:  “how do I portray grace to a world who views God and Christians this way?”   The very first thought that popped into my head was Romans 12:1&2……the NLT for v. 2 is as follows  “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.  Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”  Something that has been increasingly bothering me for awhile now is our growing bent as believers to let the “world” define what only God can define.  GOD defines grace.  NOT the world.  I guess the beauty of this is that it drives us straight back to the Scriptures to see precisely what God says about grace – His grace to us and then through us to others…..Titus 2:11&12 says “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in the present age, …….”  1 Peter calls us to holiness and tells us that Christ is a stumbling block and a rock of offense to the world….in 1 Peter 2:12 he says “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.”  Pete WILL be spoken against as evildoers!  But the last verses of that chapter really begin to flesh out what honorable behavior and good deeds look like.  🙂  
        I guess I’ve been thinking a bit lately about the early church.  Throughout the book of Acts and the epistles I simply don’t see the young church asking the world’s permission to “turn the world upside down”.  Indeed, it cost all of Jesus’ disciples (except John ) their very lives…..as well as many others.  Following Christ in some cases meant losing their homes, their work, and their standing in their communities.  I’ve been asking myself “What has following Christ cost me??”.  How has that grace of God spoken of in Titus been training me?  What does it look like in my life to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in the present age?….How does the holiness that Peter pleads with us to grown in manifest God’s grace to a dying world?  Or how about James’ words in James 4: 4….”Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?  Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”  Wow.  I wonder how long it was  after James penned these words that he found himself becoming a martyr for Christ?  
        The Yancey quote that you shared is interesting to me.  “…..a legion of morals police determined to impose their notion of right behavior on others.”  God forbid that I should be described this way -…..I’m going to ask my young adult children (only one of whom is a believer) if in fact they DO see me this way!  I pray so much that Christ and only Christ is who I plead for those I love.  No change in lifestyle is going to bring God’s grace and eternal LIFE into their lives.  On the other hand, I wonder about this phrase “their notion of right behavior”…….the Scriptures DO speak volumes about behavior……but clearly speak as well that godly behavior only can be grown in our life through the Holy Spirit!  Just this week, for example, I heard a fantastic discussion with Pastor Sam Allberry, a pastor in the UK who experiences same sex attraction.  This man has such a gentle and humble way.  And he at one point was talking about reaching out to the “gay community”……he made it clear that the Scripture teaches us that we are NOT doing anyone any favors by ignoring such passages as 1 Corinthians 6, for example.  “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?……Do not be deceived; …..” and then the list begins of those whose lives a marked by practicing sin……whether greed or drunkenness or homosexuality or adultery…..and the list goes on and on.  Obviously the point is NOT to be the “morals police” to the unbelieving world – but to cry out to God in prayer and reach out in loving care to those whose lives look a lot like this “list”!  “Do you not know?  Do not be deceived!…” truth telling can be a great loving and grace-filled act of mercy in another’s life.  Ugh…..I fear I only raised more questions!!  
        Thanks Diane.  🙂 

    2. Susan – your post really reminds me of a quote by A.W. Tozer :  “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”  Your words here are like a living example of this thought – which I do believe is Scriptural!  I had to smile because you begin with describing how hard it is for you to understand…..and then you proceed to unwrap a gift for us – weaving God’s Word into the practicalities of daily life!  So well said.  Thank you.  

  22. 8. Read Proverbs 3 and slow down if anything quickens you. Contemplate. Comment.
    Well, the first verse seems to present the conundrum again, “…keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you prosperity.”  Going back to Diane’s post above, I see that God wants to bless me, yet I need to obey even if the visible rewards aren’t there. The main point being having a heart that wants to obey and follow just because He loves me and I love Him.
    Verse 5 tells me to “Trust in the Lord with all of my heart and don’t depend on my own understanding” – He wants me to acknowledge that I need Him!
    If I see a shadowy picture of Christ in verses 13-18, these things stand out because knowing Jesus is more profitable than silver, and nothing I desire can compare with Him. Indeed, because Jesus is the Possessor of everything, long life and riches and honor are in His hands. His ways are pleasant and all His paths are peace. He is a tree of life to those who embrace Him and if I lay hold of Him, I will be blessed.
    If I am careful to seek God’s wisdom and discernment and let them govern my actions and relationships, I shouldn’t be kept awake at night being plagued by thoughts like “Did I do the right thing or I shouldn’t have said that!” Instead, when I know I am at peace with God and others, when I lie down my sleep will be sweet. (verse 24)

  23. 9. If you were to apply the following proverb to your life today, what would it be, and how might this take faith in the goodness of God?
    I like the visual with this proverb. That thick forest can be like life sometimes; you can’t see where you’re going, it can seem dark, and you feel lost. Thank goodness there’s a path! Without that path, it would be really scary. I remember many years ago my kids and I were doing a Fall hiking spree. It was early November and we were trying to finish our hikes. We went for a hike afterschool. The paths of the trail were thick with leaves. It was cloudy and it started getting dark early-we even heard an owl. The trail was taking longer than I’d expected. As the light continued to dim, I was getting a little nervous because it was getting harder to see the path because of all the fallen leaves. I was thinking, what if it gets totally dark before we’re done and I can’t see to get us out of here? Thankfully, we reached the parking lot!
    When I start to dwell on the unknown future…four years from now when my daughter, my last child at home, goes away to college…my oldest son will be who knows where doing his residency in the Navy…my other son will be who knows where…will I have lost my parents by then…will something happen to my husband…will I end up being all ALONE…will my life have any purpose or meaning…will I get Alzheimer’s like my mom…what if I’m living in this house one day all by myself? I get scared and have this quiet, gnawing sense of unease. Maybe underneath it all is me crying out to God, “Lord, what will happen to me? Will you always be here for me?” I need to apply the trusting in Him to my life, to tell myself that He will never leave me nor forsake me, that it is He who will carry me even to my old age, and that there is a path for me through the forest.

    1. I haven’t had a chance to read through all the comments–but Susan, your 2nd paragraph caught my eye and I am praying for His peace to wash over all the unknowns, all the questions, all your fears. 

  24. 11. See if you can see this pattern of a command followed by an encouragement in:
    A. Proverbs 3:9 (command) 3:10 (encouragement)
    The command is to honor God with my money, to give Him my “firstfruits”, a tithe. My default is to say that I can’t do that; I won’t have enough. My sinful heart wants my money to be spent on myself. God encourages me by saying that I will have enough to take care of all my needs and still many of my wants…the truth is, most of us live like millionaires compared to people in other countries.
    B. Proverbs 3:11 (command) 3:112 (encouragement)
    I am not to hate it or be resentful when trials come; it may or may not be God’s discipline. If I have that distorted view of God, that He is punishing me, then I will resent Him. He doesn’t want me to slander His character like that. He wants me to see that He is a good and loving Father and He will, out of love, discipline me to turn me back to Himself.
    C. Proverbs 3:21 (command) 3:24-26 (encouragement)
    God wants me to preserve sound judgment and discernment. I’m thinking about how we care for something in order to preserve it. It requires thought and attention. I have tons of photos of my kids…waiting to be put into albums, but they are all in envelopes and in storage boxes; I just don’t throw them around so they get torn and ruined. God doesn’t want me to be careless. He encourages me by saying that if I care about being discerning and making good decisions, my life will be more beautiful and I should experience more peace and rest and less time worrying.

  25. 12. Read Proverbs 4 and stop at anything that quickens you. Contemplate. Comment. 
    “The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight. Prize her highly, and she will exalt you; she will honor you if you embrace her. She will place on your head a graceful garland; she will bestow on you a beautiful crown.” (‭Proverbs‬ ‭4‬:‭7-9‬ ESV)
    It dawns on me that wisdom is acquired over time, or so I thought. You aren’t born “wise,” you live life and have trials and learn from them and watch others go through good and bad and know whether you would want to follow in their footsteps or not. The verses, in general, seem to suggest you may be born with wisdom, or even acquire it early in life. I don’t see how this is possible. I guess hanging around with the wrong crowd (as the verses remind us several times) is a given…we know intrinsically that we shouldn’t do that. I haven’t even thought about being “wise” in my thinking until the past few years. I am 51. I guess a slow learner? I knew the bible professed this, but never really thought much about it. I never thought about going and seeking it out, rather I thought it was a learned process that you had when you were old. But then, if you happened to not live very long, you might not ever have wisdom. Hmmmm. I’ve also heard people say, “he’s wise beyond his years,” meaning he has this wisdom we speak of early in life. How do I “get” wisdom as the verse declares? 
    13. The heart of proverbs 4 is verse 23. Ponder and consider how you might better do this. 
    The verse says to guard your heart because life flows out of it. Does this mean to make sure to wait for your God given true love, because from that will come life (children, marriage, a long prosperous life)? If so, then I guess I missed the boat! I don’t know if my husband is the “one.” We’ve been married for 25 years and plan to remain married. Our life has not been easy. It has not gone the way I thought it would. I continue to work hard at my marriage, although sometimes I feel like it’s not enough. 
    Or, does the verse mean to watch what you say? Don’t let others into you true feelings? That doesn’t seem genuine to me. I guess if it means that then I need to keep my mouth shut more often!

    1. Laura – my understanding of “guard your heart” is a bit different – I think that our marraiges would surely be included in that, but it’s so much MORE.  Our heart in the Scripture seems to be the very essence of who we are – the core of our being…..out of which flow all of our words, our choices and decisions….here is one of my very favorite passages where God speaks of the heart – and oh the HOPE that is encompassed here!  From Ezekiel 36:26&27 comes the promise (and it IS a promise!!  )  “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you.  And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.  And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.”  Here is what Paul says about this in 2 Corinthians 1: 21&22 …”And it is God who ….has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.”  and in Ephesians 1:13 “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,….”  .      So very many promises in the Scriptures for the very real and solid presence of the Living God in our daily lives!!  And THIS is where life comes from in our hearts….and then flows out to those whom God has placed in our path!  (Of course even with the Holy Spirit indwelling us, we can choose to disobey and live selfishly…..which is NOT guarding our hearts, for sure!  But a whole other topic…..).  

  26. 13. The heart of proverbs 4 is verse 23. Ponder and consider how you might better do this.
    Proverbs 4: 23 ties to verses 20-22 as well. 
    “My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Let them not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart. For they are life to those who find them and healing to all flesh. Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” 
    What I think this is saying is that we should listen to wisdom because wisdom is life. Wisdom is from God. God’s wisdom brings life. I remember earlier in Proverbs (1:5) it says that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” And in Proverbs 8 it says that by wisdom God created the world. As Proverbs 3:5, 6 says, we need to trust in the Lord and not in our own understanding.
    How might I do this better? In my particular case, I think I learn most when I search the Scriptures more closely. I need to study more carefully; praying for wisdom as to what it means, checking other sources like what does the original word mean, what do respected commentaries say, etc. Doing this often gives me fresh insight to the Bible’s familiar words. “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask God who gives generously … and it will be given him.” (James 1:5)

  27. 14. What is your take-a-way and why?
    This topic is very troubling to me because it seems as though most people only comment about the truth of scripture when it has a positive outcome, i.e. “I prayed scriptures in the night when I couldn’t sleep and joy came in the morning”; that finds me praying scripture in the night with the expectation (belief? hope?) that I will have joy in the morning. Am I praying scripture because I want to, because I should, or because I expect something in return? Joy didn’t come in the morning. What then? Do I repeat the process the next night or stop because I’m probably praying with a wrong heart?
    I just finished reading Extravagant Grace and haven’t been able to process it all yet, I need to go back and read over what I’ve highlighted. But the answer to my above quandary seems to be His grace!!

  28. 13. The heart of Proverbs 4 is verse 23. Ponder and consider how you might better do this.
    I really like Jackie’s reply to Laura above, explaining that our heart, in Scripture, is the very essence of who we are, out of which flows our words and actions. We talk a lot about idols here, and I know that idols can’t be seen, but the bad fruit can. When I see the bad fruit in my life, I must not be guarding my heart well. It may be helpful to pray David’s words regularly and really mean it, “Search my heart O God”. It is so easy to be deceived about my own heart; I need to ask God to show me what I’m allowing to take root in my being that isn’t right. Also, guarding my time with Him, my relationship with Him. Do I make Him a priority? Reading His Word, praying and talking to Him, meditating on His Word? I so easily fritter away my time  on useless things, like looking at clothes on the internet. Laura brought up marriage in her answer to this…I could apply this to my relationship with the Lord, like how it’s described in Song of Songs. The bride had a time where she got lazy; she didn’t want to be bothered to get up and answer her lover’s knock at the door. She “lost” him for a time. The Bible says that God is jealous for us…am I jealous to guard my relationship with Him? Or do I let other lovers/idols/foxes into our garden? I do.
    14. What is your take-away and why?
    So much…I will read Proverbs differently now, looking for the command and then the encouragement to trust. I want to keep the insight I gleaned from the painting, too…how do I see God looking at me? Like the embracing, loving, forgiving Father, or the cold, critical older brother who also represents to me a very different view of the Father? The video clip of Keller also is a lot to ponder.

  29. Slowly I am catching up.. Wanting to get the full study in. And its been so good so far. I’ve been so hungry for His Word and Im thankful that this study is a part of bringing nourishment.
    I just wanted to comment on Proverbs 4:23, the heart of proverbs… I’m no theologian, so forgive me,  but this has been my simple, maybe childish way of interpreting and storing this verse in my heart..
    When I asked Jesus Christ to be Lord and Saviour of my life, by His grace and forgiveness, He came ‘into my heart.’ Because He now dwells in me I feel I have a job to protect Him. I desire to protect His name, His reputation. It helps me to remember to speak words of life and not death.  What I think and say affects that relationship and how I respond to Him and others. Digging into Gods Word, prayer, and continually seeking Him is part of guarding my heart, keeping it alive. Because He loves me and does want me to truly live, He doesn’t want just one part of my heart, but all of it.. And that’s where things sometimes get so selfish and painful… I’m so thankful for His patience..