Goals, thoughts, behavior, self-control: Some notes on the book of Proverbs

This month I’m sending, by email, a chapter a day from the book of Proverbs to some friends who’ve requested it. It’s yet another effort to encourage Bible reading and study. I also post some links and notes of mine on each chapter, for whoever wants to delve further. Following is a translation from the Portuguese of some of those notes, a few of them expanded for this article, along with a couple new ones.

1.7. “Reverence for the Eternal is the first thing in knowledge, but the impious scorn sagacity and intelligence” (Moffatt). Wisdom starts with God, flows from God, and is defined by reverence for God. Many reject God and miss all that wisdom has to offer.

2.4. “Search for them [wisdom and understanding] as you would for silver; seek them like hidden treasures” (NLT). The search for God’s wisdom is arduous, for it is not only a head knowledge but a life experience. People often make extraordinary effort for material gain and temporary advantage. How much greater effort should we make for spiritual and eternal benefit, for ourselves and others?

3.3-4. “Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart” (NIV). Love and faithfulness are two basic terms of God’s covenant with Israel. And they describe also the two main conditions of the new covenant. The heart’s tablet reminds us that such a writing is completely fulfilled in the new covenant of Christ, Hebrews 8.10; 10.16.

4.4. “My father taught me, ‘Take my words to heart. Follow my commands, and you will live'” (NLT). The father passes on to the son what he himself received from his father, for this teaching does not originate with man, but with God. So it’s important to preserve it and pass it forward, as Israel was taught in Deuteronomy, and as the church is taught in the New Testament. Perhaps you didn’t receive the truth from your father. But you can now be the one of whom your son says to his son, “Believe and practice what I received from my godly father.”

4.23. “Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts” (GNB). This translation is interesting because it emphasizes the importance of the thoughts as the great directors of all life. This is why it is so necessary to meditate constantly on God’s word. Listening to the world and its programs and perspectives influences us greatly.

4.25. “Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you” (NLT). Let us have our goal fixed in our minds. Our objective as followers of Christ is to serve God and live by his plan. We must not let ourselves swerve from this purpose.

5.2. “Remember to live wisely, and what you learn will keep your lips from saying the wrong thing” (ERV). Wisdom (and the gospel) helps one to know “how to behave,” according to the Portuguese version. In all Scripture, God expects his people to practice his will and to obey his command.

5.8. “Keep clear of her, never go near her door” (Moffatt). The solution to temptation is to not even get near. That’s good advice for every temptation to evil, be it immorality, addiction to drugs or alcohol, or covetousness.

5.23. “He will die for lack of self-control; he will be lost because of his great foolishness” (NLT). The father doesn’t want the son to die for lack of self-control. The appeal of the chapter is to self-discipline. Don’t give yourself up to passions. Let your head (the truth that you know, the good counsel you receive) always control your actions.

Proverbs is not merely a book of rules for daily life. It is that and so much more. Above all, it reminds us that life is to be lived under the direction of God, in fellowship with him, and in the light of his majesty.

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