Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you;
bind them around your neck;
write them on the tablet of your heart.
So you will find favor and good success
in the sight of God and man.
(Proverbs 3:3,4 ESV)
Many people have memorized the two verses that follow these and we tend to skip by these. Solomon is convinced that wisdom is the most precious thing there is and is doing his best to convince his son and us that it is worth pursuing. The language that he uses throughout this section is covenant language. In a previous post we described these as if-then expressions. We don’t always see the if and then in every section of the poem, but each is a conditional statement with something to do followed by a promise.
It was hard to pick a translation to use for this section. The more I’ve looked at it the more I’m reminded of two verses from the New Testament:
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14 ESV)
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, (Ephesians 4:15 ESV)
Grace or love and truth seem to be a paradox and that is what is so amazing about Jesus, both exist in complete harmony in one person. We don’t normally experience this. Think about this for a minute. Who are the grace and love people in your life? My guess is that you’ll be thinking about the people who give to you and treat you kindly. That isn’t necessarily the love of God, but it sure makes us feel good. Now, who are the truth people in your life? These are the people who tell you what you need to hear regardless of your acceptance or agreement to what they say. In rare instances, there may be someone in your life who is willing to communicate truth and who you know cares enough about you for you to be willing to hear it.
I think this is what makes long-term relationships work. The whole concept of intimacy is centered in the exposure of the truth. This doesn’t get easier as we get older. We say time heals all wounds and there is some truth to that, but I think it is truer that time reveals all imperfections. The older I get the more I’m aware of my own imperfections. It isn’t reasonable to think that the people who are close to me would become less aware of them. The romantic love of the honeymoon period quickly fades into the reality of two sinful people trying to figure out how to do life together.
To do this successfully requires great wisdom and God’s wisdom is characterized by faithfulness, the commitment to keep promises made no matter what, and steadfast love, continuous action to do what is best for the other no matter what. When Solomon invites us to write these things on the tablets of our hearts, he is asking us to make a commitment. The heart is the center of the will and it is our will that is needed to continue to love in the face of inconvenient truth.
Look at the reward.
Then you will find favor with both God and people, and you will earn a good reputation. (Proverbs 3:4 NLT)
Some will choose to pursue wealth, some power, and many today health, but wisdom brings a wealth of relationships filled with truth and grace, including an intimate relationship with God. What could be better?
To my grandchildren:
Always consider the truth when delivered kindly the most precious gift you’ll ever receive.