My son, do not forget my teaching,
but let your heart keep my commandments,
for length of days and years of life
and peace they will add to you.
Heeding God’s words will bring length of days and years to your life. Now, we must remember what we’re reading, remember the genre of the bible we are in. These are proverbs, which are short sayings that describe the way things normally work, rather than direct promises or predictions of what will happen. But, the proverb holds true. People that heed God’s word normally have length of days and years of life.
Proverbs 10:27 says that “The fear of the Lord prolongs life, but the life of the wicked will be cut short.” Likewise, the 5th commandment, honor your father and mother, has with it in Exodus the promise of a long and fruitful life in the promised land.
Similarly, we know that the opposite is true too: fools tend to have shortened lives. Those that habitually disregard God’s wisdom and the way that God has ordered this world to normally operate, they will have their lives cut short. We’ve seen already that the covetous sinners in chapter 1 are said to “lie in wait for their own blood.” They think they will rob and kill others, but it is their own life that they are forfeiting. Likewise, chapter 5:22 tells us that the fool will die for lack of instruction, and chapter 7 tells us that he who sins injures himself.
We’ve likely seen this in our own lives. A fool who cannot control himself will become a drunkard or a glutton, and will become addicted to pleasure in such a way as to cut his life short. Or a man that is consistently and habitually angry, will cut his life short with hypertension and heart disease. A reckless young man who rides his motorcycle wildly and without a helmet will likely not live to see old age. Similarly, a fool prone towards violence will likely be involved with many altercations and will die young.
Furthermore, this verse promises not only length of days to the wise man, but also promises peace to him as well. The wise man knows how to deal with people, knows how to treat them with righteousness and justice, knows how to love people with his money and time and energy. And because he treats people with righteousness, because he treats people the way that he would want to be treated, a wise man often can have peace. He is a good neighbor to have, a good friend to have, and he will have many companions willing to help him whenever he needs it.
This is not like the fool, who is selfish, greedy, always seeking to swindle people, seeking to catch people so that he can advance his own career, line his own pockets. The fool always lives in turmoil and chaos. He always has somebody mad at him, somebody begrudging him, somebody that wants to bring him down or pay him back for an offense. Fools do not have peace.
So, thus far in Proverbs 3 we see that the wise man does not forget God’s teaching, but presses them down into his heart. And as a reward, God grants him life and peace. But we have a problem. The problem is true for each and every one of us. The problem is that we don’t always remember God’s word. We don’t always keep his commandments with our heart. We don’t live in righteousness and have peace with our neighbors.
How often do we forget that God has called us to keep his commands with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength? We’d rather do what we want to do, rather than listen to our wise Father. I’d rather go off like the prodigal son and play around in the pig sty of this world, eating the worldly slop. I’d rather roll around in my sin, strut around in my arrogance, and boast in my vain accomplishments.
But the good news is that our heavenly father is a forgiving father. He has provided a way, through the blood of his very own son, that we can be forgiven. We can be forgiven for all of the times that we failed to keep his law with all our hearts. In fact, because Christ was faithful in his mission, we can have brand new hearts. That’s one of the things promised to us in the New Covenant. In Jeremiah’s account of the new covenant we’re promised a new heart of flesh that will replace our old heart of stone. And God’s word says that he will send his very own Spirit to reside in us, and He will cause us to walk in His statues and commandments.
Previously we had a heart that couldn’t and wouldn’t keep his word, but in Christ we have a new heart that can, and we’re filled with his Spirit that gives us the desire to keep is law. Previously we were only and always the fool, destined for no peace, but in Christ, we can be united to the Faithful son, and have peace with God through Jesus Christ our Lord. That’s the good news of the gospel.