Proverbs 3:1

Chapter 3 exhorts us in the study of truth. Unquestionably, God gives wisdom and is the source of it, but that is not a shortcut. Study is not excluded because we ask wisdom from God. He has given us means of obtaining wisdom and we are to seek wisdom through those. This chapter teaches us some of the practical means of obtaining wisdom and some of the practical effects of wisdom. We learn here that walking in wisdom is walking with God. The chapter ends with the contrasted destinies of the righteous and the wicked.

My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart keep my commandments:

– Proverbs 3:1

Verses 1-10 urge a full and joyful commitment to wisdom so that we do not lean on our own understanding but trust fully in the Lord (Proverbs 3:5-6). The latter verses of this section illustrate the evidence of such a commitment to wisdom and the fruit produced by it. It gives us the picture of a happy and quiet life.

Verse 1 continues the fatherly directions to his son. He admonishes his son to “forget not” and to “keep”. The word for forget means to mislay something. It has the idea of losing something through lack of attention and care. The word for keep means to guard and to watch so as to preserve. In a sense the words are opposites of one another. Solomon tells his son to commit to this and be deliberate about guarding it so you don’t lose it.

The son is to guard the “law” and “commandments” of his father. The word for law means a teaching or instruction. It commonly refers to the law given to Moses or even the Pentateuch as a whole. Here it is the law of the father, or the wisdom he teaches through inspiration of the Spirit that applies the law to the individual. Commandments are commands and, taken with law, encompasses the whole of divine instruction. This brings us back to the Word of God and that there is no obtaining and keeping of wisdom apart from God’s Word.

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Psalm 119:53

Horror hath taken hold upon me because of the wicked that forsake thy law.
~ Psalm 119:53

The Psalmist is gripped by horror at this prospect. He shows here that he has no vengeful spirit. He does not take delight in the destruction of the wicked. He is terrified by it.

He experiences horror on two fronts. First, he is horrified at the forsaking of God’s law. It is extreme hubris to forsake the law of the all-wise, sovereign Creator of the universe. To forsake His law is to presume to know better, to sit in judgment on the law and the lawgiver. It is to make oneself higher than God.

Second, he is horrified at the prospect of the end of all those who forsake God’s law. Their end is only destruction no matter how oft they’ve been reproved. The judgment merited by transgressing God’s law is a fearsome prospect. His horror is all the more intense because he has tasted the good of things of the Lord and knows His service to be true and right.

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Psalm 119:51

The proud have had me greatly in derision:
yet have I not declined from thy law.
~ Psalm 119:51

The proud have had me greatly in derision:

Derision refers to scorn or ridicule. The proud have scorned the Psalmist because of his dedication to God’s Word and way. They have used his afflictions as an opportunity to heap scorn upon him. They do this because they hate God and His people. They do this because they also misunderstand affliction. God sovereignly works all these things together for good (Romans 8:28), but they have such a limited perspective that they cannot see it. Therefore, they mock.

yet have I not declined from thy law.

The Psalmist had suffered double trouble. He endured his afflictions and the scorn heaped on him for them. However, despite these difficulties, his resolve for God’s Word is only strengthened. Job’s wife tried to provoke him to give up God’s way and the Psalmist’s scorners tried to do the same. Rather than forsaking it the Psalmist found comfort in it and so we must do in the face of affliction and the teeth of our adversaries.

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Psalm 119:45

And I will walk at liberty:
for I seek thy precepts.
~ Psalm 119:45

Verse 45 is connected to verse 44 by the word and. The Psalmist joins the keeping of God’s law continually with walking at liberty. He also supports walking at liberty by seeking God’s precepts. He previously wrote of running the way of God’s commandments (Psalm 119:32).

To our modern mind, we associate law and precepts with restriction and confinement. The word for liberty in this verse means room in every direction. The allusion to running previously also conveys freedom. We could draw a few different implications but it will suffice to say that God’s precepts are for our good. God is not a joy-crusher but a joy-giver and there is glorious liberty in the way of God’s commandments.

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Psalm 119:44

So shall I keep thy law
continually for ever and ever.
~ Psalm 119:44

Verse 44 looks back to two requests the Psalmist has made (Psalm 119:41, 43). He hopes by grace and through innumerable mercies to keep God’s law. He prays and hope for perseverance, “continually for ever and ever.” He doesn’t want fits and starts but rather a steady progress over time.

Contrast this with many who are chasing that one event or one experience that will change everything. Precious few want to be as a tree planted by the rivers of water where they may continually drink and day-by-day grow until they come to full age where they stand tall and spread across the sky full of green leaves and fruit (Psalm 1:1-6).

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Psalm 119:40

Behold, I have longed after thy precepts:
quicken me in thy righteousness.

~ Psalm 119:40

Behold, I have longed after thy precepts

Desire for God’s Word has been expressed in terms of God’s word, judgments, commandments, precepts, way, and testimonies. Taken together these express a longing for the entire Word of God. His desire is for every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.

The godly do not find God’s commandments grievous (1 John 5:3), but rather delight in them (Psalm 1:2). While unbelievers may cherry-pick some sweet expression of love from the Bible and think it beautiful, they despise God’s judgment and wrath. Greedy unbelievers will misinterpret the Proverbs and think they teach how to get rich, but they will all the while despise the true wisdom of God. The heart of the godly is truly manifest in the hunger and desire for all of God’s Word.

quicken me in thy righteousness

This is the final plea of this stanza and it is a renewed request for life. He seeks to be enlivened by the Word that he might keep it, walk in it, and do it. His aforementioned longing is not satisfied in hearing only (James 1:22).

The Psalmist frequently prays for life in this Psalm. He is seeking the vital energy to walk in God’s ways. It is an humble admission that we so often lack the power in ourselves to perform what we want and know to be right (Romans 7:18). It is only by continual reliance upon and renewal in the Spirit that we can walk after the Spirit (Romans 8:5, 13).

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Psalm 119:34

Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law;
yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart.

~ Psalm 119:34

Give me understanding
Understanding is used often in the Proverbs with words related to wisdom. It points to our faculty of discernment; our ability to comprehend spiritual truth. It is not enough to read or hear, we must understand. He seeks understanding from the only source of spiritual understanding. The capacity to understand spiritual things is not native with us. It must be given to us by God (1 Corinthians 2:14; James 1:5).

and I shall keep thy law
Understanding is sought so that the law may be kept. Attempting to keep the law without that understanding only results in self-righteousness and legalism. The publican went down to his house justified rather than the Pharisee (Luke 18:14). Jesus repeatedly reproved the Pharisees because they did not understand the law, though they thought they were righteous. Understanding is vital to walking in the way of righteousness.

yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart

Understanding leads to wholehearted observance. The heart in the Scriptures can stand for the will, emotions, or intellect. Sometimes, it means all of these; our whole inner person or being. That is the intention here where the Psalmist knows that spiritual understanding will engage his whole being in keeping God’s Word

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Psalm 119:27

Make me to understand the way of thy precepts:
so shall I talk of thy wondrous works.

~ Psalm 11:27

He prayed for understanding. He sought discernment. Precepts, collectively, speaks of all of God’s law, but the understanding sought is not theoretical, but practical. He wanted to understand the way of God’s precepts.

Derek, the Hebrew here translated way, literally means a road or path. Figuratively, it refers to a course of life or a life’s journey. He understood God’s law was not high, airy concepts but rather real directions on the ground. He later wrote, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105). Solomon counseled:

22 When thou goest, it shall lead thee; when thou sleepest, it shall keep thee; and when thou awakest, it shall talk with thee.
23 For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life:
– Proverbs 6:22-23

Understanding the way of God’s precepts would lead him to talking of God’s wondrous works. This sort of progression is common in this Psalm. He previously wrote he would hide God’s word in his heart (Psalm 119:11). He prayed that God would not hide His word from him (Psalm 119:19). Here he said he would not hide God’s word from others.

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Psalm 119:18

Open thou mine eyes,
that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.
~ Psalm 119:18

Life has been sought and now he seeks light. Life is a first thing. You cannot do anything without life. Having life makes light a first thing. When there is little or no light, you don’t know what life you have nor what to do with it. The request here is a naturally and logically ordered request.

Open thou mine eyes
God formed the eye (Psalm 94:9) and He opens the blind eyes (Psalm 146:8). The Psalmist seeks eye-opening from God. If the light of truth and wisdom is sought, it is best sought from the source of truth and wisdom, God. He begins at the right starting point in acknowledging God as the One who opens eyes.

The words of this verse come from the mouth of a humble learner. Humility is required in learning anything. You have to acknowledge that you don’t know something and seek out someone who does know that you may be instructed (Proverbs 1:7). If you’ve ever taught a class, coached a team, or tried to train someone on a job, you know that if they are proud and stubborn, they are unteachable. Many such come to hard knocks that wisdom could have prevented. The fool thinks he knows everything, or at least all he needs to know, and so sets wise instruction aside (Proverbs 12:15). The sluggard, who is a special brand of fool, knows better in his own mind than seven men who actually know what they are talking about (Proverbs 26:16). The fool’s folly is his own undoing.

That I may behold wondrous things out of thy law
The Psalmist manifests wisdom in this request. He knows God’s law is filled with wondrous things. The word signifies depth, beauty, hidden, high, and wonderful. You could also infer valuable from the description, like a prize treasure (Psalm 19:10). He will go on to speak of God’s Word as something he savored (Psalm 119:103).

His desire is to the Word of God and not something else. He is not bored and clamoring after something new and different. He assumes the posture of a humble disciple at the feet of the Master. Too often we approach the Word of God like we do a dictionary. We want to turn to the precise page to find only the definition of the word we are interested in. Thumb tabs help and so does alphabetical arrangement. God’s Word is not alphabetized nor indexed. It is meant to be read, savored, and treasured.

This is the proper posture of the humble learner. “God, open my eyes. Teach me what You would have me learn.”

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