Trust And Obey
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles to the book of Proverbs. We have suggested to you that a great many people consider the book of Proverbs as just a group of unrelated sayings without any particular theme or purpose in mind. But we have suggested to you from the Word of God that it has a very definite outline, with the preface to the book being found in the book of Ecclesiastes, the introduction of the book being presented and then there is the first division of the book which we are studying at the present moment.

You will keep in mind that we suggested to you the first division of the book of Proverbs might be considered under the title of Thirteen Lessons on Wisdom , with a summary of all of those thirteen lessons following, that summary being presented under the figure of speech of two houses—a house of wisdom and a house of folly.

You will recall that we have already considered two of the thirteen lectures on wisdom, which means that we are going to consider the third one in this lesson. Though we are not going to review the entire list, we would remind you that the first lesson on wisdom was found in chapter 1, verses 8-33, and had for its subject the shunning of evil companions. The second lesson on wisdom was found in chapter 2, verses 1-22, and might be entitled The Search for Wisdom . The third lesson on wisdom, which we are going to be considering in this lesson, is found in chapter 3, verses 1-10. We have entitled it Trust and Obey because it seems to suggest the words of the song that sometimes we sing, “Trust and obey, for there's no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.” Follow in your Bibles as we read in chapter 3, beginning with verse 1:

Proverbs 3:

1 My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart keep my commandments:
2 For length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to thee.
3 Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart:
4 So shalt thou find favour and good understanding in the sight of God and man.
5 Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
7 Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.
8 It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones.
9 Honour the LORD with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase:
10 So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.

We stop there because that is the natural end of this third lesson on wisdom. You will recall that we told you each one of these lessons is introduced with the same words: “My son.” Every time you find the words, “My son,” it doesn't mean that you have a lecture on wisdom, but we re-emphasize that the lectures are introduced with those two words.

We have emphasized to you that this that we have read to you in your hearing is a lecture on the subject of wisdom, of which there are thirteen in the book of Proverbs. A lecture or sermon quite naturally would have a text and then the exposition of that text. I think that if we think of this third lecture on wisdom, which we have entitled Trust and Obey , with that thought in mind we will be able to understand the subject matter that is here and make practical application of it to our own hearts and lives.

The Request

The text is composed of two things: a request and a requirement. Then there is the exposition of the request, and the exposition of the requirement is presented. The request is found in verse 1:

Proverbs 3:

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

Notice the words: “My son, forget not my law.” This is not the first time that something has been said about the law of God. Notice chapter 1, verse 8:

Proverbs 1:

8 My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother:

The father is saying, “Forget not my law.” We reminded you that the word law comes from the Hebrew word torah , which is the Hebrew name for the first five books of the Bible. So when God was suggesting that the law be not forgotten, He was not suggesting that some particular directive which came from father or mother not be forgotten or forsaken; He was suggesting that the Word of God be not forgotten or forsaken for it is the Word of God which is the basis for our Christian life and experience.

We emphasized when we were in the first chapter that it was the privilege of the mother in the early days of childhood to instruct the child in the law of God. We did not mean when we said that that the father had no responsibility along that line. By the time we reach the third chapter, the child is a young man, and the father has the responsibility of emphasizing the Word of God to the young man.

It is well to keep in mind that the two dangers related to the Word of God to every believer, not only for the young man in Proverbs, but for every believer, is described in the two words to which we have already made reference. The word forsake in chapter 1, verse 8, comes from the Hebrew word natash , which means very literally “to pound out.” Don't forsake the Word of God. Don't pound it out.

What does that mean? We have suggested to you so often that Hebrew words are picturesque words. They have pictures back of them. If you get the picture, quite often you can get the meaning of the word much more easily. Picture in your mind an individual who had a thick piece of metal. It is strong. It can carry quite a bit of weight. It would make quite a wedge if it were used for that purpose, but the individual takes that thick piece of metal and pounds it out. He hammers it out until it becomes a thin sheet of metal which he can bend to his own whim and to his own fancy. So when the Spirit of God is saying, “Don't forsake the Word of God,” He isn't saying, “Don't go off and leave it.” That is one problem people have. He is saying, “Don't water it down to where it means absolutely nothing. Don't pound it out, making it so thin that you can bend it to your own whims and your own wishes.”

The Holy Spirit of God in the New Testament speaks of the individual wresting the Scriptures to their own destruction. That is, they take the Word of God and they twist it to suit their fancy, to justify what they want to do. Don't be guilty of that.

Forget Not God's Law

The other requirement was related to the word that we have already suggested to you—the word forget . This word forget really means, “do not cease to pay attention to the Word of God.” Oftentimes when we use the word forget in our ordinary, everyday English language, we are finding ourselves thinking about a lapse of memory. That is not what the Spirit of God is talking about. The Spirit of God here is saying, “You who know the Word, you who have been taught the Word of God so thoroughly and so effectively, do not seek to pay attention to it.” It is a sad thing, and yet it is true, that individuals quite often know the Word of God and do not pay attention to the Word of God even though they know it. Oh, they pay attention to the Word of God as long as there is any real reason to pay attention to it, but when it becomes inconvenient or when it becomes a bit of a task, they are quite willing to lay aside the Word of God and no longer pay any attention to it whatsoever.

Notice the text. The requirement is, “Forsake not My law. Forget not My law.” The natural result is in verse 2:

Proverbs 3:

2 For length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to thee.

It is well to keep in mind that in the Old Testament a great deal of emphasis was placed upon physical life upon this physical globe. Every passage of Scripture that is related to physical life in the Old Testament is not necessarily a promise in this New Testament age because the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ is a heavenly people and our heritage is not found in this earth, but we are blessed with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ. Yet, we have suggested to you that the book of Proverbs is a very practical book. A lot of good, sound psychology is found in the book of Proverbs. We have learned in these modern days of psychology and the need for psychotherapy that one thing that will shorten the life of an individual quite readily is called anxiet y —fears and hang-ups. There is an element of truth in what we are learning. If we are sure that we continue to pay attention to the Word of God, which we have learned, then there will be peace, because God has promised to keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Him. Long life, relatively speaking, can be looked forward to for the individual who lives in peace following the direction of God because he can expect a healthier life than an individual who does not follow the injunctions of God's Word.

The Exposition of the Requirement

The text includes the requirements and the results. The exposition will naturally give us the detail of these two basic things. I am going to suggest that we look at the exposition of the requirement first and then look at the exposition of the results. The first requirement that we would bring to your attention is found in verse 3:

Proverbs 3:

3 Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart:

The word mercy could better be translated by our English words loving kindness . The word truth could better be translated by our word faithfulness . Here are two things which are important to right living—loving kindness and faithfulness. Loving kindness is that which we manifest toward others. Faithfulness is that which we manifest toward God and His Word. If we are to fulfill the requirements stated in the text and enjoy the results therein described, then we are going to have to see to it that loving kindness and faithfulness is a part of our very existence.

Notice what the text actually says:

Proverbs 3:

3 Let not mercy and truth forsake thee…

In verse 1, we were told not to forsake the Word of God. Here in this verse we are told to be on guard lest mercy and truth forsake us. The word forsake in verse 3 is different from the word forsake that we looked at in chapter 1. It comes from the Hebrew word azab , which means “to slip.” The suggestion is that we be careful that loving kindness and faithfulness don't slip away from us. They have a way of not wanting to dwell in the midst of selfishness. All too often individuals find themselves walking in the flesh instead of the Spirit, and then they wonder why there is no loving kindness toward others. They wonder why there is no faithfulness toward God.

Trust in the Lord

The second requirement upon which emphasis is placed is found in verse 5. Notice:

Proverbs 3:

5 Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

The first basic requirement is “trust in the Lord with all thine heart.” This word trust is an interesting word. It comes from the Hebrew word batach , which means literally, “to flee for refuge.” When you are in danger and you don't know what to do and you don't know where to turn, trust in the Lord. What do you do? Sit around and say, “I hope, I wish, I hope that everything is going to be all right.”? Well, that is what a lot of people do, and it doesn't accomplish a thing in the world. What should you do? Flee to the Lord. Get alone with God and say, “God, I need You right now with all of my heart; without any reservation I need You.”

You may think that is a very simple thing for me to offer an exhortation on. It is so evident people ought to be doing that without any trouble, but do you know, people are not doing it. Instead of trusting the Lord with all of their heart—that is, without any reservation, without any holding back—they are trying to fight the battle themselves.

Somebody might say, “I don't know really if I know how to trust the Lord. How do you go about as a Christian just trusting the Lord?” A number of things might be said, but in our immediate text, two things are said. One is, “Lean not on your own understanding.” That is one way that you learn to trust the Lord. You lean not on your own understanding.

The words lean not come from the Hebrew word shaan , which means “to rely not.” Do not rely on your own understanding. You know what it means to rely on something or somebody. It means that you depend on them. Sometimes you will say about a person whom you do not know, “He told me that he would pay that bill by such and such a date.” Can you rely on that? Sometimes people's testimonies are such that the immediate answer is, “Yes, indeed you can. You can rely on anything that he says.” You make your plans according to that. Here the advice is given: “Do not lean on your own understanding. Do not rely on your own understanding.”

What about understanding ? It comes from from the Hebrew word biynah which is translated elsewhere in the Scripture by the word wisdom . Don't rely on your own wisdom. You may be one of these individuals who always knows exactly what to do and when to do it, and you have never had the experience of wondering what to do. I say you may be one of those individuals. I have never really met one. I have met individuals who assume that they know what to do and assume that they never need any direction outside themselves; but I have discovered that thinking people sooner or later come to the place where they need something outside of themselves—some wisdom that is not theirs.

If you are going to trust in the Lord with all of your heart, one of the first things that you are going to have to decide is that you are not going to rely on your own wisdom. You are not going to even assume what you ought to do. You are going to recognize that you do not know, and then you are immediately going to ask God to give you the wisdom that you need.

I can just hear an individual saying to me, “That sounds rather foolish to me. God has given us a brain and He expects us to use it. Why do we need to always be asking Him what to do? Why don't we just use our heads? God has given us a brain, and God does expect us to do certain things of which we are capable, but when it comes to matters of decision, again and again He warns of the folly of depending upon our own wisdom.

Seek His Wisdom

Turn with me, please, to the epistle of James, chapter 4. I would like to ask you a question to provoke your thinking. If I decided that I wanted to go to Dallas tomorrow, would there be any point in my praying about it? You may be saying, “Why be silly enough to pray about whether you go to Dallas or not? You want to go? Go. Why do you have to pray about that?” Because it would be sin if I did not pray about it. Did you get that? It would be a sin if I did not pray about it. Notice James, chapter 4, verse 13:

James 4:

13 Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain:

This is your decision. You are going to go into such and such a city and go into business and you are going to make a lot of money. Anything wrong with that? Nothing wrong with going into business. Nothing wrong with making a lot of money, but something is wrong. What is it? Several things, actually. Notice verse 14:

James 4:

14 Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow [we don't know if we will even be alive on the morrow]. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.
15 For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.

“If the Lord wills…” How are you going to know if the Lord wills if you don't seek His will? If you fail to seek His will, according to verse 16, you are rejoicing in your boasting. You are rejoicing in your knowledge of the future, and all such rejoicing is evil. In verse 17, you read:

James 4:

17 Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.

How often has this verse been used to justify speaking to people about sins of omission? There is nothing wrong about that. “To him that knoweth to do good and doeth it not, it is sin.” It is a sin to omit doing good when you know what you ought to do; but I believe we have used the verse so generally that we have forgotten the impact of its specialty. Its specialty is related to the fact that if you do anything without seeking the will of God in relation to it, it is sin.

If You Lack Wisdom, Ask of God

How do you seek the will of God? We are talking about wisdom, are we not? Notice James, chapter 1, verse 5:

James 1:

5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

If you lack wisdom, ask of God. God won't scold you for asking Him. He will give it to you, and He will give you a liberal portion of it; but when you ask, you be sure (notice in verse 6) and ask in faith. This does not mean that you ask in faith in the sense that you believe that He is able to give it. The word faith is qualified by the phrase, nothing wavering , and the explanation of wavering is found in the latter part of verse 6. Notice:

James 1:

6 …For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.

There is the sad commentary in verse 7:

James 1:

7 For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.

If you are asking God for wisdom about something, you ask in faith, nothing wavering; that is, you make up your mind that when God gives you the wisdom, you are going to act upon it. You are not going to say, “I asked Him, but I don't know whether He gave me this wisdom or not.” You ask Him and act upon it without wondering if you should go ahead and do what He has revealed that you ought to do.

Ask God to Advise You

Go back with me, please, to the book of Proverbs, because there is something else to be considered if you are going to trust the Lord with all your heart. Not only are you not to lean upon your own understanding, as we have been suggesting to you at the moment, but you are to do something else. Look at verse 6:

Proverbs 3:

6 In all thy ways acknowledge him…

Not only do you refuse to lean upon your own understanding—that is something negative—but now do something positive: “In all thy ways acknowledge Him.”

Let's look at the word acknowledge for a moment. The words acknowledge Him , come from the Hebrew word yada which is translated other places in the Word of God by our English word advise . Ask God to advise you. That is what it means to acknowledge Him. To acknowledge Him does not mean to say, “Oh, I honor God in everything that I do.” You might acknowledge God in that way, but that is not what it is talking about here. Is it talking about seeking the advice of God in some of the great decisions of your life, some of those momentous decisions that you have to make? No, that is not what it says, if you are reading the Word carefully. “In all thy ways seek His advice.” If you are trusting the Lord with all of your heart, there ought not to be anything in which you do not seek His advice.

This word yada is translated in Proverbs, chapter 9, verse 9, by the word teach . Notice this verse:

Proverbs 9:

9 Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning.

When you acknowledge the Lord in all of your ways, you expect the Lord to teach you the things you need to know in relation to any given subject in which you are seeking wisdom. Of course, God teaches through His Word, and that is where you should look for your instructions.

It has always been an interesting thing to me to notice that this Hebrew word yada , which is translated by the word acknowledge , is also translated by the words familiar friend . I like that. I suppose all of us at some time or other have had friends to whom we felt very close, closer than we felt to other friends, in whom we confided every little thing about our lives. You may not have had one such friend with you constantly, and perhaps one such friend has moved away and you wish you had another. We would like to remind you that our Lord wants to be that familiar friend. As you have gone to earthly, familiar friends seeking advice, learn to go to the Lord as your familiar friend and seek that same advice.

Have a Healthy Respect for God

Additional requirements are discovered in the statement: “Fear the Lord and depart from evil.” Whenever you find the phrase, “fear the Lord,” in the last part of verse 7, you are finding a reference to your reverence and respect for the Lord. A healthy respect for God needs to be emphasized in this day and time. If you have a healthy respect for God, you will find yourself indeed departing from evil, for men who have a healthy respect for God and His judgment are not going to make light of His grace and make a mock at sin. As a matter of fact, the Word of God says, “Fools make a mock at sin, and only fools do that.”

Honor God with your Giving

There is a suggestion that becomes very practical as a requirement from God. You find it in verse 9:

Proverbs 3:

9 Honour the LORD with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase:

Prosperity in the Old Testament was always expressed in agricultural terms. If the Old Testament had been written in our day, money, as a medium of exchange, would have been used to make the point, but this makes the point. God has a requirement of every believer; if he is to trust in the Lord with all his heart, He is to honor the Lord with his income. This passage of Scripture says. “Honor the Lord with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase.”

We brought you a message some time ago on the grace of giving versus tithing, so we are not going to spend any time dwelling on that, but I am often asked the question, “Should I give my tithe [folk usually use the word tithe ] to the Lord first or last? Should I give my tithe to the Lord before I pay my bills or after I pay my bills?” If humanly speaking I said, “Give the Lord your tithes before you pay your bills,” then someone else would come along and say, “Yes, and ruin your credit with the people you owe.” The simplest explanation for that is to follow the injunction of the Word of God to owe no man anything but to love one another. What does God's Word say, forgetting what man thinks? God's Word says to honor the Lord with thy substance and with the firstfruits of all thine increase.

This means exactly what it says. When the farmer went out and harvested the grain in his field, he did not wait until he had paid all his creditors and then took some grain to the temple. The firstfruits that he gathered, he gathered for God. That ought to settle once and for all, it seems to me, what God's requirement is. “Honor the Lord with all of thy substance, and with the firstfruts of all thine increase.” All of it is His, but take Him the firstfruits. This eliminates the suggestion that some people make: “Well, I have given the Lord my tenth and so the rest of it is mine to blow like I want to blow.” Well, it isn't. You are still responsible to God for the way it is used.

Exposition of the Result

Let's take a few moments to look at the result in relation to the exposition of the text. Remember the text: “My son forget not My law, but let thine heart keep My commandments.” That is the requirement. The result: “For length of days and long life and peace shall they add to thee.” But the exposition of that result is found in several phrases scattered throughout the paragraph. Notice verse 4:

Proverbs 3:

4 So shalt thou find favour and good understanding in the sight of God and man.

What is this saying? If you fulfill these requirements that we have been talking about, you will find favor with God and understanding with men. That is the sense of the text. The word understanding in this particular instance comes from the Hebrew word sekel , which may be translated “prudence.” It simply means that if you live according to the requirements which are suggested in this third lesson on wisdom, people will think that you are a pretty smart fellow. They will wonder how you got so smart, and you may take a lot of credit for it yourself, but if you are perfectly honest, you will have to say, “There isn't anything particularly bright about me. I am just living according to God's plan, and when I live according to God's plan, then I can expect God's blessing on my life.”

Look down at verse 6 for another result:

Proverbs 3:

6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

Usually we think about this word direction being related to God's saying, “This is the way; walk in it,” and it is involved. But this word direction , in the original text, speaks of an individual's going ahead of you and filling up all the chuck holes and leveling off all the high places so that your ride will be a smooth one. It is more than just seeking direction. It includes God's making the way plain and smooth so that the ride will be easy.

Do you know there are a lot of Christians today who are in the will of God in the sense that they are walking in the way that God wants them to walk, but they are still traveling a pretty rough path because they are trying to find time to fill in all the chug holes and smooth off all the high places? Why don't you leave that to God? Acknowledge Him, and while you are receiving what He has for you, He will give you the direction that you need.

Verse 8 suggests that if you follow these requirements of God, the result will be health. We would not suggest that everybody who is ill is out of the will of God, but we would suggest, generally speaking, that people who are living within the will of God are going to find much less trouble than people who are living out of the will of God, for this is what God's Word says.

Notice down in verse 8:

Proverbs 3:

8 It shall be health to thy navel…

I have always read that and before I knew anything about the Word of God, I was tempted to chuckle at it. You know, a lot of people are afraid to smile when they read their Bibles, but I am not, and it has always been amusing to me to think about a healthy bellybutton. I can't think of anything more amusing than that—a healthy bellybutton. Who could care less about a healthy bellybutton? I puzzled and puzzled about this until I began to compare some manuscripts and discovered that the word for navel and the word for body in Hebrew are practically the same with the exception of one letter. If a person were writing it hurriedly, he would write navel instead of body . The oldest manuscripts have body instead of navel , and that makes it much more sensible, doesn't it? “These things will be health to thy body and marrow to thy bones.” You can expect God to give you good health if you are depending upon Him.

The last thing that we would bring to your attention is what is found in verse 10. If you honor the Lord with all of your increase and with the firstfruits of all your increase,” then in verse 10:

Proverbs 3:

10 So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.

Conclusion

I mention again that prosperity in the Old Testament is mentioned in agricultural terms because that was the medium of exchange, but God can give the same promise to you today. “Here is wisdom, My son,” God said, “Don't forget My law. Let your heart keep My commandment, and length of days and peace shall they add to thee,” in all the various ways we have considered.


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