For the good of your health, the World Health Organisation recommends that you eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables each day. Tom Armstrong, a preacher from Derriaghy, Northern Ireland, outlines a spiritual 5-a-day diet for Christians, from Proverbs Chapter 3:
The book of Proverbs was largely written by the very wise King Solomon. The many plain and yet powerful proverbs were written for the blessing of his sons and of his people. They were written in days of great prosperity for the nation of Israel and cover almost every area of life, making profitable daily reading for us all. One of the themes of the book of Proverbs is faith. Against the background of national prosperity there would be a tendency to become self sufficient – but God would ever have His people to trust in Him alone. Possibly the best known of all the proverbs is in chapter 3 and verse 5; “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding”. May we be enabled to ever live in simple dependency on God.
Proverbs Chapter 3 is one of the more easily divided chapters, each division commencing with the words “My son”. Each section contains a reference to life, so it is clear that Solomon is interested in the health and well-being of his son. He desires that life be lived to the full and to maximum profit. Spiritually, God desires that we live healthy and enjoyable lives. When we meet with friends, normally the first question is “how are you?” Let me ask you this question “How are you spiritually?” “Are you well?” This article is written out of a concern for the spiritual well-being of the people of God.
Each of the three chapter divisions contain five proverbs. The first section and its five proverbs are the subject of this study:
“My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart keep my commandments: for length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to thee.
“Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart: so shalt thou find favour and good understanding in the sight of God and man.
“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
“Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil. It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones.
“Honour the LORD with thy substance, and with the first-fruits of all thine increase: so shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.”
We are constantly being advised to ensure that we all take our “five-a-day” of fruit and vegetables for our physical health and well-being. Well, here in our reading is the “five-a-day” for our spiritual health and happiness. Many proverbs contain an instruction followed by an incentive and these five are no exception.
Verses 1-2: The Commandments
This first instruction relates to the commandments. “My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart keep my commandments.” This would remind us of the great importance of obedience to the word of God. Spiritual health is closely linked with obedience. It is important to read God’s word and to get to know it. But it is equally important to obey its many precepts. The verse may well refer to the teaching of the word of God. As we listen to the ministry of God’s word we should follow its teaching.
The incentive that follows is a promise of long life and of peace. This is more than quantity of life and includes a superior quality of life. As the Psalmist in Psalm 119:165 assures us: “great peace have they which love my law.” Not forgetting the law and the commandments will yield a calm and a contented life.
Verses 3-4: The Character
Mercy and truth are attributes of God and are often linked together in Scripture. The first time we read of them together in the Bible is in Genesis 24 when Abraham’s servant said “Blessed be the Lord God of my master Abraham, who hath not left destitute my master of His mercy and truth.” They were seen at Calvary when mercy and truth met together. They are linked four times in the book of Proverbs and make an interesting study. God desires to bestow these qualities upon His people. As these are attributes of God He desires to see them displayed in His children and so He says “Bind them about thy neck”. Let them be worn as an ornament to be seen by all. Of course they should also be written on our hearts. The inward and the outward should blend perfectly. God desires to see a reflection of Himself in His people.
The incentive that follows is “So shalt thou find favour and good understanding in the sight of God and man.” The idea is that the display of these attributes will find favour with God. It will bring pleasure to His heart. This surely ought to be the desire of every believer, that our lives will be pleasing in His sight. It will also find favour with men.
Verses 5-6: The Confidence
“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart.” This instruction is well known to most Christians. Many years ago the writer wrote it at the front of his Bible and wrote below it “may God help me to make this the motto for my life.” God ever wants His people to trust Him. He desires that we live our lives in simple dependence upon Him. As mentioned earlier, the days of Solomon were days of national prosperity and in such days we can begin to think we do not need God. Very often it is only when wealth or health fails that we run to Him. How sad. In fact often God will break the “staff of bread” (Psa 105:16), so that we will lean upon Him alone. This proverb warns of the danger of being governed by our own thinking. We must also acknowledge Him in all our ways. Get to know him and give Him His rightful place in our lives.
The ensuing incentive will be “a clearly directed path”. As we trust Him, as we lean upon Him and acknowledge Him in all our ways, He will make the pathway straight. He will show us His will. In the words of John Sammis’s great hymn:
“Trust and obey; for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”
Verses 7-8: The Caution
This instruction is a solemn warning about the danger of sin in the lives of the Lord’s people. “Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the Lord and depart from evil.” The very real danger of self-evaluation and self-praise are cautioned against in this verse. Earlier we thought of the question “how are you spiritually?” Great care is needed in how we answer. Self-esteem can lead to a downfall. Job was a man who lived in the good of this proverb as he “feared God and eschewed evil”. Proverbs 16:6 reminds us that “by the fear of the Lord, men depart from evil.” Let us ever remember that our God is a consuming fire. A consciousness that God’s eye is constantly upon us, and a fear of displeasing Him, will keep us from evil.
The incentive for this instruction is so wonderful. “It shall be health to thy navel and marrow to thy bones.” Sin in a believer’s life will cause spiritual sickness and will dry up our spiritual bones, but a life lived in the fear of the Lord will be a healthy one. May we be preserved from sin and live spiritually prosperous lives. Peter in his first epistle, quoting from Psalm 34, says “He that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: let him eschew (turn away from) evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.”
Verses 9-10: The Commitment
This final instruction is to “Honour the Lord with thy substance, and with the first-fruits of all thine increase.” Each of us have a responsibility to give to God His portion. This proverb demonstrates that God wants our best – “the first-fruits of all thine increase.” This is much more than our treasure but includes our time and our talents. Surely when we think of all that God has done for us – after all, He gave His best for us – should we not then give our best to Him? David’s call at the time of the providing for the temple challenges us: “Who then is willing to fill his hand this day unto the Lord?”
The final incentive is, “so shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses burst out with new wine.” God will richly compensate all that is given to Him.
Don’t forget the five-a-day. Remember the law of the Lord. Aim to reveal and live out His character. Rest upon Him. Reverence Him and render to Him your best.
These are the secrets of a healthy and a happy life.