My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, 12 because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in. 13 Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding, 14 for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold. 15 She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her. 16 Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honour. 17 Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace. 18 She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her; those who hold her fast will be blessed. 19 By wisdom the LORD laid the earth’s foundations, by understanding he set the heavens in place; 20 by his knowledge the watery depths were divided, and the clouds let drop the dew. (Prov. 3:11-20 NIV)
In these verses the Teacher encourages us to welcome the Lord’s discipline and then he praises the worth of wisdom. The natural tendency is to despise and resent the Lord’s discipline and rebuke. None of us like to be told we are wrong. We live in a day when managers are not able to manage, because we all resent being managed. Teachers have to be careful how they talk to children. In my time at school the cane was used to punish offenders. If you told your parents you were caned, then you were in double trouble, because the focus was not on the teacher but on you and what you did to get caned. I’m not advocating a return to corporal punishment, but it is useful to think about the total dislike of anyone in authority telling us what to do. It is unlikely that we would ever say, ‘Who does God think He is in discipling us?’ At least we are unlikely to say it out loud, but we feel we would like to have a frank conversation with God about His abuse of authority by even daring to discipline us. It comes back to the most important lesson: God is God, and I am not. God dares to discipline us because He loves us. I can do without that kind of love and so I despise discipline and resent rebuke. If that wasn’t the reality, then I would not need to be warned against despising discipline and resenting the Lord’s rebuke. We can’t believe that a loving heavenly Father would discipline us. Wisdom should teach us to accept the reality of God’s discipline. This is not punishment; it is teaching and correction. The reason for God disciplining us is His love for us. We are slow to learn and this comes at a cost to ourselves, therefore the Lord has to encourage us and discipline us so that we will learn.
The purpose of the discipline is that we might learn wisdom. We are blessed when we find wisdom, when we gain understanding. Wisdom is more precious than silver, gold or rubies. People desire these precious metals and stones, but wisdom should be a greater desire because it is worth more. Wisdom offers long life and prosperity. I was talking with a young man about his work and the prospect of promotion. He had turned down promotion on several occasions. He said he enjoyed doing what he is doing at the moment and promotion would have taken him away from that work. He would have been offered a much higher salary but he had found prosperity in what he was doing. Prosperity is not just the acquisition of wealth, it is the peace that God gives to us in the life that we live. Wisdom gives us a pleasant life and a sense of peace. There is no salary or riches that can compete with that. This life of peace is a life lived in harmony with God.
The tree of life makes us think of the tree in the Garden of Eden that we have been cut off from. The tree here is like the flourishing tree in Psalm 1 that is planted by the riverside, it blossoms and bears fruit in its time. The blessings of life follow on from receiving and obeying wisdom.
V19-20 take us back to the creation account. Wisdom, understanding and knowledge were guiding principles that created environments for life to dwell in. As wisdom was used to bring forth life at the beginning, so it is still used in developing the lives that we live.
Lord when You discipline us help us to understand that it is because of Your great love for us. We are slow in learning. Help us to apply ourselves to learning wisdom and gain a greater appreciation of the fear of the Lord, because we ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.