A Helpful Reminder

“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.”

Proverbs 3:1-2 ESV

Who doesn’t need a reminder now and then? Here’s a gentle and helpful reminder that gives life.

Perhaps you’ve heard someone say, “You are keeping the letter of the law, but not the spirit of the law.” By this they mean the heart and intent of the law is disregarded while the technical details of the law are obeyed.

Here, I think wisdom is aiming for the spirit of the law by saying, “let your heart keep my commandments.” It is possible to keep the details of a particular commandment without doing so from the heart. And, that is how some unbelievers view the life of faith … as simply a list of rules to obey. However, a fair reading of the biblical text reveals that God doesn’t give rules/commandments “just because.” Rather, through His commandments God guides us to a desired outcome.

In this text, for example, the desired outcome is length of life and peace. The path to that destination is keeping wisdom’s commandments from the heart, not just by rote.

“For the Lord gives wisdom;

    from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;”

Proverbs 2:6 ESV

In this modern age it is easy to forget the simplicity of this proverb. The first source of knowledge is God. If we forget that, nothing else really matters.


How many times do I have to tell you …?

“How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge?”

Proverbs 1:22

Here, Wisdom sounds like a frustrated parent asking a disobedient child how many times they have to tell them not to do something. In this case, wisdom asks us how long we will continue in folly.

The Advent Proverb: 30:4

“Who has ascended to heaven and come down?

    Who has gathered the wind in his fists?

Who has wrapped up the waters in a garment?

    Who has established all the ends of the earth?

What is his name, and what is his son’s name?

    Surely you know!”

Proverbs 30:4 ESV

The English word advent comes to us from the Greek by way of Latin. Adventus is the Latin translation of the Greek word parousia (παρουσία), which means arrival or presence.

In Christian theology advent has at least three referents: Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem, his second coming, and his presence in the heart of every believer.

In this proverb of Agur, the first and last questions frame the idea for me calling this the Advent Proverb: Who has ascended to heaven and come down? What is his name, and what is his son’s name?

As we move toward the celebration of Christmas, let’s remember the humility of Jesus coming as a babe in the manger. But let us not forget that he is the one who gathered the wind in his fist, wrapped up the waters in a garment, and established all the ends of the earth? Finally, let us not forget that the one who did all that is also the one who humbled himself to die on a cross for our redemption (Philippians 2:8, 1 Corinthians 1:18, 1 Timothy 2:5-6, Hebrews 9:12, 1 Peter 2:24)

Proverbs 29:11

“A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.”

Proverbs 29:11 ESV

How often do you “blow your lid”? How frequently do you say something like, “You don’t understand, I just have to vent”? According to this proverb, if that is your pattern, you may be a fool. Or, at least, foolish in that moment. On the other hand, if you maintain your composure and are measured in difficult circumstances, that is an indication of the presence of wisdom.

This does not remove any emotion from life. If the building is on fire, please yell, “FIRE!!” But, let’s not make a big thing out of a small thing in order to give some measure of justification to our foolishness. For example, if the restaurant is currently out of vanilla ice cream, there’s no need to ask for the manager or let everyone within earshot know how upset you are that there is no vanilla ice cream. If you do, you are a fool. Wisdom says, “Let it go.”

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