“My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commandments with your heart, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you” (Proverbs 3:1-2).
Imagine you are in your old age, about to depart this life; you call your children to your bedside to distribute your wealth. What would be the most valuable inheritance you think you will hand down to your children? Or perhaps you are that son or daughter and your father calls you to his bedside, what would you consider the most precious inheritance? A house, the company stocks, acres of land, the stashed bank account sitting in investments or may be the top end education your parent were able to provide? What would it be? When all is said and done, what will be the most precious inheritance you will bequeath to your children or you will receive from your parent?
Together, lets glean some wisdom from the most prosperous man who ever lived on what he thought was the most precious inheritance to give or to receive. This is a man who was wealthy beyond measure, the richest man to have lived on earth. He didn’t think his greatest inheritance to his children were material. From chapter to chapter in the book of Proverbs, he admonished his son to treasure his teachings and commandments. It is however intriguing though that Solomon gives such an advice because his own life was a tragedy.
He started well in 1 Kings 3:3, but by the time we get to 1 Kings 11:6, he was living in disobedience to God. What therefore makes Solomon so qualified to give such an advice is probably the fact that he himself had experienced the consequences of neglect and forgetfulness of a father’s instruction.
A Command Against Forgetfulness
Solomon, perhaps out of his own experiences, warns against forgetfulness: “Do not Forget” “my son, do not forget my teaching”.
Teaching or commandment in the text refers to the same thing; instruction based on the word of God. Note how Solomon states his instruction in the negative sense “do not forget”. He knows that as sinful humanity, we are prone to forgetfulness. Remembering and keeping the word of God is a daily battle we must fight. There is so much going on in and around us that seek to drown the word of God in our lives. All through scripture, we see the people of God consistently disobeying his word either through sheer disobedience or forgetfulness (Judges 2:10).
Forgetfulness is the greatest enemy to obedience, and that is why Solomon instructed his son not to forget. In his own life, he had experienced firsthand the dangers of a forgetful attitude towards the word of God. God had instructed the Israelites against intermarriage with the nations around them (Deut. 7:1-4), however Solomon did not pay heed to the Lord’s commands. As a result his heart was led away from the Lord.
The question then is, how do we guard against forgetfulness in our own lives?
The Role of The Heart
Solomon writes in the latter part of verse 1, “…but let your heart keep my commandments”.
See the contrast he draws here, “don’t forget” but “keep with your heart”. When the Bible uses the heart, it usually is not referring to the organ that pumps blood. It is pointing to our very being. Now, forgetfulness has to do with the mind. So I can forget something I have read or heard. But I cannot forget something that has entered my heart. Once something enters your heart, it becomes an integral part of who you are and hence difficult to forget. Bruce Ware says “We must let the word of God travel from our head to our heart”. Paul says in Colossians 3:16 that we must let the word of God dwell in us richly.
Unfortunately for many of us, the word of God never makes the journey from our heads to our hearts. Perhaps that explains why obedience is so difficult. We read it, we hear it preached, but when we are called upon to live out our faith, we are found wanting. Could it be that the word of God has not fully found its way into our hearts? Is it possible that perhaps for a long time Jesus has been calling you, but you have chosen to forget his voice? Solomon’s plea to his son was urgent and desperate “my son, do not forget my teaching”.
The Valuable Inheritance
For length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you
So back to my opening analogy, what in your estimation is the most valuable inheritance to pass on to your children at your death bedside? Solomon further tells his son the reason not to forget his instructions. Because there is a reward. We all love rewards, don’t we? Even Jesus loves reward (Hebrews 12:2). Paul said in Philippians 3:14 “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” Rewards make sacrifices worthwhile. When Jesus calls his followers to deny themselves and follow him, he also promises a far superior reward than what the world could ever offer. In the same way Solomon, tells his son about the colossal reward of obeying the word of God. There is a two-fold reward he mentions in our text.
(i) “For length of days and years of life”, and
“For length of days and years of life”
I must admit the first time I read this, I wasn’t particularly impressed with the first reward. “Length of days and years of life”. Who wants to live in this world for so long? In a world full of turmoil, pain and heartache who wants to live in it forever? However, as I thought further about this, it became clear from the Bible that as Christians, length of days and years of life has more meaning than just a long life on earth.
Long life for the believer is a life of eternal bliss with our heavenly Father, where we will behold his face and never depart from him again. Our greatest reward for obedience to God’s word is eternal life. So Jesus told his disciples “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also”(John 14:1-3).
This is why as Christians we should not be scared, as we age or see our outward bodies decay and waste away. It was this hope in everlasting life, which made the apostle Paul declare “For I am sure that neither death nor life…will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39). As we obey the word of God, our lives are eternally hidden with God in Christ Jesus.
The other reward for obedience according to our text is peace. In a world filled with tribulation and chaos, Jesus says “let not your hearts be troubled” (John 14:1), because “… I [He] have overcome the world” The Psalmist declares in Psalm 119:165 “Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble.” Are you experiencing chaos in your life right now? Perhaps it is the uncertainty about your future or finances or your job or your children or anything for that matter? The word of God offers peace that transcends understanding as we come to Jesus. The secret to peace of mind is loving the word of God and obeying it. And beyond the peace that the word of God provides in this life, there is a greater peace that obedience to the word of God brings–peace with God through faith: “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1)
As we obey the word of God and repent of our sins and believe in Jesus, we gain peace with God. And friends that’s the peace you need more than any other. If you think there is chaos in this world, try a life away from God in eternity. What those of us who have been justified have is a peace with God that can never be taken away.
What has been your attitude towards the word of God? Does it play any role at all in your life, or it’s just one of the many items on your to do list? I don’t know what you consider to be your greatest inheritance, but for Solomon, the richest and wisest man who ever lived, he came to the end of his life acknowledging that indeed the word of God is the most precious of all. Hold it dear and it will bring length of days and peace of mind.