Brian D. Dykstra (Teacher at Hope PR Christian School, Walker, MI)
*This article was originally written as a devotional for his fellow teachers at Hope CS. It is posted here because of its broader value for our website readers.
Proverbs 3:16–18: “Length of days is in her right hand; and in her left hand riches and honour. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her: and happy is every one that retaineth her.”
The preceding verses told us of the happiness of the man who finds wisdom and understanding. The joy of possessing wisdom is because of its great value. It is more profitable than gold, more precious than rubies and, of all things which can be desired, nothing can be compared to wisdom. In these verses we learn why wisdom gives happiness and why it is so valuable.
When we meet wisdom, she has something in each of her hands. There are times when this can be bad news. When Ehud greeted Eglon, he too had both hands full. He had a gift for the king in one hand, while in the other he held a dagger. We are suspicious sometimes of those who have a gift in one hand. Perhaps we are concerned that this person just wants to flatter us to get something they want in return. Those with gifts do not always have our best interests in mind.
Wisdom has our benefit in mind. In her right hand, she holds length of days. When we follow the ways of wisdom, it can lead to long life. Foolishness leads to the excesses of the sinful things which this world has to offer. How often don’t the ways of indulgence, in its various forms, lead to sickness and an untimely death? Walking in wisdom preserves us from the physically damaging ways of sin. We understand, of course, that living a godly life does not guarantee a long life. Solomon witnessed this himself and wrote in Ecclesiastes 7:15, “All things have I seen in the days of my vanity: there is a just man that perisheth in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man that prolongeth his life in his wickedness.”
The real keeping of the promise of the length of days is the everlasting life God’s elect will enjoy in heaven. Wisdom shows the way to God’s heavenly kingdom. It is the way of obedience to God’s good law. Wisdom shows we are not able to save ourselves. We do not earn our way into heaven by good works. We do not help God deliver us by accepting His kind offer of salvation. By the wisdom of God’s Word, we realize we will have length of days only because of the cross of Christ.
In her left hand, wisdom holds riches and honour. The believer’s goal in life is not to acquire as much of the world’s goods as possible. We do not seek wisdom because of some future payoff. We do, however, look to God to provide us with what we need for daily living. Using the direction of the wisdom of God’s Word, we will be careful stewards of what God puts in our hands and we will not waste what we have in an attempt to get more.
Wisdom does not hold in her hand the honour which the world has for its celebrities. Nor is this the honour given to the rich or political elite. This is the honour which has some weight or heaviness to it. This is not the honour of the world which can be so vain and empty. Great attention is given to the beautiful and handsome of Hollywood. What happens when such beauty fades and the plastic surgery doesn’t quite meet expectations? This is the honour which is given to those who have spiritual substance. Godly wisdom is not limited to the grey-headed. We all have people in our lives whom we honour because of the wise counsel they give.
In verse seventeen, we read of wisdom’s ways and paths. These paths, which are well worn, are not ways which appeal to our carnal nature. We find God’s ways too restrictive. The old man of sin feels hemmed in and denied of what would make life exciting. To our flesh, religion seems to prevent the enjoyment of life. Religion results in long faces and no hours of pleasure. God is nothing more than the speaker of loud “Thou shalt nots!”
The ways of wisdom are pleasant, spiritually pleasant. We know the pleasure of God’s covenant fellowship. We have Him to comfort us and assure us that He will work all things for our good. In the time we spend alone, we are not plagued in conscience nor fearful of what will become of us. In the quiet of the night, we are assured of the forgiveness of sins and of God’s dealing with us as His children, even in our loneliness and affliction.
Wisdom is a tree of life. Now our thoughts go back to Paradise. The tree of life would sustain man and preserve his physical life and strength. However, because of our fall, the way to the tree of life is barred. The way to true everlasting life, as pictured in the tree of life, is once again opened in the way of the cross. We must lay hold on wisdom is a way which will not allow her to get away.
Those who retain wisdom are happy. We are to keep wisdom in our possession and not allow her to go elsewhere. There are companies which place lawyers on retainer so their services are available to them should some type of legal trouble arise. These companies want to make sure skilled lawyers are available to them, so they pay them a sum of money each year just in case they are needed. They don’t want these lawyers to be unavailable if an emergency arises. We should value wisdom in a similar way. The company hopes a legal situation does not arise. Would there be a time in our lives when we do not have a need for wisdom?
May God be pleased to give us this wisdom which will give us riches both in this life and as we look forward to the life to come.