My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity. Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favour and a good name in the sight of God and man. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:1-6 NIV)
These verses are a conversation between a father and his son where the father is imparting wisdom to the younger man. Each instruction is followed by a blessing.
Don’t forget my teaching, it will bring peace and blessing.
Be loving and faithful, you will find favour with both God and man.
Don’t rely on your own knowledge, instead rely on the Lord; that’s the best way to live.
Do you see how often the heart is mentioned? The father is not trying to impose a set of rules that must be obeyed, nor is he seeking to encourage the son to live out of his own strength or resources. Rather he is showing the way of the heart. The blessings and fruitful life that flow from a heart relationship.
This, too, is important for us. We are not called to a life of slavish duty and obligation but to a relationship built on love. We can only ever love because he first loved us and it is as we open our heart to love that we enter into the blessings described for us in Proverbs. I encourage you to look at your life? Are you ruled by duty or are you led by love? Being led by love will lead us into a wide open space where there is freedom and rest.
See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and he rules with a mighty arm. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him. He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young. (Isaiah 40:10-11 NIV)
This chapter is a wonderful picture of a strong and mighty God. It shows us his power and majesty and how incredibly big he is. It recounts his marvellous deeds and how he can do anything he wants to do. It also shows us how small we are, how minute our strength and ability is when compared to him. We are like a speck of dust or a drop in a bucket.
We often see people like that in the world, who use their power and position to be controlling and manipulative. They only want to see their will being done and they don’t mind who they hurt or trample on to achieve their aims.
My question today is do you view God like that? Is he someone you think is controlling and manipulative, seeking to force you to do his will? That’s a wrong view of God and not one borne out by the Isaiah 40. Yes, he is strong and mighty but he demonstrates his strength in ways that show his heart for us.
The chapter starts with the word COMFORT. His strength comforts us and therefore his power is for our good, it is to build us up and encourage us.
In verses 10 and 11 there is a description of a strong God, yet he reaches down and carries his people like a shepherd would carry a lamb. Great strength expressed through tenderness and compassion.
Finally the chapter ends with rest and renewal as we wait upon the Lord.
Yes, God is all powerful but he channels his strength, not into control and manipulation but into comfort, tenderness and renewal.
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (Romans 5:1-5 NIV)
It is clear from this passage that we have been brought back into relationship with the Father. Through Jesus, we now have peace with God and this enables us to come freely to him irrespective of how we feel or what we think we might have done. We have the assurance, not only of our sins being forgiven but also a right relationship with God, our Creator and Father. Despite this (which, of course, is very good news) we live in a world where there will be suffering. It is because of the assurance of our right relationship with God, the Father that we are able to hang on and endure the suffering that is thrown at us. As we do, we are inevitably changed. Hope, that for which we long for, the certainty of our future with him can be drawn into the reality of our day to day life.
What I particularly want to draw out of these verses is that the ability to go through suffering is based on his love being poured freely into our heart. It is not the consequence of our own works.
The Father’s love is not the end of the journey. It is not a reward for persevering through suffering, allowing our character to change and somehow finding hope for the future. No, it is because his love has been poured into our heart that we are able to endure suffering (through which we are changed). I often say that God does not pour his love into our mind in the hope that, one day, it will drop into our heart. Receiving his love is not an exercise of our will or mind, it is the free gift of HIM pouring HIS love directly into our heart.
It does not end with love but begins with love. His love is the foundation on which we build our lives, it is a solid rock, anything else is shifting sand.
The Passion Translation says: “we can experience the endless love of God cascading into our hearts through the Holy Spirit”.
Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. (Psalm 139:7-10 NIV)
Last week I highlighted the Father’s intimate and perfect knowledge of us. He knows us because he created us. He created us because he wanted us to be his family, living in unity and being like his son, Jesus.
We live in a fallen world and that has caused there to be separation between us and our Creator. In fact, in the garden we were pulled away from him through the lies of the enemy.
Because of this separation the question in verse 7 “Where can I flee from your presence?” is often rooted in fear. There is fear of judgement or punishment and that causes us, like Adam and Eve, to want to run and hide. We think we might be able to find a dark corner where the Father won’t be able to find us. As the Psalmist reminds us, there is no place to hide.
Shame, guilt and condemnation try to force us away from his presence into a place where we think we can be safe. We can’t hide. Our Father will seek us and draw us into the light of his presence. He does so, not to judge but because of his love for us.
We can respond to this question out of fear or we can respond with to love. As we respond to love we discover that the Father’s love is all embracing and that it is a secure place for us to step into. There is no fear in love. In responding to love we discover that not only does he know us, but we are known by him. A deeply intimate knowledge which reflects his care of us and his love for us.
As you mediate on this Psalm can I encourage you to see how precious his thoughts of you really are.
How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! (V17)
A Father to YOU is a signpost to the heart of the Perfect Father. When we became Christians we were given the right to become children of God (John 1:12). Sadly, many of us fail to take up that right and instead continue to live as slaves or orphans. But our true destiny is being sons and daughters who have a permanent place in the Father's family. This blog is an encouragement to help you know who God really is and who you really are.