Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Bruce Waltke on Proverbs 3:5

I pulled out Waltke's commentary on Proverbs thinking that his words about Proverbs 3:5-6 might be good ones to write in graduation cards. It's a little heavy for cards, but not for here :) (paragraph breaks are mine, since this is all one paragraph in the book):

The father now secures his son in a personal relationship with the Lord in bonding him to his teaching (see [Proverbs] 2:6). Since the son had committed himself to the father's ethical teaching, the father now orders the son to trust the Lord to uphold them. The son's confidence is neither in an impersonal created order subject to his rational control nor in an impersonal code of ethics inherited by tradition from the fathers but in Israel's covenant-keeping God who stands behind the moral order and heritage and its promises...

Since the teaching is good only to the extent that God backs it up, the disciple must trust (betah, i.e. rely on out of a sense of security, usually in the face of danger) in the Lord... Faith in God's promises and renouncing confidence in oneself (cf. 18:10-11; 28:11, 26) are unnatural gifts of God, mediated in part through the admonitions and promises. Normally, batah has a negative ring in the Old Testament. Jepsen says, "The thing on which one relies turns out to be deceptive, so that the words derived from the root bth are actually used to indicate a false security," such as other people and/or their deceptive devices... He adds, "Most of all, man must not have confidence in himself ... or in his own 'righteousness' (Ezek 33:12)."

Trust in the Lord, however, without definition, is platitudinous; it cuts no ice in one's thinking unless the Lord expresses himself. The unity of the poem and its connection with 2:6 show that one trusts in the Lord who speaks through the father's inspired teaching. The wise trust the Lord to uphold his moral order freely (i.e. according to his sovereign good pleasure) and contingently (i.e. in response to human activity). They are confident that as they fulfill their obligations, he will uphold his in his own time and in his own way, even when the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer (cf. 14:26; 16:3, 20; 18:10; 19:23; 28:25; 29:25; 30:1-14). That trust must be entire, with all your heart. Since the Lord alone gives wisdom and provides protection (2:5-8), one's security depends on him.

On your own understanding (or insight, see 1:2; 2:3) stands in marked antithesis to "in the Lord" and along with 22:4 is an exceptional use of bina in this book. "By the usual assumptions of the book, a mental faculty employed without trust in God could not be called binah." Elsewhere bina refers to wisdom itself, or insight into its interpretation. An entire commitment requires an exclusive commitment. Do not rely, or lean on as on a broken crutch, depicts what is meant by "trust." One is a fool to rely on his thimble of knowledge before its vast ocean or on his own understanding, which is often governed by irrational urges that he cannot control.

The Book of Proverbs, Chapters 1-15 by Bruce K. Waltke, pages 243-244

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