By Tommy L. McClure
“My son, keep my words, and lay up my commandments with thee. Keep my commandments, and live; and my law as the apple of thine eye. Bind them upon thy fingers, write them upon the table of thine heart. Say unto wisdom, Thou an my sister; and call understanding thy kinswoman: That they may keep thee from the strange woman, from the stranger which flattereth with her words” (Prov. 7:1-5).
“My words,” “my commandments” and “my law” of this text are God’s words, commands and law declared by Solomon. Example: Speaking of the gospel, Paul used the terms “my gospel” (Rom. 2:16) and “my doctrine” (2 Tim. 3:10) in the sense of declaration, not in the sense of origination, for God revealed it unto him (1 Cor. 2:9, 10), and he preached what he had received by the revelation of Jesus Christ (Gal. 1:11, 12). The same is true of Solomon he declared what God originated and revealed!
Some Wrong Attitudes Toward The Word Of God!. The Bible Is Outdated According To Some! After hearing Bible passages they don’t want to accept, some say, “But that was two thousand years ago!” While modes of travel, communication and greeting change (see Acts 8:27, 28; 1 Cor. 16:3; Rom. 16:16), essential things do not change! (1) God’s moral requirements are the same today as they have always been – acts of immorality have always been wrong! Cain sinned by killing Abel (Gen. 4:8-10; 1 Jn. 3:12) long before the law of Moses which forbade murder (Ex. 20:13) was given. (2) Man -‘s spiritual needs are the same as they were when Paul listed the sins which, if committed but not forgiven, will bar the guilty from the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9, 10; Gal. 5:19-21). Relative to such matters, God does not change (Mal. 3:6) and Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever (Heb. 13:8). (3) Principles of truth do not change. “Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach unto any people” (Prov. 14:34) is as true today as it was the day Solomon wrote it. “Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from troubles” (Prov. 21:23) may not be “sweet” but “how true it is!” “An angry man stirreth up strife, and a furious man aboundeth in transgressions” (Prov. 29:22) is as true now as in Solomon’s time, and many of us have often witnessed demonstrations of the truthfulness of the statement. The Bible, dear reader, is not an outdated book; those who so affirm demonstrate either their ignorance of it, or their dishonesty regarding it! On either count, they are not worthy to be believed or followed!
2. The Bible Is Unreliable, Some Say! “You can prove anything by the Bible,” they aver. This attitude stems from a misuse of the Bible -corrupting the word of God (2 Cor. 2:17), handling it deceitfully (2 Cor. 4:2), and wresting the Scriptures (2 Pet. 3:15, 16)! This is done by lifting passages out of their setting, applying passages to the wrong persons, making unwarranted connections between Bible statements, and isolating one passage from all other passages dealing with the same subject! By the same methods, I could “prove (?) anything” by any book or man! Let’s deal honestly and fairly with the Bible.
3. The Bible Is Powerless, Some Tell Us! “It is merely a dead letter,” they say. Those who say this are either ignorant of or willfully ignore all evidence to the contrary. This includes: (1) Plain Bible statements (Rom. 1: 16; Heb. 4:12; Jas. 1:21); (2) Influence of the Bible on: (a) Law (Deut. 25:13-16; cf. Dept. of Weights & Measures); (b) Music (“The Lord’s My Shepherd” from Psa. 23; “The New Song” from Rev. 14:3); (c) Literature (“Paradise Lost” and “Paradise Regained” by Milton; “Thanatopis” by Bryant); (d) Art (“The Last Supper” by Philippe de Champaign); (e) Common expressions (“doubting Thomas” from Jn. 20:24-28; “salt of the earth” from Matt. 5:13; “your sins will find you out” from Num. 32:23; “last but not least” from Matt. 20:1-16); and (3) Well-known and established facts, viz., (a) That human life is valued highest in countries where the Bible is best known (see Gen. 9:6); and (b) Bible teachers have often rendered uncivilized parts of the world safe for others. When all these facts (many others could be presented) are before one, he cannot honestly term the Bible “powerless” and “merely a dead letter! ” The Psalmist was right: “This is my comfort in my affliction: for thy word hath quickened me” (Psa. 119:50, Emphasis mine, TLM).
Specific Statements Of The Text Which Show How We Should Regard The Word Of God
1. We Should Regard It As That Which We Are Most Careful Of. “My son, keep my words, and lay up my commandments with thee” (v. 1). The word, like a precious treasure, is to be kept – to be laid up!
Under the term “kept” numerous implications of a negative nature can be listed. Since the word is to be kept, (1) It is not to be lost by carelessness as God’s people did in Old Testament times (2 Chron. 34:14-21). They had allowed God’s word to be lost in God’s house! (That’s not the only time such has happened, either!) Many are careless about God’s word now – they (a) don’t study the Bible, but use it for a filing cabinet or coffee table ornament; (b) don’t hear it preached and taught regularly, but just on “special” days, as Easter, Christmas or Thanksgiving; (c) sleep during sermons and classes, but are wide awake through a fifteen-inning ball game; and (d) many think it is merely a “general guide” which is very flexible and contains “no pattern” for life, work or worship. Rest assured that every act of carelessness puts more distance between us and our treasure (God’s word)! (2) It is not to be bartered for the inferior or worthless (Prov. 23:23)! Many such sales have been made – truth has been sold for trifles, such as monetary gain, earthly friendships, peace with family, prestige, and doubts of atheists and skeptics! Every such sale shows despite for God’s word (the treasure) (cf. Gen. 25:34). (3) The word is not to be left behind as unimportant! When moving, some leave behind what they don’t want or consider unimportant, and others have to dispose of their junk. God’s word is not to be treated as junk! Imagine being exiled to a lonely island with the ultimatum: “Leave behind either your Bible or T. V. for the rest of your life!” Friend, which would you leave? Which would you take? The truthful answer to that question may indicate the destiny to which you are headed – heaven or hell! It certainly indicates your present attitude toward the word of God, that treasure to be kept!
Just as God’s words are to be kept as a treasure, they are to be laid up for preservation or safe keeping! “Lay up” often carries this idea in the Scriptures. Moses instructed Aaron to take a pot of manna and “Jay it up before the Lord, to be kept for your generations” (Ex. 16:33). Jesus taught to “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven” rather than on earth where moth and rust corrupt and thieves steal (Matt. 6:19-21). This part of the verse is rendered: “And treasure up my commandments with thee” (Keil & Delitzsch, Commentary on The 0. T, Proverbs, in loco. cit., Eerdmans Pub. Co.). David expressed the thought, saying, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee” (Psa. 119:11).
“Lay up. . . with thee” demands personal attachment to the word (see Deut. 11:8). It is not like laying a lost hubcap on a post or hanging a lost horseshoe on a fence so the person who lost it, or anyone who needs and wants it, can find it. We are to lay the word up in our hearts, in our souls, to the point that it becomes apart of us!
The word is not to be laid aside as though in our way; nor laid back as though something else is more important; not laid down as though burdensome (see 1 Jn. 5:3). It is to be laid up in our hearts as a valued treasure – to be studied, loved, practiced, taught and defended!
Our treasure in heaven depends on how we treasure God’s word while here. God’s wrath is pronounced against those who set at naught His counsel and reproofs (Prov. 1:24-32)! “Whoso despiseth the word shall be destroyed: but he that feareth the commandment shall be rewarded” (Prov. 13:13). The other side of the coin is: “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city” (Rev. 22:14). Friend, do you treasure God’s word, or despise it? Will you be rewarded at the last day, or punished?
2. God’s Word Is To Be Regarded As That Upon Which Life Depends. “Keep my commandments, and live. . . ” (v. 2a). The reverse is clearly implied – “keep not my commandments, and die!” “Keep” is used in the sense of observing, adhering to, obeying.
Spiritual life now and eternal life beyond is impossible without the word! (1) Explaining the parable of the sower, Jesus said, “The seed is the word of God” (Lk. 8:11). Life would soon cease in any life-realm –vegetable, animal or spiritual without seed. (2) God’s word is spiritual food (1 Pet. 2:2; Heb. 5:12-14). Life cannot continue in any of the above mentioned realms without food! The word of God is able to build up the spiritual system of every person who rightly receives it (see 1 Thess. 2:13) and allows it to dwell in him richly (Col. 3:16), for Paul commended (entrusted or committed) the elders of Ephesus to God and the word of His grace for that very purpose (Acts 20:32). (3) Everlasting life is conditioned on hearing the word (Jn. 5:24). (4) Jesus taught that keeping the word is the way to avoid spiritual death (Jn. 8:51). (5) The word is even called “the word of life” (Phil. 2:14-16). Since children of God are begotten by the word (1 Pet. 1:23), and since spiritual life is sustained by the word (1 Pet. 2:2), and since the words of God are spirit and life (Jn. 6:63), no better term than “word of life” can be employed to describe it!
“I cannot live without it” is often used by exaggeration to refer to things people really like or have become addicted to. Some say they “cannot live without” their cigarettes, coffee, whiskey or dope. Not so! An exaggeration! If all such poison were taken away from them, and they were given only fresh air , pure water, wholesome food and moderate exercise, they would live better and longer! But “I cannot live without it” is no exaggeration when applied to the word of Goal Friend, if you are trying to live spiritually and hoping to live eternally without the word of God, you are headed for a sad and eternal disappointment!
3. We Are To Regard God’s Word As That Which Is Particularly Precious And To Be Carefully Guarded. “Keep… my law as the apple of thine eye” (v. 2b).
Of “apple” of the eye Delitzsch says, “The little man of the eye… named from the miniature portrait of him who looks into it being reflected from it” (Keil & Delitzsch, in loco. cit., Eerdmans Pub. Co.). The pupil of the eye is evidently meant. It is a proverbial expression for anything particularly precious and to be guarded with scrupulous care. The Psalmist prayed, “Keep me as the apple of thine eye” (Psa. 17:8). Of the Lord’s regard for Zion, Zechariah said, “. . he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye” (Zech. 2:7, 8). It is used in the text to set forth the high regard we are to have for the word of God.
The preciousness of the word is often affirmed by Bible writers. Job esteemed it more than his necessary food (Job 23:12). David considered the word more desirable than “much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb” (Psa. 19: 10). The entire 119th Psalm is devoted to his high regard for God’s word!
Without the word we would have no knowledge of things which are truly precious – (1) The death of the Wnts in God’s sight (Psa. 116:15); (2) The cornerstone of Isaiah’s prophecy (Isa. 28:16) fulfilled in Jesus Christ (I Pet. 2:4-8); (3) The blood of Christ by which man is redeemed (1 Pet. 1:18, 19); (4) The precious faith (2 Pet. 1:1) which we cannot have apart from the word of God (Rom. 10: 17); and (5) The precious promises made to the faithful in God’s word (2 Pet. 1:3, 4).
We should guard the word as carefully as we guard our literal eye. Paul said, “O Timothy, guard that which is committed unto thee . . . ” (1 Tim. 6:20, ASV). Again, “. . . I am set for the defense of the gospel” (Phil. 1:17). Jude taught “earnestly contend for the faith” (Jude 3).
We should also follow God’s word as the head and other members of the body follow the eye. Have you ever carefully noticed the actions of a good outfielder going for a fly ball? His eye is on the ball as soon as it leaves the pitcher’s hand, follows it all the way to home plate, watches it as it comes off the bat and begins its ascent over the infield. But, what of the head and other members of his body? They are all moving in the direction the eye is looking — following the lead of the eye; and, just at the right time the feet, ankles and legs give a mighty heave, springing the player high into the air; the torso and arm stretch, the glove-hand shoots up, and the ball pops in the glove – caught! – just before going over the fence for a home run, and the batter gets a “big loud `out’!” Why? Because every member of that outfielder’s body was following the lead of the eye! If we follow the word of God that closely, we will put the devil “out” – out of our thinking, out of our lives, out of our homes, out of the churches, and, ultimately, “out of business” completely! Friend, which will you do? Follow God’s word so as to “put the devil out”? Or refuse to follow it and thereby allow him a “grand-slam homer”?
4. God’s Word Is To Be Regarded As That Which We Delight In And Would Ever Be Mindful Of. “Bind them upon thy fingers, write them upon the table of thine heart” (v. 3).
Solomon likens the word to a ring or ring-like article worn on the finger, the purpose of which is two-fold: (1) To be an ornament. Jewish women were evidently fond of ornaments Usa. 3:18-23), and the same is true of many women (and some men) now. Yet, God’s word practiced is the most beautiful ornament of all. “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver” (Prov. 25:11). This is doubly true of God’s wordfaithfully lived! Christ’s life on earth is the most beautiful and lasting ornament of all time because of His perfect obedience to the Father’s will (Jn. 8:29; 1 Pet. 2:22)! The life of Saul of Tarsus, converted from the Jew’s religion to Jesus Christ, was a rich ornament, beautiful to behold! Numerous “ornamental” passages which beautify the lives of all who practice them, can readily be cited (Matt. 5:44; Rom. 12:17; Eph. 4:28, 29; 1 Pet. 3:14). (2) Rings and ring-like objects are worn as reminders. Engagement and wedding rings remind the girl that she “is taken ” and other boys to “leave her be! ” People are prone to forget spiritual matters and need to be reminded. God’s people in Old Testament times forgot Him (Jer. 3:21), His works (Psa. 106:13), and His law (Hosea 4:6); the Hebrews forgot His exhortation (Heb. 12:5). You may say, “Not me! I’ll never forget Him! ” Don’t be over-confident! Peter said he would never deny Jesus, but did so the same night (Matt. 26:34, 35, 69-75). Like a ring, the word must be kept with and before us; this is one of the many reasons for daily Bible reading and study and regular attendance at all services!
The word is likened unto what is written upon it tablet (v. 3b, ASV). Three things should be noted about this statement: (1) its meaning – to impress the word of God indelibly on the heart, so as to give it a permanent abode therein; (2) its purpose – that the word be not forgotten but continue as the mainspring of our actions; (3) its implication – the heart is to be impressionable to the word of God.
Some hearts have been so dominated by Satan that they are about as impressionable to the word of God as plate glass to a ball-point pen! They resemble the wayside hearer in the Lord’s parable of the sower (Lk. 8:5-15). Sin, not the word of God, is written in the hearts of many! Jeremiah said, “The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron, and with the point of a diamond: it is graven upon the tablet of their heart. . . ” (Jer. 17: 1). What is written on your heart, friend? Sin or the word? If sin, replace it with the word (Col. 3:16) so as to be “transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom. 12:2). Is the word delight some to us as a ring? Or do we think of it as a troublesome bandage? What effort do we make to remember it?
5. To Us The Word Of God Should Be That With Which We Are Intimately Acquainted And Conversant. “Say unto wisdom, Thou art my sister; and call understanding thy kinswoman” (v. 4).
“Wisdom” and “understanding” are here personified and stand for the word of God. This is not difficult to see when we understand that God’s word is the divine depository of wisdom and understanding. Consider: (1) Wisdom and understanding consist in keeping the word (Deut. 4:5, 6); (2) David’s wisdom and understanding were attributed to the word (Psa. 119:98, 99); (3) God’s mouth (His word) is the source of knowledge, understanding or wisdom (Prov. 2:1-6; cf. 4:5); (4) Preaching Christ (the gospel, word) is preaching the wisdom of God (1 Cor. 1:23, 24; cf. 2:6, 7)1 (5) By teaching (God’s word), Jesus demonstrated His wisdom (Matt. 13:54); (6) The wisdom of God is even represented as speaking (Lk. 11:49); and (7) The word is able to make one wise unto salvation (2 Tim. 3:15).
Regarding the word as our “sister” and “kinswoman” suggests: (1) Affection for it. In Bible times, it was common for brothers to show great affection toward their sister, Examples: Laban toward Rebekah (Gen. 24:55-60); Aaron and Moses toward Miriam (Num. 12:10-13); the sons of Jacob toward Dinah (Gen. 34); the brothers of the sister who was to be married in Solomon’s Song (8:8, 9). The same is usually true now; brothers will fight for their sister if the need arises! A similar love for the word of God must be exercised (cf. Psa. 119:97, 127, 128, 167; but 2 Thess. 2:10)! (2) Delight in it. It is common for brothers to delight in their sister by rejoicing with her in the honors she attains and the accomplishments she makes. Just so, we must delight in the word of God (Psa. 1:1, 2; 119:16; 40:8). But some resemble the Jews of Jeremiah’s day — “. . behold, the word of the Lord is unto them a reproach; they have no delight in it” (Jer. 6:10). (3) Familiarity with it. It is easy for brothers to recognize their sister in a crowd after a long absence. We should be so familiar with the word that we can distinguish it from false doctrine. The word is likened to wheat, false doctrine to chaff, (Jer. 23:28). Can you distinguish between wheat and chaff on marriage and divorce, the work of the church, the operation of the Spirit? Many, lacking knowledge and discernment, have placed their approval on things which are inferior and wrong, not on “things that are excellent” (Phil. 1:9, 10). (4) Protection of it. Just as brothers will protect their sister, and fight to defend her, we must defend the word of God (Phil. 1:17; Jude 3; cf. 2 Tim. 3: 8, 9). (5) Purity toward it. Incestuous brother-sister relationships were severely condemned by the law (Lev. 20:17); and violations of this law constitute some of the blackest pages of Jewish history (2 Sam. 13; Ezek. 22:10-15). The act is viewed with great disgust today among moral, right-thinking people1 Similar purity toward the word of God must be maintained (Jer. 23:26; 2 Cor. 2:17; 4:2; Gal. 1:7-9). Friend, how do you regard the word of God — as a “sister,” a “kinswoman”? Or, as a stranger?
6. The Word Of God Is To Be That Which We Make Use Of For Our Defense And Armor Against Sin. “That they may keep thee from the strange woman, from the stranger which flattereth with her words” (v. 5). “They” refers to “wisdom” and “understanding” (v. 4) which are personified and stand for the word of God. The “strange woman” is the adulterous or “whorish woman” (6:23-26; 7:5-27). The word of God (in the heart with the right attitude toward it) is the best defense against this and all sin. This is true for the following reasons:
(1) The word confirms man’s dread of sinning! Men commonly dread the consequences of sinning. Usually, criminals are “on edge” just before the crime; they cover up as much as possible by working in darkness, lying and murder (Jn. 3:20; Gen. 4:9; 2 Sam. 11:14-17); and they flee the country to avoid prosecution. The Bible confirms the sinner’s dread by stating: “be sure your sin will find you out” (Num. 32:23); “sin is a reproach to any people” (Prov. 14:32); “the way of transgressors is hard” (Prov. 13:15); “sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” (Jas. 1:15)!
(2) God’s word strengthens our resolutions against sin! It is common for sinners to make resolutions toward better lives – the embezzler resolves to “pay it all back”; the drunkard, sick and vomiting, says “never again,” and the unfaithful member is “going to get started.” The Bible, if properly used, will strengthen all such resolutions, by: (a) Examples of godly men such as Joseph (Gen. 39); Job (Job 2:9, 10; 13:15); Jesus (Heb. 4:15; 1 Pet. 2:22); who does not admire them and wish he were like them? (b) By promises given to the faithful (Psa. 15; Matt. 5:8; Rev. 2: 10); and (c) By threats made against the wicked (Matt. 13:49, 50; cf. 1 Pet. 4:18).
(3) God’s word discovers the fallacies of sin! Sin is deceitful (Heb. 3:13). Like the mirage on the desert, it entices with pleasures and satisfaction which always elude those who pursue them. The Bible discovers sin’s fallacies by showing: (a) What sin has done for man in the past (Adam and Eve, Saul, Israelites, et al.); (b) That sin is the way of bondage in this life (2 Pet. 2:14); and (c) The eternal misery sin will bring in hell (Rev. 21:8).
(4) God’s word sets forth the answers for the charms of sin! The devil is careful to make sin attractive and charming. This is true of: (a) Fornication — prostitutes make themselves attractive and appealing; (b) Drink — liquor and beer advertisements are pleasant to look at because of the beautiful scenery in the background; and (c) False doctrine — it is so plausibly presented by such eloquent speakers that many give them whole-hearted acceptance without a second thought. But, the Bible gives answers to these charms by describing: (a) The fair woman without discretion (Prov. 11:22); (b) The drunk (Prov. 23:29-35); and (c) False teachers and the broad way (Rom. 16:17, 18; Matt. 7:13, 14).
These five short verses from Solomon’s wisdom contain a mine of spiritual wealth. Following the instruction will lead
to spiritual success and eternal life; disregarding it will bring spiritual failure and eternal woe! The choice is yours, dear reader! And, so is the destiny!
Guardian of Truth XXX: 3, pp. 72-73, 84-85
February 6, 1986