175 and Counting: 175 and Counting: Shaped by the Promises of God

Sermon by J. Ligon Duncan on February 26, 2012

Proverbs 3:1-12

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The Lord’s Day Morning

February 26, 2012

“175 and Counting: Shaped by the
Promises of God”

Proverbs 3:1-12

The Reverend Mr. Joshua M. Rieger

This April will mark this church’s 175th anniversary.
Now last week, if you were here for the early service, you would have
noticed that we didn’t have power. By the second service you had power, but
there was a poll across the street that had been knocked down and so there was
no power in the early service and we were without air conditioning and it got a
little stuffy and we were hurrying flashlights to the nursery and making sure
all the children’s rooms were lighted and things like that.
For most of the history of this church there was no power in the church
building. There was no air
conditioning, no light. When this
church was founded in 1837, Jackson was a much smaller city; things were much
different here then. You know, I
have only been here for five years but I’ve talked to many friends who have
lived here for many years and heard stories of Jackson thirty, forty, fifty
years ago and how much smaller it was then.
I can’t imagine how much smaller it would have been a hundred and
seventy-five years ago.

When this church was founded in 1837, the infant mortality rate was twenty-seven
percent. One out of every four
children, approximately, died in infancy versus five percent now.
Imagine the drastic difference that would have made in life, just the way
that society would have been different in the face of that.
Or go back even further when the canon of the Scriptures was completed.
How much different would things have been nineteen hundred years ago? A hundred
and seventy-five years ago is very different but nineteen hundred years ago
would have been a lot different.
This morning we’ll be looking at Proverbs.
Imagine three thousand years ago what it would have been like.
I imagine that the people in Christ’s day would have been looking back on
Solomon’s day thinking how drastically different it would have been.
Much has changed and is always changing.

As we look at society we see the way society is changing around us, the way
technology is changing around us, the way the growth of various cities and
institutions changes. When we think
about how different it would have been to live in the small town of Jackson in
1837 versus the primitive Judea in Christ’s day or Israel in Solomon’s time, we
realize how much has changed, but for all that has changed, far more has stayed
the same. And as we come to the
Scriptures we see things that have stayed the same.
The truths in this Book have stayed the same.
The fears and anxieties that man and women face, the joys, the sadnesses,
the struggles with sin, the needs that they have, the responsibilities they
have, those things haven’t changed at all.
The people that God is speaking to three thousand years ago, or two
thousand years ago, or today are no different in those things. At times we need
to remind ourselves of these needs.
We’re so very blessed as a people; we need to remind ourselves of these needs
and the fact that they haven’t changed.
We often look at a changing world and are caught up in the concerns of
the age, the things that are happening right now; we don’t take the long view,
think about how much things stay the same.
We need to step back this morning as we’re looking at Proverbs and look
at the unchanging need that underlies it all.
Not just this morning but for the next several weeks, as we look back at
our history and look at what we’re facing today we need to be reminded of the
unchanging history that we have in the Scriptures.
Before we come to Proverbs 3 this morning, though, let’s go to the Lord
in prayer.

Heavenly Father, we thank You for Your Word.
We are reminded in the Scriptures that the heart of man is desperately
wicked and deceitful above all else, Lord.
No one can search it but You.
We are reminded that we are sinful and can’t even know the depths of the sin in
our own heart. Lord, we cannot even
completely trust our own understanding of ourselves, our own desires.
But Lord, when we come to Your Word we have the very Word of God that You
have given us that we can trust without doubt that should guide and direct our
lives. And so this morning, Lord, we
pray to You, who has caused the Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning,
we pray that You would grant that we may listen in such a way as to read, mark,
learn, and inwardly digest Your Scriptures, holding fast to the blessed hope of
eternal life that we see therein. We
pray that You would bless our time in Your Word, that You would move in us
through Your Spirit to open our ears, open our eyes, and open our hearts.
In Jesus’ name, amen.

If you would read with me in Proverbs 3, we’ll be reading the first twelve
verses. This can be found on page
528 of your pew Bible:

“My son, do not
forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days
and years of life and peace they will add to you.

Let not steadfast
love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the
tablet of your heart. So you will
find favor and good success in the sight of God and man.

Trust in the LORD
with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.
Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil.
It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.

Honor the LORD with
your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will
be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine.

My son, do not
despise the LORD’s discipline or be weary of His reproof, for the LORD reproves
him whom He loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.”

Thus ends the reading of God’s holy, inspired, and inerrant Word.
May He write its eternal truth on all our hearts.

Last week we looked at Matthew 7 at the end of the Sermon on the Mount.
And Jesus was addressing a culture that was almost identical to ours.
We heard about how it was a culture that was a churched culture but it
was inside a greater society that was very relativistic, or a broader society
that was very relativistic. We
looked at a modern Christian culture – a culture that goes to church on Sunday,
it has a veneer of religiosity, it has a life outlook, however, that believes
that the central goal in all of life is personal happiness.
And as we were talking about this we looked at the fact that an outward
religiosity like this often ends up in people who mirror their culture rather
than the Word. And we looked at the
fact, in the sermon, that the main theme was Jesus’ disciples are those who obey
Him. Jesus told us in the Sermon on
the Mount, “He who hears these words of Mine and does them, he is My disciple.”
And so we looked at that and as we are continuing, this week we’re going
to look at something similar in Proverbs 3.

We’re going to see in Proverbs 3 that Jesus’ disciples are not only those who
obey Him but Jesus’ disciples are those who trust Him.
And so Proverbs 3 shows us this picture.
And I want to look at three things in this passage.
First of all I want to show you that this passage calls us to know the
promises of God. The second thing I
want you to see is that this passage calls us to trust in the Lord, to fear the
Lord, and to honor the Lord. And the
third thing I want us to see is that there is a life that flows out of this
knowledge of the promises of God and this trust in the Lord.


First of all, let’s look at the call to know the promises of God.
We see in the previous chapter, in chapter 2 of Proverbs, that we must
accept the Word. This father,
Solomon, is giving these words to his son and telling him, “You must accept
these words.” We see at the
beginning of this chapter, however, that we must guard them.
It tells us, “Do not forget.
Let your heart keep these words.”
But you get to verse 3 and there’s a very different picture.
In verse 3 you see it says, “Let not steadfast love and faithfulness
forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your
heart.” This is a phrase that it
starts out with right here when it says, “steadfast love and faithfulness” that
would have immediately taken this son who is reading this and the readers in
this day back to a very familiar phrase.
I would encourage you this afternoon if you go home you get on the
internet and you look at maybe an online Bible or look at maybe the ESV Bible
online and search “steadfast love and faithfulness” because what you’re going to
see is that these are words that are used over and over and over again in the
first five books of the Bible and the Law and the promises of God that these
people would have been reading.
These are words that refer to God, to His promises to His people, to the way in
which He lives with His people, and to the Law that He gives them.

You see this word, “steadfast love,” that is the Hebrew word, “hesed.”
And you’ve heard Dr. Duncan talk about this word before.
It’s a word that, when the translators of the King James Bible began to
translate the King James Bible they didn’t really know what word to translate
this Hebrew word with and so they created a word that you’re all very familiar
with, “lovingkindness,” to translate this Hebrew word.
And so you see “lovingkindness” throughout the King James Bible.
In fact, every single time you see the word “lovingkindness” in the Old
Testament in the King James Bible it is a translation of this very word.
There’s a few other words that it’ll use to describe it sometimes, maybe
“mercy” or in this case you see in the ESV it regularly translates it “steadfast
love” but it’s a word that doesn’t just refer to a strong emotion or a strong
feeling. It’s a word that refers to
a covenant love that God has for His people.

And when you see it used in the first five books of the Bible, it’s regularly
tied to two things. One, God’s love
for His people and when it’s used of man, almost always the way in which God’s
people are picturing the love God loved them with.
The other thing you see though is it’s very frequently tied to
faithfulness, to this word, “faithfulness.”
This word, “faithfulness,” here is actually the root word is just “truth”
or “true.” It’s exactly what you
think. It’s just saying God is true
to us, His people. And so when you
come to this verse 3 and you see these two words together this would have been
something that would have immediately evoked in their minds thoughts of God’s
Law and God’s promises in Genesis through Deuteronomy.
It’s something they would have immediately heard and had a consideration
of. In fact, interestingly enough,
you know at the end beginning of Deuteronomy, not only do you hear these words
but as you come to Deuteronomy 6, right after Moses had just given the Law, the
moral Law, the Ten Commandments for the second time, you come to Deuteronomy 6
and you see in verse 4 some very familiar verses:

“’Hear, O Israel:
The LORD our God, the LORD is one.
You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your
soul and with all your might. And
these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.
You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them
when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and
when you rise, You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as
frontlets between your eyes. You
shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.’”

It’s interesting that in the passage of Scripture that refers to God’s Word and
God’s promises and God’s Law where we see them referred to as His steadfast love
and faithfulness, we also see a very similar writing in Deuteronomy 6 here to
what we see in the second half of that verse, “bind them around your neck; write
them on the tablet of your heart.”
Proverbs is a book where the author, Solomon, is showing his son how to live out
the Law, how to live out God’s promises, how to live out the Pentateuch.
You know, they have the Law.
He has this and he has his understanding of it and he has this ability to kind
of study it and know it, but there’s not really a picture of exactly how does
this look lived out by God’s people, and so it’s a book of wisdom showing God’s
people how to practically live out God’s Law.

And so as you come to this you see a couple of things.
First of all, he’s telling him, “Don’t forsake God’s Law and promises.”
He’s telling him, “Live God’s Law and promises,” but he’s telling him
also, “You need to be immersed in them. They need to be in front of you.
When you go out, they need to be in front of you and they need to be tied
around your neck. They need to be
somewhere that you’re there all the time.
They need to be things that you teach to your children, things that
you’re constantly immersed in.” We
see that God’s Word and the promises of God here are something that he is
calling their attention to. He wants
his son and he wants us to know God’s Word and know God’s promises.

In chapter 2, the previous chapter, he tells us of the promises that we’ll know
God, that we’ll have eternal life.
In Genesis 12 we see promises that He’ll bless us, He’ll make us a blessing,
He’ll bless those who bless us and curse those who curse us.
And in Genesis 17 He tells us that He’ll be a God for us and to our
children after us, an everlasting covenant.
In Hebrews 11 He tells us that He will give us heaven.
That is the land of Canaan that we hope for, heaven, that He will offer
us that. But in Romans 8:32 we might
see the most amazing promise God gives when He tells us that “He who did not
spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also, with Him,
graciously give us all things.” God
promises us, as His people, many things.
He gives us His Law. He shows
us His character. He shows us how He wants us to live, but He primarily and most
of all, the greatest promise that He gives us is His Son.
He promises us all of these things through His Son.
Every good and perfect gift we will have through His Son.

We must know God’s Word but not just know it.
This isn’t an idea that if you memorize enough or read it frequently
enough or hear it often enough then, you know, you’ll get brownie points with
God and it will be alright. There’s
a call here to know God’s Word in a way that immerses ourselves in it.
It must be the point and the purpose of all of our lives.
That’s what He’s calling us to in these verses, especially when He’s
showing us how it’s supposed to be completely surrounding us.
I would venture to say that for most of us, God’s Word, if you were to
look at the schedule of our days, is probably not the main point and purpose of
all that we do. You know, I would
venture when we get home from work the first thing we might do is maybe pick up
a book, flip on the television, listen to the radio.
When we get in our car, if you’re like me, you’ve got Sports Talk on as
soon as you get your car and listen to the radio.
This is something that maybe we focus on.
Maybe you focus on music. I
remember hearing Dr. Thomas talk more than once the way in which, especially
when he was in high school, classical music — that he still loves — that was
what he was immersed in.

I remember when I was in high school is collected records.
My grandfather had given me this old hi-fi record player.
It was wider than this pulpit.
It was wooden and had a record player probably from the forties or the
fifties sometime and so I collected records and I had records of all kinds of
music, stuff that I didn’t really even listen to, but I collected these.
I had signed Elvis records and some signed Simon and Garfunkel records
and this is something that I really spent a lot of time on.
I would go to record stores and look for gems and things like this.
And when I went to college, my mom, for whatever reason, thought that
since I left them behind they must be something that wasn’t that important to
me. And so she sold them for, I
think, fifteen dollars at a garage sale.
But you know it was probably fair because my mom had her mother do the
same thing to her so that was probably fair, but it was a picture of what I

But I also remember my grandfather and my grandfather professed faith when he
was eleven years old in 1927, and lived a life of faithfulness.
And all the time I knew I remember a man who loved the Lord, whose life
exemplified the Scriptures. And one thing I remember about him is that as he
became more feeble, as his health failed, he didn’t flip on the TV and watch
television all the time. Sure, he
watched television sometime. He
didn’t listen to the radio all the time.
He read the Word constantly.
It was the thing that was more important to him than anything else.
And I saw a picture there that to me is a picture of what Solomon is
calling his son to – it’s to knowing the Word, to being immersed in the Word.
I think that’s what Moses calls the people to in Deuteronomy 6.


But you know, knowing the Word is not the end of what Solomon calls his son to.
He calls him to know the Word to the end that it produces a trust of the
Lord that we see in verse 5, a fear of the Lord that we see in verse 7, an
honoring of the Lord that we see in verse 9, and a sense of — remember this idea
— of hesed and faithfulness, of steadfast love and faithfulness that we see in
verse 3. It’s an idea that these are
not things that should be simply known; these are things that should inspire
trust in the Lord. He calls us to
place our trust in one thing and one thing only, to have a hope that is founded
on only one thing. He calls us to
place a trust in God, to hope in Christ.
He tells us not to be wise with our own eyes.
And I think that that tends to be our first — or “be wise in our own
eyes” rather. I think that tends to
be the first kind of response that we normally have when we’re facing trouble.
We trust in our own wisdom. I
think that tends to be the way that we tend to go without things most of the
time. When we’re in trouble, we have
a great concern, maybe, that somebody’s going to maybe sense the ineptitude that
we feel, you know, the sense that we don’t want anybody to see the trouble that
we’re in or we want to find a way to get ourselves out of it.
We’re looking for a plan. “If
I could just come up with a plan to get myself out of this I’ll be in good
shape.” A way forward or maybe a way
to explain that will make us look okay.

You know, maybe your thought is “I’ll do better next time.”
I remember when I was younger, when I was a child, and I was learning the
practice of doing a quiet time, of spending time in prayer, how I’d start out
strong and then I’d kind of taper off and I’d see this failure in myself and I’d
feel this overwhelming sense of guilt.
And my answer was always, “I’ve got to find a way to do better.
I’ve got to come up with some sort of plan.
If I just have a chart or a calendar or something that I can mark off on
or some plan then I’ll be better.” I
was looking to my own strength to take care of things.
And then those times when I would do well, when I’d actually spend
several weeks in a row, I wouldn’t miss time in the Word, I’d be spending time
praying faithfully, I’d always take credit for it.
It would be, maybe not out loud because that would be wrong, but at least
internally I’d think, “God must be pretty proud of me.
I must be pleasing God right now.” I probably wouldn’t, again, use those
words quite, but that was the sense that I had.

But we’re told that when we struggle, when we face guilt, when we face troubles,
when we face trials, our first thought is not to be “How can I fix this?”
Our first thought is to be, “How can I flee to the cross?
How can I find my hope in Christ?”
It’s a question of priority and this is the journey of the Christian
life. The journey of the Christian
life isn’t that once you make a profession of faith and place your trust in
Christ as your Savior you never really struggle with this again.
You know, the journey of the Christian life is that as God works
sanctification in our lives, our first thought more and more is to flee to the
cross rather than to flee to ourselves.
It’s a progression of faith as we learn more and more how valuable He is
to us, what a great priority He is, how much hope we have in Him that we should
not have in ourselves.

You know, we see this question of values and priorities.
Once of my favorite passage of Scripture, of parables, is in Matthew 13
when you see this parable of the treasure.
And this man is walking through a field in Matthew 13:44 and he finds
this treasure. And it’s so valuable
to him that he sells everything that he has to go and buy that land so that he
can have that treasure. And it tells
us that that treasure is the kingdom of heaven.
And I’ve got to say that as I read that and think on that parable, I’m
convicted regularly, and I think that every one of us should be, that there are
a lot of things I value more than the kingdom of heaven.
I am constantly finding idols that I can see rather than the kingdom of
heaven. You know, Calvin called the
human heart an idol factory because we’re constantly finding things that we’re
chasing, that we’re valuing, that we’re prioritizing more than the kingdom of
heaven. We’re valuing things more
than God’s promises. And Matthew 6 tells us very clearly, “Where you treasure
is, there your heart will be also.”

So what do we look at and think truly has the power to save us?
Do we look to our works? And
I’m not suggesting that you would actually answer, “My works are what I think is
going to save me,” if I were to ask you that question, but we still look to our
works. We look to our good deeds and
internally trust in them or have some hope in the fact that we’re actually
pretty good; we’re not as bad as some of the people we see around us.
Or maybe we trust our intellect when we’re really facing something that
we need help in. We think that we
can reason our way out of it or think our way out of it.
Maybe it’s our job. Maybe our
hope in life and death is that we’ll do our job well, that we’ll be successful.
Maybe that is where we find our primary identity, is in what we do,
whether it’s working in a bank or raising children, that is the place where we
find our idol.



But this Scripture tells us that when we trust in the Lord, when we fear Him,
when we honor Him, He is the only one who can make our paths straight, He is the
only one who can fulfill His promises, every good and perfect gift comes from
Him, He works all things together for our good to the end of our salvation, and
that true blessing and salvation are found in no other.
He is our only hope and the question is, “Do our hearts realize that He
is our only hope?” You know, are we
just intellectually able to say that or do we really realize we have no hope
apart from Christ? We have no hope
for anything valuable apart from Him and apart from what God has done as our
Redeemer. This passage calls us to a
hope that transforms our lives and the way we live.
It connects trusting and fearing and honoring to ethical teaching.
It’s not just an issue of doing good things so that you’ll be saved.
It’s an issue that when you trust in the Lord, when you fear, Him, when
you honor Him, and you’re a disciple, that results in a life that is
transformed. Discipleship results in
a transformed life and while the Sermon on the Mount says that very clearly, and
we saw that last week, Proverbs is all about a discipleship that transforms your
life. It’s not simply a feeling
about how important God is to us, it’s an obedience; it’s really loving Him.

Jesus described what His disciples looked like, last week, we heard.
When you have Christ as your only hope of where salvation is found,
discipleship transforms you life.
Remember Matthew 7 when He said, “He who hears Me obeys My commandments.”
Disciples are those who listen and obey.
Solomon’s assumption in this passage – look at what we see in this
passage – Solomon’s assumption is that if you trust in the Lord all your ways
are going to acknowledge Him. If you
fear the Lord you’re not going to be wise in your own eyes; you’re going to turn
away from evil. If you honor the
Lord, then it’s going to show in the way you treat your wealth.
It’s going to affect your life.
And he’s telling us that unless we live this way we don’t have a hope.

And unless you think this is easy, he gives you a little reminder in verses 11
and 12 when he says, “My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline or be weary
of His reproof, for the LORD reproves him whom He loves, as a father the son in
whom he delights.” He tells us,
Solomon tells us, that if we are God’s beloved He will discipline us, not just
may discipline us or there’s an off-chance you might see reproof at some point.
He tells us, “If you’re the Lord’s beloved, He will discipline you.”
We will have to have our course corrected.
If you think about 2 Timothy 3:16 where is tells us the Word of God is
intended for correction, for reproof, for training in righteousness, this is the
very thing that He gives us His promises for. It’s the very thing He gives us
His Law for — so that we can know Him better, so that we can see where we’re not
living lives that are pleasing to Him, so that we can live lives that reflect

He will teach us to love and to look like His Law, and there is not one of us
here for whom this exhortation doesn’t apply.
There are varied levels of sanctification there in the church.
There are varied levels of how much we have learned to trust in the Lord
and let it reflect in our lives, but there’s not one of us who does not look to
our own wisdom, who doesn’t need to be reminded that we must exemplify the
promises that we believe, who doesn’t need to refocus our faith and trust in
Jesus Christ, or who very potentially, perhaps, needs to place their trust there
for the first time because you look good on the outside but you know that your
real hope and trust isn’t in Jesus Christ.
And so as we look at this passage we need to remember that we are called
to know the promises of God, but we’re called to know the promises and the Law
of God in such a way that it drives us to immerse ourselves in it, that that’s
where we place our hope and our trust and we fear the Lord and it results in a
true discipleship.

Let’s pray.

Heavenly Father, I thank You for this day and I thank You for this Word that
You’ve given us that allows us to reflect upon the great blessings that You have
offered us. Lord, how amazing is it
that we are called to be children of God, that we can indeed think of ourselves
as Your beloved. Lord, I pray that
this truth would radically affect each of our lives individually but Lord, also
the life of this congregation, that we would be a people shaped by trust in You,
fear of You, and honor for You in the way that we use our resources, in the way
that we treat one another, in the way that we live our lives before a watching
world. God, work Your truth in our
hearts. Remake us in Your image.
In Jesus’ name, amen.

Let’s respond to these truths by singing together hymn number 672, “Trust and

Now hear the Lord’s blessing for those who have truly placed their trust in Him.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of the Father, and the
fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

© 2019 First Presbyterian Church.

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