On the First Day of School

Proverbs 3:1-12
February 4, 2018
Abraham Hong

 

The following sermon is the first in a two-part series on Proverbs 3:1-12.

Imagine that you get into the college of your dreams. You move into your new room and hug your parents goodbye. You meet new people and double check your class schedule. You are nervous but also excited for this new chapter in your life.

And then the first day of school comes around.

But imagine that on that day, you discover that there is no class! In fact, there is not even orientation! Instead, on the first day of school, there is graduation! You are given a cap and gown. Your name gets called. And you receive your diploma! The chancellor congratulates you. Your parents apparently never went home because there they are cheering for you. And the guest speaker in the commencement speech charges you to study hard for the next four years with the joy of knowing that you’ve already graduated.

Brothers and sisters, wouldn’t that be quite an amazing school to attend? It’s almost unimaginable! But if you can imagine it, then you can begin to understand how the kingdom of God really works. If you can imagine it, then you can begin to understand how today’s Scripture text really works.

Proverbs 3:1-12 has a structure to it that is elegant and profound. For the most part, the odd-numbered verses make up a list of things that the king of Israel was supposed to do. And, for the most part, the even-numbered verses make up a list of things that the king of Israel was supposed to get if he did all the things that he was supposed to do in the odd-numbered verses.

The king of Israel was supposed to keep the commandments of his father. He was supposed to write the law on his heart. He was supposed to trust in the Lord and lean not on his own understanding. He was supposed to fear the Lord and turn away from evil and honor the Lord with his wealth. These were all things that the king of Israel was supposed to do. What a soaring and insurmountable list! And yet, it was what the king of Israel was truly supposed to do for himself and for his kingdom.

And if he were to do all of it, then the king of Israel would earn and receive things in return. He would have length of days and years of life. He would find favor and good success. He would have his paths made straight. He would have healing to his flesh and refreshment to his bones. He would have barns filled with plenty and vats bursting with wine. These were all things that the king of Israel would be able to earn if he did what he was supposed to do. What a rich and satisfying list! And yet, it was what the king of Israel could truly have for himself and for his kingdom.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is this. He is the true and ultimate king of the true and ultimate Israel. And he has fulfilled all of the odd-numbered verses and earned all of the even-numbered verses of Proverbs 3:1-12. And then he takes all that he earned in the even-numbered verses and gives it to us. It’s as if we get our diplomas on the first day of school. And now we do all that we are supposed to do in the odd-numbered verses. Not because we’re trying to get what is promised in the even-numbered verses, but because we already have what is promised in them. Because we are thankful and joyful for who Jesus Christ is and what he has done for us.

Brothers and sisters, isn’t that quite an amazing kingdom to attend? But the cool thing is that you don’t have to imagine it. Because it’s real. It’s real because of the person and the work of Jesus Christ.

Praise the Lord! Our Lord Jesus Christ has resurrected from the dead and we have the guarantee of eternal resurrection life in him. It is true: an infinite length of days and infinite years of life and infinite peace has been added to you. Therefore, dear believer, do not forget the Lord’s teaching, but let your heart keep his commandments.

Praise the Lord! Our Lord Jesus Christ has covered us with his righteousness and we are justified. It is true: you have found favor in the sight of God. Therefore, dear believer, let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you. And by the way, according to Hebrews 8 and Jeremiah 31, God has promised to write his law onto our hearts. He will do it, not us.

Praise the Lord! Our Lord Jesus Christ has his exaltation and his paths have been made straight. It is true: since you are united with Christ, your paths are straight too and you will make it to the end. Therefore, dear believer, trust in the Lord with all your heart and acknowledge him in all your ways.

Praise the Lord! Our Lord Jesus Christ said that whoever drinks of the water that he gives will never be thirsty again. It is true: you are promised healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones. Therefore, dear believer, fear the Lord and turn away from evil.

Praise the Lord! Our Lord Jesus Christ will have for us a banqueting table in the new heavens and the new earth. It is true: waiting for us are barns filled with plenty and vats bursting with wine. Therefore, dear believer, honor the Lord with your wealth.

So many students may not admit this, but they go to college with the hope of making their parents proud. Much of the world operates with this elegant and profound order. They have their own odd-numbered verses. And they are hoping for their own even-numbered verses.

And so many believers in Christ may not admit this, but they go to church with the hope of making their Father in heaven proud, so to speak. Much of the Christian world operates with this elegant and profound order. There is so much pressure to trust in the Lord with all their hearts and lean not on their own understandings and acknowledge him in all their ways in order that God will make straight their paths. And there is so much discontent and insecurity and lack of assurance. They are trying so hard to do the odd-numbered verses. And they are not sure if they have the even-numbered verses.

Brothers and sisters, we let our hearts keep God’s commandments because we have the joy of salvation. We trust in the Lord because the Lord already loves us. We fear the Lord because we are thankful. We honor the Lord with our wealth because we have nothing to lose. This is the proper order of Christian life.

So flip the script. Start with the even-numbered verses first. Make them your foundation for Christian life. Then launch into the odd-numbered verses after them. It’s the kingdom of your dreams. And you’re already in.

End


Summary of Sermon

Proverbs 3:1-12 is elegant and profound in its structure. It consists of two lists: a list of things that the king of Israel was supposed to do, and a list of things that the king of Israel was supposed to get... if he did what he was supposed to do.

Jesus Christ is the true and ultimate king of the true and ultimate Israel. He has fulfilled all of the odd-numbered verses and earned all of the even-numbered verses of Proverbs 3:1-12.

And then he takes all that he earned in the even-numbered verses and gives it to us. It’s as if we get our diplomas on the first day of school.

Now we do all that we are supposed to do in the odd-numbered verses - not because we are trying to get what is promised in the even-numbered verses, but because we already have what is promised in them. We do so because we are thankful and joyful for who Jesus Christ is and what he has done for us.

Let us praise the Lord and be wise in him!

Questions for Discussion & Sharing

What would it be like if you were to go to college with your graduation on the first day of school?

There is a proper order to Christian life. What are ways in which we as believers fall into the trap of starting with the odd-numbered verses, so to speak, in order to get the even-numbered verses? What problems might arise if we don't start with Christ and his possession of the even-numbered verses?

What ought to be our motivation or reason for obeying God? What is yours?