These days, I’m reading through the books of Psalms and Proverbs simultaneously for my personal devotions in the New International Version of the Bible. (Each year or so, I try to read through a different translation of the Bible to see it from a slightly different perspective). So far, I’ve only gotten to Proverbs 4, but I’m impressed with how many times we are challenged to take action and “hold on tight” to wisdom.
Beginning in Proverbs 1, Solomon tells us where wisdom and true knowledge can be found: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge…” (Prov. 1:7, NIV). And then we’re told to listen to our father and mother’s instruction.
Solomon continues by pointing out that evil doing really doesn’t pay off in the end. Basically, when we do evil, Solomon notes, we set a trap for ourselves and “lie in wait for [our] own blood…” (Prov. 1:18). Ill-gotten gain “takes away the lives of those who get it.” (Prov. 1:19). In contrast, he later tells us that to follow God will “prolong your life many years and bring you prosperity…” (Prov. 3:2) and “will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones” (Prov. 3:8) and “your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.” (Prov. 3:10). What incredible blessings are promised to those who listen to wisdom’s advice!
The rest of chapter one warns against rejecting wisdom, reminding us that if we foolishly silence the voice of wisdom now, we will come to regret it later – that cause does have effect and that there are consequences for all of our choices. Sternly, the personification of wisdom fortells the folly of living so recklessly: “But since you rejected me when I called…Then [you] will call to me but I will not answer, [you] will look for me but will not find me.” (Prov. 1:24, 28).
Fair enough. I need to be reminded of the cause and effect nature of my choices and actions. Thank you, Solomon, for the words of wisdom.
But here’s the problem I have: when I am tempted to make a bad choice (i.e., spend money on something I really don’t need, have lustful thoughts, eat food that is unhealthy for me, speak evil words, etc., etc.) the problem is not that I don’t know that my bad choices will be followed up by bad consequences – I have that knowledge bouncing around in my head somewhere, but my problem is that I don’t remember this fact. My problem is not that I don’t know that God’s blessings are better than Satan’s temptations, but it’s that I don’t remember how much better His blessings are.
What do I mean when I say I don’t remember? It’s that I don’t remember with the same clarity of mind and emotion that I do when I have just read Solomon’s words and they are fresh in my mind and reverberating in my heart. It’s that I don’t really feel their weight in the same way as I feel them when they are fresh in my heart. If only I could just remember in times of temptation it would take the edge off of the desire to sin and it would be much easier to resist Satan’s wily lies (which is what I’ve experienced when I do remember).
Which brings us to Solomon’s next point. Chapters two through four talk about this very issue: knowledge is not enough; you must keep it fresh in your memory – you must remember.
Notice how many times Solomon challenges us, in one form or another, to “remember” – to be active in keeping true knowledge fresh in our mind:
- “Store up my commands within you…” (Prov. 2:1).
- “Turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding.” (Prov. 2:2).
- “If you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.” (Prov. 2:3-5).
- “…Do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart.” (Prov. 3:1).
- “…Bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.” (Prov. 3:3).
- “Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life…” (Prov. 4:13).
- “Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to a man’s whole body.” (Prov. 4:21-22).
But practically, how do we go about keeping God’s knowledge fresh in our minds so that we “remember”? For me, two things are essential so that I remember. First, I have to spend time every day reading and meditating on the words of the Bible and praying. The best time for me is immediately after I get up in the morning. There are no distractions then and it gives me a good foundation for the day ahead with God’s words and stories of wisdom fresh in my mind to meet temptation when it comes.
The second thing that helps me to “remember” God’s wisdom is to write a verse of scripture down and keep it with me all day long. As I go through the day, I glance at it and read through it. When I’m at a stoplight I can pick it up and read it. When I have a free minute here or there, I can think about what the scripture means. Eventually, the scripture is burned into my memory. This helps me to “hold on” to God’s word. Maybe this is what Solomon was talking about when he said to “bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.”
Remembering how important it is to have my morning devotions and to “hold on” to God’s word throughout the day is where I struggle sometimes, but here’s my prayer today: Lord, help me remember to remember!