I’ve come to understand — and I know there are some who will disagree, that’s okay — that the book of Proverbs is not a book of promises, but a book of observations. Lots of if/then statements based on Wisdom revealing these to the author.
Knowing that makes a big difference in 22:4. The verse is not saying that God promises that a person who is humble and fears the Lord will be rich, famous, and live a long life. It’s saying that studied observation has shown riches, honor, and long life to be a part of the person who is humble and fears God.
Oh. My. Well, that IS a difference.
Does that mean I stop trying to be humble and fear God since I’m not promised the benefit?
That’s up to you, but for me, that’s a hard no. Loving God and receiving the blessings of life are their own benefit. Doing what He says in order to get this benefit cheapens my obedience and makes it a transaction instead of a relationship.
I want to always keep a realistic view of my own importance. That means I’m not thinking too highly of myself, but it also means not thinking too lowly of myself. I spent a lot of years thinking I was worthless, and that was a lie. It was also a lack of humility and had me thinking about myself more than I should. See, whether we’re thinking about how awesome we are (above others) or how pathetic we are (below others), we’re thinking about US and not HIM.
I was challenged this morning to reconsider the word translated as “fear of,” to see it as fear of the separation from God’s presence. At first I balked, because that’s not what I’ve been taught at all. So, I dug into the word a little more and found that yir·ʾǎṯʹ is translated into many English words, including the “reverent fear” I’m accustomed to seeing.
However, it’s also the same word used in Genesis 20:11 when Abraham said “This is a godless place…”
I think this word is deeper than we can understand. It’s connotation is vast and covers so many emotions!
If I look at Proverbs 22:4 with the translation of fearing the separation from God’s presence in mind, I will think that having a realistic view of my own importance and a healthy fear of being separated from God’s presence will provide riches, honor, and a long life.
Again, not a promise, but a natural consequence of a choice. Riches can be defined in many ways. I always thought being wealthy meant being able to pay my bills when they come in instead of having to wait until my paycheck came in. Riches are also found in family that is close and friends who care. Honor can be found in the good reputation built by continued good choices to honor others with honesty and integrity. And a long life? I’m not sure that should be measured in quantity over quality.
If you’re struggling with knowing your true importance, ask God to reveal that to you, then watch for that revelation, be prepared to accept what He shows you, then walk in that every day.
Consider what it means to be separated from God’s presence, Believer, then refuse to do that which would bring it about. (Read Isaiah 59:2)
We must focus on these two and accept the consequences as the natural result instead of focusing on the benefits and doing the “work” to get them.
Coffee, Bible, Journal.
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Faye Bryant is an author, coach, and speaker who helps individuals escape the lies of the enemy, live into God’s truth, and build a better life by first feeling, dealing, and healing their way through a stuck future or an abused past, toward a deeper path of purpose, and into the unhackable life of their chosen legacy. Hers is a story of resurrection: from death to life!