It’s clunky, uncomfortable, and completely uncool. As soon as my parents were out sight, I always ripped off my life-jacket. I never liked life-jackets, and never will. Besides never fitting quite right and hindering free movement, life-jackets surround you in a sea water-stained orange shackle. As a kid they only seemed to save me from one thing: fun.
I didn’t understand their purpose, and didn’t welcome their true intent. Life-jackets exist to keep safe, protect, and preserve something good. When an unexpected situation hits, wearing a life-jacket will result in priceless benefits for its wearer.
After recently reading through the book of Proverbs, I started to notice a theme. The author continually compares living righteously (following God’s rules) with rejecting God’s laws. He exposes the results of both ways of living and lets the reader decide which one is better. I want to highlight at least three results of following God’s rules (his revealed life-jacket, if you will) as they’re displayed in the book of Proverbs.
- A Place for Life
The first described result given to those who follow God obediently is that they’ll get the real estate that Yahweh guaranteed to his people (first to Abraham). If you replay the story of the Bible, a consistent theme resounds of God providing geography for his people to live and worship him in (think Eden, Promised Land, New Heavens).
2:21-22: “For the upright will inhabit the land, and those with integrity will remain in it, but the wicked will be cut off from the land, and the treacherous will be rooted out of it.”
God’s followers will be able to worship God is a space given to them (which is all over Deuteronomy—4:1, 20; 5:16, 33; 6:18; 8:1; 11:9, 17; 12:25, 28; 16:20)
- A Way of Life
A second result for righteousness-doers is that they’ll live the good life. It makes sense, right? If God made the world, he’s the resident-expert on how best to live in it. Following God’s revealed will for human behavior leads to flourishing as humans.
3:21-22: “My son, do not lose sight of these—keep sound wisdom and discretion, and they will be life for your soul and adornment for your neck.”
4:4: “Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments, and live.”
6:20-24: “My son, keep your father’s commandment, land forsake not your mother’s teaching. Bind them on your heart always; tie them around your neck. When you walk, they will lead you; when you lie down, they will watch over you; and when you awake, they will talk with you. For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life, to preserve you from the evil woman, from the smooth tongue of the adulteress.”
8:32-36: “And now, O sons, listen to me: blessed are those who keep my ways. Hear instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it. Blessed is the one who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors. For whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the LORD, but he who fails to find me injures himself; all who hate me love death.”
10:11: “The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.”
10:16-17: “The wage of the righteous leads to life, the gain of the wicked to sin. Whoever heeds instruction is on the path to life, but he who rejects reproof leads others astray.”
13:14: “The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death.”
15:24: “The path of life leads upward for the prudent, that he may turn away from Sheol beneath.”
15:27: “Whoever is greedy for unjust gain troubles his own household, but he who hates bribes will live.”
A life that is given to the pursuit of godly living is the happiest, most joyful, and fulfilling. We need to destroy the lie that Christians are killjoys by broadcasting just how good it is to follow life’s instruction manual, and the One who wrote it.
- A Guard for Life
The last result of those who illuminate their path with God’s word is longevity of life. You might say, “hold on, this sounds like fake news guaranteeing Christians something that God doesn’t.” In a sense you’d be right. This is where we need to back up and remember what we’re reading. Proverbs is ancient Jewish wisdom literature, containing many statements of general truths that typically happen. Of course, your life experience could quickly contradict the claim that God-followers all have long lives. Tragedy lives all around us. Proverbs is not declaring what always happens, but calling readers to observe the way that God’s designed life, and subsequently, ways to wisely follow its established patterns—which will usually lead to living longer.
4:10: “Hear, my son, and accept my words, that the years of your life may be many.”
4:22: “For they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh.”
7:1-3: “My son, keep my words and treasure up my commandments with you; keep my commandments and live; keep my teaching as the apple of your eye; bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart.”
10:2: “Treasures gained by wickedness do not profit, but righteousness delivers from death.”
11:4: “Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.”
11:19: “Whoever is steadfast in righteousness will live, but he who pursues evil will die.”
12:21: “No ill befalls the righteous, but the wicked are filled with trouble.”
12:28: “In the path of righteousness is life, and in its pathway there is no death.”
13:3: “Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.”
16:17: “The highway of the upright turns aside from evil; whoever guards his way preserves his life.”
18:21: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.”
19:23: “The fear of the LORD leads to life, and whoever has it rests satisfied; he will not be visited by harm.”
Having a long life usually results from acting wisely. These proverbs demonstrate that wise living is righteous living which gives life-sustaining insights that God-rejecting people don’t have.
Among many other lessons and teachings, Proverbs paints a beautiful picture for us of a life lived under God’s rule and reign. A righteous life is a productive, flourishing, fulfilling way of being in the world that does not cut against the grain of the world’s design. This type of life only gets lived if God’s verdicts are followed—if we put on the life-jacket. Left to ourselves, we want to define good and evil on our own terms. And we take the fruit. But with God’s eye-opening grace, we all can witness the astounding results of following God with our lives.
Open my eyes to see the wonderful truths in your instructions.