Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.
The DEEP

Trust...but Verify

Discovering a mark of wise person

Proverbs 3:1-5

1 My son, do not forget my law,
But let your heart keep my commands;

For length of days and long life
And peace they will add to you.

Let not mercy and truth forsake you;
Bind them around your neck,
Write them on the tablet of your heart,

4 And so find favor and high esteem
In the sight of God and man.

5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;

 

There is an old Russian proverb: Doveryai, no proveryai (Доверяй, но проверяй). 

This simple phrase has its origins deep in Russian history but was known to be part of the writings of Lenin and an axiom of Stalin from the bloody days of the Communist Revolution. The proverb was popularized in the west by US President Ronald Reagan–who delighted in turning it on his Soviet adversaries. 

As President Reagan faced down his Cold War opponents he quickly found that his Hollywood charm and ability to turn a phrase could both confound his enemies and inspire his supporters. Suzanne Massie, an American scholar, advised Reagan during his 1984-1988 term and suggested that Russians liked proverbs and that knowing a few would be useful in his negotiations. Reagan, the born showman, soon added several to his repertoire and began to pepper his speeches with them. 

On December 8, 1987, President Reagan met with Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev to sign the INF Treaty for nuclear disarmament. When it came to discuss the elaborate and extensive procedures that both governments would put into place to monitor the destruction and removal of Intermediary Nuclear Forces, Reagan quipped:

''We have listened to the wisdom in an old Russian maxim. Though my pronunciation may give you difficulty, the maxim is, 'Doveryai no proveryai,' 'trust but verify.' ‘’–Ronald Reagan [New York Times, 1987]

Thus, with Reagan’s Hollywood smile, three simple words from the dark days of Red October entered the western lexicon to become one of the most useful and oft-quoted phrases of our day.

“Trust, but verify” sums up a lot of how you and I operate in the life. Trust seems to be an expensive commodity these days, as politicians break promises, hopes for the “American Dream” seem to fade, and even the church struggle to keep up with all that seems to threaten the peace and happiness of the people of God. 

In a culture that is vastly becoming more inward-looking as people focus on themselves and the drive for Expressive Individualism grows, trusting in oneself is touted as the only way to go. From “In God We Trust” to “In Whatever-I-Believe-is-True-Right-Now I Trust,” the fabric of civil society grows ever more strained. You have gone from an age when a handshake sealed a deal to where a man can win a women’s sporting event.

Whom can you trust? More importantly, how can you trust God? 

This is where Solomon takes you at the beginning of Proverbs chapter 3. He is telling his son that it is time to move to a new level. All that he has taught him in understanding wisdom in chapters 1 and 2 has served to lead him to the wisdom of God and a personal relationship with him. Now it is time to trust God.

Tim Keller reveals that in Proverbs chapter 3 there are “six things that serve as marks of a wise person, and at the same time a means for growing in wisdom.” The first of these is Trust in the Lord: 

You can believe in God yet still trust in something else for your real significance and happiness–which is therefore your real God.–Tim Keller

The simple phrase, “trust God” can bring comfort to the hearer or to your own heart, but often it may seem to be a hollow sentiment in a world gone mad. Bruce Waltke, in his commentary acknowledges the emptiness of this phrase without understaning:

Trust in the Lord however without definition is platitudinous; it cuts no ice in one’s thinking unless the Lord expresses himself.–Waltke

In other words, you cannot really trust God unless you see how He works.

Chapter 3 is about understanding that the way of wisdom–the path of righteousness–means being bound to God in a way much deeper than even the normal earthly commitments that you associate with being a Christian. You learn what it really means to follow Him–and the cost that you may have to pay.

1 My son, do not forget my law,
But let your heart keep my commands;–Proverbs 3:1

Solomon is saying “I have taught you all of this and now you must retain it.” This is more than a warning against being lazy or absent-minded, it is a call to anchor himself in the knowledge he has been given. The opposite of “remember” is not “forget,” it is “dismember.” Waltke writes that instead of calling him to simply “remember,” the Hebrew here prohibits the son from “dismembering” himself from the values of Israel and walking with apostates.

Bind them around your neck,
Write them on the tablet of your heart,–Proverbs 3:3b

Like Solomon’s son, as you increase your knowledge of God and the wisdom He provides, you must seek to make them a permanent part of who you are and how you see the world. This “tablet” is not a dry-erase board or even an iPad that is open one moment and gone blank the next. Your heart is as a stone one which your Heavenly Father is to chisel His Word. That word on your heart, living through you and in you for the remainder of your days will then become an eternal record among the great cloud of witnesses [Hebrews 12:1-3].

As we see in the Prophet Jeremiah:

33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.–Jeremiah 31:33

This writing of wisdom–the writing of God’s Law–on your heart is a reminder that you do not live under the Law but in the Law. The Law is written on your heart and so you live it out–by living as Christ Jesus calls you to live.

The first step to that living is to trust in the Lord:

5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;–Proverbs 3:5

In what do you put your trust these days? You can believe God, worship and live as a believer–and yet place your hope in earthy things to get you through or to provide the security that you crave. Tim Keller 

We hide how we do this to ourselves, and it is only when something goes wrong with, say, your career or your family, that you realize it is much more important to you than  the Lord himself. –Tim Keller

As this is written, war rages in Ukraine and thousands are suffering and dying as the Russian army invades. In the city of Mariupol, in eastern Ukraine, Andriy Voytsekhovskyy and his fellow believers worship in the basement of his church amid the thunder of bombs and artillery fire. Soon, he and his family will be faced with evacuation but meanwhile, they will gather in fellowship and prayer, remembering eternal comfort and hope.

The war in Ukraine is a modern reminder of how quickly life’s fortunes can change. You hope that tanks will never roll down your street–but if they do, you may discover that things you think are important, really are not.  

These earthly things in which you place your trust can cloud your view of life or your vision of yourself. When something threatens them, your life can come unraveled quickly. Do you place your hope in in your career? Your children? Your spouse? Your dashing good looks? Keller says, “You will be inordinately shaken, anxious, angry, or despondent if anything threatens them.” 

But how do you truly trust God? All of these things are tangible, important things–how can you simply Trust in the Lord?  

The answer is in the Russian proverb that The Gipper loved to quote: Trust, but verify. Simply put, you must look and see what God has done–and that He always does what He says He will do. This trust, as Waltke says, does not come easy–in fact, it is provided to you: 

Faith in God's promises and renouncing confidence in oneself are unnatural and gifts of God.–Waltke

You do not simply trust in the Lord out of a sheer force of will. You must see His work to believe it. God is trustworthy because He fulfills His promises:

14 “Behold, this day I am going the way of all the earth. And you know in all your hearts and in all your souls that not one thing has failed of all the good things which the Lord your God spoke concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one word of them has failed.–Joshua 23:14

Not one word of God’s promises has ever failed. This includes the coming of His Promised One.  Your savior Jesus Christ, the fulfillment of the promise in the garden so long ago, will fulfill His promise of never leaving you: 

20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. –Matthew 28:20

You must remember that, “We don’t trust a book, we trust the person behind it. We don’t just trust the Bible, we trust God.” [Waltke]

You trust in the Lord, but you verify in His Word all that He has done and says that he will do for you through His Spirit and His power. This is what you can cling to in the storms of this life. 

I am reminded of the simple and beautiful little song by Michael Card, “That’s what Faith Must Be.” The words here lay out the paradox of trusting God in this life:


To hear with my heart
To see with my soul
To be guided by a hand I cannot hold
To trust in a way that I cannot see
That's what faith must be–Michael Card

You cannot really see the road ahead in life. All of your planning and preparing can come to nothing in one change of the news cycle or one new pandemic scare. Trust in Him who will lead you home…for you can verify in His word and in the lives of your fellow believers, that He will keep all of HIs promises. 

 

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The Monday—Friday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay and this Saturday Deep is written by Matt Richardson. To subscribe to all the DEEPs click here:

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The weekly study guides, which include the Monday–Friday devotionals plus related questions for discussion or meditation, are available for download here:

https://www.ailbe.org/resources/itemlist/category/91-deep-studies

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.

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