(This article is adapted from A Commentary on Proverbs published by the Banner of Truth Trust.)
My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart keep my commandments;
for length of days, long life, and peace shall they add to thee.
Proverbs 3:1, 2
This is not the stern language of command. It is our Father’s voice in all the endearing persuasiveness of promise–My son–He had before instructed us to seek and search after wisdom, and set out before us its invaluable blessings. Now he calls us to bring it into practical exercise–Forget not my law. The willful forgetfulness of the heart (Prov. 2:17; Ps. 9:17, 10:4; cf. Prov. 4:23; Deut. 4:23; Ps. 119:93, 76), not the infirmity of the memory (for which a special, though we fear too much neglected, help, is provided) (John 14:26) is here implied. Let thine heart , like the ark of the testimony, be the keeping-place of my commandments (Prov. 4:4; Deut. 11:18; Isa. 52:7). And is not this the child’s desire–“0 that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes” (Ps. 119:6; cf. Ps. 119:69, 129), while his conscious helplessness take hold of the covenant promise–“I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts” (Jer. 31:33)?
Indeed no laws, but God’s, bind the heart. All acceptable obedience begins here. The heart is the first thing that wanders from God: the first also that returns. Here is the vital principle (Prov. 4:13; Rom. 6:17). All religion without it is a mere name; and, however the professing believer may practice a thousand arts to put life into it, all must fail, “The root being as rottenness, the blossom goes up as the dust” (Isa. 5:24). If every moment were filled up with the deeds of benevolence, or external piety; yet, except the heart was quickened to keep the commandments, the voice of rebuke would be heard–“Who hath required this at your hand” Isa. 1:11, 12)? “The inner man’s delight (Rom 7:22) stamps the excellency upon the service. And this pleasure and perseverance in duty flow from a gracious change upon the heart (see Ezek. 11:19; 36:26, 27).
Herein also lies our interest, not less than our obligation. The reward of this hearty obedience (need we add–a reward of grace?) is a long and happy life–the highest earthly good (Ps. 34:12; Prov. 4:10; 9:11; 10:27). The wicked indeed live long, and the godly often “live out only half their days.” The wicked die in outward comfort; the righteous in outward trouble (Eccles. 9:2). But length of days is the promise to the righteous; whether for earth or for heaven, as their Father deems fittest for them. In itself the promise, as regards this life, has no charm. To the ungodly it is a curse (Gen. 4:11-15; Isa. 65:20); to the people of God a trial of faith and patience (Gen. 27:46; 47:9; 1 Kings 19:4; Job 7:16; Philip. 1:23, 24; Rev. 22:20); to all a weariness (Prov. 15:15; Ps. 90:10; Eccles. 12:1). But peace added forms the sunshine of the toilsome way (Ps. 119:165; Isa. 32:17; 48:17, 18): “peace with God through the blood of sprinkling” (Rom. 5:1; Eph. 2:13, 14; Col. 1:20); eternal peace in his home and in his bosom (Ps. 37:37; Isa. 57:2); where all the fightings of a rebellious flesh, all the counter-strivings, of a perverse and ungovernable will, shall have ceased forever. “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they might have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gate into the city” (Rev. 22:14).