Proverbs 3:2 "For length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to thee."
When instructing his son to follow parental principles, Solomon promised excellent results. He promised three things - length of days, long life and peace. Since the days of Moses, Jewish culture has always emphasized long life as the holy consequence of righteousness and especially of parental obedience. The Fifth Commandment, dealing with parental obedience is the only commandment of Judaism’s Ten that came with a promise and that promise was long life. Exodus 20:12, “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.” Hebrew culture has always seen long life as an accomplishment, one linked to virtuous living. Again, this perspective is not without Scriptural precedent. Throughout the Hebrew Pentateuch, Moses associated length of days with obedience and reduced days with disobedience. In fact, long life was the foundational incentive to obey God’s laws and precepts. Deuteronomy 6:1-2, “Now these are the commandments, the statutes, and the judgments, which the LORD your God commanded to teach you: That thou mightest fear the LORD thy God, to keep all his statutes and his commandments, which I command thee, thou, and thy son, and thy son's son, all the days of thy life; and that thy days may be prolonged.”
God offered the promise and dangled the carrot of long life in front of the Jewish people because it is one of man’s most natural desires. Life makes us human. To be human is to be alive. By nature, our heart longs to keep beating, our lungs long to keep breathing, our brain longs to keep thinking, our legs long to keep walking, our eyes long to keep seeing, our ears long to keep hearing, our bodies long to keep being. By nature, we fear death and crave life. By nature, we fight death even in its inevitability. We cling to life like a cat to a branch hanging over some pool of water. It can be argued that mankind wants long life more than anything else. Humanity as a whole is spending trillions of dollars every year on healthcare, fitness-related merchandise, gym memberships, dietary products and research all with the goal of keeping us alive longer.
From a rock’s perspective, mankind is obsessed with long life. Indeed, we are! There is nothing wrong with this obsession because God designed us with an unquenchable thirst for life. In fact, it is this truth that made Solomon’s speech in 1 Kings 3 so impressive in God’s eyes. When God offered the young king anything he wanted, it wasn’t necessarily just what Solomon asked for that got God’s attention – it was what Solomon didn’t ask for that got His attention. Before God promised Solomon the wisdom he asked for, note God’s observation in 1 Kings 3:11 when He said, “Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life…” We fear an early death and crave a long life. We have always feared an early death and craved a long life. Over and over throughout the Psalms, we read about David begging God to spare him from an early death and keep him living. When Hezekiah was told he was going to die in 2 Kings 20, he tearfully begged God to prevent an early death and grant him a long life. This is human nature.
Given the foundation and history of Judaism, Solomon’s parental incentive of long life in Proverbs 3 was nothing new in Hebrew culture at the time. “Length of days” was a well-known incentive and a Scripturally-sound incentive. It was also an appropriate and effective incentive for his son. That being said, the third promise that this father offered his son was the game-changer. Proverbs 3:2 is the first of seven references to peace in the Book of Proverbs. Why is peace a game-changer? Why is it so special within the context of long life? The promise of peace is a game changer because long life is no incentive if it isn’t accompanied by peace. In fact, long life is a curse if there is no peace in the soul. Length of days is a punishment if it isn’t escorted by peace. Long life by itself isn’t the blessing. Long life with peace is the blessing.
Who would want to live 60, 70, 80, 90 or 100 years without peace in their heart?
Who would want to live 6, 7, 8, 9 or 10 decades with misery in their soul?
Life without peace is not attractive, not enjoyable and not wanted. The Bible is full of examples of both good men and bad men who lacked peace at low points in their lives for different reasons. These men didn’t beg God for long life. In these dark moments where they had no peace in their hearts, they didn’t plead with God to spare them from an early death and grant them length of days. On the contrary, they either wished for an early death or tragically chose to forfeit life.
After isolating himself in the wilderness for fear of Jezebel, Elijah lacked peace because he lacked faith in God’s protection. As a result, the Bible tells us that “he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers.” (1 Kings 19:4)
After struggling to understand why God would allow such hardship and loss in his life, Job lacked peace as he cursed the day he was born. At that low point in his life, he didn’t desire long life, instead desiring death as he asked, “Wherefore is light given to him that is in misery, and life unto the bitter in soul; Which long for death, but it cometh not; and dig for it more than for hid treasures; Which rejoice exceedingly, and are glad, when they can find the grave?” (Job 3:20-22)
Nowhere in the prophet’s record do we read Jonah craving long life. Running from God is Biblical evidence that he lacked peace in his soul regarding the will of God for his life. How did this lack of peace impact his desire for life? In chapter 1, he suggested that the mariners throw him over board. In chapter 4, he prayed, “Therefore now, O LORD, take, I beseech thee, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live.” (vs. 3)
In 2 Samuel 17, Ahithophel forsook peace in order to make room for bitterness in his soul. This bitterness towards his former employer led to a broken life, which ultimately led to a tragic suicide. Judas Iscariot would fall prey to the same error and outcome. Full of bitterness and void of peace, Judas would choose to defy his God-given thirst for life and take his own life in Matthew 27. Life without peace is a curse, not a blessing. Long life without peace is a punishment, not a reward. This is precisely why God will temporarily remove suicide and death as an option from this world during the Great Tribulation. For five long months during that dreadful time, people will want to die instead of living because locusts from hell will strip them of any comfort and peace. A lack of peace in hell is what makes eternity hell.
Peace makes time precious. Peace makes life worth living. Peace makes long life attractive.
A lack of peace makes time dreadful. The absence of peace makes death worth pursuing. Lost peace makes long life unappealing and distasteful.
Peace was the game-changer in Solomon’s parental promise. Length of days and long life is only an incentive when it is accompanied by peace. Applied to our Christian lives, any length of days is only appealing if they are accompanied by peace. If living isn’t appealing, then you lack the peace of God. If being blessed with long life isn’t appealing, then you lack the peace of God. If this is your case, then you need to place the emphasis on peace, not on living and dying. People who lack peace emphasize dying. People who lack peace anticipate dying, contemplate dying and even consider dying. In this case and in all cases, the emphasis needs to be not on living or dying, but on obtaining and retaining peace.
Peace always accompanies righteousness, holiness and obedience. Psalms 37:37, “Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace.” Peace never resides with wickedness and ungodliness. Isaiah 57:20-21, “But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.” Peace comes with righteousness and stays with thankfulness. Philippians 4:6-7 “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
The presence of peace makes the incentive of long life attractive.
Peace in the soul makes time on the calendar precious.