May 12, 2009

Editor's Note: This week, our editors will each be offering their unique reflections on the same verse - Proverbs 3:5-6. So much can be packed into just a few lines of the Bible, and God often speaks differently through His Word to different believers. We hope you walk away with a new appreciation for this beloved piece of scripture. You can view Monday's offering here.

The Bow & The Arrow 
by Shawn McEvoy, Crosswalk.com Senior Editor

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.
Proverbs 3:5-6

Wisdom, suggests the book of Proverbs, is prized above all things. And wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord. Therefore, the wisest thing one can do is to trust and honor God.

And trusting and honoring God, according to Proverbs 3:1-12, "not only delivers one from evil, but promises certain rewards" (Ryrie Study notes). Among them:

  • Longevity and peace (vv. 1-2)
  • Favor with God and man (vv. 3-4)
  • Health (vv. 7-8)
  • Prosperity (vv. 9-10)

Pretty good stuff. Stuff we all like, and seek hard after. Barns filled with plenty, length of days, refreshment to your bones. And yet...

The section of Proverbs 3 that we know, love, cherish, cling to, and quote most often is the part that promises not peace, not health, not abundance. It is the part that promises... guidance. "In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths."

Let's not miss that. In this promise-rich poriton of scripture, the part we people cite more often than the others is the part about trusting God more than ourselves so that in our "ways" and "paths," we will know which way to go. We will know what to do. We will get there directly. We will be able to read the signposts planted by the Almighty. The child of God longs for and receives many gifts when he or she receives wisdom. Is it possible that the most highly prized among them is a highly-tuned sense of spiritual direction?

If you've ever listened to peers ponder or authors write about the subject of seeking / finding / learning / doing "God's will," then I think you might agree that the answer could just be yes. We long to serve, to offer ourselves worshipfully. To walk so closely with God that "in him we live, and move, and have our being" (Acts 17:28). Symbolically, what might this sense of direction, guidance, straight paths, and complete trust look like?

Perhaps... an arrow? Consider:

  • Arrows point the way to other destinations
  • Arrows indicate which way it is okay to turn
  • Arrows are straight and narrow
  • Arrows are colorful, sleek and efficient
  • Arrows attempt to hit the target, but sometimes "miss the mark"
  • Arrows can not be projected forward well by anything but the bow, they were made to fit into it ("Trust in the Lord with all your heart")
  • Arrows are completely dependant upon the bow, and they were made to go out from it ("do not lean on your own understanding")
  • Arrows discussing how they got somewhere without crediting the bow would sound ridiculous ("In all your ways acknowledge him")
  • Arrows, if properly knocked, fly true ("he will make your paths straight")

Today's verse appeared on the program for our wedding, because it has always been one of my wife's life verses. It is even more meaningful to me as I re-study it today because of something else I had written for Valerie long before she became my wife. I wrote the following thoughts about arrows for her after we had been dating for two months, just before she moved several states away from me:

I used to teach archery at camp in Texas. It’s the kind of sport where it’s not hard to find a few life metaphors – hitting the target, nailing the bull’s-eye, missing the mark... But in the arrow itself, I found a wealth of lessons. It’s such a simple, effective, and elegant weapon, with its sleek shaft and colorful feathers, but it can’t function without help. It needs the bow in order to reach its potential, to drive it forward, or it is worthless.

The arrow also has been prevalent in my doodles for as long as I can remember, probably due to its symbolic significance in direction and guidance. But take another look at the feathers – do you notice how one, the one facing outward, is a different color? That’s called the cock feather. It’s unique in that it must face away from the bow, or outward, in order to fly straight when shot. As Christians, too often we cover up what’s different about ourselves, and we wind up missing the mark, or sinning. But when our unique side faces outward for the world to see, we fly straight and true, exploding towards the target in a glorious burst of color.

What is unique and different about you? Your faith, poise, depth, and grace, to name a few. Keep those true colors facing boldly outward; trust the Lord’s aim as He pulls back the string; fly straight. Let Him choose the targets, and you can’t miss.

Intersecting Faith & Life: Wisdom is often called the greatest gift, and no wonder, because it brings with it so many other gifts, not least among them the sense of guidance and direction that flying forth from God's Great Bow brings. What gift of wisdom do you prize above others? Remember the example of the arrow when you wonder what it looks like to trust in the Lord with all your heart, and to acknowledge him in all your ways. A true straight arrow can do no other! It is nothing but ineffective flash apart from the bow!

Further Reading

Proverbs 1:7
Acts 17:28
Seven Lessons from Summer Camp