PROVERBS 4: 1-9
THE INSTRUCTIONS OF A FATHER or Finding God's Direction
[2 Timothy 3:14 / 1 Kings 3:5-14]
We all need a relationship with our father. A little boy sat frustrated and near tears. He was trying to build a toy wagon but he just couldn't get the wheels to go on. His dad came along, took the wagon and the four wheels and, in no time at all, had it rolling smoothly along. The boy was grateful for the loving and helpful touch his father added to his life. Though he is no longer a child, he still remembers his father's help that day.
It has been said that any kind of man can be a father but that it takes a special kind of man to be a Dad! The ideal father does more than simply have a part in the procreation of the child, he helps to mold the child throughout his growing years through generous amounts of love, guidance, correction, forgiveness and praise. Fortunate are those who have had more than a biological father, who had a father with whom they had such a personal relationship.
Whether or not this has been the case for you, this much is for certain: we can all experience the ultimate father-child relationship when we experience God as our Heavenly Father. Yet God wants to be more than just a biological Father. He wants to raise you up, to educate you and train you in His wisdom. He use a home and earthly fathers and mothers as His schools and teachers.
Those that graduate from God's School of Wisdom receive its watch-care and honor (CIM). Wisdom is not a natural acquision, it must be learned precept by precept. It takes commitment to either teach or learn wisdom because it is found through rigorous pursuit.
Parents must have this commitment to transfer wisdom to their children. One of the greatest responsibilities of parenting is to encourage your children to pursue wisdom and instruct your children in wisdom in a world prone to folly. Therefore parents must have a commitment to encourage and instruct their children in wisdom. Solomon uses his childhood as an example of the importance of introducing wisdom to children. God has a specific plan designed for each child. To find and follow this plan children must acquire and apply godly wisdom.
I. Listen & Lay Hold, 1-4.
II. Acquire Wisdom & Understanding, 5-7.
III. Wisdom Exalts & Honors, 8-9.
Verse 1 calls on sons to gain insight from the instruction of their fathers. "Hear, O sons, the instruction of a father, And give attention that you may gain (know) understanding.
The appeal to acquire wisdom should come from "a father." Even a teacher of wisdom needs to manifest fatherly love toward his children, toward those who heed his instruction so that He might direct them as a father does his child. The design and aim of a father's instruction is that his son might wake up and get to know understanding.
Parents need to teach their young children good listening habits. Children able to practice purposeful listening have a distinct advantage when starting school where the day is filled with need for this skill. Start teaching them listening skills. Give them instructions and increase their complexity and see how your child follows through. "Please go to your room, put on your pajamas and slippers, put your dirty cloths in the hamper, brush your teeth and bring one of your favorite storybook to Daddy."
Once a child learns to give attention they can gain understanding. What's true for children is no less true for adults. We must give attention if we are to gain understanding.
But what should we give attention to? Verse 2 says that we must pay attention to our father's sound teaching. "For I give you sound teaching; Do not abandon my instruction.
Now there are teachings that should not be listened to. There are many evil, deceitful, and careless teachings and teachers in the world. A father's teaching his children should not be that way, but they should be sound teachings. Far too many children today receive no sound teaching because either they have no father or their father is too busy or disinterested.
It is vital that children have fathers. In 1988 NewsWeek reported that there were 5.6 million children in America under 15 growing up without fathers. Divorce, no matter how amicable, leaves children without fatherly instruction. Two years later the average divorced dad has little or no contact with his children. It's staggering to think that three-fourths of all children of divorce have contact with their fathers fewer than two days a month. The 5-6 million fatherless children doid not include those whose fathers are emotional or mentally absent from their homes and children.
63% of black births in 1988 were to unmarried mothers. Unwed pregnancy, unmarried teen births have cost the public an estimated 22 billion. Gangs step in to void to provide the community support and protection that fathers provided in the past.
It is vital that you teach your children. It is vital you teach them the Word of God and model for them how it is lived out within the home. They must see you trust God's promises and base your decisions and morality upon the Scriptures.
Verse 3 begins the teacher's personal testimony of the value of his father's instruction. "When I was a son to my father, Tender and the only son in the sight of my mother (3).
The implication of this verse may be that after the early training received from his "mother" that the father is to become his principle instructor. Solomon describes the early teaching he received from his father David as that which caused his to seek wisdom instead of folly. [Roland Murphy, Word Biblical Com. Proverbs. Nelson.1998. p 27]
Solomon knew from experience what it was like to have a father who cared. When he was young, or tender, his father had taken the time to instruct him in matters of wisdom and right living. Unfortunately, that is not happening in many homes today.
Josh McDowell has been trying to find out what dads are doing in Christian families, and the news isn't good. In his book The Dad Difference, McDowell reveals that there seems to be a parenting gap. These statistics are from McDowell's book:
*The average teen in our churches spends only 2 minutes a day in meaningful dialogue with his dad.
*Twenty-five percent of these teens say they have never had a meaningful conversation with their father--a talk centered on the teens' interests.
Solomon listened and learned when his father David took the initiative and instructed him as a child. What does taking the initiative mean for dads today? It means playing games with them, doing projects with them, taking them places, hugging them, and talking with them. As a dad does these things, he opens up the lines of communication he creates teachable moments when he can instruct his children about values, people, life, and God.
Children need dad's instruction. Let's take the time to give them something worth listening to. Thank God for fathers who not only gave us life, but also taught us how to live.
Verse 4 teaches us of the importance of a wise father's teachings. "Then he taught me and said to me, "Let your heart hold fast my words; Keep my commandments and live.
Some children don't like to hear Dad say, "Now, back when I was a boy . . ." but they might learn a lot if they paid attention and listened. For this father learned wisdom from his father and now he's passing it on to the next generation. This passing on of lessons learned is the primary way God has ordained for His truth to be preserved and invested from generation to generation (Deut. 6:3-9; Eph. 6:1-4; 2 Tim. 1:3-5; 2:2; 3:14-17).
One of the greatest responsibilities of parents is to encourage their children to become wise. Here Solomon tells how his father, David, encouraged him to seek wisdom when he was young or "tender" (see 1 Kings 2:1-9 and 1 Chronicles 28, 29 for David's charge to his son). This encouragement may have prompted Solomon to ask God for a discerning heart above everything else (1 Kings 3:9). Wisdom can be passed on from parents to children, from generation to generation. Ultimately, of course, godly wisdom comes from God; parents can only urge their children to turn to Him. If your parents never taught you in this way, God's Word can function as a loving and compassionate mother or father to you. You can learn from the Scriptures and then create a legacy of wisdom as you teach your own children.
In the Hebrew, the words translated "hold fast" mean "to grasp, lay hold of, seize, hold firmly." It is the verb tah-mack, the same term is found in Isaiah 41:10, which says:
Do not fear, for I am with you;
Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you, surely I will help you,
Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.
The word uphold is from the same verb, tah-mack. Scripture memory gives you a grasp, a firm grip of confidence in the Bible. As God's Word get a grip on you, it "upholds" you! [Church Swindol, Living Beyond the Daily Grind, Bk 1. Word.1988.p 194]
The means of wisdom is holding fast God's Word the object of wisdom is that we might become a partaker of life. There is life in keeping God's Commandments.
II. ACQUIRE WISDOM & UNDERSTANDING, 5-7.
The exhortation of the loving father now gets specific. Hear the intensity of the words in verse 5. Acquire wisdom! Acquire understanding! Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth.
Get wisdom! Get understanding. Pray for it, take pains in striving after it. Diligently practice using and expanding what you have. Leave follies and get possession of wise principles and habits. For wisdom gives direction and wings to knowledge.
If you want wisdom you must decide to go after it. It doesn't just drop in your lap. It takes resolve--a determination not to abandon the search once you begin no matter how difficult the road may become. This is not a once-in-a-lifetime step, but a daily process of choosing between two paths--the wicked (4:14-17, 19) and the righteous (4:18). Nothing else is more important or more valuable.
Verse 6 begins enumerating what wisdom returns to those who pursue her. "Do not forsake her, and she will guard you; Love her, and she will watch over you.
The obvious teaching is that wisdom and the way of wisdom can be forsaken. But if you continually follow her, she will be your guard and guide. It will be your convoy and conductor through all the dangers and difficulties of life's journey. Those that have attained wisdom must take caution that they do not lose it and returning to folly. I'm sure Solomon wished he had heeded his own advice. For by his turning to the folly of his many wives he caused the eventual tearing asunder and violent division of not just a house but a nation.
Love wisdom and cleave to her and she will keep you from sin, the worst of evils, and the worst of enemies. Wisdom will keep you from hurting yourself and then none else can hurt you. They say keep your shop/store working right and your shop/store will keep you. Keep your wisdom and it will keep you. It will guard you from stumbling blocks and lead you on the straight and narrow path of abundant life.
David's words may well be the reason Solomon asked God for wisdom.
The repetition of acquire or get in verse 7 is for intensity. "The beginning of wisdom is: Acquire wisdom; And with all your acquiring, get understanding."
So many people are just out to enjoy life but end up pursuing a life that is the death of them. Again godly wisdom is to be our principle endeavor. Other things which we seek to get and keep are nothing compared to it. This endeavor to gain wisdom for godly living is the pursuit of life (Eccl. 12:13f). It gives us favor in God's eyes and beautifies the soul. It makes us able to live for good purpose in the world and takes us on pilgrimage to heaven's gate.
III. WISDOM EXALTS & HONORS, 8-9.
The father tells his sons to treat wisdom the way they would treat their mother, sister, or wife: love her, honor her, embrace her, exalt her! The bumper sticker that asks, "Have you hugged your children today?" ought to be balanced with, "Have you hugged wisdom today?" In Proverbs, wisdom is personified as a beautiful woman who invites us to her lavish banquet, while folly is the adulteress or prostitute who tempts us to poverty and death. The one you love is the one who will control your life. Embrace wisdom and you will have security (4:6), honor (v.8), and beauty (v.9).
Wisdom bestows honor and significance to those who possesses it. Verse 8, "Prize her; and she will exalt you; she will honor you if you embrace her.
Put effort, strength behind your pursuit of wisdom and she "will exalt you." Wisdom and virtue are more honorable veneration than any earthy crown of gold and kingdom. Hold wisdom high and raise it always higher as you acquire it and it will reward you with high honor, if you lovingly embrace her. Wisdom exalts her pursuers, honors her lovers, and gives a woman or man favor causing him or her to be admired.
Part of wisdom is BEING TEACHABLE. The famous football coach John Wooden said, "What counts, is what you learn after you know it all." That's because the more you learn, the less you think you have to learn. When that happens you become - unteachable!
Another part of wisdom is never stay satisfied with your current accomplishments. The greatest enemy of tomorrow's success is today's success. Thinking you've "arrived" because you accomplished certain things is fatal! It takes away your desire for continued growth. Successful people don't sit back and rest on their laurels. They know that wins, like losses, are temporary. They understand that they have to keep growing if they want to stay productive. Some things get you to the top, other things keep you there. You must stay hungry. Refuse to settle in the comfort zone or let success go to your head. Enjoy it briefly, then move on to greater things.
Another part of wisdom is to become a continual learner. A university study found that almost one-third of all physicians were so busy working, they were 2 years behind in the latest developments in their field. Heaven help their patients! If you want to be a continual learner, you must carve out time to do it! Henry Ford said, "It's been my observation that successful people get ahead during the time other people waste." Carry your Bible, tapes and CD's when you travel. Seize every opportunity to keep growing. The secret to becoming a learner - is to learn something new every day! Listen, "Get understanding. Esteem her and she will exalt you."
Verse 9 gives more of the returns obtained by those who attain wisdom. "She will place on your head a garland of grace; She will present you with a crown of beauty."
Wisdom will recommend you to both God and man. Here in this world you will walk in grace and transcendent beauty. Then in the next world wisdom will give you a crown of glory that shall never totter and shall never grow dim.
All great enterprises begin at a critical moment--a moment when a decision is made and someone launches himself into a never-to-be-forgotten enterprise.
PIZARRO, the noted Spanish explorer, faced such a moment. He languished with his men on a small island awaiting new supplies before moving on to Peru. When the supply ships arrived, they brought a message that he should abandon his expedition--considered by the governor to be foolhardy--and return to Panama.
Pizarro assembled his men on the beach. He drew his sword and made a line from east to west in the sand, then turning to the south he said, "Friends and comrades! On that side are toil, hunger, nakedness, the drenching storm, desertion, and death; on this side, ease and pleasure. But there lies Peru with its riches; here, Panama and its poverty. Choose, each man, what best becomes a brave Castellan. For my part, I go to the south."
So saying, he stepped across the line.
The pilot Ruiz was first to respond, then twelve other men stepped across to join the leader and the pilot.
Of Pizarro, the famous historian Prescott says he was " . . . a man more accustomed to act than to talk."
Do you want to become wise? Go to it in this study of Proverbs.
David taught Solomon as a young boy that seeking God's wisdom was the most important choice he could make. Solomon learned the lesson well. When God appeared to the new king to fulfill any request, Solomon chose wisdom above all else. We should also make God's wisdom our first choice. We don't have to wait for God to appear to us as He did to Solomon in a dream. We can boldly ask him for wisdom today through prayer. James 1:5 assures us that God will grant our request.