Day 2: Wisdom and Instruction
The fear of the LORD is instruction in wisdom,
and humility comes before honor.
As a concerned father, it always frightened me when my boys ran out into the street as they often did. So I never brushed it off with a wave of my hand: “Ahhh, boys will be boys.” I did not compliment their speed and agility or wait for something terrible to happen, hoping they would learn from their mistakes. (There is a time and place for that, but not in the middle of the street). Instead, I would shout with urgency, “Stop! Get out of the street!” I reprimanded out of love. For my rules were for their good, just as God’s rules are for our good. In the safety of our home, I then carefully explained why I did not want them running in the street.
The diligent student of Proverbs will first seek “to know wisdom” (1:2a). The verb “to know” implies intimate relationship, for the wise father understands how wisdom relates to everyday life. Such wisdom for living must come from God because worldly expertise can hardly navigate the storms of life. Thus Solomon has arranged the Proverbs under the fear of the LORD (1:7; 9:10; 31:30) and places every element of wisdom within this framework: How does the God-ness of God — his attributes and actions affect your relationships and desires, your finances and parenting, your fears and struggles? The Proverbs are decidedly God-centered, for mere human knowledge is not enough to meet life’s problems. Therefore, the wisdom to handle life with God-honoring skill asks the question: “Do my decisions draw me closer to the Lord or drive me further away?”
Secondly, dads, Solomon also desires that you experientially know the “instruction” of God (1:2a), which involves correction for the sake of direction. The proverbs disrupt your life in order to instruct and tear you up in order to piece you back together. For we are all imperfect people born into sin who need loving instruction from our heavenly Father. Picture the day when your child first learns to walk. You are delighted by those faltering steps and cheer as she toddles forward. You rejoice not because you envision a day he will walk away from you, but because you dream for the day he will walk along beside you. In like manner, you must raise your children spiritually “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4b), so that they might one day walk beside you as brothers and sisters in Christ. Godly instruction develops godly character.
Dads, make your instruction directive in nature and detailed in content, for young children must be taught step-by-step. They do not have the maturity to know what to do unless you instruct them. Sometimes I drop my boys off at school and toss them some generic instructions like, “Be good. Have fun.” But then at other times I hold their face in my hands: “Make sure you look your teacher in the eye and say, ‘Good morning, teacher.’ Don’t just stand there and say nothing.” Specific instruction lets my children know what I expect of them then brings conviction if they do not obey. So also, the book of Proverbs is like a detailed road map: “Go here and not there. Turn right and not left. Avoid that street. Beware of danger.” There is a definite path to a secure destination. You might be able to choose your actions, but you cannot choose the consequences (see Prov. 4:25-27).
Finally dads, realize that only God can change your child’s heart in order for instruction to take root: “The fear of the LORD is instruction in wisdom, and humility comes before honor” (15:33). You are responsible to teach God’s wisdom, yet your child must also accept it. Just as one football player passes to another, so also “a wise son hears his father’s instruction” (13:1a) and “whoever loves discipline loves knowledge” (12:1a). Children must apply the wisdom they learn from their instructors because the benefits of discipline are not automatically enjoyed. Proverbs does no good if we read, but do not heed. What then, dads, is your responsibility to teach God’s wisdom as a parent, a teacher, a discipler, or a counselor? What is your responsibility to learn and apply God’s Word yourself?
Picture a father and son walking hand-in-hand as they converse about life. Solomon recalls his own father, David: “He taught me and said to me, ‘Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments, and live’” (4:4). These commandments (the torah) catechize a specific body of truth recorded in the Proverbs and recited by Israel. The appeal to grandpa David reveals that these teachings have stood the test of time. Thus Solomon exhorts his son to remember them in his heart until they are obeyed and not merely heard.
Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, Teach me to know wisdom and instruction. Shine your light on my study of Proverbs to help me learn and apply its truths. Instruct me in the biblical path of fatherhood, so I can instruct my children accordingly. Help me to know you more and more each day through the study of your Word. In your Son’s name, Amen.
LifeWork: Write down one way you will apply today’s Proverb.
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