“Hear, O sons, a father’s instruction, and be attentive, that you may gain insight, for I give you good precepts; do not forsake my teaching. When I was a son with my father, tender, the only one in the sight of my mother, he taught me and said to me, ‘Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments, and live. Get wisdom; get insight; do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth.’” (Proverbs 4:1-5)
Proverbs speaks of verbal instructions from parents to their children as the primary means of discipline—not teachers or priests or community leaders, but parents. Solomon is repeating the words of his father, David, his son’s grandfather. Biblical wisdom that is passed down from one generation to another is precious; the teacher is a beloved family member who listened to and preserved it. Solomon urges his son to listen attentively to his instruction, which has as its content good principles that will lead to greater insight into how to live, and hopefully, about God. In Ecclesiastes, Solomon wrote, “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. Is there a thing of which it is said, ‘See, this is new?’ It has been already in the ages before us.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9-10) There may be truths or teachings that are new to us, though not new to others, or to this world. Rather than be discouraged by this, children should be delighted to learn that elders are a fountain of eternal and enduring wisdom who may teach at any time. Grandparents and parents should also find this encouraging and compelling.
Solomon remembers when he was a son hearing the teaching of his father. David told Solomon to give his heart to David’s words, holding onto them, keeping God’s commandments, which David embraced, for the best possible life with God. (v. 4) Anthony Selvaggio writes, “God has so arranged this world that wisdom and self-discipline simply lead to a better life than do foolishness and laziness. While God’s sovereign care for us is ultimately what makes all this happen, it does not follow that God owes us something when we obey him. If we receive what might be called a reward for such behavior, it is not because we have gained leverage over God, but because he delights to encourage us to even more good behavior.” * Parents who learn to teach well and see good consequences are also encouraged to continue doing so.
David did not leave off teaching Solomon at a particular age, like many parents tend to do today, at the end of high school. Instead, David continued sharing his wisdom with Solomon, so that he might have the best possible life as he matured and later became king. In 1 Chronicles 28:9 David charges Solomon to continue seeking the Lord. Although he built God a magnificent temple with heartfelt devotion to the Lord, Solomon did not serve God with his whole heart later in his life. Many of our children will show strong faith when they are young but seem to abandon their love for God when they are older. They may turn away from wisdom and insight. But this is no justification for our turning away from God or losing hope in his plans for our children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren.
The wisest insight and best possible instruction for children is that of God character, God’s expectations, and God’s works. This understanding will help us through hard times, disappointments, and temptations. We need discernment to see God’s hand in our lives when we are confused or overwhelmed. Personal knowledge of Christ and eternal matters are the highest possible wisdom. How will you impart this wisdom to the younger generation?
* Selvaggio, Anthony, “A Proverbs Driven Life,” Shepherd Press, 2011, Chapter 12