Proverbs 4:1-27

Hear, O sons, a father’s instruction,
    and be attentive, that you may (B)gain[a] insight,
for I give you good (C)precepts;
    do not forsake my teaching.
When I was a son with my father,
    (D)tender, (E)the only one in the sight of my mother,
he (F)taught me and said to me,
(G)“Let your heart hold fast my words;
    (H)keep my commandments, and live.
(I)Get wisdom; get (J)insight;
    do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth.
Do not forsake her, and she will keep you;
    (K)love her, and she will guard you.
(L)The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom,
    and whatever you get, get (M)insight.
Prize her highly, and she will exalt you;
    she will (N)honor you (O)if you embrace her.
She will place on your head (P)a graceful garland;
    she will bestow on you a beautiful crown.”

10 (Q)Hear, (R)my son, and accept my words,
    that (S)the years of your life may be many.
11 I have (T)taught you the way of wisdom;
    I have led you in the paths of uprightness.
12 When you walk, (U)your step will not be hampered,
    and (V)if you run, you will not stumble.
13 (W)Keep hold of instruction; do not let go;
    guard her, for she is your (X)life.
14 (Y)Do not enter the path of the wicked,
    and do not walk in the way of the evil.
15 Avoid it; do not go on it;
    turn away from it and pass on.
16 For they (Z)cannot sleep unless they have done wrong;
    they are robbed of sleep unless they have made someone stumble.
17 For they eat the bread of wickedness
    (AA)and drink the wine of violence.
18 But (AB)the path of the righteous is like (AC)the light of dawn,
    which shines (AD)brighter and brighter until (AE)full day.
19 (AF)The way of the wicked is like deep (AG)darkness;
    they do not know over what they (AH)stumble.

20 (AI)My son, be attentive to my words;
    incline your ear to my sayings.
21 (AJ)Let them not escape from your sight;
    (AK)keep them within your heart.
22 For they are (AL)life to those who find them,
    and healing to all their[b] flesh.
23 Keep your heart with all vigilance,
    for (AM)from it flow (AN)the springs of life.
24 Put away from you (AO)crooked speech,
    and put (AP)devious talk far from you.
25 (AQ)Let your eyes look directly forward,
    and your gaze be straight before you.
26 (AR)Ponder[c] the path of your feet;
    (AS)then all your ways will be sure.
27 (AT)Do not swerve to the right or to the left;
    turn your foot away from evil.

Tradition and Legacies 

Although the themes are familiar, Proverbs 4 has some distinctive characteristics.  One is how the parent turns to his father so that he can remember wisdom and pass it down.  Things my father passed down to me that stick in my head are:

Peter with his teachers (Father and Maternal Grandmother)

  • Remember you are bloody irresponsible
  • No-one remembers second
  • Show me a good loser and I will show you a loser
  • When someone takes a long time let them know your impatience by turning the car around and shining the headlights into the house
  • Surrender all control of the T.V., vehicles and maps
  • Hate the police because they are the ‘gestapo’
  • Destroy the opposition in an argument – then do something nice for them when you come to your senses
  • You are ugly because you look like your mother
  • Do not talk about anything deep or listen to sad music because it is ‘DMC’ (Deep Meaningful C**p)
  • No-one wants to look at you
  • Licking prevents chapped lips
  • In spite of all the proverbial teaching above – he taught me that he loved me

Despite the catharsis of writing out these snippets of wisdom that my father taught me, I still carry some scars from these misplaced jokes or disinformation.  We have responsibility for what we pass on and it should be wise.  I want to be wiser than my father.  I know its importance.  I used to think that the words of my father were equivalent to the words of God.  I didn’t question whether licking cured chapped lips until I was well into my twenties.  In an ideal situation a family is passing on a God-focused heritage.  The grandfather pursues God and becomes wiser as a result.  What he learns through biblical study, prayer, and revelation he passes on to his son.  When his son is a father he passes on a stronger heritage of the pursuit of God and therefore wisdom.  This is the most precious gift that is transfered from one generation to another.  I did not have the advantage of a godly father.  I might want to pass on his determination and fighting spirit, but he lacked the confidence to even pass on to me what he was good at.  I think he saw it as competition.  Now that I am a father I am conscious of what my jokes and what my life and my teaching passes on to my son.  It takes one generation to break a chain of wise teaching.  It takes one generation to seek God and find him and start building a tradition of godly wisdom.  My mother helped prepare me to be that person in spite of my father.  Godly men and women invested in me.  How can you do whatever you can to surround your children with godly wisdom so that they see the world as God defines it and so that they will choose the path of wisdom.

Questions

  1. What did the author learn from his father?
  2. What does the author desire to pass on to his son?
  3. What is the influence of a father in the passing on of wisdom compared to a mother?
  4. Why do modern statistics say that a household is more likely to follow God if the father is a practicing Christian compared to the mother?
  5. What can you do to supplement the schooling of your child so that they become truly wise?  The book of Proverbs assumes that children will be held accountable at some point to memorize large amounts of scripture.  When should this be done?  How?  What would you have to give up to obtain this priceless result?
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About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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