My son, give attention to my wisdom, Incline your ear to my understanding; Proverbs 5:1
"Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears." This was the way Shakespeare began the speech of Mark Antony in Julius Caesar. It was a cry for people to listen and to pay close attention because something very important was going to be said. Proverbs has its own soliloquies as well - but they come from the mouths of mothers and fathers to their sons and daughters. This is how the father begins his speech to his son - by calling him to listen and to pay close attention to what he is going to say.
Give attention, pay heed, pay attention, listen is what the father is saying to his son. But he is not calling him to attention to just anything - he is calling his attention to the wisdom that the father shares with him. Wisdom is the familiar word "chokmah" in the Hebrew meaning which means not just seeing or knowing things from God's perspective - but having a skill and experience in using this wisdom to make moral and practical decisions. We are not to turn the education and en-wisening of our children over to others. That is what western culture has done too often. We turn our kids over to the school - even to their Sunday school teachers and youth leaders. Let them teach our children wisdom - that's what they're for right? WRONG! They are there to only add to and embellish the core teachings that should have come from us. When we do not do our jobs as parents - believe me - no one else can make up for it.
The father calls his son to bend his ear close when he speaks and when he instructs. "Incline your ear" is like Shakespeares, "Lend me your ears," comment. It is saying to the son that he needs to stretch out his ears - bend them toward what the father is saying. He is to extend and lean his ears to what is being said - but even more to that - to understand his father's words and see how they apply to all of life! We talk about how the younger generation is leaving the church. They are leaving because they see very little relevance to their lives from what is being taught. They see the Bible as stories told to them when they were little - as an antiquated book that no longer applies to today's world. Why? Because they did not hear from dad - nor see in dad a daily pursuit of the truth - as well as a daily understanding of how that truth applies to making decisions in the everyday life that he leads. Of course they are going to think it is of little value. Oh, but when a father teaches his children these things - calls them to listen and bend their ear close as he instructs them. When dad reveals to them a life lived from the perspective of God and of Scripture - that - dear brothers and sisters is a life that will call a son to follow. That child will value what he has heard and SEEN in his father. He will listen because he has SEEN how important this book - the Bible - is to how his father lives. That, my brothers is how we recapture this generation. We do so by living according to God's wisdom - then calling our sons to listen as we recount time after time when that wisdom guided us through the minefields of life. What is the particular "minefield" that the father is so intent on teaching to his son? It is the minefield of sexual immorality. He is talking to his son about women - actually about a certain kind of woman - the immoral one. He is also sharing much wisdom with his son about the battle that will ensue when he deals with women like this. He does not hide such things from his son - he teaches them honestly and very straight forwardly. This is not something that is relegated to the sex ed teacher - it is something the father teaches his son. I'm about to say some things that will probably offend some - while at the same time making others shout for joy that someone is saying them out loud. Sex education was meant to be taught at home and in the church. Never was this meant to be a topic brought up without very clear moral underpinnings. If you look at the first 9 chapters of Proverbs you will see that this issue was raised BY THE FATHER to the son several times. God intended for a godly father to teach his son about sex - and about the pitfalls of being a fallen male in this world. The Bible is not squeamish on the matter of sexuality. It faces it head on - sharing general teaching, instruction, warnings, as well as cautionary historical examples of sexuality running wild and causing great destruction. I've long held that if the whole Bible was ever to be put on film - it would carry at least an R rating. The perils of heterosexual sin, homosexuality, and perversion are not hidden from us. They are displayed in such a way that we see their destructive power and desire to avoid them. Dad, are you teaching your son these things? Have you sat down and taught him about his sexuality - with a proper moral foundation underneath so that his sexuality does not run rampant and destroy relationships and possibly even his health and welfare? Because the church has not stepped out in front on such issues - and because fathers have not taught their sons and instructed them in how to wisely deal with their sexuality - the world has taken over. The result is sexuality taught without biblical morality. How's that working for us so far? Have we brought about a safer, wiser, more responsible sexuality among our children and youth? It has been a disaster because teaching sexuality without morality has led to a sex-crazed society that has cheapened sex and made it accessible and acceptable in every situation. Dads . . . YOU are responsible for how your son and daughter views sexuality. If you do not teach them the truth - they most likely will not know it. The television and movies will not tell them about such things within a biblical context. Magazines and books won't do it either. They will promote the perversions of sex passed on by our society and those who view sex as an anything goes activity - just so long as you use protection. Fathers! Nothing will protect your child from the dangers of unbiblical sex. There is not a condom or a safety device made that protects the heart and the spirit from the devastation and destructive power of sin. May God grant us a revival among fathers - that we will call our children to listen - and we will talk to them frankly and honestly about their sexuality. May we also give them a godly, biblical framework in which to enjoy their sexuality as God intended. If we do not talk to them and teach them - I can promise you others will who have no intention of offering them the greatest protection we can have in sex - the wisdom of God.
The words of Agur the son of Jakeh, the oracle. The man declares to Ithiel, to Ithiel and Ucal: Proverbs 30:1
Here we have an interesting verse in Proverbs. It is generally accepted that this person named Agur was an actual man - and that his students, Ithiel and Ucal were also real as well. Thus this is probably part of the collection of wisdom that Solomon had. He was probably greatly impressed by this collection of wise sayings and incorporated it into his own collection as well.
What do we know of these three men. Well, beyond the meaning of their names and this particular collection of sayings - nothing. Yet God used them to offer to us an entire chapter of Agur's wise sayings. In fact, Agur is called, "the oracle," which means that Solomon considered him a prophet - or at least a man inspired by God to put these sayings from Him into a list of sorts. Let's take a closer look at their names and what they mean.
Agur means collector or gatherer. This name probably designates that he was a collector of wise sayings - but the "son of Jakeh" refers to his father. Jakeh means to be on one's guard - and this particularly before God Himself. Thus the idea here is that of piety - guarding ourselves before God - and guarding others so that they walk in godliness. Thus, when we grasp Agur's full name - he would be considered to be the gatherer, the son of the man who guarded piety - who desired to walk in holiness and purity before God. If a name meant anything - and in Hebrew culture it did - then this was quite a man God used to collect these sayings from God and then declare them as an oracle from God Himself.
Not only did this man offer these wise sayings as much needed wisdom - he took the time to state them to others. Ithiel and Ucal were Agur's students. Ithiel means, "with me is God" while Ucal means "to eat or to devour." These are quite the names of his students. Evidently his students wanted the presence of God in their lives - and also had a hunger for the things of God. At least this is what their parents hoped and desired for them when they named their children.
We come back to this verse - apart from trying to gain information from the names themselves and see a very important principle of discipleship here. At face value, we have a situation where a godly man - even a prophet or oracle of God is taking two others under his wing for the purpose of declaring to them the things God has made known to him. This is the heart of true discipleship. Life on life ministry is so important. It is not enough to just try to read the Bible - we so desperately need for godly men to pour their lives into younger men and pass wisdom to them. Jesus did it with 12 - Paul did it with Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Epaphroditus and others. If we are wise, we will do it too.
The other thing we learn is that this kind of discipleship only happens as godly men take the time to spend a life gathering wisdom from God for the purpose of living a godly, holy, God-glorifying life. That means a life devoted to reading, studying, and knowing the Word of God. This means other things that waste our time need to be set aside for the Word. In our day we have young men who are experts at video games - who spend countless hours playing them. They will not be wise. There are others who waste countless hours watching television - and in our current culture - who use netflix to watch entire seasons of shows for days at a time. They too will not become wise. A choice has to be made to become an Agur, an Ithiel, or a Ucal. The choise has to do with time - with what is eternal - and with whether we desire to be worldly-wise - or Word-wise.
Correct your son and he will give you comfort; He will also delight your soul. Proverbs 29:17
It is a common error for parents to think that if they discipline their children, they will not like them later in life. This is especially the case when at the time of the discipline the child makes a comment to the effect that they hate you. Another winner at this juncture is when a child announces in overdramtic fashion that you are ruining their life. Let me assure you from having reared 6 children of all personality types - when you discipline them you are not ruining their lives. What you are doing is insuring that at a later date you will find comfort and delight in a child who knows how to control himself and make wise choices.
Correcting your son involves discipline. The word here is "yasar" and it means to discipline, chasten, instruct, teach, and even punish. This process of correction therefore takes into account all the aspects of rearing a child. It means so much more than just spanking or punishing a child when they do wrong. It involves instructing and teaching them even as you chasten and punish them. It is not enough to tell a child something is bad - you have to eventually explain why something is bad or a wrong choice. When you do this, you take the time to encourage them toward godly, right behavior.
When you rear a child in this fashion you will find that your son gives you two wonderful things. First, we are told that he gives us "comfort." The word here means to give someone a sense of rest and repose. It can also mean a rest in the way you feel when you are satisfied with something. A well-disciplined child, although a chore during the process, will give a parent rest as they make godly, wise choices later in life. I know from a little experience and from helping others that when a child makes unwise choices - it can rob you of any sense of rest or relaxation. Some parents seem to spend a majority of their latter years rescueing a child from one disaster after another. That is not rest!
The second blessing that comes to parents who correct their children is delight. The Hebrew word here is "ma'aden" and it means something of beauty or when refering to food something that tastes wonderful. One of the blessings that I have is that of thoroughly enjoying my children. We have 6 of them - and they are a delight to the soul of their mother and father. When they visit we speak deeply of spiritual things - and we have a blast together - often laughing and enjoying each other's company. That is what is promised here.
Now just a word in closing on this proverb. The delight often comes later in life - because rearing a child is a full contact sport! There were many times when we struggled to know what to do - and how to deal with rebellion in our children. There were times when my wife and I were dropped to our knees in broken-hearted prayer on their behalf. We both know that the reason they are godly today is because of God's grace and mercy - not our wonderful, bookworthy parenting. So do not lose heart if at first you read this and wonder about such words as comfort and delight. That comes after you've spent 15-20 years of work together rearing them - praying for them - and often wondering what may become of them. That part is the "correcting" phase. It is not always delightful - but is very useful to God not only to bless your children - but to drop you to your knees for a few times of God's work in you as well.
Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17
What a blessing it is to have godly accountability - especially between men. Today's proverb uses a very masculine picture to show how two men can be of great blessing to each other. That picture is of iron sharpening iron. You have a picture of two pieces of iron - most likely that of a pair of swords or other sharp instruments. As these two pieces of iron are rubbed against one another they have the affect of sharpening each other. The friction and the strengths of each wear away the edge on the other - and the result is a sharpened blade. As this process goes on there usually are sparks - but in the end both pieces of iron are benefited as they knock off the rough and unsharpened edges of each other.
We are then introduced in the second part of this proverb to the fact that in the same way that iron sharpens iron, one man sharpens another. This is all about a brother helping a brother in an accountability relationship. This is something that I truly believe is indicative of manly relationships. It is not that women should not be accountable to each other - they should. But . . . it is usually the men that resemble iron sharpening iron in these relationships.
Men want manly relationships. This is why you do not see guys lined up with other guys going to see a romantic comedy - but you do see them getting ready to see a war movie or a sports movie. Guys don't mind encouraging each other towards spiritual maturity - but they want to do it iron to iron! They want someone to challenge them to be a man of God. They do not want to polish each other - they want iron to iron, spark-throwing, metal-grinding imput into their lives. Too often we want to take the manliness out of such relationships - and we err in doing so.
Over the years I've had a number of accountability relationships with other men. We meet beforehand to talk about what we want to address in these times. The ones that have been the most helpful are the ones where we don't mind being pretty blunt with each other. We are willing to look the other guy in the eye and tell him he is blowing it - and that he needs to suck it up and be a man in regard to some things. These are the kinds of relationships where we call each other higher - and we are not afraid to confront each other about sin in our lives. At times there is even a fox-hole mentality that we are fighting together for the things of the Lord - and we will stand shoulder to shoulder against the enemy. We will go out and chase down a brother who is going out into sin. We'll hunt our brothers down and ask them honest questions. "What are you doing!?" or "Where are you going, man!?" are often the kind of things we ask. We speak brutal truth - letting our brother know where his actions are taking him - and that we do not want to see him messed up as a result.
These are relationships that have sparks fly - not in some kind of physical confrontation where someone gets beat up in the process. But there are sparks flying as we go to battle for each other. Sparks fly as we say what might seem as offensive things - but to a brother who needs to hear them - they are like music to our ears. Consider Nathan the prophet who shares a story of gross injustice. He shares with David, who is a former shepherd, about a man who takes a man's lamb and kills it for supper - rather than take one of his own flock to feed a visitor. David, in manly fashion, rises incensed by the injustice! He flashes with anger and rage calling for this man to be punished for his actions. Nathan has just stoked the manly vigor of David - and watched his eyes filled with fire! Then comes the sparks as iron touches iron. "David, YOU are the man!" David is the one who took another man's wife and committed adultery. Pretty strong stuff - a truly manly confrontation! Yet it is one that saved David's life - and led him back through repentance and confession of sin to God.
Such relationships are rare - but they are wonderful. Men who have them are truly blessed by the fact that a brother will confront them in sin. They will be protected - and sharpened by such relationships. They will also be protected from their own tendencies toward sinfulness. If you have an iron sharpening iron relationship - be grateful to God for it. If you do not have one - cry out to God for one. Then go and look for brothers who will stand with you - and who even have the strength to confront your sin to your face. Sparks may fly - but in the end you will both wind up much sharper instruments in the hands of God!
By forbearance a ruler may be persuaded, And a soft tongue breaks the bone. Proverbs 25:15
Today's proverb has to do with the power of persuasion - especially when the one who is to be persuaded is someone in authority, like a ruler or a king. How is it that we persuade someone so high in office? The answer might shock you, because the Lord says that it is not the forceful man that will win the day. Patience and gentleness have much greater power to persuade than a blustery, arrogant person.
Forbearance is what is needed, according to our proverb. The Hebrew word here is "orek" and it means something long or lengthy. It describes physical measurements. The word used to describe the length of Noah's ark as well as to describe things like large land measurements. But what is measured as long in this passage is the patience and willingness to stick with one's cause before someone in authority. The idea is that a person forbears the fact that the ruler has a different opinion - and seeks to bring the powers of persuasion to bear on him over time. Most rulers are not given to quick swings in opinion - and when they do - it has the danger of not lasing long. The influence of the wise man is applied to a decision over a long period of time. That is one reason he is effective in getting the ruler to think and reason as he does. William Wilberforce spent his entire lifetime forbearing with those who differed with him on the issue of slavery. Yet he held to his views and continued to persuade men by holding them no matter what the outcome of votes within Parliment. In the end, his willingness to remain in the fight and stay there for years won the day for him and his cause.
There is a second tool that a wise man uses in persuading a ruler. We are instructed that a soft or gentle tongue can break a bone. What a powerful picture that is for us - and yet how contrary to the way that many of us are wired to think. It is not boisterousness and bravado that win the day with the ruler. It is the wise, soft spoken and gentle man who can eventually persuade the king on a matter. Consider Daniel for a moment on this matter. He was a very wise man who had tremendous influence on the king. Yet we do not have a single passage where Daniel speaks impassioned words to the king. Joseph was the same way. He was a man of controlled passions when it came to his dealings with Pharaoh. This kind of strength under control allies great power. The king and the Pharaoh came to have great confidence in these godly men. Their words - though gentle in their presentation - were powerful and could accomplish much.
Of those who led with forbearance and gentle words, Jesus stands more significant among all. He was patient with His disciples - and submitted Himself to God and even to others when He Himself had once sat at the right hand of God Himself. He spoke in ways that made men marvel - and commanded even the elements to submit to His will. When standing before a corrupt pseudo-court of man - Jesus was able to be quiet - even amazing His captors with His behavior. And when it came to raw displays of power - His simple words, "I am He," in the garden caused a wicked mob to stagger backwards and fall to the ground on their backs. Gentleness bearing great power - Jesus was the epitome of it in life.
Too many in our day think that to be influential you have to be a jerk. They see power as something wielded with an iron fist. You don't take anything from anybody - even someone in a position of authority. Such behavior may get you a temporary rung higher on the corporate ladder, but it will NOT bode well for you long into the future. The "gentle-tongued" man does not make the kind of enemies that the man with the macho attitude. He does not leave a trail of crushed egos and smashed careers along the way. The man who triumphs with power and a lack of gentleness will have many who will cheer for his fall. The gentle man learns to break a bone with the gentle and controlled way that he quietly and consistently speaks for his principles. Thus he comes to the point of persuasioin without all the baggage of his blustery counterparts.
Learn to influence others wisely. Learn to stand in positions of principle steadfastly. Learn to persuade others with soft, gentle, bone-crushing power. The power you access in the process will not be that of the fleshly elite of this world, whose kingdoms are passing away. The power you access will be that of the Son of God - Who remained silent as a lamb before His shearers - and yet who crushed death and hell under the weight of His godly obedience to His Father. There, dear saints, is power!
Prepare plans by consultation, And make war by wise guidance. Proverbs 20:18
Some think that living a godly life means relying on the Holy Spirit to the point where you make no plans at all - you are simply led by the Spirit to do whatever is next on the Spirit's agenda. But, as with all extreme positions, this runs contrary to the whole counself of Scripture and what God has to say about planning. Here we have a verse in Proverbs that promotes planning - but not from a fleshly standpoint - but rather from one that urges us to be wise and to consult with others as we make plans.
Planning can be a blessing or a curse. What is key in determining which you are going to experience is your attitude and desire in what you plan. The word "prepare" means to establish, set up something, to be firm, or to prepare. It has the idea of being steadfast in a direction or being founded. The idea here is that our lives are not to be flighty, but truly focused and set in a clear direction based upon Scripture. The word "plans" gives us even a more clear direction and understanding of the idea of planning here. The Hebrew word here is "mahashabah" which means a purpose, a thought or an intention. This gives us an interesting line of thought - which is this . . . God wants us to think. He wants us to think about our lives - to consider things - to take the time to reason biblically about the purpose for which we are doing things and the intent behind them. When you consider planning from this perspective it takes on a whole new mindset. Godly planning would involve prayer - consulting with God and with the Scriptures about the plans that are being made.
The last word that is used in the first part of this passage is "consultation." This is the Hebrew word "esah" which means to get advice, discernment from others, or to seek out the judgments of others. This means seeking out advice, counsel, and not just relying on how you think about a matter when making plans. Finding wise men and women who can help you grasp not only Scripture, but also good biblical sense is so important when making plans. But too often the one thing we forget when reading a passage like this is that we ned to consult with God in prayer. Without this important step, we will most likely make unwise plans.
The second half of this passage is interesting in that it tells us that we should "make war by wise guidance." When I read this I see two things that immediately impress themsevles on my mind. First is a physical reality - war in the physical realm. Adam Clarke made a marvelous comment on this when he said, "Most of the wars that are undertaken are wars of injustice, ambition, aggrandizement, and caprice, which can have had no previous good counsel." James 4
counsels us that the reason for the wars and conflicts among us are too often nothing more than a desire to get when we cannot get what we want through godly means. This is why a war should never be entered into without wise counsel.
The second meaning I see here has to do with spiritual warfare - its reality and its engagement. When we engage in doing God's will - even to the point of planning and setting a purpose in doing what God wants - we need to understand that we are going to face spiritual warfare. The evil one is not going to sit still when believers are planning an attack against his kingdom and his territory. That is why we need to make war - spiritual war - with wise guidance. Our enemy, the devil, is a wiley foe. He will oppose us openly as we preach the gospel, seek the salvation of the lost, and labor to see disciples of Jesus Christ raised up and eventually sent out to do additional damage to his interests. That is why we need wise consultation with God. We need to know we are doing His will, acting according to His Word, and are laboring and fighting by His Spirit. When we do this we are sure to prevail and to bring glory to God.
Planning is not an ungodly thing. Instead it is an opportunity to draw near to God - draw near to other wise saints who know Him - and to set our hearts and purposes according to His heart and purpose. Rather than be a trip into selfishness and self-driven goals and 5 year plans - it is to be a time to engage with God Himself and with His most precious people who seek His face. This can be even a time of reviving and realigning ourselves with Him - His purposes and plans - and even His power as we come into agreement with what He wants done and how He wants to accomplish it.
The backslider in heart will have his fill of his own ways, But a good man will be satisfied
with his. Proverbs 14:14
Too often some religious words have been used in such a way that they are either now devoid of meaning - or they have become so cluttered with misunderstanding that they mean little to us now. Such is the word, "backslider" in our religious vocabulary. We've heard the term screamed shrilly at us - or have attributed the word to back woods preachers who use it to scare the faithful to the altar when revival services are in town. This is a loss for the church because this word is used as a warning to us - not with a piercing scream of a preacher trying to make a point - but with the gentle yet strong urgings of wisdom who only desires to prevent us from walking in a foolish way that will cost us far more than we are willing to pay in the end.
The backslider in heart - is a phrase that speaks of someone who has turned away. The word actually comes from the Hebrew word, "sug" which means to turn away or to turn ones back. The idea with this word is that someone is turning from an accepted or expected path or commitment. They are crossing a boundary line, and in the process are being disloyal in the process. Here we also get the idea that this is not just an isolated decision - but something that has been chosen enough times to where a heart has been set in a direction. The backslider in heart is the one whose heart commitment to the Lord has turned badly in the wrong direction. He has decided to walk away from his commitment to the Lord - and now his decisions are betraying his faith.
What is fascinating about this proverb is that we read that the backslider in heart, "will have his fill of his own ways. The idea here is that this person who is turning from the Lord and from His Word - is going to be filled to the point of misery with his own ways. He is not going to be happy with this development. He will be miserable. The proverb states that the good man will be satisfied with his ways. The good, godly man will find the lifestyle and the direction of his life and choices are very satisfying. But the backslider in heart is going to be full. But the fullness that he will have will be a fullness of regret, a fullness of problems, and a fullness that is very unpleasant.
Imagine with me a meal that you've eaten. But what has happened at this meal is that you have eaten to the point of being miserable. As you sit and are now sickened by the mere thought of food - you groan over being full of your own over eating. That is truly a horrible feeling when it happens. What the proverb here is trying to describe is a lifestyle that is overflowing with regretable decisions that were not in accord with the Scriptures. The consequences that begin building up are awful. This man looks at them and thinks how he is full of the consequences of his own ways. What proverbs says elsewhere is that he groans at his latter end. When everything comes to roost - he finds that he is groaning under years of bad decisions - just wishing that he had done something different. For this man there is little more than regret over the choices he has made. These were choices that glorified his flesh and did not honor God. Filled to the full with these choices and the myriad of horrific consequences they have brought on - he can only sigh and steel himself for the tidal wave of problems and difficulty he is about to face.
Think about this . . . that when you turn from God you are setting a course for misery. You may not see it right away - but know that your backsliding from God and from His Word are going to have a very steep price to pay. You may decieve yourself that such a price will never come, but the truth is that as you make choice after choice to ignore and even defy God - you are storing up misery for yourself. That misery IS coming. And when it comes all you will be able to do is groan under the weight of it. Filled with your own ways - you will finally learn that satisfaction comes as we embrace God and embrace the good He desires for us in our lives.
So you will walk in the way of good men And keep to the paths of the righteous. Proverbs 2:20
There is a road map that God has for us - not just for a short journey, but for an entire lifetime. The proverb for today speaks of this in two ways. There are two words used here to indicate a way or a path. One refers to the way of good men - while the other speaks of the paths of the righteous. Let's take a look at both of them and see how we can gain a little bit of wisdom from them both.
First we learn of the way of good men. This is the Hebrew word "derek" which speaks of a way that is traveled. The way that this word is used most often is to speak metaphorically of the pathway of one's life. This suggests to us a pattern of life - which is referred to in Deuteronomy 8:6
as an obedient life and in 2 Samuel 22:22
and Jeremiah 5:4
refers to a life lived for godly and righteous ways. Since the entire chapter focuses on the power of the Word of God in our lives - and our need to know it, study it, meditate on it, and apply it to our lives - then we can see that if we take the Word seriously - it will have a powerful affect on our lives. The biblical way is the way of good men. Those who have a sincere desire to obey the Lord and to serve Him and love Him will live good lives. Their lifestyles are worth emulating - and we can follow their way of life if we are committed to following the Scriptures.
Second, we learn of the paths of the righteous. The word for "paths" here is the Hebrew word, "orah." This word is similar to our first. It speaks of a way or a highway. It is metaphorically used to speak of the literal path upon which someone walks - but also can refer to the course of their life - the characteristics of their lifestyle. These can be good or evil, righteous or deserving of judgment. Here since it speaks of the paths of the righteous, we are speaking of a good way to go. The difference between these two words seems to be that in the first, we are walking in the ways of the good men we see. It seems to have an immediacy to it - as if we have these men before our eyes. It speaks of following the examples of men who are alive and whom we seek to emulate because of their godly lifestyles. The second word speaks more of holding fast to the very way (lifestyle over their entire lives) of righteous men.
Where do we learn of such men? First we learn of them in the Scriptures. We know of godly men throughout the Word of God. These are men who have an example and a lifestyle worthy of following. These are men like Moses, David, Elijah, Elisha, Hezekiah, the prophets and others in the Old Testament. In the New we have Peter, Paul, John, and Jesus. We need to look at both their daily lives - as well as the course of their lives and give ourselves to following their example.
Do you have such men in your sights? Are you making sure that you and your children have the right kind of heros to emulate and to follow? We desperately need to change the kind of men we set before ourselves and our children in this generation. If we allow the media and the world to chose these men we will see thier bankruptcy poured into the lives of our children - as well as polluting our own hearts as to what a real man should be. Men like Jim Elliot, William Carey, John Patton, George Mueller, John Hyde, C. S. Lewis, Vanya, and Bruchko should be well known to this generation of the church. Unfortunately, they are relatively unknown and we are much poorer for it. May God give us a renaisance of Christian heros and men worthy of following before our eyes. May their example help to point the way and the path upon which we should be walking.
My son, if your heart is wise, My own heart also will be glad; and my inmost being will rejoice When your lips speak what is right. Proverbs 23:15-16
What should matter most to us when we think of our sons? I know for a period of my life what mattered most to me was seeing my sons excel at sports. I could have sadly rewritten these two verses with the following foolish edits.
"My son, if you do well at football and soccer, my own heart also will be glad; and my flesh will rejoice when I can cheer at your games for your goals and touchdowns." (Dopey Father 23:15-16)
First of all I want to state that I am not against sports or competitive activities. When God graciously broke me he still allowed my sons to compete in sports - and I continued to cheer for them on the sidelines. Oh, but how I grieved for the years that I had lost - and for the way I had skewed their minds on what was a priority in their lives. During that time period we set everything aside for their sports careers. We spent tremendous amounts of money following them all over the mid-south (which, by the way, put us into debt). I had my sweet wife miss church along with my sons, so that we could go wherever the coach told us to go. We basically had a very clear idol in our lives - and it is was the dream I had that maybe one day my sons could play college ball - or even make a pro team. But the most devastating problem that was growing all the time was the misplaced priorities that I was putting before my sons. My own lack of submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in my life - carried over into my son's lives. This story ends well - because of two things. First and foremost because of God's mercy and grace. But secondly, because of some serious repentance on my part - repentance and brokenness that led me back to a proper life under the Lordship of Jesus Christ - and with proper biblical priorities. Let me get back, though, to the proverb at hand.
The father here is speaking of what makes his heart glad. The father here was glad, and later even rejoiced that his son had a wise heart. Wisdom was what this father valued most in his son. And it is a wisdom that sees life as God sees it. The father here lived to see his son one day with a very wise and discerning heart. He labored to see that one day his boy would be a man who longed to do the will of God above anything else in his life. This places before us a very important question. Are we as fathers seeing our most important job as laboring to see our sons become wise, godly young men?
Wisdom comes from God. We learned this back in Proverbs 2
. If we are going to have wise sons, it will be because we have taught them the things of God. Wise sons come from wise fathers who both know the Word and apply it in our everyday lives. The passion that often drives a "sports-dad" will be re-directed into being a "godly-dad." If the Christian fathers who spend hours trying to hone their son into the next Peyton Manning or the next Landon Donovan, would devote that much time to honing their sons into the next Paul - we'd watch a revolution in the church - and in our society in general. Instead of working on passing and catching skills alone - we'd find ourselves spending time also reading the Word with our child. We'd be working on wisdom skills - on memorizing Scripture - and on being able to take the Word of God an use it to properly discern good and evil as they walked through their lives.
I know I may be laboring the point a little bit, but think about this for a moment. How many sons are actually going to be playing sports at the college level? How many truly have a shot at the NFL or MLB or the MLS? And how many who make it to those levels of sport will have a wise and discerning heart there to keep them out of the trouble that seems to be following sportsmen in these sports? The truth is very few will make it to these teams, but everyone single one of those young men will need to be able to live a life of wisdom. All of them - even those who do make it - will need "wisdom skills" to walk through life worthy of their calling in Jesus Christ. If you think your son will make it to a college or pro level - have at it. But Dad, make sure that the most important goal you have for your son is to live a life of wisdom an godliness! Make sure HE knows that this is the true goal - and that which would most delight your heart and soul!
The father her also states that his inmost being will rejoice when he hears his son speaking what is right. The inmost being spoken of here is literally kidneys in the Hebrew. Dads, your kidneys need to rejoice over your son! Now there is a phrase you don't hear much anymore. "Hey Bob, man my kidneys just rejoice over how Bob Jr. is growing into a godly young man!"
The kidneys were thought, along with the heart, to be the deepest seat of emotion and joy in a person. It referred to the innermost and most private part of a person's life. When you are moved to rejoice at that level, you are rejoicing at the deepest level possible. You rejoice because your heart is blessed at the core level of your beliefs and principles. This leaves me with another loaded question. What is your deepest rejoicing about in life? If you find yourself rejoicing deeply at the touchdowns and sports achievements of others - but yawning at the things of God - the exhibition of godly character and true manhood - you are rejoicing about the wrong things. Let me say, I love a good touchdown like most guys - but God has worked to where I get more excited when I watch my sons make godly decisions.
The reason this father was rejoicing in his kidneys was because his son was speaking what is right. This is not that his son was parroting some phrase or some rote speech he knew would make dad happy, but that his son was speaking normally - and was saying what was right. This is an important step for our sons maturity wise. Jesus taught us that it was out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth spoke. So when we hear our sons speaking what is right in their normal conversation - it tells us that God has worked in their hearts. It is easy to get a son to say what YOU want him too when he is around you - but it is far more difficult to rear him to say the right thing (the godly thing) as a matter of normal living. This requires God working in his heart. That is why the father was dancing in his kidneys when he knew his son was speaking this way.
Fathers, this proverb is vital for us to grasp. We are called to take boys given to us by God, and rear them to be men. This requires doing far more than just bringing home the bacon - and re-living our desires for sports grandeur through them. Taking a boy and making him a man requires that we put wisdom and godliness at the top of our own priority list, and helping our sons to do the same. It means laboring to see a heart-change in our boys by the working of the gospel and the Spirit of God. It means training our sons to love a woman properly - and to have a vision of what God desires for their lives to be. But I will tell you by the mercies of God that when you watch your sons begin to make godly decisions - no sports achievement in the world can come close to the sensation you will get in your kidneys! Live therefore for the glory of God and the blessing of your kidneys as you labor to take boys - and give the world men of God.
Like a bird that wanders from her nest, So is a man who wanders from his home. Proverbs 27:8
Birds begin every spring by gathering what is needed to construct a nest. Usually they select a place that they believe will give them protection and shelter. This becomes the location where they then lay eggs and work to build a family. The nest serves as the location of safety and of security. For a bird to leave the nest is dangerous. Note that the term used for this leaving is the word wander. The bird is not flying from the nest for the purpose of hunting or finding food for itself and its young. This bird is just following its own curiosity wandering away from the nest to see what he can see. This indicates that we are probably speaking of the young - because an adult bird knows better than to wander from the nest. There is a word for birds who wander from their nests - prey! They become prey for those who are watching to see if they leave the protection and cover of the nest. They are sitting ducks as they go out from the nest just wandering wherever they go. It is a very dangerous thing to just go wandering away.
The picture of a bird wandering from its nest is compared to a man who wanders from his home. Here again is God's wisdom. God establishes the home as the central unit of society. It is also the place where God intends for children to be reared to maturity. There God provides for the child two loving parents who are focused on selflessly giving themselves for this child's good. As long as the child stays within the home (meaning its influence and protection) that child is safe. When the child wanders from that place - he is in danger. But what we have said to us here is not about a child - it is about a man. The man who wanders from his home is like the bird wandering from his nest.
What would cause a man to wander from his home? There are many things actually that work toward guiding a man toward this disaster. First is another woman. Many men wander from their home and wind up being involved with a woman who is not their wife. They wander away from their commitment - away from their vows to God and to their bride - and much like the bird wandering from his nest - this man is caught . . . trapped . . . hunted and captured. Sexual immorality and adultery are both strong traps that have destroyed many a man who wandered from the nest of his home and marriage. Another thing that causes men to wander is outside interests that begin to dominate their lives. Please understand I'm not against a man having outside interests like hunting, fishing, sports, cars, motorcyles, or whatever else a guy chooses to pursue. What I warn men against is having pursuits that take them away from the home far too often. Our commitment as a husband and father is to our wives and our children. Anything that takes us away from them - and hinders us from being there for them as we should - is not good. It is another way men "wander" from the nest - and leave themselves (and their families) unprotected. There is more to this than just the damage done to the man who wanders away. When he is in this "wandering" state, his family is left unprotected. His sons are untaught in the things of the Lord - and undirected into God's way by watching and participating with their father in vastly important ways. His daughters are left unprotected - and grow up with a sense that they have to take care of themselves. They face dealing with boys on their own - and since dad has been off acting like a boy - they don't know what a real man looks like. Too often this leads to disaster as sons grow up being boys perennially as they follow the footsteps of a father who leads them there by not growing up himself. Daughters grow up unprotected and wind up going out with and marrying the wrong kind of man. There are truly multiple disasters that come from a man wandering from his home.
Men . . . God wants you to be MEN! That means leaving behind boyhood and choosing to be the man God wants you to be in your home. The church and our world desperately needs men like this. We need guys who choose to die to themselves and see more and more as they grow older that life is not about them. They grow up and realize that shirking serious responsibilities in the home and in the church is creating a horrific society and a broken nation. We cannot continue on the course we are on - because to do so is to embrace destruction on a national scale. I realize that this is not just a problem for us - it has been a multi-generational problem in our nation. Many of us are like we are - because we have had fathers who wandered from the home - either physically, emotionally, spiritually, or all the above. But we cannot continue on this path - it surely leads to disaster! May God move in our hearts and in our homes to fulfill His promise in Malachi 4:5-6
. There the Lord spoke of a day when he would send us "Elijah the prophet" before the great and terrible day of the LORD. His purpose and ministry would be to, ". . . restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers . . ." God's promise here was so that He would not have to come and smite the land with a curse. I think we see all the marks of that curse on our land today. To be honest, the vast majority of the responsibility for that curse lies on the fathers of today and yesterday - for wandering from home. May the work of revival and reformation bring fathers back home - first back to the Lord Himself, then back to their wives and children. Basically - back to the nest - a place they never should have wandered from in the first place.