Here is an interesting proverb for us. In it we find comments about discernment, the Law, gluttons, and the way we represent our families, our fathers in particular. Yet, all of it boils down to how we maintain a relationship with the Word of God.
The entire proverb hinges on the first statement. Here we see a son who "keeps the law." What is it that this son is doing? The word for keep is the Hebrew "natsar" and it means that he guards the Word in his life. He does this by living a life that seeks to obey the Word. He also is seeking to preserve the Word and its effects in his life. He does this by hiding the Word in his heart - keeping it in his mind - and realizing that the Word (here the law) is entrusted to him. Thus he wants to "maintain" a relationship with God's Word. This is more than just a casual relationship that this son wants to maintain with the Word. He is longing to protect the way that the Word impacts his life - desiring to maximize it as well! Because of this - the Word says that this son is discerning. When we have this kind of ongoing relationship with God's Word - we are putting ourselves in line to being someone with a fair amount of discernment from God. But why is this the case?
There is an inherent blessing that comes to us when we "keep the Word" in our lives. Think about the practices that this involves. We have a mindset that wants to guard obedience to the Word and what God has said to us today. We take the time to memorize and meditate on the Word each day. In the end the Word begins to fill our minds and our thoughts. We find our thinking processes being transformed by what God says - and we consider what He says as worth guarding and protecting in our lives. As a result when things happen in this young man's life - he filters it through the Word. He asks fascinating questions like, "Will this please God," or "Am I glorifying God while doing this?" He wants to see all of his actions and attitudes agree with what the law says. He sees it not just as a "have to" situation - but because his heart has worked to keep the law near - it becomes a "want to" one as well.
This young man will experience the blessing of discernment. He will have that ability to look at two things that differ - and see the difference in light of the law of God. He will be able to discern what pleases God and what displeases Him - what delights His heart and what breaks it. What is even better is that he learns to choose what delihts the heart of his Father!
The contrary of this thought is really interesting. The opposite is a son who humiliates his father by being a companion of gluttons. OK - didn't see that one coming when I read the first part of this - but let's take a few moments to break it down and discern wisdom.
First something indirect we should notice. If this young man's activities an companionship humiliates his father - it must mean that the father was actively seeking to teach him differently. Dad was wanting his son to have the law as a guidepost for his son. He was teaching and training his son to be a young man who could discern God's will through His law. Thus we come to an interesting question for fathers. Are you training your sons to be discerning young men who approach all in this world with the Word of God as a filter and a guide? That is not the main point here - but it is one that is implied.
The main point here though is that the son who is a companion of gluttons will humiliate his father. A couple of things that a wise man knows. First he knows that those whom he chooses to be his companions matters. If he makes the wrong choices about those who are his friends - he will be harmed by it. Bad company corrupts good morals. Godless companions will bring about a godless lifestyle in the end. Minister to the godless - but let your companions be those who honor God and who desire to obey His Word.
Who are these "gluttons?" The Hebrew word is "zalal" which means to be vile, frivilous, gluttonous, or worthless. The word was used in Deuteronomy 21:20 to describe a son who is worthless in his character and gluttonous. A similar word was used to those who drank too much. It is the opposite of what is useful, valuable, or precious. This is the word used to describe the foolish son's friends and companions. They are definitely bad characters - whose character is bad. They give themselves to excess (thus the word gluttony) and the excess that they embrace is an excess of godlessness and worthless things. Since this word is set over against the son who watches and keeps God's law - the companions of the foolish son are overindulgent in their appetites for evil. They are godless - and they take their godlessness to the extreme.
The son who keeps company with such men will humiliate his father. He will live the life of a profligate - giving himself to the same excess of the flesh and the world that they do. He will embrace the godlessness - and in so doing will break the heart of his father.
There is good news in all this though. Jesus spoke of a son who embraced these kind of companions - and who demanded his inheritance so that he could pay for all the wickedness that money could buy. His father allowed him to walk away - rich yet very stupid. His father, I'm sure, was humiliated by his son's godless conduct. But in this story - the prodigal son wound up wishing he could eat the food that he was feeding to the pigs. He decided that his godless lifestyle had brought him little joy - and much sorrow and disgrace. As he returned home to beg forgiveness - and offer himself as a slave to his father - he experienced an astounding thing. His father had been praying and waiting for his return. When the father saw this prodigal son, he ran to him and embraced him. What we learn from this is that even a foolish son who shames his father - is loved by the Father. He is watching ahd waiting for his return. Though his actions shamed Him - the Father still loved his son - and rejoiced when he returned. Wisdom tells us to steer clear of godless companions. But even though many of us ignore this and walk headlong into sin and wickedness - the Father still waits and watches. He works so as to bring His wayward sons home. Those who come and see the radical difference living for Christ makes - embrace the wisdom of turning to God and finding grace and mercy ready to run to them when they arrive in repentance toward God. So, even if you have been a fool with your companions - and have been corrupted as a result - know that God loves you and is willing to forgive and restore!