“Hear, O sons, the instruction of a father, and give attention that you may gain understanding, for I give you sound teaching; do not abandon my instruction. “
Compare this introduction to the oracle of King Lemuel’s mother in Proverbs 31. Can you hear the cry of a parent in their words? The book of Proverbs itself is testimony to the responsibility of parents in the education of their children, but this responsibliity does not come without consequences and severe punishment for wrongdoing in this education. Christ himself says in the gospels that it would be better to have a millstone hung around your neck and to be tossed into the sea than to mislead one of these little ones (the children).
Verses 7-9 of this chapter are just beautiful, and I can imagine myself whipsering these same things to my son, or writing them down as he leaves for college, “The beginning of wisdom is: Acquire wisdom; and with all your acquiring get understanding. Prize her and she will exalt you; shewill honor you if you embrace her. She will place on your head a garland of grace; she will present you with a crown of beauty.” This is the woman I want for my son, and it is one that he can desire, pursue, and seek after long before his wife comes along 🙂 Add to this that the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord and he can’t go wrong.
The next section, beginning in verse 10 paints a verbal picture of journeys, pathways and ways. Imagine having to traverse a deep ravine with narrow roads and many pitfalls and obsticals. Solomon says that he has led his son on the “uprigth paths” of this ravine, that if his son accepts his teaching that his steps won’t be impeded (blocked by obsticals), and if he runs he will not trip. He admonishes his son to take hold of instruction as you would a staff or strong walking stick, he says to guard this walking stick as though it is your life. Solomon cautions his son about which roads not to take and what will happen if he does. Note that in the beginning of the section the father says that HE has led his son on upright paths, but the circumstances seemed to have changed since that time. Now it is his son’s choice as to what way he should go, the responsibility is changing, as it should, from parent to child.
The final section, beginning in verse 20, becomes very intimate. The introduction is the same but rather than verbal pictures or metaphores Solomon refers to the body and things that are necesssary for life and normal, daily living.
“Incline your EAR to my sayings, do not let them depart from your SIGHT; keep them in the midst of your HEART.
For they are LIFE to those who find them, and HEALTH to all their BODY.
“WATCH over your HEART with diligence,
For from it flow the springs of LIFE
“Put away from you a deceitful MOUTH, and put devious SPEECH far from you.
“Let your EYES look directly ahead and let your GAZE be fixed traight in front of you.
“WATCH the path of your FEET and all your ways will be established.
“Do not turn to the right nor to the left; Turn your FOOT from evil.”
It is very important, when reading this final section, to understand that Hebrew thought has no seperation of mind, body, and spirit. Each of the physical references made her contains a powerful dual meaning and application to the spiritual and mental being of his son. Solomon goes over his son from head to toe, and very evidently knows the struggles of a man because he places huge importance upon where his EYES are looking and where his GAZE should fall. He makes sure that his son knows WHERE to look and the importance of watching his HEART. Solomon knows that one day his son will find a woman to share life with to gaze at and admire without shame, but for now this young man must TRAIN HIMSELF to not be destracted, but to bring his entire body under control and make it obedient to righteousness. The eyes are windows to the soul, it is with our gaze that we learn and engage our mind. It is with our heart that we make decisions, and this reference here to the heart should not be misconstrued as a the modern application, “follow your heart!”. This is not a purely emotional and unreasoned action that his son is to take. The heart is the seat of the emtions AND thoughts and actions. It is the ultimate source of motivation from which our thoughts and actions stem, “for out of it flow the springs of Life”. Finally the feet. The Hebrews wandered in the wilderness for generations as a tribal community after their deliverance from Egypt, never in one place for too long and always seeking after their home. Later in history they wandered again until the tragedy of the world wars began a compelling movement back to their homeland. To walk in the right way is crucial, and Hebrew thought comprehends this. There is absolute dependance on God and absolute necessity of obedience to His directions in these words. Again, the responsibility of choice is being placed upon the sholders of the son and Solomon will leave no stone unturned in the final education he can offer to this young man. Solomon completes this section of proverb with the intimate and complete admonition that his son bring every aspect of his being under complete control and to submit all of it to the ultimate direction of the Father.