Proverbs 4:1-4

Proverbs 4:1-4 "Hear, ye children, the instruction of a father, and attend to know understanding. For I give you good doctrine, forsake ye not my law. For I was my father's son, tender and only beloved in the sight of my mother. He taught me also, and said unto me, Let thine heart retain my words: keep my commandments, and live."
East Aurora NY Christian Church
For the first time in his Book of Proverbs, Solomon broadens his audience in chapter 4. Having used the phrase, “my son” seven times in three chapters, Solomon starts this chapter by addressing “ye children.”  Clearly, he wrote these proverbs with more than just his heir in mind.  The Book of Proverbs is a book that was primarily written for one child but intended to be read by all of the other children.  If the Book of Proverbs were an email, Rehoboam would be the main recipient while all of his brothers and sisters would be carbon copied.  In many ways, this is how the Bible was written by our Heavenly Father.  God has designed His living book of wisdom for us to be read as a personal letter from Him while all of His other sons and daughters are to read the same instruction.

When Solomon addresses the “children,” I don’t believe he is using that term loosely to refer to all of his unrelated readers or citizens.  This book is a very paternal book - a very personal book.  Furthermore, the passage clearly connects his family relationship as a son to his family relationship as a father.  Solomon wants his biological children to listen carefully to him as their father, not as their king.  He wants them to see him as something far more important than a legal or civil authority over them.  He wants them to view him as something more than their ruling monarch – he wants them to view him as their loving father.

Having growing up in a home where the father of the home was the king of the land, Solomon tries to relate to his children how he felt in their shoes.  David and Bathsheba successfully made Solomon feel like a son rather than a subject.  Even though he knew his parents were king and queen, he easily viewed them as father and mother.  As a result, their words remained very personal to the young Solomon.  In this passage, an older Solomon reminisces about his childhood and informs his children that the words he heard growing up were the words of a father teaching his son instead of the words of a king ordering his subject.  Solomon wanted his children to receive his words in the same manner.

The primary application of this passage for us today pertains to children having a respectful ear for their parents’ instruction.  Children need to see their parents as father and mother instead of seeing them as engineer and nurse or as mechanic and accountant.  Any good parent will tell you that they don’t see other children the same way they see their own children.  Any good parent will tell you that they don’t care nearly as much about other children as they do about their own children.  A good parent will treat their child far differently and far better than they will any other child.  This isn’t to say that a parent is to treat children not their own poorly.  A good parent understands that they have a general responsibility to care for all children but that general responsibility doesn’t compare to the massive responsibility they have to the child or children they brought into this world.
Solomon wanted his children to understand that their father was more than a king to them – he was their father.  His responsibility to his sons and daughters was much higher than his responsibility to his subjects and citizens.  Young children rarely understand this parental dynamic until they have children of their own but Solomon wisely tried to help his kids grasp his very personal relationship to them.  What he told them, he didn’t tell everyone.  How he felt about them, he didn’t feel about everyone.  To him, they were special and for that reason, they received special instruction.
The secondary application of this passage for us today pertains to fathers.  Fathers reading these verses should take note of Solomon’s counsel for his kids to “hear the instruction of A FATHER.”  When choosing to address his children for the first time in the book, Solomon didn’t tell his kids to “hear the instruction of a father and a mother.”  This passage doesn’t disregard the teaching responsibilities of a mother nor does it minimize the teaching value of a mother but it clearly emphasizes the teaching responsibilities of a father.  These verses highlight the responsibility a father has to teach his children.  In verse two, Solomon wrote that he was doing his duty as a father in giving them “good doctrine.”  In verse four, he then wrote that his father did his duty as he “taught him also.”  There are plenty of places in the Book of Proverbs as well as in the rest of the Bible that teach mothers also have a responsibility to teach their children but the Bible puts that important responsibility first on fathers.

The Bible doesn’t elevate a father’s teaching ability over a mother’s teaching ability nor does it elevate a father’s effectiveness over a mother’s effectiveness.  The Bible does however, elevate a father’s responsibility to teach his children over a mother’s responsibility.  In Joshua 4, the Israelites were about to cross the Jordan River and finally enter the Promised Land after decades of wandering in the wilderness.  Before they crossed the Jordan, God told them to take twelve stones out of the Jordan River and set them on land for a monument of God’s miraculous drying of the Jordan.  When explaining the monument’s purpose for future generations, the natural responsibility falling on the shoulders of fathers is clearly implied by Joshua when he said on two occasions, “When your children ask their FATHERS in time to come, saying, What mean these stones?” (Joshua 4:6,21).  In Ephesians 6:4, the emphasis on teaching is again placed on fathers when Paul wrote, FATHERS, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”

This passage is an excellent reminder to all fathers that providing food, clothes and shelter is not the only nor is it the most important responsibility of a father.  Providing instruction, counsel and wisdom is the most important responsibility of a father.  Sadly, many fathers have opted out of this responsibility wrongly assuming that their wives are responsible for teaching the children.  Instead of getting answers and instruction from their fathers, many sons and daughters are unfortunately used to hearing, “go ask your mother.” 
Biblically-speaking, fathers are to be the primary teachers, counselors and advisors in the home.  To fulfill that Biblical role, fathers need to possess wisdom and knowledge to share.  Solomon told his children that he gives them “good doctrine.”  DADS, do you know “good doctrine” so you can teach “good doctrine” to your children?  Are you with your children enough to give them “good doctrine?”  Most importantly, do you realize that you have a RESPONSIBILITY to TEACH your children “good doctrine?”

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