Proverbs 4:20-22

Proverbs 4:20-22 "My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings. Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart. For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh."
East Aurora NY Church
Effective communicators know that repetition is essential for their audience to remember what is being communicated.  Public speakers know that they need to repeat their main message in slightly different ways throughout their speech in order to increase their odds of making a lasting impression on their listeners.  The best preachers are those who master the use of repetition.  Jesus Christ repeated many statements and stories over the course of His public ministry.  Paul the Apostle did the same in many of his epistles.

In the world of marketing, there is a well-known Rule of Seven that is used.  It states that a prospect needs to hear or see the advertiser’s message at least seven times before they’ll take action to buy that product.  This is why companies will replay or reprint the exact same advertisement for weeks and months.  Repetition is not a trick to get sales – it is a necessary approach to engage the human mind.  Our minds process a tremendous amount of information very quickly but they don’t retain everything that they process.  Our minds only retain the most memorable or the most reoccurring things that they process.
Because he was given wisdom above all others, Solomon surely knew the nature and tendencies of the human mind.  Because he was wise, he utilized repetition in his communication techniques.  For the sixth time in four chapters and for the third time in this chapter, Solomon reminds his son to listen to his father.  Solomon’s reoccurring counsel is not the result of rambling or obsession – it is the intentional result of making sure his son didn’t forget the importance of a parent’s counsel.
Nestled within this repeated instruction is a very important lesson.  In these verses, Solomon gave his son the path to success in life.  It started with RECEIVING a wise parent’s words in verse twenty.  Attend to my words.” Receiving a wise parent’s instruction requires an open ear and an open heart.  Success is highly unlikely if a young person has no ear for the sayings of his parent.  This is why I fear success will evade a generation of young people whose ears are closed to the words of parents primarily because their ears always seem plugged with ear buds.
If a young soul will receive his parents’ words, the path to success can continue then to RETAINING those words.  In verse twenty-one, Solomon tells his son to keep them in the midst of thine heart.”  Giving someone your attention is one thing – giving someone your retention is another thing altogether.  Many students give their teachers their attention in class but not nearly as many of them give their teachers their retention.  Remembering what someone says requires more than a listening ear to what is said – it requires a sincere care about what is said.  Spouses are especially guilty of listening without a care to what they’re hearing.  This is why husbands don’t remember what their wives told them two days ago.  To retain someone’s advice, we need more than an open ear – we need an open heart.  If we don’t care, our hearts won’t be engaged.  If our hearts aren’t opened, then nothing will be retained in the midst of them.

Thirdly and finally in these verses, Solomon gives his son the ultimate tool for success.  The son or daughter that receives and then retains a wise parent’s instruction will have put themselves in the best position for success later in life.  When a heart is full of wise parental instruction, it becomes an ever-present resource of wisdom in future time of need.  This is why Solomon wrote what he did in verse twenty-two when he wrote, “for they [parental words] are life unto those that find them.”  Success in life comes when a person REMEMBERS the wise words his father and mother once told him.  Wise parental instruction resurrected from the heart of a child’s upbringing can potentially save their life and be “health to their flesh.”  Wise parental sayings retained in the midst of a child’s heart can be remembered when life finally makes that saying understandable and applicable.  It is in that moment - not the moment it was received or retained - that that saying becomes so valuable.  What a young person didn’t receive, he can’t retain.  And what that young soul didn’t retain, he can’t remember.  Void of wise sayings, such a soul is destined for failure.

When a son is young, so much of his father’s instruction seems distant and inapplicable.  When a daughter is young, so many of her mother’s sayings seem outdated and irrelevant.  For most of us, it isn’t until we experience life on our own that we begin to appreciate our parent’s sayings.  To appreciate and more importantly, heed wise sayings when life comes calling, we need to have those wise sayings retained in the midst of our hearts.

The great lesson of this repetitive content is to retain as many wise sayings as possible so that there is something to remember when life makes sense of those sayings.  Don’t disregard wise sayings just because you don’t understand them.  Don’t ignore wise sayings just because they don’t seem relevant to your present stage in life. Create a file of wise sayings in your heart that you can consult when life takes you to new territory.  Put as much wise counsel in your heart as possible so that you have a wealth of wisdom to remember when life makes sense of that wisdom.  Receive and retain the words of the wise so that when you are old, you have something wise to remember - something that will keep you alive and well.

At younger ages, children can’t understand everything that they need to understand for what awaits them in life.  That being said, if they receive and retain the sayings of a wise parent, they will understand and ultimately, heed those sayings when they are older.  Surely, this is why Solomon wrote what he did later in the Book of Proverbs when he wrote, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and WHEN HE IS OLD, he will not depart from it” (22:6).  Wise sayings retained in the heart of a child are seeds that will produce life-changing and life-saving wisdom in the future.  In time, life will provide the conditions and nutrients to bring those wise sayings to fruit-bearing life.  

The same valuable lesson applies to the child of God.  The Bible is our Heavenly Father’s word – it possesses all of the wise sayings of God.  We need to receive with our ears and retain in our hearts as much of our Heavenly Father’s wise sayings as possibly.  Much of the time, we will not understand His wise sayings.  Much of the time, it will seem distant and irrelevant to our lives.  But in time, life will reveal the meaning of those sayings and make them undeniably relevant.
In the Gospels, the lives of the Disciples demonstrate the importance of retaining God’s word for a future time.  They definitely didn’t understand everything that Jesus Christ taught them and told them.  In fact, John 6:60 records followers of Christ saying of His preaching, “this is an hard saying, who can hear it?”  Even though the Disciples often found themselves scratching their heads and raising their eyebrows, they retained what they were told because they cared about their Savior’s words.  Many of the things they did not initially understand were remembered when life made them relevant.  Referring to Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem, John 12:15 says, “These things understood not his disciples at the first: but when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these things were written of him, and that they had done these things unto him.”  When preparing the Disciples for His absence, Christ said in John 16:4, “But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them.”  The Disciples and the ladies accompanying them didn’t understand Christ when He spoke of His resurrection until they were staring at two angels in an empty tomb.  Luke 24:8 tells us that it was there and then that “they remembered his words.”  The Holy Spirit was given to the Disciples to help them remember the words of Christ at the appropriate and necessary time.  Speaking of the Holy Spirit in John 14:26, Jesus told the Disciples, “he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” 

In time, life makes wise sayings of yesterday relevant and understandable.  Those wise sayings only become beneficial if they’ve been retained in the midst of one’s heart.  Therefore, let us hide the wise sayings of our parents in our hearts so that one day, they can be remembered and utilized.  More importantly, let us hide the wise sayings of our Heavenly Father so that one day, they too can be remembered and implemented.  In that day, we will discover that those wise sayings are life unto those of us that find them, and health to all our flesh.

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