Proverbs 4:1-19

Proverbs 4:1‑19  •  5 min. read  •  grade level: 7
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Much depends on the way in which instruction is given. We see its perfection in the great Teacher as depicted opening His mission in the synagogue at Nazareth (Luke 4:16-2216And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. 17And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, 18The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, 19To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. 20And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears. 22And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth. And they said, Is not this Joseph's son? (Luke 4:16‑22)). There He had been brought up, and there He read a prophecy which beyond doubt applied to Him alone, as soon appeared; and all bore Him witness and wondered at the words of grace which proceeded out of His mouth. Alas! they clashed with the will of man, and roused implacable anger, which showed itself even then murderously. But wisdom is justified of her children, whatever self-will may do or say. Let us then pursue the scripture before us.
“Hear, ye sons, the instruction of a father, and attend to know understanding; for I give you good doctrine: forsake ye not my law. For I was a son to my father, tender and an only one in the sight of my mother. And he taught me and said to me—Let thy heart retain my words; keep my commandments and live. Get wisdom, get understanding; forget not neither decline from the words of my mouth. Forsake her not, and she shall keep thee; love her, and she shall preserve thee. The beginning of wisdom [is], Get wisdom; and with all thy getting get understanding. Exalt her, and she shall promote thee; she shall bring thee to honor, when thou dost embrace her. She shall give to thy head a garland of grace; a crown of glory shall she deliver to thee” (vers. 1-9).
The form chosen is that of a father, not of a legislator. It is not therefore even a catechism of the “ten words,” but parental instruction; and attention is called in order to intelligence or discernment. The same Spirit Who took His part in creation, Who gave skill for the glory of Jehovah, Who wrought in all that was good and great and holy, would here engage the young heart to hear. For He assuredly has good doctrine to give, and would guard against forsaking His law or teaching. The instrument employed can speak of the loving care bestowed on his own early days, when he was “a son to his-father, tender and only beloved in the sight of his mother.” The affections are thus recalled to awaken the new duties. It was not only that the teacher had himself been taught, but that he who did so appealed touchingly. “Let thy heart retain my words; keep my commandments and live.”
It is not language or letters or science, but that education of which the fear of Jehovah is the foundation. It supposes neither a state of innocence, such as once was, nor a prohibitory test when fallen man thought himself quite able to do all that Jehovah spoke against the evil he was prone to. Mercy, divine mercy, deigned to supply what neither the individual nor the race possessed. It is true that man has a conscience; he knows good and evil, but only as a sinful creature, the good that he would not doing, but doing the evil that he would not: a truly miserable state, from which redemption alone furnishes an adequate deliverance in the power of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.
This deliverance, we all recognize, is not the subject handled here, but the instruction that is addressed to subject hearts, like the rest of the O. T., within the ancient people of God. But now it is for the Christian to profit by it to the uttermost; for “all things are ours.” The book does not give the exalted Head nor the heavenly glory we are to share with Him as members of His body, nor the duties which flow from that relationship; but it does reveal divine wisdom for a saint here below, first in general moral principles (1-9), then in the greatest affluence of details to chapter 29, with a fitting close in chapters 30, 31.
Thus the exhortation is, “Get wisdom, get understanding; forget not, neither decline from the words of my mouth.” Obedience, heart-obedience, is sought. Could Jehovah be content with anything short of it? Could one of His people desire otherwise? Undoubtedly self-will is the great and constant hindrance; and the enemy would excite it, and shut out God by the objects without and the passions within. All the deeper is the need of instruction, and in the varied way just indicated, which divine goodness here supplies. Here we have a father's authority urged, and the responsibility of sons claimed. This was always true for man here below, as the law long after recognized; and it holds good now that we are no longer under the child-guide.
They were not to forsake wisdom, which has preservative power to “love her, and she shall keep thee.” The beginning of wisdom, as we are forcibly told, is to “get wisdom, and with all thy getting get understanding.” Those who are of God pass through a world of evil and need wisdom from above to keep them; for it is a wilderness where is no way, save that which grace provides for faith. Suffering there will be for Christ's sake as well as for righteousness; but “exalt her [not self], and she shall promote thee; she shall bring thee to honor when thou dost embrace her, she shall give to thy head a garland of grace: a crown of glory shall she deliver to thee.” How sure will all this be in due time! David in his earlier days was a fine example. He went at his father's bidding in no pride or naughtiness of heart, and as he exalted wisdom in the fear of Jehovah, so was he promoted, and, embracing her, was brought to honor. He behaved himself wisely, so that his enemy was compelled to own him blessed-that he should both do great things and still prevail. Yet was he tried beyond most.