Articles

Christian Education Devotionals (98)

These devotionals were originally written by Hope PR Christian School (Walker, MI) teacher Brian D. Dykstra for his fellow teachers. They are posted here for their broader significance and for broader use by Christian parents and other Christian school teachers.

Hear, O My Son

Hear, O My Son

Brian D. Dykstra, teacher at Hope PR Christian School in Walker, mI.

Proverbs 4:10: “Hear, O my son, and receive my sayings; and the years of thy life shall be many.”

As Solomon continues his instruction about the benefits of wisdom, he is very concerned about his audience. He is speaking to his son, a deeply personal relationship. Solomon is not addressing a steward in his household. He is not seeking to increase the productivity of his land by passing on some agricultural insight to a husbandman. Neither is Solomon speaking to a neighbour or friend. Although these relationships can be deep, long-lasting and greatly treasured, each will soon go his own way and live a separate life.

Solomon speaks to his son, one of the closest relationships God has created, a parent to his child. Also, Solomon does not speak here to his sons as a group. This is a one on one conversation, intimate. While the son is under his father’s roof, their lives share many things. They share a great many details in their lives and relationships. A father is responsible to give his son a start in life, not just in making a living, to pay the bills; but a godly father points to the way of developing a covenant relationship with his Father in heaven.

Solomon commands his son to hear. This is already the fourth time this word has been used in Proverbs. Solomon has used synonyms as well on a few other occasions. As teachers, we are painfully aware of the different levels of hearing. There are days when our words appear to go in one ear of students and out the other. When a class is large and talkative, we can feel our presence in the classroom is not all that effective. Perhaps all the students need is a recorded message, repeated every few minutes, telling them to calm down, be quiet and concentrate on their work. That behaviour is not really hearing.

God chose the word “hear” for Solomon to use because of its implications. The hearer is intelligently engaged in the conversation. This instruction is one-on-one, not one-on-twenty-five as is often the case in a classroom where, understandably, a child’s attention can wander. Solomon has the attention of his son. As Solomon speaks to his son, they can look each other in the eye. Solomon also expects obedience from his son. His son will hear, attentively and intelligently, and then will obey.

Once the son hears the instruction, he must receive it. Solomon is not pleading with his son. He isn’t making an offer to his son, an offer which his son can take or refuse according to his whim. Solomon commands his son to receive his sayings, to take it in, in the same way we receive nourishment from good food. It is in us. It becomes part of us. It sustains us. This is Solomon’s goal for the instruction he gives.

Solomon commands his son to hear and receive his sayings. This is a broad term and can include many things. However, what has Solomon been talking about so far in Proverbs? Solomon was quite wealthy. Many people would like to have Solomon teach them about wise investing and how to make money. However, Proverbs does not pass along get-rich-quick schemes. Nor is Solomon instructing his son in posturing, how to show bravado so as not to be taken advantage of by others. We have not read about how to make sure one is not getting the short end of the stick in some deal.

Solomon gives his son the instruction he needs to view the world properly. The world is a dangerous place, filled with temptations for a young man. His son needs discretion to know good from evil. The son needs to see the ultimate end of temptation. Sin appears good. Satan deceitfully presents his way of evil as a path filled with excitement and pleasure. Solomon shows his son the real end of temptation and sin; and it is not pleasant.

Solomon’s sayings have been pointing out to his son the fear of the Lord. Jehovah is Lord. It is His right to give commandments which He demands be obeyed. The Lord has the right to tell how to behave in the various relationships in life. The Lord decrees what has true value and what will last. The son must fear Him who rules over every aspect of life. The son must know the world seeks to turn us away from God and join them in their way of sin. The world demands the son will fear public opinion and the derision they display for those who strive to lead a godly life.

Solomon has a promised benefit for his son for hearing and receiving his sayings. He speaks of a life of many years. This cannot refer to a long earthly life. Although God has given many of His saints long life, a life with many joyful days, and we can desire that God allows us to live out what we believe to be our full allotment of years, such is not always how life unfolds. We know of wicked people who have lived for many years and have enjoyed more than they could have wished. At the other end of the spectrum of life, we are sadly aware that those who love God do not always have long lives. In the summer of 2015, our denomination witnessed that God may take an eight-year-old son or a thirty-year-old father. God’s will is done.

This life of many years is found in heaven. God ultimately fulfils His promises there. There our lives will increase to the full measure of God’s blessing and fellowship. God’s people will not scarcely scrape by in heaven, carefully parcelling out meagre rations. We will not worry about having enough to see us through periods of want. God has heaped heavenly blessings and riches for His elect.

May God work by His Spirit in the hearts of His children so they hear and receive His truth, a truth which will give them a life of everlasting years in the risen and exalted Christ.

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Wisdom's Crown

Wisdom’s Crown

Brian D. Dykstra, teacher at Hope PRCS in Walker, MI

Proverbs 4:9: “She shall give to thine head an ornament of grace: a crown of glory shall she deliver to thee.”

So far in Proverbs 4, Solomon has addressed his listeners as children and referred to himself as their father. He wrote of the goodness of his doctrine and that his children are not to forsake his law. He reminded them that the instruction he is giving them is the same as that which he received when he was a child.

Solomon then spoke of wisdom and understanding. In an interesting shift, Solomon then began to speak of wisdom as a woman who is not to be forsaken because she is far too valuable. Those who exalt and embrace her, she will promote and honour.

In this verse, God gives us a promise. The Authorized Version uses the word “shall” two times in this verse. Years ago more people understood there was a difference in meaning between “will” and “shall.” “Will” was used to express something which you hoped. If you said you “will” do something, you admitted that, life being what it is, what you said you would do, you might not be able to do after all. “Shall” was used to express the coming of something certain. We will do this or that, but unforeseen circumstances could change that. However, the sun shall set in the west. We are certain that’s going to happen.

Wisdom has two things she shall give and deliver to us: an ornament of grace and a crown of glory. Ornaments and crowns are not numbered among the necessities of life. We would be interested in the gold, perhaps. Maybe you have heard radio ads talking about how gold is a great investment and a way to protect yourself from some coming social or financial upheaval. Yet when disasters strike, who is in great demand? The people with the gold? Is that where the long lines form? People have a great need for gold in emergencies? No, it is the people who have generators, gasoline for the generators, water and storable food who are in demand.

The value of the ornament and the crown, then, is in what they represent. What is this ornament for the head? Could it be a necklace, earrings or, which was part of the culture in those days, a nose ring? This ornament is a decoration but the word has a verb as its root. The verb refers to twisting or twining things together in order to make them one object. This suggests that this ornament is a wreath. People make wreaths by twisting plant material together.

Wreaths were the rewards of victory. Victors in athletic contests were given wreaths. Did the Jews in biblical times have the same use for wreaths? Athletes earn their victories through careful preparation and exercise. They work hard to earn the victories they achieve. Yes, sometimes victory comes by way of a break along the way but they were ready to take advantage of the break. The athlete had won the contest and could now display the symbol of his achievement.

Wisdom gives us this ornament of grace. It is a wreath of victory but we had better not forget this is not an ornament of works. Wisdom does not reward us for our work. We have the victory but the victory is ours by grace alone. Wisdom gives us this ornament as a gift. We are not given this ornament because we have striven for it. It is not ours because we have expressed more interest in it than have others. It is of grace alone.

Wisdom also delivers us a crown. Deliver often means to be snatched away from trouble. Here it means to hand something over safely. Someone had the task of bringing an item to someone else and he has done so. Again, we did not do any work for this crown. Wisdom delivers to us this crown as a gift of grace. We will not, as a popular hymn states, “Cling to the old rugged cross, and exchange it some day for a crown.” What! The last great step of salvation is something I do myself? I am just at the threshold of heaven, and now there is something I must do? To obtain this crown of glory must I perform an act, an exchange? Salvation’s final step, obtaining the crown of glory, comes down to my work of making a change? No, wisdom safely and graciously delivers the crown of glory to us, God’s elect.

Kings and queens wear crowns. Royalty rule over earthly kingdoms, often in great, yet transient, splendour. However, we, the poor in spirit, shall rule! By wisdom we do not have our hearts set on some earthly kingdom. We know how long this earth will last. All of this creation will pass away, perhaps soon. When the chess game is done, the exalted king and queen, and the lowly pawns are all returned to the same box together. What good is a crown in the grave? Possessing the true wisdom of God’s Word, we look forward to the kingship of all believers. All the elect will wear crowns of glory as we rule with Christ in His perfect, heavenly kingdom. This crown is not vain but has true, enduring value.

That is the wisdom we hope God uses our churches, homes and schools to give to our children.

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A Living Testimony

A Living Testimony

Brian D. Dykstra

Psalm 119:63: “I am a companion of all them that fear thee, and of them that keep thy precepts.”

God created man as a social being. Each of us needs to experience that there is a place where we belong. Also, though God saves each individual who belongs to Him, we are not delivered in different individual ways but in the one way of the cross as those who belong to the body of Christ.

We are, however, social to different degrees. Some saints move comfortably only within a small circle of people. Then there are those who are similar to a dear friend of mine. He loves plenty of companionship and conversation. When he was faced with the reality of a 2200-mile solitary drive, he realized this would be a punishment for him. He began to call his friends to find one who would fly out to meet him, then ride/drive with him. I went. We soon settled into a routine for the expedition. When he drove, I would listen; when I drove, he would sleep. We, and the friendship, survived the trek.

In the church, this companionship is expressed as the communion of the saints. This is the fellowship of the living body of Christ. The communion of the saints, fellowship with other believers, is one of the purposes of our school. We desire our children to have godly companions.

We do not expect all of the students to have all of the other students as their best friends. There are differences of personalities and interests. Getting along and showing kindness are the best we can expect in some cases.

Still, we need to remember that we truly are companions for one another. A companion is one who goes along with another. We share in what another is doing. There is a fundamental agreement among us which we must express; not only in words but also in deeds. Each of us, according to the plan God has ordained, is walking the path of faith. God has the same final destination for all His saints. We must remember an important element of this path which we share with our companions. The path is marked by grace. None of us are on this path because of our own choosing or deserving. None of us deserves to be on this path which leads to such a beautiful end.

Psalm 119:63 tells us who our companions are. The word “all” is used. The condition of much of the church world today would lead many to stop the definition of our companions right there. The ecumenical movement once sought to have all those who walked under any banner of Christianity unite and join in brotherhood. Now, there are those who would have us believe our companions on the path to glory also include Muslims, Buddhists and anyone who bows to anything!

Our companions on this path have traits which allow us to recognize them. We are companions to those that “fear thee,” Jehovah. Fearing any god of one’s choosing will not do for a foundation of true godly companionship. We must be companions of all those who fear God. All on the path share the realization of what God has done for us. We fear to offend this merciful God who has so graciously delivered us from our sins.

Do we see someone who fears the Lord? Then we are a companion to them. We must not be willing to be companions only to the popular, sociable, physically attractive or talented. It is very well possible that there are fellow saints with whom it seems the only thing we have in common is the grace which delivers us from our sins.

Showing companionship is easier when we remember what we are: sinners saved by grace. There are not two paths to heaven, one of grace and one of works. We may not say, “Well, that brother is good enough to be saved by his works, but that other one? He is definitely saved only by grace. I do not share the same experience of salvation with him!” We are saved in the same gracious way, from the same deserved fate and to the same awaited glory.

When we live as companions to each other, we will give a powerful testimony to the world. Hope School’s Constitution (Article II, 4) mentions this under its purpose statement. “This school shall be a living testimony by word and deed in this community whereby all students and teachers demonstrate that the Kingdom of God comes first in their lives.” A little later we read, “We actively seek out and help those in need, as what we do for others is the same as doing it for God Himself.”

May God dwell in us by His Spirit so we and our children experience the encouragement we need as we walk as companions on the path which leads to glory in Jesus Christ.

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Back in the Trenches

Back in the Trenches

Brian D. Dykstra, teacher at Hope PRCS in Walker, MI

Psalm 28:7: “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him.”

Unless I have lost track, which is a possibility, the first Song-of-the-Week for the new school year comes from Psalm 28. This Psalm serves to remind us of the purpose of our schools.

Many of the Psalms have a military (or militant) theme which is not surprising when we recall David’s life. We know of David’s conflict with Saul, his fighting against Saul’s house after Saul’s death, his warfare against the Philistines and the rebellion of Absalom. However, we sometimes overlook David’s struggles when he watched his father’s sheep. Being a shepherd was not always a peaceful job where one could sit in a pasture and constantly count sheep. Before going out to meet the defiant challenge of Goliath, David recalled his killing a lion and a bear to protect the sheep. Militant Psalms are consistent with David’s life. In the age of forsaking truth for the sake of worldwide religious unity, such militant Psalms are not popular.

We and our children need to remember that we are part of the church militant. At school, our children do not always treat each other as they should. Harsh words are spoken and echoed. Angry looks are given and returned. As adults, we sometimes have disagreements about decisions relating to school policy. We do not expect total agreement all the time and brotherly disagreements are not bad. Yet, we must be careful that our children do not have the impression that we are the church militant because we fight, instead of disagree, among ourselves. We are a militant church because we fight against sin, evil and temptation.

In Psalm 28:1, David says that God is his rock. Rock sometimes refers to a natural shelter from storms, but it also refers to a sharp, natural formation which could be used as a fort. If other men had the success in battle which David had, they might have boasted of their own strength or ability to take care of themselves. David knew and confessed God to be his rock.

As a spiritual soldier, David also prays against his enemies by asking God to “Give them according to their deeds, and according to the wickedness of their endeavours” (v. 4). Yet, David is careful in the definition of his enemies. He does not ask God to punish all of those unclean, uncircumcised Gentiles. Some of his countrymen might have agreed with such a prayer. By his own experience, David knew some Gentiles who served God as he did. His personal body guard, the Cherethites, Pelethites and Gittites were Philistines. Were all these Gentiles loyal to David only because they could share in the spoils of his military accomplishments or did some, or perhaps many, love David because of a shared love for Israel’s God? In verses three and five, David defines his enemies as those who are deceitful and do not regard the works of the Lord.

We, as members of the church militant, also need to recognize the enemy. David did not use a broad brush and paint all Gentiles as his enemies, nor did he assume all Israelites were loyal to him. As soldiers, we require spiritual discretion to recognize those who are true spiritual enemies.

Spiritual soldiers also need strongholds and shields. My concordance tells me that the word “strength” in verse seven is sometimes translated as stronghold (Nahum 1:7). We need a place where we can keep our weapons at hand and sharpened for battle. We can meet there with fellow soldiers to defend ourselves or go out in strength to meet the enemy.

Would anyone care to go to a biblical era battlefield without a shield? Battlefields are not friendly places. David knew better than to propose to meet the enemy with a “group hug” to dispel all feelings of animosity. David’s second proposal would not have been to meet in conference with the enemy’s king to find “common ground” between Jehovah and the enemy’s idols. Our spiritual enemies do not have our well being in mind. They may say they have the good of all mankind at heart, if we were only to join them, but they are deceitful. The world tolerates sin and blasphemy in many forms, but it will not tolerate the truth as was evidenced by the world’s and the false church’s reaction when the Truth came in our flesh. We had better have the shield of faith as given by God because there are sure to be hostilities in our spiritual warfare.

Let’s rededicate ourselves to the support of our schools as members of the church militant. God will bless our efforts when performed in faith and in obedience to His command. What success as soldiers could any of us have if we were to rely on our own ability, strength or natural discretion? May God use the instruction given in our schools so our children confess God to be their rock, strength and shield. May our lives be a song of praise to Him.

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Light

Light

Brian D. Dykstra, a teacher at Hope PRCS in Walker, MI

Psalm 119:130: “The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding to the simple.”

In fifth grade, we have just finished our study of astronomy. When we studied the moon and the planets, students could understand how scientists know of what those heavenly bodies are made. Astronauts and various space probes have gone to the moon returning with rocks and soil. These samples have then been examined in laboratories. Other probes have been sent to all the planets except Pluto.

Yet, students often wonder how scientists know so much about the stars. No probes have ever gone to the sun and certainly we have not gone anywhere near any other star. How, then, do we know so much about them? In fact, there was a time in the twentieth century when astronomers knew more about stars than the other planets of the solar system! Scientists were able to gain knowledge about stars by studying the light which comes from them.

The tool astronomers use to study starlight is the spectroscope. Spectroscopes might have changed since my source of information was published in 1978. The spectroscope takes starlight and spreads it out into a spectrum. The most familiar example of a spectrum is the rainbow. In a spectroscope, first, the light is passed through a narrow slit, generally less than 1/500 inch in width, and then through a prism or series of prisms. The resulting spectrum may be directed into an eye-lens for actual viewing or projected onto a photographic plate.

Rather than seeing a continuous band of color, as in the rainbow, the spectroscope revealed bands, either dark or light, with the colours of the rainbow as a backdrop. Scientists then learned that these lines were as fingerprints. Each element, such as hydrogen, helium, oxygen, carbon, etc., when heated enough produces its own peculiar pattern of lines. By examining the lines in the spectra of stars, scientists were able to determine what elements were in stars.

This information was used to determine many things about stars. By studying starlight, astronomers could determine the temperature of stars. They learned that the cooler stars were red, while the hotter stars were blue. The light could also be used to find the distance to the stars. Light entering a spectroscope can reveal much about stars.

The verse at the top of this page speaks of a different light. This is the light of truth by which we can discern the difference between what God says is right and what He says is wrong.

I always find it interesting that in Acts, where we read of the work of missions, and here in this verse, there is no room for the “free will” of man. We read that God’s Word enters. We do not read that we must “accept” the light, nor do we read that we “choose” the light. Those two words, so valued and used by today’s “evangelists,” are conspicuously absent.

Instead, we are reminded of the sovereignty of God. When He is so pleased, His Light will enter the hearts of His people. The Almighty does not wait until we give Him permission.

In our day and age, it must also be noted that the Word in this verse is exclusively Jehovah’s. We are not speaking of Allah’s word or the word of the Hindu god. Those gods have no true word to enter men’s hearts. The word of such gods cannot give knowledge in the ways which please God. Nor do such words instruct in the only way of salvation, the cross of the only Son of God.

How much do the spectra reveal to us about stars? I cannot recognize one pattern of lines from another. They tell me nothing. What of the entering of God’s light? It gives understanding to the simple. Even the smallest of our children, as they learn Bible stories and the Ten Commandments, become able to discern between what is pleasing to God and what is not.

Scientists have gained much knowledge of the stars. Yet, because for so many there is no faith in their hearts, although they are very intelligent, they have no understanding of things spiritual. The evolutionist will not get down on his knees before the God of creation who makes Himself so evident in His handiwork. We, the simple, however, can be found daily at the foot of the cross beseeching God to be merciful to us and blot out our sins in Christ’s blood.

Yes, the spectroscope can use physical light to give knowledge of the heavens. How much better is the light of the Word which will lead us and our covenant children to the experience of heaven!

As Charles Spurgeon says in his commentary of this verse, “Oh, that Thy words, like the beams of the sun, may enter through the window of my understanding and dispel the darkness of my mind!” May our gracious God make it so by His grace for all His children.

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Delivered from the Evil Man's Path

Delivered From the Evil Man’s Path

Brian D. Dykstra, Teacher at Hope PR Christian School, Walker, MI

Proverbs 2:12-15: “To deliver thee from the way of the evil man, from the man that speaketh froward things; (13) Who leave the paths of uprightness, to walk in the ways of darkness; (14) Who rejoice to do evil, and delight in the frowardness of the wicked; (15) Whose ways are crooked, and they froward in their paths.”

In Proverbs 2:10-19, Solomon instructs us from what sinful ways true wisdom will preserve us. In these four verses, we are told from what type of man wisdom will keep us.

Verse twelve says God’s wisdom will prevent us from joining the wicked in his customary manner of living, his “way.” Evil living has become this man’s habit. This way has been walked so often by him and by others similar in heart that it can be easily distinguished from the surrounding terrain. The same ground has been travelled by countless feet so that either nothing green grows there or the earth there is packed hard. We are also told here that the man who walks this path can be recognized by his speech. His speech is described as being froward, that is, proud and disobedient. He does not care to follow God’s good law and defies God to do anything about it. Either he feels there will be no consequences for his sin or he does not care what those consequences might be.

My Bible commentary mentions that in verse thirteen the subject “who” is now plural. This wicked man now has companions. They have left the paths of uprightness. They appear to have known the way that was right and just before God but they forsook that way. Perhaps they were brought up in homes which had God-fearing parents but the way of sin was far more appealing to them. The works of darkness became more appealing to the flesh. There was no longer any benefit for avoiding the path of the wicked. The ways of darkness had more to offer them.

This temptation to leave the paths of uprightness has not diminished. We are, to varying degrees, social creatures. It can become difficult to walk the godly way when that way appears to be so solitary at times and ridiculed by so many. The wicked seem to have plenty of companionship and enjoy life. They are not sitting around with long faces as they contemplate their ultimate fate. They look happy. They have good times with their friends. They laugh and live care-free. Occasionally, the truth that the way of the evil man is darkness is not recognized by us. The well-watered plain of Jordan, the area of Sodom and Gomorrah, had something to offer Lot. Jacob’s daughter Dinah kept company with the people of Canaan. There is a real temptation for our young people to do what it takes to be financially successful or socially acceptable.

The wicked also rejoice to do evil, according to verse fourteen. That can appear shocking to us. How often don’t we feel sorrow and shame because our thoughts and desires are sinful! How quickly something hurtful to say can spring into our hearts, even if it does not bubble from our mouths! How dreadful it would be if others were able to read every thought we have in our minds! We see the darkness of our nature and are driven to our knees to ask forgiveness. Yet the wicked not only think such things; they actually do them. Then, when they do these things, they show no effect of guilt or shame. They are happy! They live care-free, and their only concern in life is how to satisfy their next sinful desire.

Young people might wonder about what point there is to the godly life. Why do we have to deal with all that guilt? Why go through life with a long face when the world seems to provide such happiness? Only godly wisdom can reveal to us the end of rejoicing to do evil.

These evil men also delight in the frowardness of the wicked. I have read the word translated here as froward is sometimes translated “perverse.” That certainly speaks of our time. Hollywood and our popular culture like to “push the envelope” of what is portrayed in entertainment or what is thought of as being funny. Entertainers who make the most money are often those who dare to say and do what others have not dared to say or do as yet. While there are some in our nation who bemoan the condition of our popular culture, their voices are easily drowned out by many others insisting on their First Amendment rights to sin. We can see how much our society delights in what is perverse by how profitable such enterprises are.

Verse fifteen states that the ways of the wicked are crooked and they are proud of it. They will say that what is good is evil and that which is evil is good. They have convinced themselves that God will do neither good nor evil to them. They are like carnal Israel which grew ripe for the judgment of God. The wicked believe their way is pleasant because its very crookedness prevents them from seeing the certain destruction which lies at its end.

As teachers and parents, we must warn our students and children about the way of the evil man. That way is appealing to our flesh. May God be pleased to use the instruction of this school and the homes represented here to cause His wisdom to enter the hearts of His people. Only He can preserve us in the straight way which leads to fellowship with Him in Jesus Christ.

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Wisdom, the Principal Thing

Wisdom, the Principal Thing

Brian D. Dykstra, Teacher at Hope PR Christian School, Walker, MI

Proverbs 4:7-8: “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding. Exalt her, and she shall promote thee: she shall bring thee to honour, when thou dost embrace her. She shall give to thine head an ornament of grace: a crown of glory shall she deliver to thee.”

In this section of Proverbs 4, Solomon continues to tell us the instruction his father David had given to him. Solomon took this instruction to heart and faithfully passes it on to us.

Solomon gives us an important truth: wisdom is the principal thing. Wisdom is the ability to tell the difference between what is good and what is evil. This is not good and evil in the sight of man. We know how that can change. Some of us have been around for awhile and have seen how social mores have devolved. What used to be generally deplored and thought shameful, even by the world, is now openly paraded and thought to be something of which one may and should be proud. This is good and evil as defined by God in His Word. This is the standard which does not change. Wisdom gives us the ability to see how God’s Word applies to every area of life.

The wisdom which comes from God is the principal thing. Wisdom is the beginning of, and the most important thing in, life. It comes first in the order of things which David told Solomon he must acquire. David knew Solomon would rule after him. Yet, David did not say that it would be most important for Solomon to keep a close eye on his enemies. He did not point out the importance of knowing how to wield power so nobody would dare threaten his position on Israel’s throne. David, because he had contemplated God’s law during his years of service as a shepherd, and now because he had ruled God’s people for a number of years, came to realize that wisdom was what was most important in life.

The next command from David would seem to be obvious. If wisdom is that important so as to be the chief thing in life, Solomon had better get it. This implies effort on Solomon’s part. When one gets something, obtains it for his or her own possession; it was not a gift. You went out into society and used your skills or knowledge to work for what you wanted. Wisdom does not come through a passive life of sitting back and being entertained or being constantly connected to the internet or social media. In our digital and electronic age, the world is putting up a constant babble leaving us little room for quietly contemplating spiritual matters. Getting wisdom takes the work of closing out the world and its distractions for a time, and putting the effort into personal meditation on God’s Word. That is how we get wisdom.

David did not want Solomon to stop with getting wisdom. He had to progress to the next step, getting understanding. Just a few verses previous, wisdom and understanding were referred to with a singular pronoun as though they were one and the same. This time, however, wisdom and understanding are not the same idea. Understanding included the idea of using one’s experiences in life. Understanding is the application of wisdom and life’s experiences so one practices discernment in the wide variety of situations in which we can find ourselves in life.

Solomon followed David’s advice. We are very familiar with the story recorded in I Kings 3. God appeared to Solomon to ask him what he desired. He asked for wisdom. What percentage of people would give the same answer if presented with such an opportunity?

We also have the example of Mary in Luke 10. Martha received Jesus into her house and became very busy in meeting the needs of her guests. Mary did not lift a finger to help, much to the annoyance of Martha. After asking Christ to ask Mary to give some help, the Lord pointed out that Mary chose what was better, listening to His instruction. Mary viewed Christ’s instruction as the principal thing.

David also commanded Solomon to exalt wisdom. We are to set wisdom up to a higher elevation. We look up to wisdom because of its value. We see wisdom’s superior character.

There are results for viewing wisdom as the principal thing, getting wisdom and understanding, and exalting her. We are promoted. We will be advanced, put above to a higher spiritual level. Wisdom also brings honour when she is embraced. We will hold wisdom tight so we will not let her go. We have affection for wisdom for we see how valuable she is to our life. Wisdom gives substance to our lives so we do not walk in the vanities of this world. Wisdom gives us a beautiful decoration of grace and a crown of glory.

Is this our nature, to believe that wisdom is the principal thing? No. We would foolishly join the world in their vanity, seeking pleasure in things the world has to offer, and, in the end, finding that the world’s goods have no lasting value. By God’s grace in Jesus Christ, we have new hearts so that we will see God’s wisdom as the principal thing.

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Forsake Not Wisdom

Forsake Not Wisdom

Brian D. Dykstra, Teacher at Hope PR Christian School, Walker, MI

Proverbs 4:6: “Forsake her not, and she shall preserve thee: love her, and she shall keep thee.”

In Proverbs four, Solomon relates to us the instruction his father David gave him. David gave Solomon good doctrine and instruction in God’s law. David continued to show Solomon the great value of wisdom by telling his son to keep his words in his heart.

In verse six, David speaks to Solomon as though Solomon could have a personal relationship with wisdom. David presents wisdom to Solomon as a woman who would provide great benefits in his life by keeping her close at hand observing her instruction.

Again, this is not biographical, background information on David and Solomon. We do not study Proverbs to obtain a better understanding of these two important characters in the history of Israel. We are not probing their personalities to see “what made them tick.” The book of Proverbs is God’s Word to us to instruct us on how to make our way in this fallen world.

Now that we have reached chapter four in Proverbs, we can notice the repetitive nature of the instruction God gives His children. We have been told several times already about the importance of listening to God’s Word. We have been told in several different ways about the necessity of wisdom and that we should cleave to her as though our lives depend on it.

Repetition is a scriptural method of teaching. God gave the law to Israel in Sinai. Later Moses repeated it to them before his death. When we read the Old Testament prophets, we notice that much of what they said was a warning about idolatry, its terrible consequences and the blessings awaiting those who turned from such sin. We should not be surprised that God teaches us the same lessons over and over in our lives. God’s instruction is necessarily repetitive.

God gives us two commands in this verse which are then followed by two benefits for doing as we are told.

God commands us not to forsake this woman, wisdom. It is assumed that we have a relationship with wisdom already. One cannot forsake another if there does not exist a relationship. We cannot forsake complete strangers. We know wisdom. Those who grow up in the sphere of the covenant and were blessed with dedicated godly parents were taught God’s wisdom from the time we were very young. This lifetime of instruction should infuse us with an appreciation of how good wisdom is. We can see the horrible results in modern society of walking in the foolish way of sin. Countless families and lives are being ruined every day and society suffers for it, although they will never admit the root cause of such suffering: living in the foolishness of one’s own wicked ways. They have forsaken God’s wisdom.

We must not renounce what we have been taught or turn away from it. There are many times in life when going against what God says might seem to benefit us. We are tempted to take advantage of one another. We could seek ourselves first. Forsaking Jehovah’s ways appeals to our sinful flesh. Just for once, why can’t I just cast off the bindings of God’s penetrating law, which covers every aspect of my life, so that I can live a little and have a good time just like everyone else. Why must I live my life in this narrow, fusty, dull-grey fashion? Why can’t I just cut loose and live a little for once?

Why not forsake wisdom? God says wisdom will preserve us. Shepherds would preserve and keep their sheep by building a sheepcote, a hedge where the sheep would be safe through the night. Wisdom guards and protects us just as though we are surrounded by a thorny hedge through which the wolves cannot pass. Wisdom keeps her eye on us. She will not allow us the freedom to experience the liberty of spending the night outside the hedge where the wolves of sin wait for prey. Wisdom protects us from the effects of our own fallen, depraved nature so we do not lose the consciousness of our covenant life with God.

We must love wisdom. We must have a deeper affection for wisdom than just a casual friendship. We must find wisdom attractive because we admire her. We see her value. We recognize what she does for us and what our lives would be without her. She is the only one for us. It is the love Abraham had for Isaac, the only son of the promise he had. It is Isaac’s love for Rebecca, his only wife.

Wisdom will keep us. With both of the results given in this verse, the word “shall” is used. This is the AV’s way of letting us know that this is a guarantee. It is a definite effect. There is no doubt but that wisdom will preserve and keep us. Wisdom does not keep us the way wardens keep violent prisoners locked in prison. She will watch over us because she truly cares about us and seeks to maintain our spiritual lives. She will keep us because she values us.

May God give us the spiritual eyes we need not to forsake wisdom but to love her faithfully. God’s wisdom in Jesus Christ will preserve and keep us from the spiritual destruction which comes from joining the world in the way of sin.

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Get Wisdom and Understanding

Get Wisdom and Understanding

Brian D. Dykstra, Teacher at hope PR Christian School, Walker, MI

Proverbs 4:5: “Get wisdom, get understanding: forget it not; neither decline from the words of my mouth.”

Solomon continues in Proverbs 4:4-5 to instruct his children of the importance of wisdom. As we keep in mind that these verses are inspired Scripture, the value and importance of these verses is that here God instructs His children, too. Here we are told again of the superior value of wisdom.

Wisdom is the knowledge of God as He reveals Himself and His truth to us in His Word. This wisdom is the same word used in the book of Exodus when God has given Moses instructions on how to make the tabernacle. God told Moses that He gave wisdom to certain women so they could work with fabric to make the curtains. There were men who had the needed wisdom to work with wood and metal to make the furniture and equipment used in the tabernacle. Wisdom is skill. For us, this is the skill we need to enjoy fellowship with God, not in an earthly tabernacle, but the fellowship of living with Him through Jesus Christ in a godly life. Through wisdom, we enjoy the covenant He has established with us.

God commands us to do something. This is not an area of life in which we are given a choice. God commands us to “get wisdom.” This “getting” is not the getting with which we as teachers see our students often struggle so much. This is not an intellectual understanding of a concept. As teachers, we are well aware when our students just don’t “get it,” such as how to do long division. This getting does not refer to grasping something with the mind.

This getting is to obtain something so that it is your possession. It is yours. To obtain something, you have to work for it. We are not speaking here of a gift. People don’t work for things unless they believe it has value and benefits them in some way. Consider the labourer, especially one whose work demands physical exertion. He has bills to pay so he can support a wife and family. He will work in summer’s heat and winter’s cold. He makes demands of his body to do his work and often suffers the consequences. He might be the surveyor who endures the discomfort of bug bites and poison ivy, or the cement contractor whose back and knees grow stiff and creaky. However, to get the money needed to live in our society, the physical strength is spent, the sweat streams, and the soothing ointments spread and therapeutic ice packs are applied. The worker values the money he earns because he needs it as the means to obtain his daily bread.

Do we attribute such value to wisdom? How much exertion is wisdom worth? What are we willing to endure in order to get it? Without God’s regenerating Spirit working in us, we would have nothing to do with God’s wisdom. The natural man sees God’s wisdom as worthless. However, by the working of God’s grace in us, we often pray for God to grant us wisdom. However, God does not package wisdom in a neat, little bundle and implant it in our hearts while we sleep. How much would we value wisdom if it were that easily attained?

Getting wisdom takes work. Children do not know the value of a dollar until they have had to work for it. God makes getting wisdom take great effort so we will value it. We have to read good spiritual, Bible-based material. We have to read His Word and meditate upon what we have read. Most importantly, we have to endure the tough mental and spiritual exertion of paying attention during each part of the worship service, especially during the sermon when God speaks to us, to get wisdom. It is hard to keep the heart focused on worship for an hour and a half to get wisdom.

Just getting wisdom is not enough. God commands that we also “get understanding.” In the following verse, wisdom and understanding are referred to as “her,” singular, as though they are the very same thing. However, one commentary I read said that wisdom and understanding are not identical. There is a subtle, yet interesting difference between the two. I do not think that in this verse we have a repetition of the same idea using synonyms in order to stress a point through repetition.

Understanding is the intelligence to put something to use in practical living. One might have the wisdom or skill to do something, but without the understanding of putting the skill into practical use, the skill is of no benefit to the individual or those around him or her. First, we must have wisdom to know the right way to live an obedient life before God, but then we must have understanding to put that wisdom into actual practice. It doesn’t do the church any good for our children to have wisdom, if, when they are faced with negative peer pressure, they simply give in, keep quiet, and go along with the crowd and do something which they know is not right. Children need wisdom to recognize sin, but then they also need understanding to warn others about the effects of the temptation they face.

That’s why we cannot forget wisdom and understanding. If when we are in the heat of a spiritual battle, Satan is placing temptations in our paths, and then we forget wisdom and understanding, we will fall into sin because we will follow what looks good to our flesh. The same is true when we decline from the words of God’s mouth. God’s wisdom is high. When we leave the heights of His wisdom, and live our lives on the lower plane of our wisdom, we decline into the way of sin.

May God work in our hearts and the hearts of our children that we value His wisdom. Then we need grace to do our part to get the understanding we need to walk in covenant fellowship with our heavenly Father.

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A Father's Son

A Father’s Son

Brian D. Dykstra, Teacher at Hope PR Christian School, Walker, MI.

Proverbs 4:3-4: “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.”

Solomon continues to explain why we should listen attentively to the instruction he gives. We noticed last time that the doctrine Solomon gave was good and that we should not forsake the law. He now points out that the understanding he desires us to obtain is the same as that which he obtained because of the instruction of his parents.

Solomon speaks first of his father, David, “For I was my father’s son.” David had many sons. We know little about several of them, but what we know about three of David’s sons troubles us.

There was Amnon, a source of great shame to the family. He lusted after his sister Tamar, sinfully plotted with his confidant about fulfilling his evil desire, forced Tamar to be a participant in his sin against the seventh commandment, then finally threw her out of his house, hated her and refused to ask for her to become his wife. What must the people have thought about David’s family when news of this despicable story spread? What a source of shame a son such as Amnon was! Amnon’s behaviour must have caused the people to regard him as nothing but a fool. Amnon’s heart did not retain David’s words about keeping the commandments.

Then there was Absalom. He sinfully rebelled against his father and caused the deaths of many thousands as he fought to take David’s throne for himself. He was brazen in his sin. David had left ten of his concubines behind to maintain the palace. Absalom took advantage of these women and used them in his adultery to show how extreme was his despising of his own father. Absalom did not retain David’s words either. He also did not live.

Finally, we mention Adonijah. He attempted to take the throne just as his brother Absalom had done. He recruited the help of several influential people in the kingdom, such as Joab, as he stubbornly resisted what he knew to be David’s choice, God’s choice actually, that Solomon should be Israel’s next king. He also walked in the foolish way of sin and died violently.

David had not displeased these sons by telling them, “no.” I Kings 1:6 reads, “And his father had not displeased him [that is, Adonijah] at any time in saying, why hast thou done so?” How much of these family troubles, then, must be placed at David’s feet because of how he raised these sons? In today’s language, we might say David wanted to be a “cool dad.” David did not refuse his sons anything they wanted.

But Solomon claims for himself, “I was my father’s son,” just as Isaac was Abraham’s son, not Ishmael. Jacob was Isaac’s son, not Esau. Solomon was David’s son in a manner in which his full- and half-brothers were not. Had David learned, through bitter experience with the three sons previously mentioned, that he had better change his tactics in raising Solomon?

Solomon states he was “only beloved in the sight” of his mother. Bathsheba and David recognized God had set Solomon apart even at the time of Solomon’s birth. The prophet Nathan came and revealed that God had a different name for Solomon, Jedediah, “Beloved of the Lord.” God had singled out this son to be the next king and had renamed him. We too have been given new names. We, who were children of the devil by nature, are now called after the name of Christ, Christians, because we have been redeemed by grace.

The matter of Solomon’s instruction then took on primary importance for David and Bathsheba. Although Solomon was a prince, his parents saw to it that he studied his books, God’s Word, in preparation for the time when he would rule. Christian parents, out of true love for their children, will instruct them in the fear of God. They are not ashamed to instruct them according to the old paths of God’s truth so ridiculed by the world.

David instructed Solomon to have his heart retain his words. What might these words have been? God told David that Solomon would be a man of peace and head a kingdom at rest. David would not have to pass on instruction about military tactics. We have an idea from I Kings 2 when David, near his death, tells Solomon to “shew thyself a man.” How? Exercise? Buy the fastest chariot? Party? No, not even close. David says, “Keep the charge of the Lord thy God, to walk in his ways, to keep his statutes, and his commandments, and his judgments and his testimonies, as it is written in the law of Moses ...” Solomon was to show he was a man by living a godly life.

This is what Solomon was to retain in his heart. This way of life must be sincere, not merely an external show. The same is true of keeping the commandments. God knows our motives. In this way Solomon would live, unlike his three foolish brothers who died before their times.

May our students also retain their parents words, words of instruction given them out of love for them and God’s truth, words godly parents have instituted this school to teach, that covenant children will keep God’s commandments out of gratitude for redemption in Jesus Christ and live.

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