Hearing a Father's Instruction
Brian D. Dykstra, Teacher at Hope PR Christian School, Walker, MI
Proverbs 4:1: “Hear, ye children, the instruction of a father, and attend to know understanding.”
In Proverbs 4, Solomon begins a discourse on the supreme importance of true wisdom in the life of God’s children. Solomon begins by commanding his audience to “hear.” For the children to “attend to know understanding,” they must listen to the instruction Solomon gives. The children must sit quietly, not let their minds wander and grasp the meaning of Solomon’s spoken words according to the level of their ability. Listening can be difficult intellectual work.
We already have a problem, don’t we. Observation of our society brings one to the realization that we are no longer a people given to hearing. Solomon will influence the spirits of these children by making his instruction enter the portal of the ear. In our modern society, much instruction enters the spirit of men through the portal of the eye. We no longer listen. We watch.
To illustrate, allow me to point out some observations of today’s music entertainment. I thought about this after the events of August 2011, when a portable stage collapsed before a concert was to be given by the country duo Sugarland at the Indiana State Fair in Indianapolis. Sudden high gusts of wind brought down the stage, resulting in the deaths of five concertgoers.
Don’t take this as an endorsement from me to go to these concerts. I couldn’t name one of Sugarland’s songs for you or tell you the names of the people in the group. I feel safe in assuming this duo does not use their musical ability to extol the blessedness of a godly life or even the “positive virtues” of a bye-gone era. The pictures I saw printed in news articles simply caused me to reflect on today’s world.
The duo Sugarland are supposed to be musicians. They are supposed to appeal to their audience’s ears. Why did they need such a large stage for that? A couple of microphones, large speakers, a guitar or two and possibly a couple of stools should be all these musicians need. That’s not what I saw in the photographs. Large steel supports held scores of lights. There were large screens on which images could be projected. Evidently it is not enough to play instruments, sing and make music pleasant for the ear to hear. For musicians to entertain, they must also dazzle their patrons’ eyes.
God’s instruction, however, often enters our hearts through our ears. As we read the Bible, we hear an internal voice. We hear the gospel preached to us. We hear the prayers of fellow saints. We hear the truth of Scripture when we sing the Psalms. The sacraments appeal to senses other than hearing but much of the instruction we receive during the sacraments enters through our ears when the forms for administering the sacraments are read.
Satan so often uses the eyes. In the very first temptation, the serpent pointed out to Eve the physical attractiveness, the appearance, of the forbidden fruit to her eyes. Eve, at that moment, disregarded the instruction she had been given through her ears and looked carefully at the fruit. The forbidden fruit did not look any different than the other fruit growing on the other trees in the garden in the sense of its quality or texture. It didn’t look rotten or gross. That was Satan’s point. Ignore what God has told you about something, what you have heard Him forbid to you, then that which Jehovah prohibits looks desirable to the eye. What we have heard God say with our ears is too often overridden by what we see with our eyes. What God forbids looks to be something which would make one happy and better off. God very often commands us to listen. Satan desires us to look.
Solomon also tells us to “attend” that we might “know understanding.” We have to apply ourselves to the instruction we are given. We must recognize what Solomon is telling us is very important and is for our spiritual well-being. He cares about us. After all, he has called us his children. We all understand the importance to us of those whom we call children, whether our own children or the children in our classroom. Solomon has also referred to himself as “father.” Solomon doesn’t refer to himself as king or address his audience as his subjects or servants. He indicates the deep, personal relationship he feels toward those to whom he gives instruction. Keep in mind as well, that this instruction in Scripture ultimately comes from God, our heavenly Father. God certainly cares about His children or He wouldn’t have sent His only-begotten Son to pay for our sins.
Solomon wants us to “know understanding.” We must have an intimate knowledge of the understanding which Solomon desires us to have. This understanding is true, spiritual intelligence, the wisdom about which Solomon will write in the rest of this chapter. It’s the knowledge of God’s Word. Godly wisdom will be likened to a beautiful woman whom we would hold and never let get away because our very life depends on her company. Solomon’s understanding realizes the ultimate end of the wicked: death and terrible destruction. He will warn his children not even to enter the same path as the wicked, no matter how enjoyable or prosperous that path may appear to be. The appeal of the way of the wicked is just as devious as the appeal of the fruit which hung on the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and the end of that way is just as bitter as the effects of eating that fruit.
May God work in the hearts of our students so they understand the true nature of the instruction which their parents are making available to them in our schools. May God also comfort us as teachers by reminding us that weakest means fulfil His will.