Proverbs 4:1-2

“Hear, O sons, a father’s instruction,

    and be attentive, that you may gain insight,

for I give you good precepts;

    do not forsake my teaching.”

Proverbs 4:1-2 ESV

The goal here is to gain insight. Thus, the father implores the son to hear his father’s instructions and not forsake his teaching. The reason he can plead with his son in this way is the father’s commitment. Note the commitment: “for I give you good precepts.”

As parents we have certain expectations of our children, one of which is that they listen to us. By listen, I mean to actually listen to what we are saying, but also to do what we ask them to do. In the normal family “power structure” that is the expected flow. But that is not what the father is saying here. He’s not saying, “I’m your dad, so listen to me.” He’s saying, “Listen to me because I give you good precepts.”

How often do we think through the precepts we give our kids? Do we simply expect our kids to listen because we are the parents? Or, are we expecting them to listen because we have good precepts for them? There is a difference.

Proverbs 3:3

“Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around
your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart.”

Proverbs 3:3 ESV

The thing that caught my attention in this verse is the verb forsake. Throughout the book we are instructed, in some form or another, not to forsake wisdom. See 3:1 for example, “My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments …”

But here, the instruction is to keep them (i.e., steadfast love and faithfulness) from forsaking us. In other words, “Don’t let them disappear on you.” And, the writer tells us how to keep them from disappearing on us: “bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart.” The imagery is both external and internal.

What does it mean to bind them around your neck? Should we wear a necklace with the words “steadfast love” and “faithfulness” dangling from it? Would doing that prevent steadfast love and faithfulness from abandoning us? This seems to be a “letter of the law” vs. “spirit of the law” situation. Technically, wearing such a necklace appears to fulfill the letter of the law. But, what is the spirit, or intention, of the law? Is it simply to create a new line of jewelry?

In consideration of the command to “write these words on the tablet of your heart” it seems better to understand “bind them around your neck” as an outward reflection of the inner change that happens when we write these things on the tablets of our hearts. In other words, the internal changes in our hearts are exhibited in our behaviors.

Are you adorning yourself with steadfast love and faithfulness? If so, how? If not, why not?

Proverbs 2:1-5

“My son, if you receive my words

    and treasure up my commandments with you,

making your ear attentive to wisdom

    and inclining your heart to understanding;

yes, if you call out for insight

    and raise your voice for understanding,

if you seek it like silver

    and search for it as for hidden treasures,

then you will understand the fear of the Lord

    and find the knowledge of God.”

Proverbs 2:1-5 ESV

NOTE: We are working through these five verses section by section. We covered the first point here.

The second condition: If we want to understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God (vs. 5), the second thing we must do is make our ears attentive to wisdom and incline our hearts to understanding. This is a matter of intentionality.

We need to actively pursue wisdom and understanding by intentionally listening for wisdom. But, this is unlikely to happen if we don’t, first, shape our hearts. In this context, Solomon isn’t suggesting we stand at the bus stop and listen in to the conversations of random people. While there can certainly be a circumstance or occasion in which we could gain wisdom this way, I think Solomon has something different in mind. His point is not to look for random opportunities to gain wisdom. Rather, he’s suggesting we intentionally shape our hearts toward receiving wisdom, then actively listening for wisdom.

Making our ears attentive to wisdom is a heart matter and a personal discipline. The personal discipline element is built upon a heart commitment to listen, to receive instruction and correction. Later (13:1), he describes this heart/ear connection like this: “A wise son hears his father’s instruction, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.”

How can you shape your heart to be receptive to wisdom? How can you train your ear to listen to wisdom?

Proverbs 1:1

“To know wisdom and instruction,

    to understand words of insight,”

Proverbs 1:1 ESV

Solomon begins this book with a purpose statement of several verses that concludes with 1:7, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

In 1:1, Solomon begins to outline the things that are to follow. That is to say, the goal of this book is represented in what is coming in the remainder of the book.

  • To know wisdom and instruction.
  • To understand words of insight.

If you are interested in gaining wisdom and instruction and in understanding words of insight, you are wise … so proceed to read to book. If you are not interested in those things, you are a fool … but, proceed to read the book anyway. Your heart may be persuaded to pursue wisdom.

Word Picture: Stay in your lane!

“Whoever meddles in a quarrel not his own

    is like one who takes a passing dog by the ears.”

Proverbs 26:17 ESV

In today’s vernacular the writer is warning the reader to “Stay in your lane!” This proverb brings back memories from almost 50 years ago when I was in first grade. We were trying to play on the outdoor basketball court during recess when a German shepherd made his way into the middle of the area where we were playing. No matter how we tried to persuade the dog to move along, he wouldn’t. I didn’t take him by the ears, but I suspect the outcome was the same as if I had. Instead, I wrapped my arms around his midsection and attempted to lift him in order to carry him off the court. He turned his head back and bit me on the face. I still have the scar.

This proverb compares those who meddle in other people’s business to those who grab stray dogs by the ears. In other words, be careful! You could be scarred for a lifetime. Wise people recognize boundaries. Fools do not, and they can pay a severe price for not doing so.

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