The Privilege of A Father's Wisdom
Topic: English Passage: Proverbs 4:1-19
We are taking a two-week break from our study in John and we’re picking up today in chapter 4 of Proverbs. Go ahead and start turning there. Proverbs chapter 4.
We’ve learned a lot from this book so far, and we haven’t even gotten to some of the more specific lessons in this book from a father to a son.
Proverbs addresses many, many aspects of life, like sexual purity, the use of the tongue, your work ethic, family life, and personal relationships. But before we really get into those more specific and necessary lessons, the book begins with a much more foundational lesson. It is the lesson of learning to listen. Learning to listen.
Solomon originally wrote and compiled these proverbs with the intent of passing down wisdom to his sons, to his descendants. And being moved by the Holy Spirit, we now have a book that helps all of us grow in wisdom.
And the very first lesson of the book is that we learn to listen. If you can’t listen or if you can’t learn, then the rest of the lessons will do you no good whatsoever. So, the opening chapters are aimed at getting us to recognize the importance of wisdom.
And, if you’ve been with us since we started the book, you should know the main topic of the book of Proverbs is wisdom. That’s what this father is trying to do—get his children to grow in wisdom. And chapter 4 is no different.
Let me just start by reading our portion for today. Proverbs 4, verses 1-19. Proverbs 4:1-19.
Before we get into some of the lessons this passage has for us, I want to start with a reminder about what biblical wisdom is. What are we talking about when we study the Bible and learn about wisdom?
Let me give you the short answers for that. Biblical wisdom (or godly wisdom) is the skill for living life in a way that honors God. It’s the skill for living a life that honors God and invites His blessing. It is the application of the knowledge of God into a life that honors Him. You need to understand that.
In the Bible, wisdom is never simply abstract or theoretical. It is something that gets put into practice. It has an intellectual or a mental component, and it has a practical or an active one. To be wise means you know something about God, and about yourself, and about this world, but it also means that you put it into practice. To borrow the words from one of our sermons in Proverbs 3: Wisdom works. Wisdom has to be put into practice.
And that idea of wisdom is what we get in the book of Proverbs. One of the ways that idea gets emphasized is with all the synonyms used for wisdom.
This father wants to use as many different words as he can to talk about the same thing. It doesn’t always help us to try and separate the various words used for wisdom, as if there was a strong distinction. It’s that each word is another way to help us get a fuller picture of biblical wisdom.
Just in our passage for today, I want you to see some of those synonyms.
In verse 1, it’s called “insight” [cordura, entendimiento] which is about being perceptive.
Verse 2 refers to wisdom as “precepts” [enseñanza], which points to something that’s persuasive. It also calls wisdom “instruction” [ley], which is about direction and guidance.
Verse 4 refers to the commandments [mandamientos]. Verses 5 and 7 use the words “wisdom and insight” [sabiduria e inteligencia].
Those words point us a little to the knowledge side. We receive information. We receive commands. And some of that is passive. But there should also be an active side. This is the moral side of wisdom. The practical difference it should make.
Look at verse 11. It talks about the way of wisdom [el camino de la sabiduria] and the paths of uprightness [veredas derechas (sendas de rectitud)]. The word for “path” there was used for the track or the groove of a wagon wheel in the ground. It implies motion. Wisdom is to be an often-travelled path. A path that others can follow.
Verse 18 calls it the path of righteousness [senda de los justos], which again points to the moral component of wisdom.
If you reject God’s wisdom, it’s not just that you don’t believe Him or that you’re ignorant of spiritual truth, it is that you are opposed to Him. You are wicked. You are evil.
That’s why the opposite of the path of wisdom is, according to verse 14, the path of the wicked and the way of evil [vereda de los impíos, y el camino de los malos.]. Verse 17 connects it with wickedness and violence [maldad y robos (violencia)].
That should help us get a bigger picture of biblical wisdom. It includes intellectual knowledge, but it must also include a moral and practical side. It is the application of that knowledge in order to honor God.
One of the common ways that Proverbs refers to wisdom is to call it “the fear of the Lord.” And that’s a great synonym for it. If you do not fear God, if you do not seek to honor Him, if you do not acknowledge Him, you do not have wisdom.
Well, having been reminded a little bit about what biblical wisdom, I want to point us to the three lessons about wisdom from our passage this morning. And they really are about God’s design for wisdom.
I start looking at this passage earlier in the week, and then as I looked at it more and more, these were the main lessons I took away from it.
Lesson number 1 is this. God’s design is that wisdom is to be passed generationally. Wisdom is to be passed generationally. [La sabiduria se debe pasar generacionalmente]
This is a lesson we see throughout Proverbs, because it’s written from a father to a son. But we really see it emphasized here. Look at verse 1 with me. VERSE 1.
What is this? This is a dad writing to his sons. And in this case, it’s not just a dad writing for his own sons. He’s writing it for his grandchildren and his great grandchildren. That’s what that word “sons” includes. His descendant.
And that tells us again that wisdom is to be passed generationally.
That word “instruction” in the first half of the verse actually means correction or chastisement. And in this case, it’s a verbal correction. But it lets us know that this dad knows what his job is. And that includes correcting and teaching his son.
Moms and dads, do you know that that is your job? And are we being intentional about it? Notice VERSE 2.
This is not a dad who has delegated instruction to someone else. He knows he is the primary teacher of his children. This doesn’t mean nobody else can teach your kids. This doesn’t mean you have to do homeschooling.
But it means that when God investigates whether a child has been taught the truth of His word, He’s not going to go, ultimately, to their Sunday School teacher. He’s going to talk with mom and dad.
This is a father who takes personal responsibility for teaching his son. He calls it “his own wisdom.” He learned it for himself, and now he’s teaching it to his son.
Now, where did this dad get it from? Who taught him? That’s VERSES 3-4.
The wisdom of this father came from his father. It came from grandpa. And when did grandpa decide to start training his son?
When he was tender [delicado]. He was very young. He was pliable, moldable. He didn’t wait until puberty. He started even while his mommy had all her attention on him. That’s talking about the nursing years, which in that culture was about 3 years before you were weaned.
So, before the age of 3, grandpa was already teaching his son the wisdom of God. There’s a lesson here for us parents. Start early. Start early. It’s never too early to begin teaching our children the wisdom of God. That’s the design. Wisdom was designed to be passed generationally.
And not only should we start early, but we should be able to identify with our kids. This dad is admitting to his son: “I was just like you. I was a little boy who didn’t know any different. I didn’t have all the answers. But my dad began to teach me. And now it’s my turn to teach you.”
Sometimes as dads, we want to be our kids’ hero, and we forget how important it is for them to know that we are more like them than unlike them. We are more like our children than unlike them.
This is not a dad taking credit for what he knows. This is a dad reminding his son: “I used to be just like you.” Our kids need to know that.
You younger ones, guys and girls. Your moms and dads are sinners. They need the grace of Christ in their life. They don’t have it all figured out. But what they do know, what they’ve learned from Christ and from their experiences in life, they are charged with passing on to you.
That’s God’s design. That you learn from your parents. For you younger ones, when was the last time you asked your parents a question? When was the last time you asked them for advice?
If you’re getting all your answers from your friends or from Google, be very careful.
And parents, if your child hasn’t learned to come to you for wisdom, maybe you need to address some things as well. This is the most critical aspect of parenting. Bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
That’s what Moses called on in Deuteronomy 6. Teach them diligently [repite estas palabras a tus hijos]. Repeatedly in the Psalms as well, we are told that one generation must tell another.
Psalm 22:30. Psalm 48:13. Psalm 102:18. Psalm 145:4. Tell the coming generation. Tell the coming generation. Write this down for another generation.
I’d like you to see one example though in Psalm 78. Psalm 78. Look at verse 3. This is in regard to the truths of God and the salvation of God. PSALM 78:3-8.
A couple years ago, our church released a little catechism book with questions and answers about doctrine. You can still find it on our website under “Church Resources.” But that was the verse that was printed on the back cover. Psalm 78. We will tell the coming generation. We will tell the coming generation.
Is that the legacy you’re leaving for your kids? Is that what you are passing on to your children and grandchildren? Don’t delegate this. Don’t ignore this. Wisdom is to be passed generationally.
And to the extent that you fail to pass on biblical wisdom to your children, you fail to pass on the blessing of God on their life.
Listen parents: You can’t control every aspect of your kids life, right? You can’t control many of the events that will shape them. They will sin. They will be sinned against. And a lot of that will be out of your control.
But what we can do is shape how they view life. Starting in the early years, we get to shape and mold how they respond to the world around them. So when the time comes and my son gets sinned against in a major way, or if he sins in a major way, how is he going to view that? What truths are going to come to his mind? The ones that I have taught him. The ones I put there with my mouth, my words, my teaching. Because wisdom is passed generationally.
In political and sociological conversations, there is the talk of something referred to as “privilege.” I’m not going to make this a political message, but the general idea is that “privilege” refers to the advantages or the “boosts” you might have in life that others don’t. And that can be related to your race, or your ethnicity, or your parent’s wealth, or many other factors.
Sometimes “privilege” can be from past sins. For example, if your dad was a corrupt banker and made a lot of money from stealing and lying, you might have more opportunities in life, but they’re based on his son.
But sometimes, what some might call “privilege” is a blessing from God. It’s the result of previous generations who honored the Lord and are reaping His blessing.
So, we need to be careful with any discussion of privilege that acts as if it’s morally wrong for anyone to have an advantage over others. Because that’s exactly what Proverbs is hoping we’ll get. It’s not a material advantage though. It’s is a spiritual privilege that can include material blessings.
Proverbs 13:22 says “a good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children.” That’s not just talking about a man’s personal kindness. It’s talking about God’s blessing on a man who fears Him. It spills over into future generations. And that’s what we want.
We want God’s wisdom and God’s blessing to pass from one generation to the next.
And even if your parents didn’t pass biblical wisdom to you, that doesn’t’ excuse you from passing wisdom to your own children. Every mom and every dad is accountable to pass the wisdom of God to their children.
Now, here’s the flip side of that lesson. Wisdom is to be passed generationally, that’s a parent’s responsibility. But there’s also the responsibility of the child. And here it is. This is God’s design. Lesson number 2: Wisdom is to be pursued personally. Wisdom is to be pursued personally. [La sabiduria se debe perseguir personalmente]
The responsibility of a parent to teach his or her child, doesn’t remove the responsibility of a child to seek wisdom in his own. I’d like you to notice how many different commands this father gives to his son. This is his responsibility.
Verse 1 calls him to hear and be attentive [oir y estar atento]. Verse 2 says: Do not forsake these things [No desapares estas cosas]. Don’t abandon them. Don’t loosen your grip on them [No los sueltes de la mano].
Instead [al contrario], verse 4: Hold them fast. Keep a tight grip on them. Keep them. [Retengalas, guardalas].
And if you don’t have enough wisdom with you already, look at verse 5.
You need to get it for yourself. Obtain it. Grab it. Buy it. Do whatever you need to do to keep getting wisdom. Don’t turn away from it.
Verse 6 even starts speaking of wisdom like a beautiful and precious woman. It says “Love her, Don’t forsake her” [dice “amala”, no la dejes].
And again, verse 7: get it. Get it.
Verse 8: Prize her [engrandécela]. Exalt her [exáltala]. Value her [valórela]. Embrace her [abrázala]. Cling to her [no la sueltes].
Verse 10 repeats the command of verse 1. Listen to me. Accept my words. Verse 13.
To use a sports analogy, don’t fumble the ball. Hang on to it.
And in verses 14 and 15, when it talks about the alternative to godly wisdom, when it speaks of the evil way, look at those commands. “Do not enter. Do not walk down that path. Don’t go in that direction. Avoid it. Turn away from it. Just pass on.
Do you get the idea that if this kid makes a foolish decision that he can blame his dad? No, of course not. If he makes a mess of his life because He dishonors God, who gets the blame? He does. Because he didn’t listen.
Wisdom is to be pursued personally [perseguir personalmente]. You and I have a personal obligation to seek and pursue wisdom. And nobody else is going to do that for you.
How do you pursue wisdom? That’s simple. It’s found in a book. That’s the word of God. And it’s found in a person. That’s Jesus Christ. We come to this book, as often as we can, and we ask our Lord to give us wisdom.
And James 1 says He gives without reproach. That means he doesn’t hold it against you for asking or needing it. But it doesn’t mean He gives without sweat. Wisdom takes work.
You need to read or listen. You need to apply. You need to think about how God’s truth should be applied to your everyday life, whether in thoughts or words or actions. You need to put it into action. That’s true wisdom.
That, by the way, is one of the reasons we have Family Life Groups, so we can learn from others. So they can help us grow in the wisdom of applying the truth of God into our daily lives.
As you grow in Christ, as you pursue wisdom, you will learn about God, you will learn about yourself, and you will learn about this world. And you will learn lessons that will help you honor God, that will help you walk with Christ. And then you get to share those lessons with others.
But all that takes work. It takes intentionality. It takes a personal pursuit of the wisdom of God found in His word and taught by His Spirit.
What are you pursuing passionately? What is your life chasing? What are you collecting?
Some of you have no pursuits at all, and that is tragic. Maybe even more sad than having the wrong pursuit. But most of us are pursuing something.
I never really watched the original Pokémon cartoon, but I remember the slogan: “Gotta catch’em all. Gotta cath’em all.”
Well, in the case of biblical wisdom, we’ll never catch it all. But we’re called to get more and more ever day. Our greatest collection in life is not supposed to be baseball cards, or pokémon, or stamps, or blue ray movies, or friends on Facebook, or straight-A report cards, or trophies on a mantle, or video games that we’ve beat.
Your greatest pursuit, and your greatest collection needs to be the wisdom of God in Jesus Christ and in His written word. Wisdom must be pursed personally…
One final lesson for today. And it is an important one because from the two lesson we’ve already covered, it might seem like passing on wisdom to others, and pursuing wisdom for ourselves, is just a kind of duty God expects us to fulfill. It’s a command we are to obey. And that’s true, but it’s not enough.
Here’s lesson number 3: God’s design is that wisdom is to be prized joyfully. Wisdom is to be prized joyfully. [la sabiduria se debe apreciar alegremente]. Wisdom is to be prized joyfully.
God wants us to pass along and pursue wisdom with joy because we know the results is has in our life.
The first few verses have been hinting at this. Verse 1 says that if we listen we’ll gain insight. Verse 4 says if we keep the commandments we will live. That’s implying, not just longevity, but joy as well. It’s satisfaction. Verse 6 says wisdom will keep you. It will guard you.
Look at verse 8: It will exalt you. It will honor you. This is talking about an elevated status among the people. Others will esteem you if you apply God’s wisdom to your life.
Verse 9 pushes the image even more. Wisdom will crown you. Honor, prestige, attractiveness. Those are the results of wisdom that this father wants his son to know about. He wants this to be a joyful pursuit.
Verse 10b: The years of your life will be many. Verse 12 speaks of success. VERSE 12.
God is going to move obstacles out of your way. You won’t have an unclean conscience holding you back. You won’t have the physical drain that comes with fighting against God. Your life will be blessed. Because you’ll be walking in step with God. If life is a race, this father is saying, you’re not going to be tripped up if you follow wisdom.
The final blessing of wisdom comes in verse 18.
If you follow God’s light, God’s truth. He’ll give you more light. You’ll see sin faster. You’ll see danger more easily. And God is going to guide you every day, until the day you make it into His glorious kingdom of light. That’s the path of wisdom. And we can walk with confidence and joy and peace, because God is on our side…
But if we don’t, and this is where we’ll end because it’s where our section ends. If we don’t, the path won’t get brighter and brighter. It’ll only get darker and darker.
That’s the path of sin. It sucks you in. It’s not like the light of dawn. It’s like the light of the sunset. It only gets darker. And sooner than you expect, you won’t be able to see anything at all. You won’t be able to find your way back.
Look at how this father describes those who’ve chosen the path of foolishness. VERSE 16.
You know what that is, in today’s terminology? You know what we would call that? That’s an addiction. They can’t sleep unless they get another hit of wickedness. They are addicted to evil.
Instead of partaking of the bread of life. Instead of, as Jesus put it, eating His flesh and drinking His blood, these people, VERSE 17.
What a contrast! The way of the righteous is like the rising sun that keeps getting brighter. But…VERSE 19.
What road are you on? And which way are you going? Are you headed into the light of Jesus Christ? Or are you headed for the eternal darkness of hell?
Praise God for showing us the light. And let’s call on Him for the strength to walk in it.