“My son, hear the instruction of your father, and do not forsake the law of your mother; For they will be a graceful ornament on your head, and chains about your neck.” Proverbs 1:8-9
As we consider Solomon’s encouragement to his son in these two verses, we find Solomon drilling down in the important task in verse 5 of having open ears to wise counsel from those whom we should be listening to well. Particularly here, Solomon teaches a young man knowledge and discretion. This is another lesson in what the wise do. The wise listen to those whom God has placed over them. They listen to those who are tasked with teaching them to fear God and honor their parents. Solomon’s words point us to the 5th Commandment in God’s moral law- “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.” (Exodus 20:12)
Solomon’s call to “hear” carries in it a call to listen and learn, to hear and heed that which is imparted to them. Those of you who are parents know well how much you desire that your children would listen to you, that they wouldn’t tune you out, that they would grasp the great value in your godly instruction and grow in knowledge, faith, and readiness in life. You also know the disappointment and concern you endure when they don’t listen time and again, at times facing avoidable, yet instructive consequences.
When Solomon gave exhortation to “hear the instruction of your father,” he did so knowing that there would be blessing in doing so and danger if ignored. “Hear it, welcome it, be thankful for it” was in essence his message. He importantly also said, “do not forsake the law of your mother.” Godly teaching from both parents is to be valued. Further, though we will be tempted to do so, that which has been given and received must not be abandoned, even when we are out from under their direct care and authority.
In regard to the 5th Commandment, the Westminster Larger Catechism aids us in understanding what “father and mother” means as it defines and expounds on relationships and duties between “inferiors and superiors.” Question 124 asks, “Who are meant by father and mother in the fifth commandment?” The Answer – “By father and mother, in the fifth commandment, are meant, not only natural parents, but all superiors in age and gifts (1 Timothy 5:1-2, Genesis 45:8); and especially such as, by God’s ordinance, are over us in place of authority, whether in family, church, or commonwealth.” (2 Kings 5:13, 2 Kings 2:12, Isaiah 49:23) The Westminster Divines go on to give instruction on the “honor inferiors owe to their superiors.” Question 127 teaches us that inferiors should have reverence in heart, word, and behavior (Malachi 1:6, Proverbs 31:28, Leviticus 19:32) towards their superiors, engaging in prayer and thanksgiving for them (1 Timothy 2:1-2), imitating their virtues and graces (Philippians 3:17), being in willing obedience to their lawful commands and counsels (Hebrews 13:17), and in due submission to their corrections (Hebrews 12:9).
This helps us in our study of Proverbs 1. Note that as much as there is a need for hearing being applied to living, there is great importance for parents, for superiors to give good instruction. Don’t miss or overlook that! As we expect them to listen, what are we teaching them and to whom are we pointing them? There is so much that we can say falls in the category of “needed instruction” today. Like Solomon, are we grounding them in the biblical doctrines of the Word? Are we pointing them to Jesus Christ, teaching them about Him and the salvation He brings? Are we teaching them about how to wisely live as Christians in this world? Or are we teaching them fluff, or maybe not teaching them at all? Remember- if we don’t teach our kids to follow Christ and walk wisely, the world will teach them not to. So, the call continues to go forth – Hear, and don’t forsake!
Godly instruction is not only a necessity, Beloved, Solomon says it’s a great adornment of blessing for those who receive and carefully observe it. It is like a “graceful ornament” on the head and “chains” around the neck. Consider this beautiful picture Solomon paints of true and lasting value for a moment. This should motivate us to pursue such obedience. What value do you place on godly teaching from those who God has placed over you? As people listen to your words and observe your life, what will they come away with regarding the value you place on such things? Divine truths and wisdom are to be treasured. They are like badges of honor that have great value. By God’s grace, may we be those who have open ears to hear, receive, and live according to that which the Lord gives and teaches us.