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Proverbs 1:8-9 by Robert Dean
Proverbs recognizes the family as the first environment for learning. Proverbs exhorts children to listen attentively and learn. Knowing is to comprehend facts. Wisdom is that knowledge applied. Wisdom begins with recognition of God’s authority. The facts that are applied as wisdom are taken from the manual God has provided in His Word. Any other source of wisdom taught in the home is a path to destruction. The chain of command over the child resides in both parents, beginning with the priority role of the father. Learn about the metaphors and their ties to antiquity, which describe the rewards for the child who obeys these commands. Wisdom is application of God’s absolute Truth. Wisdom is the parents’ legacy to their children which will defend, guard, protect and become their basis for rewards.
Series:Proverbs (2013)
Duration:49 mins

Proverbs: Truth Protects and Guides. Proverbs 1:8-9 January 13, 2013


The book of Proverbs was written originally as the guidance from a father to his son, so the original context has to do with parental instruction. So there is much here to discover related to training within the home. There may not be a place in your life where you don't have young children or even older children at home. Maybe you have grandchildren or maybe you don't have grandchildren, nevertheless the principles that are embedded within this book of Proverbs are principles that guide each of us on how to live life well. That is basically the idea of wisdom—to live well in terms of God's understanding of what well is, to live a wise or skilful life on the basis of how God has created things and how He has designed things.


We have looked at the opening introduction: the purpose for this book, given in vv. 2-6. It is designed so that a wise man will hear and increase learning. And there we run into a word we see again and again as we go through Proverbs: that we are to listen attentively and respond obediently to what the Scripture says. These aren't really options; they are mandates. 

Learning is the foundation for growing. We live in an age today where we have this in formation revolution over the last forty or fifty years. All of the knowledge known in the human race up to about 1960 doubled again by 2000. It is beyond comprehension to our finite minds to grasp all that has been learned and discovered in just the course of our lifetime. We also live in a time where with just a touch of a few keys on a keyboard we can access incredible amounts of information. By doing so there is a very subtle deception that often takes place, i.e. that because we have access to a lot of information and facts that we actually know something. Never be deceived, information is not knowledge and knowledge is not wisdom. They are related. We have to have information in order to have knowledge but information has to have comprehension. There has to be a framework that interconnects all of the bits and pieces of data in the information. It is not just random pieces of information that are just free-floating out there in the universe, they are connected and the one thing that connects them ultimately from the biblical perspective is that they are all unified in the mind of God.


The only way we can discover that is through God's revelation. We can discover different aspects of that unified knowledge as we look at different aspects of creation but the only way we can hope to put it all together is to come at it on the basis of the Word of God, God's revelation to us. Because He gives us those critical pieces of in formation that we can't get through reason or our study and observation of creation and the only way to learn them is through His Word.


We get information and then as we understand it within a comprehensive theory we can then develop knowledge. But knowledge isn't necessarily wisdom. Knowledge is a comprehension of the facts, and as well all know there are many facts that Scripture teaches that we thoroughly understand but we don't put it into practice very well. Wisdom is that end result where we take knowledge and then apply it to the issues and decisions of life and we create something of beauty and skill in our lives that is the result of the application of the truth, the doctrine, the teaching of the Word of God.


So the focal point in the introduction has to do with the wise man, the person who would be wise. There is an embedded challenge there "and will hear and increase learning," constantly making that a priority. It is not what we do when we have time for it but we understand that learning the Word of God is the ultimate priority and everything else in life needs to be arranged in a way that allows us to spend a maximum amount of time learning the Word of God, learning about God, learning about us, and learning about God's plan for our lives.


The second aspect of the couplet in verse five, "a man of understanding will attain wise counsel." There is a movement there from hearing, increasing learning, understanding (comprehension), and then attaining ultimately wise counsel. But the foundation is in verse 7: "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge." That is reiterated in the Psalms and later in Proverbs to make us understand that if we do not begin life, our focus in life, with the respect for the authority of God in our life and we approach life on the basis of self-sufficiency and arrogance, apart from God, then that leads to a path of self-destruction and a path of death.


As we go through these Proverbs we see that there are several contrasts made between the way of the wise and the way of the fool. Sometimes one is referred to as the gullible one in some translations and sometimes the naïve. There is also the idea of being open-minded. Because he is open-minded he sucks in all of the garbage of the world thinking well all truth is really the same and this always leads to a path of self-destruction because there is no way of self-correction in terms of what is right or what is wrong. It is a perfect picture of our modern postmodern American-western-European culture that has rejected absolute truth, and they think they are so wise because they believe just about anything—except, of course, the Bible; except, of course, anything related to absolute truth.


So the starting point is that respect for the authority of God, the sovereignty of God. Another way of talking about that is, it is humility: recognizing our limitations and that God alone has the right and the authority to address all of these issues of life.

We can't learn anything in life unless we have humility, and humility comes in different ways. It come naturally in some people who recognize that in some areas of their life they just don't know a whole lot and so they need to learn from some one. Others think that they already know it all, and they have to be humbled through some sort of forced external event. This comes as they face tragedy, suffering, certain environments in life, where all of a sudden they learn that they have to obey those who are in authority to get anywhere. That is related to this foundational principle of the fear of the Lord.


But that idea of humility is really learned in the home and should be taught in the home. That is one of the major truths that we see in Proverbs. It is a home environment; it is the father instructing the son. In that event itself is embedded the idea that it is the role of the parents to train children and bring that discipline for learning into their environment. As a parent your job is to enforce humility on your children. Note: that isn't saying humiliate them; it is saying teach them humility so that they recognize authority when they are under authority, learn to operate under authority, and learn in an environment where hopefully they will not try to learn everything the hard way. Failure to develop humility in life is just a path of destruction.


Then we come to the prologue: from verse eight down to the end of chapter nine. That is considered one large introduction to the rest of Proverbs. Starting with chapter ten we see what appears to be disconnected wise sayings. 


Proverbs 1:8 NASB  "Hear, my son, your father's instruction And do not forsake your mother's teaching; [9] Indeed, they are a graceful wreath to your head And ornaments about your neck."


This begins a line that we find eighteen times in the first nine chapters, and that is the address to "my son." It is this term "my son" that gives us an orientation to this as a family environment. In the history of Israel as this was written down in the context of family instruction it was then taken and applied for others in the nation because Israel viewed a nation as a collection of tribes—there were the twelve tribes and those were made up of clans and families. The family was fit within the totality of the nation, so if the nation was going to be successful the family had to be successful. And if the family was going to be successful there had to be a successful training regimen within the home. "Hear, my son, your father's instruction." Then we have an antithetical parallel, "And do not forsake your mother's teaching." The first command is to listen [shamea]; the second is a negative: don't forsake. Listen with a view to obedience. "Obey the instruction of your father" conveys the meaning more precisely. This is a common word in Hebrew and it is an idiom that is common to one we use in English when parents turn to their children and say, Listen to me. They don't mean just pay attention to what I am saying in terms of letting your ear drums be stimulated, but do what I am telling you to do. "Do not forsake," the word natash has the idea of rejecting something or casting it away, or abandoning it as if it is worthless. The focus is on the father and the mother here and the child is to listen to both.


The next thing we see is that there is a synonymous parallelism between the content of the father's teaching and the mother, and this is indicated in the two words "instruction" and "law" ["teaching" in NASB]. The word for instruction is the Hebrew word musar which means a disciplined education. It involves vigor, correction and rebuke. This is an idea that runs counter to the pedagogical theories popular in education in this country. The parallel to that term "instruction" in the second line is the term "law"—law of your mother—and this is not law in the sense of codified law, it is law in the sense of instruction. That is the basic meaning of the Hebrew word torah; it means instruction. It comes to have other shades of meaning and nuances, one of which is law, but it really has the idea of a certain kind of instruction: instruction on how to live, how to live well, and it has the idea of an organized, structured plan of instruction.


So the son is exhorted at the beginning to be obedient. This is enforced humility. Listen to your parents; do what they say; follow their instruction. But on the other hand it tells parents that they need to have a plan of action because it is parents' responsibility take that brand new baby and to train, discipline and prepare that baby so that when they reach adulthood and maturity they can live life well. This is not something that can be delegated to private schools, public schools, or to Sunday schools; this is the parents' responsibility. And the important thing that we note here is the importance of the role of the father. It is a joint task. Father and mother are viewed as a unit here but the mother does not have a game plan; she follows the lead of the father. This emphasizes the authority and the leadership of the father in the home.


And it points out the fact that for a child to grow up to be an adult who lives well, who has wisdom, then that is grounded in   their parents with obedience. That is the idea in Proverbs, i.e. for a young child learning lessons and wisdom this would be like a garland around their head, a sign of their victory over the challenges of life. So the Hebrew perception was that children who honored their parents, learned wisdom and applied it in their life, that wisdom in their life was a symbol of victory in their life.


Another aspect of Ma'ot was that she was also considered the goddess of life, and so there is an element of eternal life that is associated with her as well: that if one mastered the wisdom, the truth of Ma'ot then there was the promise and the hope of life.


This applied not only to the wreath but also to the chain or medallion worn around the necks. Egyptian officials and government leaders wore these chains around their necks as symbols of their exemplary lives in the service of Ma'ot, the goddess of truth and order. So in Egyptian literature Ma'ot was sometime simply referred to as the necklace or the splendid chain about the neck of the chief justice. So the necklace is a sign of protection, and that is the idea here in this verse: if you listen to the instruction of your father and the law of your mother then this ornament or wreath about your head or chain about your neck is a sign that this is protecting you. This is the idea and it certainly fits the context of Proverbs. 


We are not saying that Solomon got the idea from the Egyptians but what we find in the Egyptian culture is a pale reflection of a previously-known truth revealed through the Scriptures. That is the metaphor here. It ran through all the Middle-Eastern cultures. We understand that this idea or wearing the wreath or having the chain is related to protection and also a reward for accomplishment.


Protection works well in these opening chapters of Proverbs. Proverbs 2:8 NASB "Guarding the paths of justice, And He preserves the way of His godly ones." If we learn wisdom, wisdom guards and protects. [11] "Discretion will guard you, Understanding will watch over you." So if we learn the Word of God, learn the truth, it preserves and keeps us. 


Proverbs 3:3 NASB "Do not let kindness [mercy] and truth leave you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart."

Proverbs 4:6 NASB "Do not forsake her, and she will guard you; Love her, and she will watch over you." These terms indicate that of you learn the word and apply it, it preserves and protects you from making foolish and bad choices and bad decisions.


The words "mercy" and "truth" are frequently joined together in the Scriptures and only rarely apart. They go together. The word "truth" is the word emet which doesn't always mean truth in the sense of abstract truth which we think of. Often it has the idea of that which never changes, that which is stable, and sometimes it relates to faithfulness and dependability. A noun form of that word was used to describe the foundation stone under the pillars in Solomon's temple. Truth is unshakeable because it is eternal. The other word "mercy" is the Hebrew word chesed and it refers to God's faithful loyal love and emphasizes the rock-solid character of God and His grace.


Scripture emphasizes the significance of truth, a concept that is often derided in our culture because people don't want to believe in absolute truth. The Bible sees an absolute eternal truth that is outside of our experience. Psalm 119 has several verses related to truth and the Word of God.


Psalm 119:43 NASB "And do not take the word of truth utterly out of my mouth, For I wait for Your ordinances." The Word of God is the Word of truth.


Psalm 119:142 NASB "Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, And Your law is truth." We see another important aspect here. Truth is often related to righteousness. You can't have righteousness without truth and you can't have truth without righteousness. They go hand in hand.

Psalm 119:151 NASB "You are near, O LORD, And all Your commandments are truth."


Psalm 119:160 NASB "The sum of Your word is truth, And every one of Your righteous ordinances is everlasting."


We have certain injunctions related to the priority of truth. Proverbs 23:23 NASB "Buy truth, and do not sell {it,} {Get} wisdom and instruction and understanding."


Proverbs 14:22 NASB "Will they not go astray who devise evil? But kindness [mercy] and truth {will be to} those who devise good."

Truth is also the foundation for good government. Proverbs 20:28 NASB "Loyalty [mercy] and truth preserve the king, And he upholds his throne by righteousness."


Proverbs 29:14 NASB "If a king judges the poor with truth, His throne will be established forever." It is not the king who makes truth, truth is something that precedes and rules over the king.


Proverbs 16:6 NASB "By lovingkindness [mercy] and truth iniquity is atoned [cleansing] for, And by the fear of the LORD one keeps away from evil." This takes us back to the key principle of 1:7, "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge." This begins with recognizing atonement, cleansing from sin. Jesus Christ came to die for sin. That is the starting point for you if you have never trusted in Christ as savior. If you have we go back to the principle of cleansing—1 John 1:9—as a starting point.


The issue of we want to live well and we want to live in a way that creates something of real beauty and value, is that it starts with humility—recognition of the authority of God especially, and other realms of legitimate authority secondarily.