Sunday 02 August 2020
Ps Ben Hooman
We are continuing our series ‘Wisdom’, wisdom in doing life here and now. We are looking at this book of Proverbs that is a collection of wise sayings that reflect the normal pattern that prevails in this world.
Please open your Bible at the book of Proverbs 3:1-18.
We come to this book knowing that Christ is our wisdom. So, the way of wisdom is the way of Jesus. And the way of Jesus is the way of wisdom, and to follow Jesus is to follow wisdom. Accordingly, Proverbs maps out the life of a disciple, of one who follows Jesus Christ, our Lord. To walk in the way of wisdom is to walk in the way of Jesus.
Proverbs gives us wisdom for the whole of life. We are looking at five themes in the book of Proverbs. Last week, we looked at friends, and today we look at family.
Proverbs gives us wisdom for husbands and wives, parents and children, brothers and sisters, so there is something here for all of us today.
Wisdom for brothers and sisters
Close relationships are vulnerable to deep wounds.
“A brother offended is more unyielding than a strong city, and quarrelling is like the bars of a castle.” (Proverbs 18:19)
If I were to ask how many of us have a strained relationship with a brother or sister, I think it would be many. If you have siblings, how do you get on with your brother? How do you get on with your sister?
If you have a good relationship with your brother or sister, cherish it and guard it, because Proverbs reminds us that close relationships are vulnerable to deep wounds that don’t heal easily. “A brother offended is more unyielding than a strong city,” (Proverbs 18:19).
You see this in the Bible. The first children born into the world were two boys, Cain and Abel. One was jealous of the other and in the end killed him. Then you have Jacob and Esau and Joseph and his brothers.
In the gospels, two brothers came to Jesus because they were quarrelling over an inheritance,
“Someone in the crowd said to Him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” (Luke 12:13)
And we are told that the family of Jesus, that is his brothers and sisters, said that He was out of His mind,
“Then He went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat. And when His family heard it, they went out to seize Him, for they were saying, ‘He is out of His mind.” (Mark 3:21)
Mark chapter six give the names of the four brothers and unnamed sisters of Jesus,
“Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?” (Mark 6:3)
“So, if the jealousy of a brother or sister is a trial in your life, Jesus has been there. He knows what this is like. “A brother offended is more unyielding than a strong city, and quarrelling is like the bars of a castle.” (Proverbs 18:19)
Quarrelling is like the bars of a castle. In other words, when quarrelling breaks out, it locks you and another person in. It is as if both of you are locked behind the bars of a castle. It’s a very vivid picture. You just can’t get out! The closer the relationship, the stronger the bars can be when quarrelling breaks out.
Here’s why: When a close relationship breaks down, the offended brother will say, ‘well if something that seemed so good proved that hollow, what is the point of trying to restore it?
Close relationships are vulnerable to deep wounds that don’t heal easily, so handle them with special care. Another Proverb says,
“The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so quit before the quarrel breaks out.” (Proverbs 17:14)
Wisdom for Husbands and Wives
Your spouse is a gift from the Lord. Someone might question this, but your spouse is from the Lord.
“He who find a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord” (Proverbs 18:22)
These are the words of Solomon to his son Rehoboam, and this wise father commends marriage to his son as a good thing. Marriage is a good gift from the Lord.
We live in a culture that flaunts ‘freedom’. So, we hear things like, “Who wants to be tied down?” ‘Live your life a you want to, it is all about you”. Does that sound familiar of the world we live in?
The Bible has a very different view of marriage, a much higher view of marriage. Solomon says to his son, “An excellent wife is the crown of her husband,” (Proverbs 12:4). The book of Proverbs ends with a poem in praise of a good wife:
“Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.” (Proverbs 31:29)
Notice that the wise husband appreciates his wife. He tells her where she excels. Ray Ortlund, who has an excellent book on Proverbs, points out that when the word ‘husband’ is used as a verb, it means ‘to cultivate.’ When we talk about ‘husbandry’ we are talking about care and cultivation.
If God has trusted you with the gift of a wife, your job as a husband is to create the conditions and the atmosphere in which she can flourish. That’s what it means to be a husband. “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her,” (Ephesians 5:25)
In our core chapter in Proverbs, it says:
“Let love and faithfulness never leave you; Bind them around your neck; Write them on the tablet of your heart so you will win favor and good success in the sight of God and man.” (Proverbs 3:3-4)
So, there is wisdom for brothers and sisters, and wisdom for husbands and wives, but the largest number of Proverbs relating to family life, are addressed to parents and to children.
Wisdom for Children
- Always seek to bring joy to your parents
“A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish son is a sorrow to his mother” (Proverbs 10:1)
“Let your father and mother be glad; let her who bore you rejoice.” (Proverbs 23:25)
This is an application of the fifth commandment to honour your father and mother. The word honour means ‘give weight to’ or ‘regard as heavy.’ So, to honour your father and mother means to give weight to what they say. Or, if they are in particular need, it is to give weight to their need.
So, I’m glad to have the opportunity to say to younger folks in the congregation and those connecting with us today that if your mother tells you to do something, and you don’t want to do it, say to yourself, ‘the person who told me to do this is my mother!” You have to give weight to the word of you father and mother.
If there is a time to look on your father as if you despise him, or to defy your mother, here is a Proverb for you:
“The eye that mocks a father and scorns to obey a mother will be picked out by the ravens of the valley and eaten by the vultures” (Proverbs 30:17)
I think that means don’t ever mock or dishonour your father. Don’t ever refuse to obey your mother! Always seek to bring joy to you mother and your father.
- Always be willing to learn
“Whoever ignores instruction despises himself, but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence” (Proverbs 15:32)
“A wise son hears his father’s instruction, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke” (Proverbs 13:1)
When you are young, you can easily feel that you know it all. The Word is speaking to teenagers! You don’t need to grow much older before you realize that you don’t know as much as you thought you did.
Mark Twain said something to the effect of, “When I was 14, I thought my father knew nothing. But by the time I was 21, I was amazed how much he had learned in 7 years!”
We read earlier, “Do not be wise in your own eyes,” (Proverbs 3:7). That theme is repeated throughout Proverbs.
“Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” (Proverbs 26:12)
Solomon was a teacher of wisdom, and as a teacher, he knew that there are some students who learn and others who don’t. Solomon’s observation from his teaching experience is that the people who don’t learn are the ones who think they are wise already. They are ‘wise in their own eyes.’ They think they have all that they need.
Solomon says, there is more hope for a fool than for the person who is wise in his own eyes. Why is there more hope for a fool? Because the fool knows that he needs to learn. And the first lesson in the school of wisdom is that we all need to learn.
This is why the Bible says, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Wisdom begins when I see that I don’t have it, and I need to receive it from the Lord through His Word.
The greatest barrier to gaining wisdom is the conviction that you have it already. We see this consistently. “Thinking themselves wise, they became fools” (Romans 1:22). “If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise,” (1 Corinthians 3:18).
Recognize that you need to learn, and listen to those God has placed around you, starting with your parents.
Wisdom for Parents
- You have more influence than you may think
“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)
Remember that the Proverbs are proverbs and they are not promises. Proverbs are wise sayings that describe the normal pattern that prevails in this world. This Proverb describes a normal pattern; it does not promise a particular outcome.
But when all of that has been said, Proverbs is making a stunning statement: Your influence in the lives of your children goes deeper than you may think! It will still be with them, even when they are old!
I think this is particularly important for parents who may feel discouraged. There may be times when it seems that your children are not listening. There may be times when you wonder, ‘Does anything I say ever go in?’ More goes in that you see, and more will remain than you think!
Let me give you an illustration of this. The thief on the cross lived his life in open rebellion against God. He was a thief, and from the penalty he suffered, he was most likely a violent one at that. This man was a robber. He is the kind of man who would assault a traveller on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho and leave him bleeding and wounded in the road.
Here is a man who has no place for God in his life, and yet in his last hours, he says to his companion, who was also a thief, “Do you not fear God?” (Luke 23:40).
Where did that come from? Some awareness that there is a God to whom we must give an account had been planted in his soul, but the truth was suppressed. Yet even after years of rebellion, the conviction remained!
So, if you have a rebellious son or daughter, do not despair. The living seed of the Word of God has been planted. Who knows what God may yet do with it? You have more influence than you may think. So be encouraged by this Proverb.
- Your children need restraint as well as affirmation
“Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.” (Proverbs 22:15)
Our secular world has largely bought into the idea that if you follow the impulses of your own heart, they will lead you to life. But Proverbs says not so fast! There’s a problem with that. Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child so if you follow every impulse of your heart, your heart will lead you to destruction.
Parents who believe that everything in their child’s heart is good, will focus their entire effort on affirming and encouraging their child, bringing out what’s there, because all that’s there is good.
But parents who believe that foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, and that sin is deeply rooted in the human heart, will focus, not only on affirmation and encouragement, but also on restraint.
Proverbs speaks repeatedly about the rod:
“The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.” (Proverbs 29:15)
Is the Bible telling us to beat our children with sticks? Answer: No! That may be the way that these verses have been interpreted in past centuries, but I think there is a better way to understand this.
The best-known reference to the rod in the Bible is in Psalm 23,
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; Your rod and Your staff comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4)
Why would David say that the rod was a comfort to him? The answer is that the shepherd did not use the rod to beat the sheep. He used the rod to fend off the wild animals that might attack the sheep. The shepherd carried the rod to fend off the wolf and the sheep had the comfort of knowing that they would not be left at the mercy of enemies that would destroy them.
Foolishness is bound up in the heart of your children. You will bring your children great comfort if they know that you will not allow them to follow the destructive impulses that assail their hearts.
A ‘child left to himself’ is in a very scary place. Your little girl or your little boy will find impulses of pride, selfishness, anger, laziness and much else bound up in their own hearts. They need to be restrained by rebuke, by incurring some loss, or by bringing some penalty to bear. And with that restraint you will bring comfort.
Don’t expect your children to say, “Your restraint comforts me”, but without it, they would be in a scary place.
- Never underestimate the power of example
“My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments.” (Proverbs 3:1-2)
“My son, keep my words and treasure up my commandments with you; keep my commandments and live.” (Proverbs 7:1-2)
Now the only commands that are life-giving are the words and commands of God. But here is a father who has made God’s words his own. Notice how he says, “My teaching. My words. My commandments” He has made God’s words, God’s teaching, and God’s commandments his own. What he commends to his son is what he pursues himself. That is the power of example.
You know that I don’t often speak in regard to my own experience in ministering. But in regard to the power of example, I want to share this with you.
At age nineteen and after a few months of a great relationship with my father, he passed away to be with the Lord at age forty-seven. My father was a hard-working man, a great farmer, an elder in the church, giving us of the best he could within his means. But what we needed most as children, he lacked.
My father grew up in an orphanage all his years at school. During the war, his mother thought it best to send the three younger children to a children’s home whilst the elder three can assist at home. At the age of twelve my father found himself at a children’s home with a responsibility over his two younger sisters.
A father never experience love within a family context, ending up to find it difficult to express love and affection towards his own children. Most probably made inner vows that he will never lack or let his family lack in material things. The result is to work hard, to chase after success, to do the best he can within his ability.
Looking back at all the years before salvation, I see the things I pursued – hard working, success in the workplace, giving my children what I thought they need. Thank God for a Damascus encounter that changed my life forever.
But what I want to come to is that the window of opportunity to bring my children up in the ways of the Lord had passed. Today they are all successful in what they do, following in the way they have been brought up. They also look back and call to remembrance the lack of love and a fatherless childhood.
Why do I share this to you as parents? So that you do not miss the opportunities to bring up your children in the way of the Lord, to express the love and affection of the Lord to your children. Don’t look back one day and see all the wasted opportunities given to you by God to love your children well. Know that they don’t want your things, but they want you. Don’t bring them up to chase after things, but by example let them see Christ in and through you, for in that lies their future. Teach them to first seek the kingdom of God and all these things will be added to them.
If you are a parent, a great motivation for living a godly life is to give your children a credible example to follow. You will be able to say, “God’s words are the words I believe. God’s way is the way that I follow.”
How are you going to do that? The way to walk in obedience is to walk by faith, not seeking after the flesh but after the Spirit of God. Solomon says, to his son,
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5)
The only way to walk in obedience is to walk by faith. You can’t say that to your children unless you are doing it yourself. So, I want to say to parents today. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, especially when it comes to your children!
Wise counsel came from a man who never had the joy of being a father. William Still was a Scottish pastor who remained single throughout his life. This was his counsel to parents: “Bring your children up in faith, not fear. Trust God in regard to your children. You fear what sin can do to them. Trust what God can do in them. You fear the pressures of the world, the schools, the media and the culture. Trust what God can do through His Spirit and His Word. Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Give your children reason to think, “My father and mother trust God, even when it comes to me!”
Let’s turn to God in prayer. I want you to think about the important relationships in your life. Think about your brothers and sisters if you have them. Ask God to help you in these relationships.
To show the love of Christ to your brother or your sister. If there are “bars of a castle” in your heart, ask God to take them down. If there are bars in your sister or your brother’s heart, ask God to help you do what you can to make things better.
I want you to think about your father and mother. Thank God for them. If they are still living, ask God to help you honour them by giving weight to their words and to their needs.
If you are married, I want you to think about your husband or wife. Thank God for giving that person to you and resolve with the help of God to do all in your power to help them flourish.
If you have children, trust them into the hand of God. Ask the Lord to help you bring them up in faith not fear. If they are far from God, ask Him to bring them back.
Let us pray:
Father hear our prayers and strengthen our resolve. Cover our many sins and failures with Your grace and pour out your blessing on our families for Christ’s sake, Amen.