Yesterday I wrote something for the local paper (we will see if it actually runs) that talked a short bit about the difference between seeking out counselors that confirm already held beliefs about ourselves and the world around us and instead that we should be wisely resting in the guidance provided previously by God Himself in the Holy Scriptures. This week has begun as a completely new chapter in the life of our family, especially for my sainted wife and kids, as we began the process of homeschooling our children. As part of that new chapter we have started having family worship in the morning as well as in the evening. Through prayer and study it was decided that the book that would receive the first focus in this early devotion was the book of Proverbs. Now Solomon, before he violated most of the principles he lays down in this work, and confesses that sin in the following material found in Ecclesiastes, writes Proverbs for his son and the opening chapter expresses a basic truth for all Christians, that it is unwise to allow ungodly relations and friends to lead you into sin and the misery that follows. In verses 7-10 Solomon writes:
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction. My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother: For they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck. My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not.
Now what does he mean by “hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother”? Well to be certain Solomon means more than just a bare obedience to the 5th Commandment. No, Solomon is grounding that obedience into something much stronger and much more certain than the instruction and laws of a mother and father. The advice of parents is only as good as it remains in contact with the knowledge that comes from the wisdom of God. So what Solomon is getting on about here to his son is that what mom and dad have to teach you is not from the wells of their own mind, but from the revelation of the LORD, which they are mediating to him by God’s will. This is of course one of the main functions of parents in the lives of their children. Our doctrine of infant baptism comes with it a promise from father to child that covenantally they will raise their offspring up in the fear and the admonition of the LORD, not to create anger or cause them to hate the things of God, but to learn what true love means and looks like in the context of the grace of Jesus Christ. (Eph. 6:1-4).
To step back for a second there is another part of this passage worth meditating on for a moment and that is the foolishness of those who despise wisdom and instruction. Looking at this passage from the covenantal child’s perspective it is likely that at 7 or 9 the average young person is not going to intuitively understand the long term effects of sinfully neglecting the mercy of God in being raised under the covenant promises of baptism. This is where the practice of reading and teaching the fear of the LORD in the gracious gift of the Word of God comes into play. In Reformed circles much is often made of the means of grace, and for good reason. When the apostle Paul is writing to Timothy for a second time he begins that letter by commending the work of his grandma and mom, Louis and Eunice, for teaching him the Scriptures. In doing so they prepared him (in the blessed providence of God) through this work for a lifetime of ministerial service to Jesus Christ and His Church. It is unlikely Timothy was aware of the plans of God in his life and that is not why Louis and Eunice read the Bible to him. They performed this action because of their abiding trust in the promises God had and continues to make to His people. It was in reading about Samson and Delilah, the sins of Achen, the countless examples of the kings of Israel and Judah who continued in the sins of their fathers, and ultimately the unbelief of Judah, despite all their outward blessings, which led them into exile that young Timothy learned what Solomon warns his son about in this opening passage from the book of Proverbs. This is what it looks like in basic terms to raise your children up so that they can gain an appreciation for the consequences of failing to listen when their mothers and fathers graciously provide them with the knowledge of the LORD, which as Solomon so beautifully puts it, this wisdom will be “an ornament of grace unto thy head”. God works in and through His Word to prepare His Church for the next generation.
In closing, Christian parents and children must never forget that it is a testimony to the work of Christ in His Word through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit alone that any of us come to a right understanding of the truth of redemption and salvation and thereby grow in our sanctification by His grace. These promises made in the Covenant of Baptism, both with the parents and the children, are fulfilled not by the works of the flesh, but by the consummator of that covenant who is the great Triune God. As noted before Solomon himself would fail miserably to heed the counsel he provides in this passage. He did not listen to the words of his father David, and it can rightfully be said that David, who was faithfully taught the 6th and 7th Commandments by his father Jesse, fell short of the glory of God as well. Teaching and preparing our children in the righteous fear and the knowledge of His Truth is not a recipe for sinlessness. But a right communication of the nature of God as He has revealed Himself in the Bible is a process for raising covenant children who understand the forgiveness of God in Christ, of resting and trusting in Him Alone for eternal life. What better way to communicate the whole counsel of God, from Creation to the Second Coming, to our children than by using the means that same LORD has granted to us in His Word, so that our young people know that the word they receive in instruction from their father and the law provided by their mother comes not from their fallen hearts, but from the perfect and glorious hand of Almighty God?