An Autobiographical Sketch
Dr. Joe Temple

Review

Open your Bibles, please, to Proverbs, chapter 4. We are continuing our study, which we have referred to as Thirteen Lectures on Wisdom , and we have listed these lectures on wisdom for you. The first one we considered we entitled Shun Evil Companions , and it is recorded in chapter 1, verses 8-23. The second we entitled The Search for Wisdom , found in chapter 2, verses 1-22. The third we entitled Trust and Obey , found in chapter 3, verses 1-10. The fourth lecture, Chastening and Wisdom , is found in chapter 3, verses 11-20. Then in our last lesson we brought you the fifth lecture on wisdom entitled Wisdom and Fear —how the wisdom of God dispels fear that naturally grips the heart of a great many of us.

Introduction

In this lesson we will look at the sixth lecture on wisdom which we have entitled An Autobiographical Sketch. I would like for you to follow in your Bibles as we read this particular lecture. Notice verse 1:

Proverbs 4:

1 Hear, ye children, the instruction of a father, and attend to know understanding.
2 For I give you good doctrine, forsake ye not my law.
3 For I was my father's son, tender and only beloved in the sight of my mother.
4 He taught me also, and said unto me, Let thine heart retain my words: keep my commandments, and live.
5 Get wisdom, get understanding: forget it not; neither decline from the words of my mouth.
6 Forsake her not, and she shall preserve thee: love her, and she shall keep thee.
7 Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.
8 Exalt her, and she shall promote thee: she shall bring thee to honour, when thou dost embrace her.
9 She shall give to thine head an ornament of grace: a crown of glory shall she deliver to thee.

This constitutes the sixth lecture on wisdom. If you are thinking, and I hope you are, you probably are saying to yourself, “Now, wait a minute. I thought all of these lectures began with the words my son .” This one begins with the words hear, ye children . If you were to read this in the original text, you would find that the word children is actually son, and the suggestion we made is true. “Hear, my sons, the instructions of a father, and attend to know understanding.” We suggested to you the title for this particular lecture might be An Autobiographical Sketch . The reason we suggest that is what has already been hinted at in the first verse, “Hear, my sons, the instruction of a father…”, and then in the third verse, “For I was my father's son, tender and only beloved in the sight of my mother. He taught me also, and said unto me…”

Children's psychiatrists or psychologists tell us that we ought not ever say to our sons, “Now, when I was a boy….” We should never say that to them because they think that we were old fuddy-duddies and that whatever we did when we were boys couldn't possibly be the same things that they do as boys. Let me assure you boys that it is the same thing, just a little different dress and a little bit faster—that's about the only difference.

Solomon, the writer of Proverbs, realized that his sons might be lacking in attention a bit. After all, they have had five lectures on wisdom. I don't know whether he gave them to them once a week like we do here or once a day; but he recognized that they were lacking in attention somewhat. He said to them, “Boys, I was a boy once and I remember what my father told me.” This is the important part. “I am a man now, and I want to tell you that if I had profited, if I had obeyed, if I had heeded what my father told me, I would have saved myself a great deal of grief.”

You will keep in mind that before the book of Proverbs, there is the book of Ecclesiastes, where you will find the record of every experience a man could have in regard to the affairs of life. He describes them in detail and lets you know that none of them will ever satisfy. He is saying, “I would not have gone through all of the heartache I have recorded in the book of Ecclesiastes if I had heeded what my father had said unto me.” Of course, you understand that Solomon was the son of David and Bathsheba. That in itself is a tremendous story of the grace of God.

You are familiar with that story—that Bathsheba was the wife of adultery, that David was a murderer, and yet God in His grace overruled it, though he did not excuse it, and out of this union came the man who is the author of this book. That is a tremendous story of the grace of God. You and I wouldn't act like that; you and I wouldn't respond like that, but God does because God is a God of grace.

This should be a great encouragement to every person of how God can overrule our faults, our failings, our sins, our lacks. Where sin abounds, grace does much more abound.

Glance at the third verse again and notice that Solomon said:

Proverbs 4:

3 For I was my father's son, tender and only beloved in the sight of my mother.

This is not as happy a translation as it might be because the words are not properly arranged from the original text. A better translation, to get the point across would be, “For I, too, was once a son, tenderly loved by my mother as an only child, and the companion of my father.” I like that. I wish you parents would notice that. It was mother who bestowed that tender love upon this boy, as though he were the only child. In this instance, he was, but it was the father who provided the companionship. Your sons are not looking for buddies; they are looking for companions, someone in whom them can confide. This is true of daughters as well. Even as I say this, a careful examination of our text will emphasize that the emphasis in this lecture is not on the responsibility of the parent, but on the responsibility of the children to heed the instructions which are given to them. So all children and young people can heed this message as though it is directly addressed to them, and all older folks can receive the message as a responsibility to see that this is the way that children respond to the instruction that is given.

Remember this: The commandment, “Honor thy father and thy mother,” is not a commandment that can be fulfilled because children are born with the inclination to do so; they are born with the inclination not to, but it is your responsibility as a parent to teach them to do it.

If we reread this paragraph several times over, I don't know that you would carry away anything with you more practical than after the first reading, so I am going to suggest that we not read the passage again, but that we analyze it and see exactly what is in it. Then as you read it later,as I hope you will, you will keep the things that I have suggested to you in mind.

This first thing that I would like to draw to you attention is that there are seven expressions in this one lecture to describe what a father ought to teach his children. You might just say, “He ought to teach them the Word of God.” That would be good. ”He ought to teach them doctrine.” That would be good, but the Spirit of God does not limit him to one word. He uses seven, and I would like for you to notice the seven with me so that you might be able to understand what is written in the verses. Notice verse 1:

Train Your Children

Proverbs 4:

1 Hear, ye children, the instruction of a father,…

Notice the word instruction . It comes from the Hebrew word moosawr , which means “training.” It isn't a matter of standing up before your child and shaking your finger in his face and telling him he ought to do thus and so. It is a matter of training him to do thus and so. So children are told to pay very close attention to their training. You have visited homes, I am sure, when after you have left, you have said to your wife or your husband, as the case may be, “I wonder if those children have ever had any training at all.” Then you have visited in other homes and you have remarked as you have left, “Those are the best trained children I have seen in a long time.” This is one of the expressions that is used to rightly orient your child in the things of God for this world.

Understanding

Then there is another word. It is the word understanding . It comes from the Hebrew word bene , which means “to separate mentally.” Think as you hear me. Don't swallow everything wholesale. Sort it out. Decide what is good, what is bad. Decide what applies to you and what doesn't. Decide how it may apply and how it may not. Look at verse 1:

Proverbs 4:

1 Hear, ye children, the instruction of a father, and attend to know understanding.

That is the word. In verse 5:

Proverbs 4:

5 Get wisdom, get understanding:…

Then down in verse 7:

Proverbs 4:

7 Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.

Three times over in this lecture is the importance of understanding emphasized.

Sound Doctrine

The third thing by way of expression is entitled Good Doctrine . A better translation would be Sound Doctrine . If you will notice verse 2, Solomon said to his son:

Proverbs 4:

2 For I give you good doctrine, forsake ye not my law.

“I teach you sound doctrine.” How many of you parents have conscientiously considered whether or not you are providing your children with sound doctrine? Have you given it any thought? Sometimes parents say to me, “I make sure there is Sunday School and church every Sunday. I take them by and drop them off at the door.”

Have you ever gone enough yourself to see what they are getting in Sunday School? You know, a lot of Sunday Schools don't give sound doctrine. Have you ever heard the preacher preach enough to know if he is giving out any sound doctrine? I have had parents say to me, “We go to such-and-such a church because they have such nice facilities.” Now, I am as human as the next fellow. I like nice facilities. I am enjoying this new building; I am not making any apologies for it. I will be really glad when we can build one on the other side, whenever the Lord wants us to. I haven't got anything against nice facilities, but nice facilities doesn't mean sound doctrine is taught. Beloved, you ought not chose the church you go to on the basis of facilities; you ought to chose the church you go to on the basis of the doctrine that it teaches and whether or not the doctrine is sound.

Notice that the responsibility that is being impressed upon us in this particular message in the book of Proverbs is the responsibility of parents to see to it that their children have sound doctrine. I would suggest to you that if you don't feel that your children are getting sound doctrine in Sunday School and church, then have a little session at home and make sure that they get that sound doctrine, for it is part of the proper training of any child.

Law

Another expression is the word law . It is a familiar word with us. We have seen it before. It is the word torah , and it is used by the Jews to describe the first five books of the Bible—Genesis through Deuteronomy. Certainly you could let it represent literally the Word of God. If you will notice verse 2, Solomon, speaking of his father, said:

Proverbs 4:

2 For I give you good doctrine, forsake ye not my law.

Good, sound doctrine is related to the Word of God.

Words

Another expression is words. We would emphasize to you that these are not just prattling words. The word words comes from a Hebrew word which means “advice.” Here you find the responsibility placed upon the father to see to it that his son has the right advice. Verse 4 again:

Proverbs 4:

4 He taught me also, and said unto me, Let thine heart retain my words [my advice]: keep my commandments, and live.

I wonder how many of you parents have been diligent in giving your children advice before they get into trouble—not after, but before. It is always easy for us to say to our children, “Why did you have to go and do that?” Sometimes they don't answer, but when they do, they'll say, “Because I didn't know any better. That's why.” “Why didn't you?” If they didn't think they would get backhanded, they would say, “Because you never told me. That's why.” There is advice that needs to be given.

Commandments

Then you will notice the word commandments , which speaks for itself, including all the commandments of the Lord.

Wisdom

Then you will notice the word wisdom , which is constantly repeated throughout the book of Proverbs. It comes from a Hebrew word which means “to be wise in mind and in word and in acts.” It is wisdom that completes the whole man. Without this wisdom, the whole man cannot be completed. As we suggested to you already, the word wisdom could be interchanged with the word doctrine , and when we are using the word doctrine , we are talking about the sound teaching of the Word of God because the Word of God is the only source of real wisdom that there is.

These seven expressions are used by Solomon to describe the subject matter of the teaching that he provided for his son. I hope that those of us who are in this study, considering our relationship to our children, will examine our instruction of our children in the light of these seven things.

Verses 1-9 present to us ten attitudes that are manifested in relation to the instruction given. These attitudes are interesting to me because they emphasize to my mind what I already know, and that is that instruction is not always graciously and freely received. You may say, “I never know what's wrong with that boy; he never wants me to tell him anything.” There is not anything wrong with him. That is his nature. You have the same kind of nature. That is why when your wife says, “Honey, this is not the right road,” you say, “Don't tell me how to drive,” and she is usually right, whether you ever admit it or not. You just don't like to be told. It is a natural thing.

Hear

Because this nature of ours does not like to be told, in this particular lecture on wisdom, these ten attitudes are suggested as being necessary. First, you will notice the word hear. It comes from the Hebrew word shaw-mah , which means “to listen thoughtfully.” In verse 1:

Proverbs 4:

1 Hear, ye children, the instruction of a father,…

Listen thoughtfully; think about what I am saying. Parents, you are doing your children a great injustice if you continue to babble after you know that they are not listening. All in the world you are doing is babbling. Just because they don't walk out of the room doesn't mean that they are listening to what you say.

In the early years of their life, you need to see to it that they hear. They need to shaw-mah ; they need to listen thoughtfully to what is said. Of course, we would say to children and young people that this is wise procedure, even though you get awfully tired of hearing it because sometimes it sounds like the same thing. I hope you don't give lip to your parents. I hope you don't talk back to them, but if you do, no doubt you have said or at least you felt like saying, “I have been told that before. How many times are you going to tell me that?” Don't say that. You listen thoughtfully to what is said.

Attend to Know

Notice the phrase, “attend to know,” in verse 1:

Proverbs 4:

1 Hear, ye children, the instruction of a father, and attend to know understanding.

That phrase, “attend to know,” comes from a Hebrew word which speaks of pricking up your ears. That is the only way that you are going to get understanding—by pricking up your ears. You know, you are going along; someone is talking, but you are not paying too much attention. Oh, you know enough about what is being said that you can turn around and answer them or pick up the thread of the conversation, but your mind is a thousand miles away. It is amazing how many things you can have running through your mind at the same time, but all at once something is said that is a little different. What do you do? Figuratively speaking, you ought to prick up your ears. You ought to say, “Run that by again. I want to hear that.” This is important if you are to get what God has for you.

Forsake Not

Now notice the words “forsake not.” They come from Hebrew words which mean “do not relinquish.” In verse 2:

Proverbs 4:

2 For I give you good doctrine, forsake ye not my law.

Do not relinquish the Word of God. All too often, too many people let loose of God's Word. When the real test comes, when fulfilling God's Word demands a price, it is easier to let go of it than it is to hold on to it.

Hold Fast with All your Heart

That is the reason that the word retain is brought to your attention next, for in verse 4:

Proverbs 4:

4 He taught me also, and said unto me, Let thine heart retain my words: keep my commandments, and live.

The word retain literally means “hold fast with all your heart.” This is the thing that keeps you steady when you are out with the crowd and they are going to do some things that you know is contrary to the will of God for your life and to the instruction that you have been given by godly parents. You are not going to relinquish the Word of God; you are going to retain it. You are going to hold fast to it with all of your heart.

I think it is a great mistake, parents, to turn children out in the world without proper training, but if you have thoroughly grounded them in the Word of God, then with assurance, you can turn them out in the world because if you have properly trained them, they will hold fast with all their hearts to the truth of the Word of God.

Get Wisdom and Understanding

Now notice the word get that is brought to your attention in verse 5:

Proverbs 4:

5 Get wisdom, get understanding: …

Down in verse 7:

Proverbs 4:

7 Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom:…

This little word get is an interesting word in that it comes from the Hebrew word kaw-naw , which means “to procure by purchase, regardless of the price that you have to pay.” This word get is the same word in the Septuagint version that is used to describe the story in Matthew, chapter 13, where the individual saw a pearl of great price and sold all that he had in order to buy that pearl. We don't make application of the parable, but we are suggesting to you here that in verse 5 when you are told to get wisdom and to get understanding, you are told to sell everything you have if you have to to get it. No price is too great to pay.

I don't know how many times through the years I have had people say to me, “I wish I knew the Bible like you do,” and they act like God kind of slipped off the top of my head and poured it all down inside, and He would do the same thing for them if they would get in the right place. That is not the way it happened. I don't know that I know it so well, but if I know anything about it, it is because I have paid a price for it. I have spent some time to learn what the Word of God says. There is not a person listening to me tonight but what could know the Word of God in the same fashion that I know it and to the same extent and degree if you are willing to pray the price to do it. Most of us are not willing to pay that price.

Don't Tune These Things Out

Notice another attitude suggested to the things that we have been talking about and one that is often mentioned. “Forget not” speaks for itself. Then notice the statement “defile not.” This is an interesting phrase because it refers to the idea of turning a deaf ear to what you hear. Today we would say, “Don't tune these things out.” In that day they said, “Don't turn a deaf ear to the things that you have heard.”

Love God's Word

A positive suggestion is made in the last three statements which are all self explanatory. They are all used in regard to wisdom. Notice verse 6:

Proverbs 4:

6 Forsake her not, and she shall preserve thee: love her, and she shall keep thee.

Do you really love God's word? Do you really love the teaching that God has for you in the Book? Notice verse 8:

Exalt God's Word

Proverbs 4:

8 Exalt her, and she shall promote thee: she shall bring thee to honour, when thou dost embrace her.

Do you exalt the Word of God; that is, do you give the Word of God first place in your life? What gets your attention in the morning? The morning paper or something from the Word of God? What gets your attention at night? What's on television or what's in the Word of God? I have nothing against morning papers or television. We get a morning paper. I read it about midnight. We have a television. We watch it. I'm not against it. I am simply asking, “Do you exalt the Word of God? Do you embrace the Word of God?” That is, do you hold the Word of God close to your heart and life? This is the only way that it can be effective.

Solomon is saying, “If you men present these attitudes in regard to the Word of God, then the Word of God can be, will be, effective in your heart and in your life.”

Three Benefits of Wisdom

I would like to present a third thing that is found in this paragraph, and that is what I refer to as Three Benefits of Wisdom . The whole idea is to listen thoughtfully so that you can get wisdom, regardless of the price that you have to pay for it; and when you get wisdom, three things will be provided for you. Remember, we have told you repeatedly that the word wisdom abstractly can refer to the Word of God. Personified, it can refer to the Lord Jesus Christ. If you get the living Word and the written Word, then three benefits can be yours, three benefits that God, in His mercy and in His grace, provides for you because of His Word. Look at verse 6:

Preserve

Proverbs 4:

6 Forsake her not, and she shall preserve thee:…

Let's look at that word preserve for a moment. I want to suggest to you that that means the Word of God will provide for you the protection that you need because the word preserve comes from the Hebrew word shaw-mar , which means “to keep you safe.” The Word of God will keep you safe. The Word of God can be a hedge about you in the midst of danger you may have to face, for literally this word means “build a hedge.”

Another benefit that you will find from the Word of God is what we might refer to as preservation . That is brought to our attention by what we read in verse 6:

Proverbs 4:

6 Forsake her not, and she shall preserve thee: love her, and she shall keep thee.
7 Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.
8 Exalt her, and she shall promote thee: she shall bring thee to honour, when thou dost embrace her.

The word preserve is from the Hebrew word naw-tsar , which means “to maintain.” The suggestion is that the Word of God will maintain you; the Word of God will strengthen you; the Word of God will provide for you the source of energy and strength that you need when you need it.

Glance at verse 8:

Promote

Proverbs 4:

8 Exalt her, and she shall promote thee: she shall bring thee to honour, when thou dost embrace her.
9 She shall give to thine head an ornament of grace: a crown of glory shall she deliver to thee.

Notice the word promote . It comes from the Hebrew word room , which literally means “to lift up.” What does all of this mean? Simply this: If you ground your life in the Word of God, if you make it the basis of your existence, you will find yourself being lifted up to places of honor. You will find God working in grace through your life because He works through His Word. You will find yourself being promoted to glory through the Word of the living God.

Conclusion

Any instruction that a parent gives that is not based upon the Word of God will not accomplish the things that we have been talking about. That is one of the sad things about people trying to rear children without God's Word. It is sort of a hit-and-miss proposition, and in the mercy and the grace of God, some kids who have never been grounded in the Word turn out all right. But we are saying to you that if you parents will instruct in the manner that we have suggested, then your children will respond in the attitude we have described. Then you can expect, and you ought not expect anything else, to enjoy all the benefits to which we have referred.


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