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It is well, now and then, to step aside and consider what God has to say to young men and women; as well as to consider what He says to their fathers and mothers. The home must ever remain the greatest bulwark of the State. The church has realized the need of saving the youth of the land, in its great effort through its Sunday Schools.
1. Let us first, however, briefly observe the obligations of the father. The Scripture at the head of this study begins like this: "And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up."
If this Divine injunction were obeyed there would be but little difficulty in seeing the children truly saved. The difficulty with children usually lies with the parents, and not infrequently with the father.
2. Let us, next, observe the obligations of the mother. A mother holds a very close contact with her children. She is with them from morning till night. She watches over them. She discovers their frailties, and also their better qualities. It is not difficult for her to lead them in the way of life, and light, and love.
The verse in Proverbs 31:1-31 has always gripped us: "She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness. Her children arise up, and call her blessed." God give us mothers like the one described in this remarkable chapter.
3. The obligations of children to their parents. God's Word is very definite in its instruction to boys and girls. It says: "Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right." The Bible, however, demands more than a legal obedience. It adds: " Honour thy father and mother; which is the first Commandment with promise; that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth."
In my 65th year, I still feel much of the same feeling toward my father who is alive at 91 (since deceased Pub.), that I felt in the days of my boyhood. It has never passed away, and I know it never will.
4. Let us consider something of the model young man. Timothy is described in the Bible as Paul's dearly beloved son. When Paul addresses him as such, he says: "When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also."
Somehow it seems to us that what was true of Timothy is true of us all. Surely there are few stalwart and faithful children who did not have the same kind of parents at least on one side.
We delight in seeing young men and young women who are possessed of an unfeigned faith. We delight to see them clothed in the spirit of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
Timothy was a young man who fled from youthful lusts, and who followed righteousness, and faith, and charity, and peace. We trust that everyone who studies this lesson will prove himself of the same quality.
5. Let us observe a young man who was an example to others. Sometimes youths are timid to assert themselves; especially in the presence of those who are older than they Paul, however, wrote to the young man, Timothy, saying, "Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers." Somehow we feel this is written to all young people.
I. THE GLORY OF OBEDIENCE (Proverbs 4:1-4 )
1. Giving ear to instruction. To us there is something very significant in the opening words of our text: "Hear, ye children, the instruction of a father." The words suggest the value of a father's superior wisdom and knowledge. The father is, of course, older than his child, and years tend to wisdom.
God knew this when He said, "Children, obey your parents." He knew it when He said, Bring up your children in the way that they should go. It is not safe to leave youth to their own way and will. They need guidance. Therefore, how necessary it is for children to give ear to what they hear from their parents.
2. Attending to know understanding. A babe comes into the world in utter ignorance. He must be taught, as he grows from babehood into childhood, and from childhood into youth. He therefore should give himself to know understanding. He must apply himself. He must give attention to reading, to study, to observation of everything about him. He must apply himself with all diligence to the task of improvement, otherwise he will see others surpassing him in knowledge and preparation for life.
3. He must seek for good doctrine. It is not enough for him to give attention to instruction. He must also have a good instructor. His father must give him good doctrine, and good law. Herein we see that the greatest responsibility lies in parenthood; and yet, the child must be a willing listener, an apt scholar, and quick to obey instruction.
4. Solomon's father and mother. Here is a beautiful touch. The wise man says, "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, Let thine heart retain my words: keep my commandments, and live."
David was a very busy man with the affairs of the kingdom, and yet he took time to instruct his son. The mother also loved her child and covered him with protection and tender consideration. Oh, that parents would give due heed to their responsibilities and opportunities!
II. A CALL TO INTEGRITY (Proverbs 4:5-6 )
1. The danger of declining from the words of parental instruction. How often have we seen young men and young women refusing to walk under the guiding hand of a real father and mother. They would rather listen to the enticing words of the evil one. They would rather follow the instruction of the wicked who are always in waiting to carry the youth away from the paths of rectitude.
We remember, as a lad, how a man under our father's employ did everything he knew how to teach us to wander, and to go into sin. There were also groups of other boys of our own age who were always on hand to lead us astray. We can thank God that He led us in those crises into obedience to our own parents. We thank God that they had the knack to secure our confidence, and to hold our affection.
2. The danger of forsaking the good for the bad. David foresaw this for Solomon. Solomon foresaw it for his own children. There is something in the human heart that seems to prefer the evil to the good, the paths of sin to the ways of righteousness. Some one has said that we are as prone to do evil as sparks are to fly upward. Our natures are poisoned by inbred sin.
If a father or a mother imagines that children, left to their own impulses, will choose the better way, they should consider their propensities to evil.
The youths, themselves, should be taught the danger of yielding to their own inward desires. The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. If we walk in the sight of our eyes, and in the ways of our hearts, we will be sure to fall by the way. There must be within us a power to say No. There must be a crucifixion of the flesh and of its lustings.
The danger of drifting is too great for any young man or young woman to be left a prey to their own natures.
III. AN EXHORTATION TO EMBRACE THE GOOD (Proverbs 4:7-9 )
1. "Therefore get wisdom: * * get understanding." There should be instilled into every young life the thought of reaching out for the good, of acquiring the best. Wisdom is the principal thing. Therefore, get wisdom. Understanding is very vital. Therefore, with all of thy getting, get understanding.
It may be difficult for young people to acknowledge that they do not know everything. The flesh desires to follow self-confidence. The ego is very strong in all. We think that we can do it. The true parent will try to instill into the mind of the child the need of accumulation, of growth, of getting. They must hold before their children that there are many things to be obtained things higher up, and further on.
2. "Exalt her * * embrace her." These words, culled from Proverbs 4:8 , are written to create ideals, to instill high conceptions. If the wisdom which cometh down from above is supreme, then this wisdom should be exalted, and should be embraced. If the wisdom which cometh down from above leads to honor, to a long life, and to everything that promotes righteousness, then the youth should stretch every nerve to attain her.
The young man or the young woman delights in games with the thought of winning. He delights in contests at school with prizes in view. Teach him that he is in a race for an honor, a glory, and a crown that will not only outshine ail other things but which will endure forever.
Instruct him to become enthusiastic in the reach for the upper realms, where God's good things await him. Life should be set before him as something that is filled with possibilities that are far above and beyond the lowlands of natural affections. If it is a matter of fun to win in a trivial game, a passing race, how much more should the higher, holier, and more abiding things of life appeal.
IV. AVERTING THE DANGERS OF YOUTH (Proverbs 4:10-13 )
1. Does holy living pay? This is a question that often comes to the mind of the young. The enemy is always painting roseate pictures of sinful and worldly living. He promises all kinds of fleshly enjoyment, and that without damage.
God steps on the scene and gives full warning of the results of feeding the flesh. He demonstrates the folly of following in the ways of wickedness. He says, "The wages of sin is death." Then He turns the picture around and tells us that long life will be given to those who receive His wisdom, and who walk in His sayings.
For our part, we trust the words of the Lord, and believe that all God promises is true. We believe it not alone because God says this or that, but also because our observations, during the years have proved every word to be true. We have seen with our own eyes the tragic ending of those who have followed after sin. We have seen the wreckage, beheld the heartaches, and have watched with sorrow the tragedies of lives that went after sin. Alas, alas, how pitiable is the end of the wicked! How terrible is the harvest of those who sow to the flesh!
On the other hand, we have observed the life and the fruitage of men who, from their youth, have walked in wisdom and sobriety. We have seen those who refused every call of the evil one, and chose to follow God in the days of their youth. We have seen their happy homes, their delightful families, their hairs whitening into a good old age; and we have said, "All that God wrote is true."
2. May sin and sorrow be averted? We often ask, what is the chance of living without being engulfed in the woes of the wicked? We are in a world of sin and shame: may we be kept from its ravages? We are dwelling in darkness: may we yet walk in light?
With others falling all around us, may we walk safely on our way? With other homes broken, hearts blasted, hopes blighted, may we yet have the light of life, and of joy, and peace?
As we have weighed these things we have truly found that while all of us are heirs of others' sins, yet much of life's miseries are self-engendered. If we walk in Wisdom, and Understanding that is Divinely given, we shall have long life; our steps will not be straightened; we shall not stumble when we run.
V. A TRIPLE WARNING (Proverbs 4:14-15 )
1. The first warning "Enter not." Satan's placards are many, and they are attractively gotten up. The devil is a great advertiser. Take the pictures of the cigarette that emblazon every highway. They are so pictured as to "catch" the unwary. Young women predominate, as though they were all devotees of the weed. The billboards picture the cigarette as the harbinger of health and happiness. The billboards even show athletes as smokers of this or that brand. So the story goes. The movie is made a place of great attractiveness; the race track, the drinking saloon, the dance hall, all are made scenes of beauty.
Against all of this God writes: "Enter not."
2. The second warning: "Go not." We think of the first Psalm: "Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful."
Think you that one can play with fire and not be burned? Think you that one can go in the way of sinners, and not be led into sin. We will always partake of the nature and the ways of those with whom we associate. We will, day by day, grow into the likeness of the ones with whom we have comradeship.
3. The third warning: "Pass not by it." God. the Spirit, seems to be warning the young man and the young woman that there is danger not only in entering in, and in going in the way, but that it is dangerous to pass by. The only safe course for any of us, is to "Avoid it"; to "Pass not by it"; to "Turn from it"; to "Pass away."
For this cause we have made it a rule of our life not to attend any function where there is evil. We have refused to watch others dance, play cards, drink, etc. We have taken, not only now, but in our youth, a definite and positive stand against any fellowship with evil.
Yes, we might have had the strength to withstand temptation; however, we never gave ourselves the opportunity to be tempted when we could avoid it.
What has been the result? Instead of lessening our joys and peace and happinesses, we believe we have greatly augmented them.
VI. A SOLEMN COMPASSION (Proverbs 4:18-19 )
1. Here is a message of accumulative blessing. " The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day."
First, we have some one walking in the light. "If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another." Here is a path that is marked with blessed fellowship. It is a way of joy. It is a walk of illumination.
Second, we have some one walking in an ever-increasing light. There is but one assurance for an ever-increasing light, and that is to walk in the way that leads toward the light. It will get brighter then, day by day, because each day we are getting nearer to the light.
Third, there is some one walking toward a perfect day. That day is to be realized when we reach Heaven. There is such a place and there is such a condition "the perfect day."
2. Here is a message of accumulative evil. " The way of the wicked is as darkness: they know not at what they stumble." They first entered into the way of the wicked, then they went down the way; then they passed into darkness; and then they stumbled and fell.
The sinner hopes in vain for that brighter day. Around his next shore line, there is always another day of deepening misery and disappointment. He is moving on into that place where the blackness of darkness is reserved forever and ever.
VII. SEVEN FINAL ADMONITIONS (Proverbs 4:23-27 )
1. "Keep thy heart with all diligence." The heart is vital to every functioning of physical life. It is also vital to the issues of spiritual life.
Our text says, "For out of it are the issues of life." We say the heart pumps the blood throughout the body to sustain its life. God says that the heart not only gives out blood, but that from it flows the "issues" of life. So the heart is both a physical organ, but it also stands for the seat of good or of evil.
2. "Put away from thee a froward mouth." With this we will include, "And perverse lips put far from thee." Out of the mouth proceedeth both the evil and the good. The tongue may be set on fire of hell, and it may be the source of blessing. Let us remember that our conversation is in Heaven. Let us put, therefore, a watch upon our lips.
3. "Let thine eyes look right on." And, "Let thine eyelids look straight before thee." If we look to the right and to the left, we will be turning in that direction. If we look behind us, we will be in danger of becoming satisfied with past attainments. We must let our eyes look right on, and move on our way, looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith.
4. "Ponder the path of thy feet." Our mothers used to tell us to look before we stepped. We must ponder our path and ask whither it leadeth us. We must not go on until we know where we are going. There is too much of blindness to what lies ahead, in the world today. Let us cultivate looking far past the present scene.
5. "Let all thy ways be established." We do not want to rush into untried and uncommanded paths. We must not be looking for paths that present thrills. We must have ways that are established, fixed. We must never walk in every wind of doctrine, and cunning craftiness of men.
6. "Turn not to the right hand nor to the left." An established way does not permit of varied bypaths. When we turn aside to try new things we must leave the beaten track. We know that bypaths may be made attractive at the junction of the way: however, at the next bend of the road they will surely lead to some pond of discord, or to some hill of despair.
7. "Remove thy foot from evil." If we have taken one in the wrong way, we must be quick to remove our foot. The path of evil may be portrayed as the quickest path to the good. But it is never so. Evil never leads to anything that spells peace, or plenty, or to any righteous way.
In line with the general trend of this study, both parents and children need to watch that little member, the tongue.
I saw a terrible fire some time ago, or rather, I saw the reflection of it in the sky; the heavens were crimsoned with it. It burned a large manufactory to the ground, and the firemen had hard work to save the buildings which surrounded it. They poured streams of water on it from fifteen engines; but it licked it up, and would have its course till the walls gave way. That terrible fire was kindled by a farthing rushlight. In America the Indians strike a spark from a flint and steel, and set fire to the dry grass, and the flames spread till they sweep like a roaring torrent over the prairies as large as England, and men and cattle have to flee for their lives. "Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire." A few rash words will set a family, and even a nation, by the ears. Half the lawsuits and half the wars have been brought about by the tongue. Husband and wife have separated forever, children have forsaken their homes, bosom-friends have become bitter foes all on account of fiery arrows shot by this powerful little member. Biblical Encyclopedia.
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Neighbour, Robert E. "Wells of Living Water Commentary on Proverbs 4". "Living Water". https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26