The book of Proverbs counsels us to humbly accept a tough word. It’s this, that by nature we are ignorant and prone to foolishness. Whatever we’re out to get in this world, Proverbs instructs us to first go looking for wisdom, because we don’t have it.
Proverbs opens like a letter from a father to his son, which gives us perspective on what it wants to communicate.
Ah, here we realize that Proverbs frames us as children, which takes the edge off being called foolish. After all, none of us looks at a child thinking, “What a fool!” for all that they don’t know. We look at them with honest recognition of their ignorance, but with a loving desire to disciple them into life and wisdom.
Part of the process of finding wisdom and listening to our Father’s instruction includes receiving discipline from our Father. Proverbs later tells us that a rod will drive foolishness from the heart of a child (Proverbs 22:15). From this we learn that we are like children who desperately need our sin-sick foolishness driven out of us. We’re simply not grown up enough in godly wisdom to navigate the world on our own—we’re kids who love to do things “by self,” as we used to say as kids in my house.
Proverbs tells us that as we hear God’s Word we embody one of two characters—the wise son who listens to his Father’s instruction, or the fool who despises wisdom (Proverbs 4:7).
Proverbs is God’s loving call to his children to listen, listen, listen (Proverbs 2:1-5). If you’ve ever been around teenagers, just beginning to form suspicions about their parents’ wisdom, you’ll find they’re quick to answer back and slow to listen. God wants us to humbly return to a childlike attitude, to once again assume that our dad knows everything, and to not question his Word.
The Loving Initiative of a Good Father
Why such a strong call to listen?
Like little kids or ignorant teens, God tells us that our hearts are prone to take the ways of death (Proverbs 1:32; 14:12). Our hearts deceive us, our eyes don’t see things as clearly as they ought, and our feet make haste to run into evil (Proverbs 19:2). We’re prone to reach for hot things we don’t know will burn us (Proverbs 6:27), to trust strangers know better than our Father (Proverbs 5:1-6), and to leave the path that is safe and good for dangerous deadly ways disguised as fun (Proverbs 5:3-14).
But we have a good Father, who desires a good life for us—a life in which, despite all the mess of the world, we can have hope (Proverbs 4:18), we can sleep peacefully (Proverbs 3:24), we can have guidance and direction (Proverbs 3:6), we can have a clean conscience and a life of integrity (Proverbs 2:7), we can experience daily delight in God (Proverbs 8:30), and we can avoid the painful consequences of sin (Proverbs 8:36).
God invites us into this beautiful way of life through the Lord Jesus Christ, who suffered on a cross for all the consequences we deserve for all our foolishness and rebellion.
If we acknowledge that we are fools, and worse than that, intentional rebels, and that Jesus died for our sin, and we believe that he has become for us the wisdom and righteousness we need, we can call out to the Father for mercy, and he will transfer us from the dark road to death onto the path of light (Colossians 1:14).
Just as we first heard the saving voice that called us off the path to death and onto the way of life, so our life after this transfer consists of listening to our Father’s voice. The power of a righteous life comes from having eyes trained on the hope laid out in Scripture, a heart willing to hear the Father, and a mind fixed on God’s law, not our own understanding. Ignoring the wisdom of the world, we must humbly incline our ears to the voice of our loving Father (Proverbs 8:32-34).
The Loving Discipline of a Good Father
Listening to the Father will often be very hard for us, and so we need discipline.
We have foolish heads, fickle wills, and hearts that still battle fleshly impulses to leave the way of life. We don’t even want what’s right, apart from God’s help (Romans 7:18-25). And so, we need to be lovingly trained through sometimes uncomfortable measures to see the wisdom of our Father and to learn to keep to the path of righteousness (Hebrews 12:11).
Those who listen to the Father find comfort in the rod and staff of our Good Shepherd, Jesus (Psalm 23:3). If we’re honest, we know we need correction. We need wisdom. God will give it, because he loves us, but sometimes it will hurt.
Jesus will use his rod to wrench us back onto the path of life, lest we lose our lives by wandering into foolishness we thought was good. Jesus will sometimes have to pick us up kicking and screaming, because we won’t follow him into the good way (Psalm 73:22). He will speak honest words to us about our failure that will set our pride ablaze (Proverbs 13:1).
In his discipline, though, we will find that he has only and always been good. When we’re grown, we will thank him for all the father-son or father-daughter chats he had with us when we were ignorant, squirmy, and jaded. We will see that his loving discipline grew us up into true men and women—men and women who resemble his righteous Son, Jesus (Romans 8:28-29).
The Loving Faithfulness of a Wise Father
We will see in the end that despite our kicking and screaming, our hatred and brutality, and our pride and arrogance, our Father had victory in store for us. He shielded us from unknown horrors that lurked in the darkness. The whole time he guarded our way (Proverbs 2:7-8), and he protected us from the demons behind the delicacies we desired.
We will see that every path was good. Wisdom will enter our hearts, and we will find that it is far better than the childish pleasures we left behind. We will recognize Jesus Christ as the dear friend and brother given to us by our Father. We will love him for his companionship, even when he wounded us with discipline (Proverbs 27:6).
For those who are children of God through Jesus Christ, at the end of life we will finally see that discipline was Love, loving us while we hated him for all his goodness we could not perceive (Proverbs 3:11-12).
Take courage, my friend. Open the book of Proverbs and read it. Oh to be wisely aware of our need for guidance, counsel, and the voice of our Father! God our Father welcomes us to ask him for wisdom (James 1:5). Before we have even asked, he has answered us, by providing us with the book of Proverbs. The question is, will we hear his voice?