Proverbs 4 - Two Roads
The Generation Gap (Proverbs 4:1-9)
The generation gap and generational conflict – these are well-known terms and well-known issues. Older and younger people do not always relate to each other harmoniously, they are worlds apart. Older people – who are the youth of earlier times – at times seem to have forgotten their own youth. They do not understand their youthful contemporaries, and are of the opinion that today’s youth are totally on the wrong track. Indeed, the wisdom of the Preacher is not always heeded, and the youth often ignore the older generation.
Proverbs 4 shows that there is no gap between one generation and the next, and that communication between generations is not characterized by conflict. These proverbs show how to build bridges from one generation to the next.
Indeed, wisdom bridges chasms. Wisdom removes conflicts. When wisdom is allowed to work, conflicts are prevented. Read carefully how the father-wisdom-teacher addresses his son, how he praises wisdom, how you have to work hard in order to master wisdom. But also listen when the father tells about his own youth and about his own father who, in turn, taught him wisdom.
Wisdom is passed on from father to son. There is no generation gap, the generations are linked. The grandfather addresses his grandson via the son and father, the forebears teach their descendants.
New church generations are formed by means of educating children and young people in God’s wisdom. The Bible teaches that we should not consider our children as our children, but as children of the previous generation church members. Our children are part of the continuing Church. We must tell the next generation of the great deeds of the LORD because these children are children of that previous generation, of those ancestors. Also those ancestors lived with and because of the glorious deeds of the LORD.
Proverbs 4 combines with Psalm 78 which speaks,
...things we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us.
We will not hide them from their children, but tell the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders which he has wrought.
Their children and the coming generation refer to the same people. Wisdom is not inherited, wisdom is passed on!
Proverbs 4:1-9, Ecclesiastes 7:10, Psalm 78:1-4
Wise Words about the Way (Proverbs 4:10-27)
The Two Roads (Proverbs 4:10-19)
It is not the first time that we read about two roads. We heard about them already in Proverbs 1 and Proverbs 3. The repetition emphasizes the importance, and illustrates our obstinacy. There are many things which need to be told us more than once. And that is certainly the case when talking about these two roads: the road to life and the road to death; the shining path of the righteous, or the dark path of the wicked which disappears in the night. Again we are placed before a choice. And it is perfectly clear what choice is the right one!
Proverbs 4:10-19, Psalm 1, Matthew 7:13-14
Guarding the Christian Heart (Proverbs 4:20-27)
One of the basic lessons of the ABCs of wisdom deals with keeping your heart with all vigilance. And that is necessary, because from the heart flows the springs of life. The thoughts of the heart will come out. All that we say and do stems from our innermost thoughts. Therefore, our heart is like a position from which to attack the world around us.
But there is also traffic in the opposite direction. We are bombarded by many things which struggle to enter our thoughts, and want to settle in our heart. Our heart, therefore, is also like a reception centre. There is traffic from the inside to the outside, and from the outside to the inside. That heart with its hidden recesses, and with coming and going traffic, needs to be guarded. It must be kept against dangerous intruders, and against its own foolish actions. Most people maintain their house with care, and often their car with exaggerated care. But few keep their heart with vigilance. Of course, no one will deny that it is necessary to take care of many things, but it is also necessary to set priorities. Your heart needs to be guarded and kept above all other things.
How should you do that? Well, by now you ought to know the answer: by mastering wisdom, and by filling your heart with it. Wisdom works like a sieve, like a sluice through which things go into and out of your heart. It is the key to your heart. That key is built by regular bible study and regular church attendance.
The thoughts and considerations of our heart determine what we say and what we look at, how we look and what we do not want to say. Our heart determines where we want to go, where we want to put our feet, to the right or to the left. Therefore, many of life’s questions concern our heart. Ethical matters and practical choices are determined by our heart: what is allowed and what is not? what is right and what is wrong? should we choose this or that? Every day we are confronted by such questions, questions related to our walk of life, our Christian conduct, and our reformed customs. The questions are basically the same. Yet the answers are often radically different. Today, reformed customs and manners are no longer clearly and easily identifiable. Without wanting to defend the thesis that reformed people always ought to act and behave in the same way, we can readily conclude that we are often poles apart. The one rejects radically what another defends. One person may do some things that another would never do. In particular when our actions cannot be based on one text, and when we have to consider all of Scripture, our choices and answers can be radically different.
Yet, in all these matters it concerns our heart. Those differences are not merely external, they are very much internal in nature. Behind those different answers and choices hides a different heart, a different attitude towards life. That causes the breach between the one and the other. One person may consider the covenant with the Lord as a contract, and may try to find loopholes in order to escape. Another has given his heart to the Lord and wants to honour God’s covenant in full by acknowledging that throughout all of life.
Deep down, one person may well be unwilling to give himself or herself to the Lord and may be searching for an escape. For another the Lord’s commandments may sound as music to his ears. The one is quite happy when he thinks he can say that there is no particular Bible text which forbids this or that. Another may struggle with the same question, may continue to read the Bible and prayerfully tries to gain a clearer insight.
Pure in heart – that belongs to the picture which the Lord Jesus painted of the children of the kingdom – pure in heart, genuinely so. And that needs to be applied in all practical things: pure of heart and clean of hand.
Wisdom wants to make us into people of integrity, people who have locked wisdom in their heart.
Proverbs 4:20-27, Psalm 24:4, Psalm 101:2, Matthew 5:8; 6:21, Psalm 86:11-12