“Hear, O Israel”
14 November 2004
Texts: Gospel: John 7:16 Other Scriptures Gen. 18:17-19; Deut. 6:1-9
Last week we addressed the matter of remaining teachable and we cited today’s text: John 7:16 Jesus therefore answered them, and said, "My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me. I want to add the next verse for reasons of clarity: John 7:17 "If any man is willing to do His will, he shall know of the teaching, whether it is of God, or whether I speak from Myself. The meaning of verse 16 is this: that Jesus teaches us what He has first learned from the Father. And verse 17 adds to this a note on the benefit of obedience “willing to do His will.” The benefit is that the person who obeys is empowered to recognize true doctrine, or divine doctrine which is the same thing. Now in last week’s sermon I included as a footnote (edited) the following observations about King Solomon:
Another teachable type is the student/son in Proverbs; namely, Solomon, who is being instructed by King David and Bathsheba: Hear the instruction of your father. . .forsake not the law of your mother.” Proverbs 1:8. We typically gloss over the familial element here--this picture of a God-centered, God-directed, royal family. This is where Solomon was tutored so as to ask for wisdom and knowledge. We must learn not to overlook the obvious in our handling of the Word! What is this “law of your mother”? Well, I can tell you what it is not: it is not some new teaching, a feminist perspective or new age religion. It is the law of godly direction by a faithful woman who had endured the chastisement, or severe discipline of the Lord (the death of her love child, the death of her husband and subsequent marriage to his murderer!) Suffering and repentance and consequences. Prov 1:22 "How long, O naive ones, will you love simplicity? And scoffers delight themselves in scoffing, And fools hate knowledge? Prov 1:23 "Turn to my reproof, Behold, I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you. And yet she did not become angry and bitter, her counsel in Proverbs is precious and sublime--it is the outcome of a teachable heart! Was life hard, painful? You bet, but her suffering was beneficial because God was then and is now “in the circumstances.” And what treasure we can add to our knowledge of David from Proverbs! He also wrote many psalms--he was a great king, but his greatest influence was not geopolitical, but inspirational and educational. He was the man after God’s own heart. Or that we all had the heart of his son, Solomon! who asked upon becoming king: 2 Chr 1:10 "Give me now wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people; for who can rule this great people of Thine?" To which God replied: 2 Chr 1:11 And God said to Solomon, "Because you had this in mind, and did not ask for riches, wealth, or honor, or the life of those who hate you, nor have you even asked for long life, but you have asked for yourself wisdom and knowledge, that you may rule My people, over whom I have made you king, 2 Chr 1:12 wisdom and knowledge have been granted to you. And I will give you riches and wealth and honor, such as none of the kings who were before you has possessed, nor those who will come after you."
It is my intention to fill out this picture of spiritual instruction so that we may all resemble the father of our faith Abraham: Gen 18:17 And the LORD said, "Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, Gen 18:18 since Abraham will surely become a great and mighty nation, and in him all the nations of the earth will be blessed? Gen 18:19 "For I have chosen him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice; in order that the LORD may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about him."
According to Deut 6, we have a charge to keep--a charge to instruct our children spiritually in the home. What a daunting task! We surely need the scope and sequence provided in Scripture to lay the foundation for spiritual prosperity and blessing. Here’s the key: if we were, as the basics of our religious instruction, to cover the subject matter set forth in the book of Proverbs, we would both do well by our children and we would be found obedient to God--obedience is required for blessing. Now Abraham was able to do spiritual instruction before the Scriptures were available to him--that’s daunting! And, praise God, we do not need to re-invent the wheel. We have in the word of God all the helps (the charge, the scope and sequence and the foundational material) we need--what need we else? The willingness to use them.
Because we are used to thinking of Proverbs as being the work of Solomon, it may be hard for us to make the transition forced upon us by the obvious: he records the instruction of his parents. It is as if we have his notebook in hand, not a work of creative genius. I find this insight very helpful. Here’s one reason why: the model of familial instruction is explicit and detailed. If we would labor to instill in our children the contents of Proverbs then we can add to a solid foundation the revelation truths of the scripture to much, much better effect. Want another reason: we benefit as instructors because those who teach must first master the material themselves. You learn what you teach.
I am not going to walk through the entire book of Proverbs for you. But if you were to study the book you would find wonderful, godly material, more inspired than edited: praises of wisdom (Chs. 1 &2), Ch. 3, if we follow the tags introduced in 1:8, could well be instruction from Bathsheba. Ch. 4 reverts to King David. Ch. 5 could be Bathsheba, Solomon’s mother, who herself was a “strange woman.” Solomon records David continuing with wisdom about being surety for someone and the value of hard work in Ch. 6. 6:20 states explicitly the connection to himself. In Ch. 7 Solomon’s mother has more of the inside scoop on adulteress’. David in Ch. 8-9 is recorded to the praise of wisdom and concludes a section of instruction that is structured as a dialogue with father and mother working responsively to the shared wisdom of each other. What a picture of partnership parenting this is! And in preparation for this kind of home instruction, each parent, in his/her distinctive role has work to do--a journal should be kept of one’s personal observations. For example, we read 1:10 “if sinners entice thee” and this is an opportunity to be transparent and autobiographical--to frame your story in biblical terms. Then your children will be filled with accounts of your walk, your testimony--it will bring things of God and self alive, make them pertinent. Your children will come to know you and you, as parents, will come to know each other in a spiritual, yes, biblical perspective. There remain certain issues that cry out for prayerful discernment and wisdom--knowing when certain passages are age appropriate is only something that you can judge for yourselves. Age appropriateness is also culture sensitive. If your children are in school, they may be discussing things ahead of the curve that you might hope would be addressed later if at all. But no child is too young to hear the value of wisdom--no child is harmed by learning to respect the instruction and “laws” of their parents.
But the largest question of all might be: “Okay, I understand what God wants me to do and that this is the best model for us to follow, why, why, why is it so tough to do?!” There are many helpful responses: it’s new to us, it’s huge and intimidating (not actually, in the verse by verse approach!). But the most helpful response is this: there is an adversary, someone who personally doesn’t want you to do this. Indeed, there is someone out there who is greatly alarmed that you should even consider spiritual instruction in your home. Please understand, bible studies and home groups may be opposed, but those Christian practices pale in comparison to this undertaking! Your soul’s enemy harnesses all the powers at his disposal to derail, discourage and distract you from your most important work as parents. He harnesses sloth, apathy, fearfulness and woundedness in tangible spiritual opposition--all our inner demons. This adversary has a name, and a personal identity. His name is Satan and he is a real personal devil who not only hates God implacably, but he also hates the children of God. He hates life, truth, mercy and goodness, too--he comes to kill, steal and destroy. C. S. Lewis once quipped that the devil’s cleverest device is that he has convinced people he doesn’t even exist. But I do not want to get ahead of myself for I am beginning to touch on the theme of next week’s sermon: the biblical basis for the existence of the demonic.
For today, I have set before you a model of spiritual instruction that empowers you to be like Abraham! Great may be your reward for commanding the respect of your children and ruling over your household in a God-pleasing manner. I’ve covered the charge of Deut. 6, the scope and sequence of the book of Proverbs, and I’ve explained how this work is foundational to all further study of scripture. The revelation of the gospel of Jesus Christ will be fuller, deeper and more completely explained in your lives
If you will follow this divinely inspired pattern of home life. No one can do for you, what God has commanded you to do for yourselves. And no one will benefit as hugely as you will! David and Bathseba were able to change the world through their well-instructed son--and hopefully daughters as well--we can too! Your children will rise up and call you blessed. Your grandchildren will be a marvel and a delight if their parents, your own children were raised in the fear and admonition of the Lord. If such beneficial duties abound to us, we hardly need to consider the consequences of neglect. There’s the adventure. Go for it! Amen.