When studying the Bible we must be very careful to interpret it correctly. The responsibility of the reader is to understand the intention and meaning that the author is trying to convey. Many considerations must be made in trying to discover the meaning of any given text. One important consideration is the genre of the writing. You may not interpret a proverb in the same way you would interpret historic narrative or an epistle. A poem is different than a letter, for instance, and this contributes to understanding the author’s intent.
Where this applies in today’s text, and really many places in the book of proverbs, can be found in this question: Are the proverbs to be taken as promises or probabilities?
In this text Solomon urges his son to not forget the laws and commandments that he had given to him. Forgetting deals with the mind and behavior. He also deals with the heart, signifying that it is not just an intellectual endeavor, but a spiritual, emotional, and internal commitment that must be made.
Solomon then goes on to say, “for length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to thee.” If this were to be taken as promise, then anyone who has ever lived this way and been murdered at a young age would be exhibit A in a refutation of the veracity of scripture. The truth is that Solomon is not telling his son that this way of thinking is a magic trick to ensure that bad things will never happen to him. This is not an endorsement of some kind of karma working mysteriously in the world for those who attempt to live wisely. At the same time, this is not some wishy-washy general statement with so many qualifications that it becomes a pointless mentality to adopt. Solomon is stating a profound probability. It is an observation and instruction related to the reality and probability of how the world works according to God’s design.
When the young listen, take to heart, and obey the wisdom and instruction of their parents and other wise and mature people in their lives the probability of their life being extended and improved is significantly effected in a positive way. Conversely, those who ignore the wisdom and instruction of the wise people in their life find that the length and quality of their life is affected negatively as well.
These realities can be seen in the lives of people that we meet every day. Go out your door, and talk to people. You’ll find people that wear their choices, good and bad, on their faces and in their bodies. Though this shouldn’t be taken as a promise to immunity from difficulty, yet it should be taken quite seriously.
Do you want peace? Health? Quality of life? Length of life? Then listen to and take to heart the wisdom of the elders in your life.
You might be thinking, but I’m not really around many older people. What do I do? Where can I access these wise, mature people and get their knowledge and input?
- There may be wise people in your family. Get around them. Make a phone call. Do whatever you can to let them speak into your life.
- There are many wise people in solid, Bible-believing local churches. The Bible speaks specifically of the need for the older to teach the younger in the context of the local, New Testament assembly. There are many wise people who are looking to do that in a variety of ways in good, Godly churches.
- You can access wise counsel through books and other media. You can access the wisdom of great people who are preachers, authors, bloggers, and practitioners. We have more access to more content (good and bad) today than at any other time of history. Let wise people you know point you to wisdom in solid sources.
- The ultimate and inerrant source of wisdom is the Word of God. As we study the book of proverbs we will see unparalleled wisdom that finds it ultimate source in God Himself. Remember, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom. Any wisdom that comes from any other source finds its ultimate source in the person of God himself.
- Which one of these four sources of wisdom do you need to access today?
- What wisdom are you ignoring that is affecting your peace and length of life today?