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Proverbs 2:1 “My son, if you receive my words, and treasure my commands within you…”
What is it about our parents that gives them the right to expect that their children ought to listen and obey? Here Solomon is commanding his children to do exactly that — both his biological children, and his spiritual descendants who would one day read the Proverbs. The answer is in the Bible, where God gives such commands to children. “Honor your father and your mother,” says the Fifth Commandment, “that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.” (Exodus 20:12) “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” (Ephesians 6:1)
Scripture also makes clear that the parents have an obligation to teach and train their children. It places limits on their sinful nature in order to prevent what we know of as child abuse from entering into the parent-child, teacher-student relationship.
Fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4)
Nowhere does the Bible command physically harming a child or someone placed in a superior’s charge. This limitation of the use of physical coercion does not equal a prohibition on all forms of corporal punishment by parents with children, or superiors with inferiors (i.e., the civil government, schools, etc.) But just as the principle of obeying divinely ordained authority is implicit in the Fifth Commandment’s reference to the parent-child relationship, the parent, or other superior, is obligated to obey God’s constitutional boundaries on the exercise of their authority. “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” (Matthew 28:18) Therefore, those who bear authority in the home, school, civil government, church, and everywhere have the obligation to abide by the law of the One who gave them that authority — Jesus Christ. Child abuse, domestic abuse of a spouse, torture of a prison inmate, hazing a military recruit, all violate the stipulations of the Fifth Commandment in a way that is actually worse than the disobedience or rebellion usually associated with that commandment. This is because of the fact that “to whom much is given, from him much will be required,” (Luke 12:48) and superiors with authority “shall be beaten with many stripes” by the Master who sees them “beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and be drunk.” (Luke 12:45)
Within God’s constituted boundaries of the parent-child and other superior-inferior relationships, however, the person of lower station (child, employee, student, etc) is obligated by God to respect, obey, and seek to please the person of greater station. (Ephesians 5:22-24, 6:1-3, 5-8, Colossians 3:18, 20, 22-25, 1 Peter 2:13-18, et al) Thus, in this and similar verses, Solomon could charge his son to “receive my words, and treasure my commands within you,” (i.e., memorize and meditate upon them) with divinely-ordained authority. He could expect his son to obey, since God Himself had commanded such obedience. Children ought to seek to please their parents by seeking out their wisdom, giving patient heed to their lessons learned from experience, and respecting them even when they are themselves disobedient to God’s Word in areas of their life.
Seeking to please godly men in positions of authority is a great privilege in a world full of ungodly men who hold authority and abuse those under them. Solomon’s son would have had great occasion to rejoice that God had given him such a godly father who not only took the time to teach and train his children, but also gave them wisdom inspired by the Holy Spirit. As students of Christ who open His text the Bible, we ought to be eager and diligent in studying, meditating upon, memorizing, discussing, and applying these lessons. The Book of Proverbs is a particularly simple book of Scripture for this kind of scholarship, because its lessons are put forth in such a direct, practical way that translating them into action in our lives is almost hard to avoid. As we go forth in this book, we ought to be hungry to do what here Solomon charges his son to do. It is in fact a great privilege and an honor to be counted as one of the spiritual sons on whose behalf these Proverbs were written.