Choose Wisely

April 4, 2022 By Samuel Knowles

Hear, my son, your father’s instruction,    and forsake not your mother’s teaching,for they are a graceful garland for your head    and pendants for your neck.10 My son, if sinners entice you,    do not consent.11 If they say, “Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood;    let us ambush the innocent without reason;12 like Sheol let us swallow them alive,    and whole, like those who go down to the pit;13 we shall find all precious goods,    we shall fill our houses with plunder;14 throw in your lot among us;    we will all have one purse”—15 my son, do not walk in the way with them;    hold back your foot from their paths,16 for their feet run to evil,    and they make haste to shed blood.17 For in vain is a net spread    in the sight of any bird,18 but these men lie in wait for their own blood;    they set an ambush for their own lives.19 Such are the ways of everyone who is greedy for unjust gain;    it takes away the life of its possessors.
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Proverbs 1:8-19, ESV

Our last study we looked at Proverbs 1:1-7 where Solomon sets up the purpose for the entire book and provides the foundation and/or the starting point to obtain wisdom. In the next set of verses, Solomon leads us to a timeless choice. Though we have ‘advanced’ in so many ways, what he was instructing his son on then we have before us even today which are two paths:

Wisdom – grounded in the fear of the Lord and honoring your parents
Folly – foolishness that despises wisdom and instruction.

We are faced with countless choices every day most being very innocuous: Here or there; Left or Right; Sweet or Unsweet; Ranch or blue cheese… BUT there are ones that have major consequences and apart from the wisdom of the knowledge of God in our lives, we’ll wind up in trouble every time. Verse 7 tells us the fear of the Lord is where we start and honoring our parents is where he jumps to next.

Hear, my son, your father’s instruction,    and forsake not your mother’s teaching,
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Proverbs 1:8, ESV

I want to take a quick look and point out the difference he makes between the dad and mom and their role in training up their children. These aren’t mutually exclusive to the role as most moms and dads will attest to overlapping quite a bit, but it does point out the tendencies of each parent which is interesting. A father’s Instruction – the word for instruction here means – discipline/correction. This focuses more on the right and wrong way to live, do, say, or life application. But also goes beyond that to bring loving yet stern course correction when veering from the path. A mother’s teaching – the word for teaching here means – direction/law. This focuses more on the nurturing and development for the child to learn, know, deduce from an educating, growing, guiding perspective. Both are so important.

To have godly parents who work together in accordance to the Word of God is a blessing that equips us to tackle those difficult choices bombarding us every day. But when you’re just starting out as a young man or young woman and mom and dad aren’t always right there with you, you need to know that the Holy Spirit of God is there, and He is the BEST Instructor and Teacher. Jesus tells us in John 14:26

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
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John 14:26, ESV

As we move on to verse 9, He gives us a brief look at what it’s like to follow the wisdom from godly parents and the benefits of doing so: “A graceful garland for the head”“Pendants for your neck”.

Both of these are special, commemorative, precious, valuable items that are worn to be seen prominently. They are like awards. Two of my best friends growing up had perfect attendance in Sunday School their whole life all the way through high school. Each year they would be presented with the next pen that attached to the previous one. Eventually, it created this super long chain signifying years of accomplishment. Once a year, when they were awarded the next one, they would wear that pendant to church. It really was amazing to see. It was a great accomplishment that depended on a faithful mom and/or dad to get them there… both of these friends serve in ministry capacities within their respective churches today.

Another observation with these two analogies of garland and pendants talk about the fact that if you walk in wisdom, it shows. I think it interesting as well that the two areas of adornment are the head and chest. This represents the mind and heart, the two places wisdom must reign which brings to mind Philippians 4:7

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
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Philippians 4:7, ESV

That’s how important it is to listen to your parents. But also, as parents, how awesome the privilege and serious the responsibility we have to ensure we are raising our children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
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Ephesians 6:4, ESV

As important as that is, Solomon spends 2 verses on what to do and why, but 10 verses on what not to do and why so let’s walk through verses 10–19 now. In verse 10, Solomon lays out the bottom line up front.

My son, if sinners entice you,
do not consent.
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Proverbs 1:10, ESV

IF sinners entice, DON’T consent. Interesting choice of words for today where nothing bad is our fault and the blame game is at a fevered pitch. Shame on the tempter, even woe to the tempter… Jesus says in Matthew 18:6

but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.
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Matthew 18:6, ESV

But it’s ultimately not the tempter’s fault when we sin. We are accountable for every action we take.

So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.
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Romans 14:12, ESV

After the directive of verse 10, Solomon takes verses 11-14 to unpack how ‘they’ will entice you:

  • Come with us
  • Lie in wait for blood
  • Ambush the innocent without reason
  • Let us be like Sheol
  • Swallow them alive
  • Swallow them whole
  • Like those that go down to the pit

All of these examples are bundled in verses 13 and 14 in a way that uses others for personal gain, power, and pride. They think they will:

  • Find precious goods
  • Fill their houses with plunder
  • Have strength in numbers

In verse 15 he comes back around to charge his son again NOT to walk that way with people like that. But he also acknowledges that it will be tempting because he must HOLD BACK his foot from their paths. You see, you may think you can just flirt with it. That you can keep one foot on the path of righteousness and one foot on the path of sin. However, James tells us that it doesn’t work.

10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. 11 Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.
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James 3:10-12, ESV

However, I love how Solomon does not leave anything to guess and doesn’t just tell his son NOT to walk that way, but WHY:

  • Their feet run to evil
  • They make haste to shed blood

He wants the best for his son and warns him of the ultimate consequences, the end result of following such passions. Verse 17 speaks to the blindness and lack of discernment then verses 18 and 19 expose the ultimate reality for those that choose to walk this selfish path.

17 For in vain is a net spread    in the sight of any bird,18 but these men lie in wait for their own blood;    they set an ambush for their own lives.19 Such are the ways of everyone who is greedy for unjust gain;    it takes away the life of its possessors.
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Proverbs 1:17-19, ESV

If you are abiding in Jesus and He abides in you, you will have the discernment needed. You won’t be fooled because nothing is hidden from God. You see that’s the big lie the devil holds out to sinners is that they can get away with it. That they can live selfishly without care or concern for who they have to use or hurt to get there, not realizing that the Lord says in Psalm 139:11,12 that:

11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you.
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Psalm 139:11-12, ESV

In the late 80’s/early 90’s there was a musical group called Truth that did a song called “Living Life Upside Down”. The chorus is below:

What if we’ve fallen to the bottom of a well,
Thinking we’ve risen to the top of a mountain.
What if we’re knocking at the gates of hell,
Thinking we’re heaven bound.
What if we spend our lives thinking of ourselves,
When we should have been thinking of each other.
What if we reach up and touch the ground,
To find we’re living life upside down.

And apart from the kindness of the Father drawing us to repentance through the power of the Holy Spirit removing the veil from our heart and believing in the saving power of Jesus in our lives, we would likewise perish.

I close with the words of Paul in Romans 7:24 through the first part of 25:

24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.
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Romans 7:24-25, ESV

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