Before we start, just a reminder of some of the things that Cory introduced to us a couple of weeks ago in that excellent introductory sermon to this series. Remember that Cory was talking to us about wisdom being more than morality and wisdom being more than righteousness, though Biblical wisdom really promotes and elevates and leads us to both of those things. Yet, it’s more than that. That’s not the sum total of Biblical wisdom. And Cory talked to us from Proverbs 9 “the fear of the Lord” as the beginning of wisdom and “the knowledge of the Holy One” as insight. “The fear of the Lord” actually describing not a pulling away from the Lord in fear as we tend to think of fear and use fear these days, but really “the fear of the Lord” as the binding of a relationship with Him. And in light of the fear of the Lord how we recognize reality and how we respond to reality and how we recognize good and embrace good and how we recognize evil and learn to hate evil because God hates evil. And more and more, as we develop that relationship that’s founded in the fear of the Lord, so we want our ways to be like His ways, so we want to learn to think His thoughts after Him, and so we want to learn also how to recognize value and good and turn away from evil and wickedness out yonder in the world and especially in our own hearts. So the fear of the Lord really shapes us and shapes how we respond to ourselves and to one another and to life in the world.
Cory was reminding us that Biblical wisdom is skill at life, how to live well in God’s world; knowing what to do when there aren’t a lot of rules written to tell us what to do. He talked about emotional intelligence, vocational intelligence, relational intelligence. That is knowing who we are; having a sober understanding, an eyes wide open understanding of who we are - broken and being born again and being shaped into the image of God, slowly, inch by inch, day by day. And responding to one another in light of knowing who we are under God and the work we do and the things, the people, the opportunities that we pour ourselves into. The book of Proverbs then, in general and then as we begin to think about it in a few moments related to family, a roadmap for the moral order that God has set in place. We see by Biblical wisdom the grain of the universe as God made it. Proverbs gives us a roadmap to recognize and see and respond to those things. Those are just kind of some reminder phrases and ideas from Cory’s introductory sermon a couple of weeks ago.
Now let’s pray and then we’ll begin to look at wisdom for families here as we find it in Proverbs.
Father, open Your Word to us. We are weak and we are broken and needy. None of us comes to this topic having it all figured out and having a great track record. That’s why we need a Savior. That’s why we thank You that Jesus came. That’s why we thank You that He doesn’t just speak over us once but He speaks over us by His Word and through His Spirit day after day after day after day making us like Himself. So, Lord Jesus, would this be one more time where You speak over us and speak Your Word to our hearts and bring us healing and make us like You. We ask this, Father, in Jesus’ name and for His sake.
And all God’s people said, “Amen.”
Wisdom for families. Let’s start with marriage. Let’s spend a few minutes thinking about wisdom for marriage. If you had taken the opportunity to read some through the book of Proverbs maybe just in the last year or maybe you just started to read Proverbs as we’ve begun this Sunday night series, you recognize that the model of marriage that’s promoted in the book of Proverbs is the model of husbands and wives as the closest of friends. And as soon as I say that, I need to say forget about Solomon and his seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines. Forget about every other Old Testament figure who took up the practice of polygamy. That’s not the model that you find endorsed and promoted here in the book of Proverbs. What we see in the book of Proverbs is the union of one man and one woman who, together, are not only sharing life but in particular sharing the training and the rearing of their children. Proverbs chapter 5 urges the man to be passionate, to be ravished always with the love of his wife. They are the nearest of companions.
This isn’t the vision of marriage that we find in the rest of the ancient world where the wife is a servant and bearer of children, but she is no friend and she is no companion. The Biblical model of marriage here in Proverbs and elsewhere in the Scripture is that of the nearest of companions walking through life together, responding to the goodness and the providence of God together. A wise wife. We want to think about a wise wife. We want to think about a wise husband. A wise wife, Proverbs says, is the making of her husband. A few passages. From Proverbs chapter 19 verse 14, “Houses and wealth are inherited from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the Lord.”
You know, I haven’t read the passage, have I? Have I gone into preaching the sermon and not preaching the passage? Man, I’m going to get in trouble! Because one of the verses that I’m going to reference is the passage and I see it, and I said, “Oh wait! I haven’t read the passage yet!” Y’all let me stop and pull up my socks here and let’s read God’s Word before we start talking about it. How about that! Please don’t tell the elders who are not here what I’ve just done!
From Proverbs chapter 31, verses 10 and 11:
“An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.”
And then from Proverbs 22, verse 6:
“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
Amen. God add His blessing to His Word as we read it and hear it together. Now let’s go back and start preaching it again!
A Wise Wife
A wise wife. Proverbs 31:10, "An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels." Or verse 30 of chapter 31, "Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised." From chapter 12, "An excellent wife is the crown of her husband but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones." A wise wife is the making of her husband. Why? Why is that? Why do we say that? Why does Proverbs promote the excellent wife, the prudent wife? Because a wise wife is a helper. If I've said it once I've said it 8,000 times to young men. Find a helper. Find someone who can give her life to yours, add her life to yours, and it becomes y'all's and she is going to work as hard as you do to make y'all's dreams and y'all's priorities come true.
Just even in Proverbs 31, we don't read all of the remainder of this chapter, but just to look at a few verses from chapter 31. Verse 12, "She does him good" - talking about her husband - "She does him good and not harm all the days of his life." Look at verse 15. "She rises while it is yet night, provides food for her household." Verse 16, "She considers a field and buys it." Verse 19, "She puts her hands to the distaff and her hands hold the spindle." Verse 21, "All her household are clothed in scarlet." So she's not afraid of snow and winter. Verse 27, "She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness." Who is this ideal women, this excellent wife? It's a woman who's committed to helping her husband, and in helping her husband move their family forward. That's the point of all this busyness that she's engaged in. It's not about her. It's about them. It's about them - her husband, her family, her household. She gives herself to the welfare, to the wellbeing of her household.
And in that, she’s a helper to her husband. Her efforts are to move her family forward. That’s what she’s about. That’s what she’s about. She’s about moving her family forward. The wise wife has learned that her husband needs her. He needs her badly, and she becomes his teammate to help them achieve their goals. She works together with him to move their family forward. She knows how to help her husband see the whole picture of their life. He’s going to see the picture in great big sweeps and she’s going to see the details. “The child needs braces.” “If you want this one to play baseball, he’s a disaster! We’ve got to get him in baseball camp!” “This one shows great skill, I think, at gymnastics; just needs some training.” “We’ve got to hire a math tutor! This one is not going to get out of the third grade unless there are some serious math tutoring going on!” She sees the details. He sees the great big picture and is motivated by the great big picture. He doesn’t see the details; she does, and she helps him. She brings to bear the whole picture so that they can wisely and carefully do what’s needed for their family. She has confidence in her husband as the head of their family and she tells him so. She helps him to be the man God is calling him to be. She prays for him and she pushes him. She pushes him. He needs pushing and she pushes. She prays for him and she persuades him. She prays for him and she makes a home, their home, a refuge from a world that tells him he’s not smart enough or strong enough or fast enough or good enough. He comes home, and whatever’s happened out there, he’s her champion. Whatever frustrations there are between them - and there are a plenty - he’s still her champion.
Now before you say, wife, “I knew I was the problem! I knew it was all my fault! He and they would be better off without me! I can never do this! This is not where our life is. We’re on the last gasp.” Well, there’s help, but there’s also hope. Think about God’s great sovereignty. We talk a lot about the sovereignty of God around here. Think about God’s great sovereignty. Think about the God who engineered the flow of human history to bring you, even as you might feel very badly about yourself right now, to bring you to Him. God moved heaven and earth to bring you to Him. He doesn’t need some “her” out there. He needs you. Whatever that looks like and whatever has to happen from this point forward, there’s help. But you hear, “There’s hope.” God’s at work and God will bend His almighty power to help you be a helper.
The Wise Husband
Let’s talk about the wise husband. The wise husband is a cultivator. He cultivates his wife. He nurtures her. The lifetime impact of a wise husband should be that his wife blossoms and becomes all God wants her to be. You hear that, young men? You hear that, guys who have been married for fifty years? Our wives should be blossoming. At the end of our days, on our last day, we should hear from our wives, “You’ve given me a great life,” if we cultivate.
How does a husband cultivate his wife? Well, let's go back to verse 11 that I forgot to read a while ago. Verse 11, "The heart of her husband trusts in her and he will have no lack of gain." Do you know how important it is to be trusted? Everybody needs that. It's interesting that Solomon here, in writing the proverbs, is telling us that the first response of the man to his excellent wife is to express trust in her. When somebody tells us, "I trust you to do this," there's something in us that wants to rise to that opportunity to demonstrate that we can be trusted. There's something that that speaks to that says, "I want to show you how high I can really jump! I want to do everything I can for you!" - as a basic need of all men.
And really, you think about it, what lesson is God continually drilling among His people? Look at the history of Israel. Look at Jesus and His disciples - to trust Him. To trust Him. I’ve been walking with the Lord now for probably almost forty-seven years. And do you know, in all the various circumstances and details and trials and times of fear and anguish and need, you know what I think as I peel back the layers and as I peel back the details, do you know what I think the basic lesson of every one of those times has been - not only way back then but yesterday? It’s, “Do you trust Me? Do you trust Me? Are you willing to rely on Me? Are you willing to have confidence in Me? Do you believe I’m going to keep My promises? Do you believe that I remember that you’re here? Do you believe I have a plan for you? Do you believe I’ll help you?” I think that’s the basic lesson God has been drumming into my thick head all these years. And maybe it’s true for you too. There’s something about trust.
The wise husband is cultivating his wife, in part, by trusting her. Our wives need that expression of trust and confidence. In marriage, trust is a bond between partners. Perhaps it is that she wants to know, she wants to see that you believe that she is an equal partner in this thing. She delights to have your trust. She rises to the opportunity to demonstrate that your trust is well placed as you express trust in her.
But there’s another thing too that we have. It may be even more basic than trust that the latter part of chapter 31 tells us. Look at verses 28 and 29. “Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: ‘Many women have done excellent, but you surpass them all.’” People thrive with honest praise. Husbands, our wives especially flower when we create in our families an atmosphere of praise and appreciation. When we say thank you to our wives for the countless things they do for us to keep us going. And we teach our children to say thank you. We teach our grandchildren to say thank you. We teach our children and grandchildren to say, “I enjoyed my supper,” or “Thank you for my wash that you did today.” We teach our children to say thank you. We model saying thank you ourselves. We create a culture in our homes of praising mom for all mom does for us to help us and all the ways she thinks of us before we even think of ourselves. Husbands, can you find praise? Can you find praise for your wife? Will you tell her? Will you tell her that she’s done excellently? Will you find ways to tell her that she has excelled? “Many have done well but you surpass them all.” Will you tell her?
Now you're going to say, "She knows how I feel! She knows it! I tell her! I don't tell her with words." Well, yeah, she does know it and you don't tell her with words, but I'm telling you, you need to. Hear me saying, you need to; you need to today. You know why? Because she knows it but she's got to hear it with her own two ears. And when you do that, brother husbands, you're making an investment in her heart and in her soul. It's not enough for her to know it. You're making the investment when you say it. When you and I say it, there's something that happens when they hear it. First of all, they'll say, "Did I hear that right? Is my hearing going bad? Did you just say thank you or did you say something I did right?" No, but we make an investment. Men, we tend to be relationally passive. We change the world out yonder; we come home and we tend to be relationally passive. I think Proverbs is calling us to be relationally active, especially at home, especially with our wives, and to make the active investment in their hearts and in their souls, praise. We cultivate the excellence that God has wound up in our wives when we express our trust, confidence and our honest praise.
The Pattern of the Gospel
Now if you think about what I just said about husbands and wives, I want you to recognize something. That’s the pattern of the Gospel. Do you realize that? What has Jesus as the bridegroom done but self-sacrificially and self-forgetfully cherished, invest in, and cultivate His bride, the church - you and me; cherish, invest in, and cultivate us. We respond to Him in faith. We make His work ours. And as Paul says in 1 Corinthians, we become God’s fellow workers. We become His helpers. We make His work ours and we work wherever He’s put us for His glory and for the advancement of His kingdom in all the places He is putting us. Cory was telling us a couple of weeks ago that a wise life is a cruciform life. I think that’s true and I think the same is true for marriage. A wise marriage, a marriage well lived, is a marriage in cruciform where we live out the Gospel and serve up the Gospel to one another in our homes and in our families every day. Husbands, cultivate your wives. Express praise, appreciation, trust. See what God does. See how your marriage improves. See how your life improves as you invest that praise in the heart and soul of your wife.
Well, let's move to parenthood before the time gets away from us here. Let's go back to Proverbs 22. Let me read that again. "Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it." Two points here. First of all, this is kind of a bad news/good news section. The bad news is, you know, there's a lot that Proverbs says about the rod. Let's just admit that. The rod - a useful tool, a key tool for the building of our children into men and women of responsibility and for the honor of God. The rod. It's a joint venture for moms and dads. Let me read a couple of things but let me mention this to you. I'm in a small group and one of our members is the immanent pediatrician, Dr. Parker Ellison. We were talking last week and he was telling our group about the new wave of teaching from parenting experts who are urging parents not to squelch our children but to allow them the full freedom of expression and give them all the freedom that they need to fully express and fully experience who they are.
In light of that, listen to a couple of passages from Proverbs regarding the rod. From Proverbs 23, "Do not withhold discipline from a child. If you strike him with a rod, he will not die; if you strike him with a rod, you will save his soul from Sheol." Why is that the case? Proverbs 22, "Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him." Do you know what the writer of Proverbs is telling us? He's telling us that words are not enough for the training of our children. Self-expression is not enough for the training of our children. Freedom is not enough for the training of our children. There has to be pain. There has to be pain.
When he was thirteen, our oldest child came to us and said, "Okay, dad, we done the spanking thing. I think we can get beyond that now." And I said, "Really? Really? You know, David, you have no life. What can I do to inflict pain upon you, because pain is the only way you listen to me as I'm trying to tell you things that are important for you and for me. What's the pain going to be?" "Well, I don't know dad. We can talk about that. I'm sure there are several things we can light on, but spanking's got to go." Well, I'm not sure that spanking went that day. Spanking probably did decrease as his life increased. I still had to be able to inflict pain. That sounds horrible. Doesn't it? I'm sure the child-rearing experts would run me out of here on a rail if they heard that. There has to be pain.
Pain Unto Righteousness
But isn't that God's way? Does God keep you from pain? Does God not, at times, actually inflict pain? Do you remember what Jesus said in John chapter 15 about the vine and the vinedresser, the vine and the branches? "I am the vine, you are the branches. My Father is the vinedresser." And what does He do as the vinedresser? Sometimes He prunes branches. That's a painful process. Pruning hurts, but pruning creates character. Character improves with cutting back. God uses pain. Hebrews chapter 12 describes it as discipline. God uses discipline. If you're left without discipline in which we've all participated, then you're an illegitimate child and not a son. It goes on to describe in verse 11, "Discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness." That's the goal. That's the goal - the peaceful fruit of righteousness. That's what God is creating. And He uses pain. It's not all God uses. Certainly, God brings us joy, doesn't He? We enjoy wonderful things from Him, wonderful blessings from Him, but He also brings pain and it produces, under His hand, the peaceful fruit of righteousness.
That same thirteen-year-old came to me again as a twenty-something year old. He's down here at Belhaven and we're talking about his college days and we're talking about all of the fun experiences that he's having and he turned to me and said - this was the most surprising thing; these words are golden to me. He said, "Dad, I can tell among my friends and the people I spend time with, I can tell who got spanked and I can tell who didn't." He said, "Thank you. Thank you for spanking me." The peaceful fruit of righteousness. He was giving testimony to that.
So parents, don't worry about being friends. Friend days will will. Grandparents, take up that paddle. You might tell your children it's going to happen. Don't be afraid of that paddle. "Folly is bound up," indeed, "in the heart of a child but the rod drives it from him." Who will they be, who will they be if we leave them in their folly? The writer of Proverbs says if we don't do it we won't save their soul from Sheol.
Well, there's one more thing - one more thing to say about parenthood in a short overview of Proverbs. And that would be this - instruction. Instruction. Again, a joint venture. As you see it displayed in Proverbs, instruction is a joint venture of mother and father. Specifically, instruction in what the Bible says; instruction with a view towards the formation of wise habits in thought and action. Proverbs chapter 7 - Solomon is writing about his commandments and he says, "Bind them," my commandments, "on your fingers. Write them on the tablet of your heart." He's talking about how we think and what we do. That's what's in view as we instruct our children, as we instruct our grandchildren. Again from Proverbs 4, "When I was a son with my father, tender, the only one in the sight of my mother, he taught me and said to me, ‘Let your heart hold fast my words. Keep my commandments and live.'" The whole book of Proverbs, if you go and you just scan the whole book of Proverbs, the whole book is written as an instruction of parents to children. Fourteen times in the first nine chapters, Solomon specifically addresses himself to his son or his sons. The goal here isn't slavery, but it's preparing our children to find their way through life with surefootedness and honor.
Dads, I’m going to lean on you one more time. You’re the principal teacher. You’re the principal teacher of your children. You’re the principal instructor. Don’t be too tired. Don’t be too tired at the end of the day to walk in that door when you get home and be ready to teach and train your children. I’m not saying you’ve got a whole school day ahead of you, but you’ve got prime time; you’ve got prime time from the time you walk in the door till the time they go to bed. Don’t waste it. Don’t waste it. Now I know - I talk to you men and I know that every man I talk to, “How many hours a week do you work?” he’ll tell me, “I work somewhere between fifty-five and sixty hours a week.” And I know that’s an average and I know some weeks it floats way up and some weeks things are kind of tame. I know what it is to walk in the door tired. I know what it is to walk in the door and just want to sit down and not think about anything. And I get it. And I know I’m asking you to do something hard. But I’m telling you, your child depends on it. Your child’s welfare depends on it. Your children’s future depends on you walking in the door and you being ready to engage.
Presence of God
Where does that come from? You’ve just been beat to death all day long. “I’m just aching and tired and sore all over. My mind is tired. Preacher, when do I get a break?” Let me promise you something. If you sit in that car before you ever touch the door handle to get out, and if you say, “God, I need your help. I need to come into this house like a champion and I feel like a whipped puppy. Can You give me what I need to be the champion for my family tonight and to give my children what they need and to give my wife what she needs?” you’ll not find God absent. You’re not going to know where it comes from. You’re not going to know how you did it, but you’re going to make it through the end of the day, your head’s going to hit the pillow, and you’re going to sleep the sleep of death. But for a couple of hours - between what parents and children is prime time - you’re going to give them what they need from you. Dads, don’t be too tired, don’t be too tired to be the instructor of your children.
And we could talk all night about all the ways, all the things that that looks like; I’d love to talk with you more about that. You’re looking for teachable moments. You’re looking for things they did at school that day that give you opportunity to point to Biblical realities. You’re looking to pray with them. You’re looking to read some Bible to them and with them. You’re looking to fill their lives with the stuff of God’s Word. Don’t be too tired. Because the day will come, you’ll have energy, but guess what? You won’t have them. Take advantage of God’s promise to give you what you need when you walk in that door every night to give your family what they need.
Father, we thank You because You do give us what we need. You give us what we need to be helpers, You give us what we need to be wise husbands, You give us what we need to be thoughtful and reflective. You give us what we need to be faithfully walking with You out there in the world and within the four walls of our own homes. Father, we are needy, broken people. And Father, thank You that You call out, You are not far from the crushed and the broken and the needy. You are a breath away. And so Father, give us what we need to serve You, to live with You, to walk before You, to pour wisdom into our children, and to cultivate our wives. Make our homes a place that looks like Jesus. Hear us, as we make our prayer in His name and for His sake. Amen.
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