Proverbs 13:1 ESV
A wise son hears his father’s instruction, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.
Modernity doesn’t like fathers. To this culture, the father is a bigoted idiot, a bumbling if well-intentioned obstacle, or a Machiavellian tyrant, whom the children must evade and outwit in order to do what they know to be best. In the courts, fathers are considered second-rate parents, whether it’s for custody consideration or in debating whether or not to mutilate the child via chemical castration and surgery. This is not a Biblically defensible position.
We all know what the Ten Commandments are; we know them so well we can easily forget how important and all-encompassing they are. Here, however, we must return to them and consider why, precisely, God commanded His people to “honor” their fathers and their mothers in Exodus 20:12. Why is this command so important that it can stand alongside such striking commands as, “You shall have no other God before me” and “You shall not covet” (Exodus 20:1-17). Indeed, of all the commandments, this is the only commandment directed towards human relationships to have integrated, explicit consequences attached; the other two are the second and the third, both of them directions as to the proper worship of God. Why?
Two particular reasons stand out: first, that to take the wisdom of one’s father to heart will naturally lead to a longer, more joyful life, and second, that God’s relation to man is the archetype from which fatherhood takes its cues, however much altered by being a human relationship rather than a divine one.
The old saying goes like this: ‘Those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it.’ This saying, if we think about it, doesn’t just apply to the grand affairs of nations and empires; it applies also to our daily lives. For a simple example, think about that time you stubbed your toe on the table because you weren’t watching where you were going. Did you watch more carefully next time? The answer is probably yes; if you didn’t, your toes certainly have some stories to tell. God’s admonition to us to listen to our forebearers is similar: we are to hear our father’s instructions, to consider them (Proverbs 13:1, 15:5). By doing so, we take advantage of the wisdom and experience they have gained, both in their victories and their mistakes.
This commandment, though, should not be taken as a commandment to blindly believe exactly what our parent’s believe. As Ecclesiastes 4:13 reminds us, fools come in all shapes and sizes. An old fool will be, if anything, more foolish than a young fool, by sheer obstinacy in foolishness. Judgement must here be exercised: a father who displays consistent foolishness will be worthy of less obedience and less attentiveness than a father who has a history of wisdom. The standard for judging, however, must be the Word of God, not your own mind (regardless of how old you are).
Even if the father is a fool, however, the words of this proverb hold true. If counsel cannot be taken from one’s father, whether by reason of foolishness or absence, the principle still applies. We ought to seek counsel from our elders, as Proverbs 20:29 and 23:22 both testify. Wisdom is the strength of the elderly; to disregard that strength would be foolishness.
This proverb, however, does not apply just to our human relationships. In its ultimacy, it speaks of the nature of the Christian’s relationship with God. Deuteronomy 32:6 says of God, to Israel, “Is not he your father, who created you, who made you and established you?” God is the father of His people; He created them (to an extent no human father can claim) and He raised them up from infancy (again, to an extent beyond human capability or right) (Psalm 139:13). God is, too, the origin of all wisdom, the standard in which wisdom finds it root (Proverbs 8:22, 9:10). To whom else should we listen but the Lord our God?
‘A scoffer does not listen to rebuke,” the proverb warns us, and God’s rebuke should therefore be of great concern to any man. The reward outlined in Exodus, that “your lives may be long in the land which the Lord your God has given you,” that reward promises also a judgement for the one who does not heed God’s dictates. If obedience renders to man long life, disobedience will surely render to him swift death- or, if God does not grant mercy, a long life in which sin accumulates, followed by eternal death (Leviticus 26:18).
Honor God and fear no man; in honoring God, honor His commandments (Hebrews 13:6; John 14:15). Therefore, do not spurn the admonition of your father or the teaching of your mother (Proverbs 1:8). To spurn such counsel thoughtlessly may be the spirit of the age, but it is an evil spirit. God has called His people to learn from their earthly fathers, who are called to imitate Him in teaching; He has called them furthermore to reverence and cleave unto His teachings, His law (Psalm 119:1-4). Let us therefore heed His teaching, that we may take refuge in Him, that we may live.
Sanctuary Functional Medicine, under the direction of Dr Eric Potter, IFMCP MD, provides functional medicine services to Nashville, Middle Tennessee and beyond. We frequently treat patients from Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Ohio, Indiana, and more... offering the hope of healthier more abundant lives to those with chronic illness.