When we were in our early teens, and decided to get serious about knowing the word of God, we were advised to start reading the book of Proverbs. The advice was relevant to our needs in our youth. Proverbs is still one of the most favored Bible books for the guidance of young people.
The American writer and preacher, Alexander Campbell, once made a trip to Ireland and England in the middle nineteenth century. The promise of his eight-year-old son was that he would quote to his father the book of Proverbs upon his return. Tragically, the eight-year-old son died in a drowning accident before Alexander’s return. Nevertheless, at the time of his death, the son was ready to fulfill his promise to his father.
The book of Proverbs is filled with exhortations for young people. Throughout the Bible, there are many directives to help young people find their way in a world that offers so many distractions from the right ways of God. The book of Proverbs is unique in that it was written by one, Solomon, who had so many material distractions in his own life. We would thus encourage all young people to meditate their way through the book. They should do so in order to find their way through a modern world of endless material distractions.
Before we launch into some of the more important concepts for youth in Proverbs, and in general the entire Bible, Solomon offered an admonition to all young people:
Rejoice, O young man, in your youth. And let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth, and walk in the ways of your heart and in the sight of your eyes. But know that God will bring you to judgment for all these things (Ec 11:9).
Young people must not forget to study the Bible in reference to finding guidance in their youth. They must be motivated to do such in view of the fact that they will give account of their behavior before God. If a young person is tempted to walk contrary to the will of God, then he should remember that he will eventually stand before God in judgment. Young people must remember, therefore, to “put away evil from your flesh, for childhood and youth are vanity” (Ec 11:10). The only guarantee for young people to keep their lives focused on God is that they give heed to Solomon’s final exhortation:
Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near when you will say, “I have no pleasure in them” (Ec 12:1).
Paul was direct in his admonition of young people in reference to their relationship with their parents:
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with promise—” so that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth” (Ep 6:1-3).
With this admonition directing the focus of their lives, the following are some Spirit-inspired instructions for young people to keep their minds focused on God:
- Proverbs 1:8: “My son, hear the instruction of your father and do not forsake the law of your mother.” One of the purposes of the family is to produce obedient citizens for society. Only when the children adhere to the instructions of the parents, can this purpose be fulfilled. God’s ordained objective for parents, therefore, is to equip their children with behavioral skills that will enable them to function for the benefit of society. The primary textbook to source these skills must be the word of God, for only God has given the final word that will guarantee a society wherein every citizen loves his neighbor as himself. Solomon warned, “Cease listening, my son, to instruction and you will stray from the words of knowledge” (Pv 19:27).
- Proverbs 6:20: “My son, keep your father’s commandment and do not forsake the law of your mother.” In the preceding mandate of Proverbs 1:8, the emphasis was on the children hearing the instruction of their parents. In this statement, emphasis is on the children continuing in the parent’s instructions throughout their lives (Pv 22:6). Children must not only listen to their parents in the home, they must also walk in the instructions of what they hear from their parents. It is worth noting that when Paul wrote, “in the last days perilous times will come,” he mentioned that those days, among other things, would be a time when children were disobedient to parents (2 Tm 3:1,2). Disobedience to parents is a sign of a society that has moved into a state of anarchy. Anarchy prevails when citizens rebel against the laws (instructions) of civil order. For this reason, children must learn respect for authority (law) in the home, before they move into society. Civil unrest, therefore, is often the evidence of failed homes.
[Next lecture: September 19]