Well, nobody likes a wise guy, much less somebody who begins a conversation this way- “When I was your age…” You ever heard that? Maybe within the four walls of your own home when dad starts his bloviating stories about how hard it was when he was a boy, and “when I was your age…” It rarely inspires the children or the grandchildren. It usually generates a rolling of the eyes back into the head. But maybe you’ve been there when dad says something like this- “When I was your age I walked 25 miles to school in a blizzard uphill both ways with my sibling in my back. And we attended a one-room schoolhouse where I got straight A’s. And then after school we went to textile mill and I worked until the wee hours of the morning for 35 cents an hour. And you’re complaining about what?” Some of you have had that conversation in your home. Some of you have the eyes rolling back into the head.
I read a story this week about a young man who loved to play golf. And it was nearing the end of his day. And he says, “Man, I can get to the golf course and get a few holes in.” And so he rushed over there and rushed out to the tee. And just as he was about to tee off, this elderly man shuffled onto the tee and says, “Can I play with you?” And the guy was thinking to himself, ah, now he’s gonna slow me down. But the gentlemanly thing to do in golf, you know, is to let somebody play along with you. So he did. So they played three or four holes together. And the young man was really quite impressed with the old man’s game. He didn’t hit the ball that far, but he was straight down the middle. He was consistent. He didn’t waste any time. And they were playing right along. And they made their way to 9th fairway. And there they are in the 9th fairway. And this young man had a difficult shot. Between himself and his ball and the green was this tall tree. And he is sitting here trying to figure what he’s gonna do. Is he gonna chip out into the fairway? Is he gonna go for it and knock it into that tree? And that’s when the old man said to the young man, “When I was your age, I hit the ball right over that tree.” Well, the young man took it as a challenge. He pulled out his club, teed it up, whacked that ball as hard as he could, hit the tree, and the ball fell right down in front of him. He was mad as a hornet. He took his club and winged it into the next fairway. That’s when the old man said, “Of course, when I was your age, that tree was about 3 feet tall.” Nobody likes a wise guy, especially on the golf course, right?
But that story reminds me of Proverbs 4 where Solomon kind of begins the conversation with, “When I was your age…” Look at it beginning in verse 1. “Hear, O sons, a father’s instruction, and be attentive, that you may gain insight, for I give you good precepts; do not forsake my teaching.” Now, here it comes. “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…” Now, let’s stop right there. You see what’s happening here in Proverbs 4? Don’t miss it. There is a generational transfer of wisdom. And Solomon is not lecturing his son with a “well, when I was your age,” and that kind of thing. No, Solomon is remembering the time when his wise father, King David, sat down with him and taught him a few things. And Solomon is remembering that. He received it from his wise father. Now this wise King Solomon is passing it onto his children. And we have in the Bible in the Old Testament the words that King David said to his son Solomon. And I think it’s worth going back there. They're found in 1 Chronicles 28 and 29, also in 1 Kings 2:1-3. Listen to this. It says, “When David’s time drew near to die, he commanded Solomon his son saying, ‘I am about to go the way of all the earth. Be strong and show yourself a man and keep the charge of the Lord your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his rules and his testimonies as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn.’” David was a wise king, a man after God’s own heart. Not a perfect man. We know that about David. But he was a wise king, and he understood that he had a responsibility and all parents and grandparents do in that generational transfer of godly wisdom. King David was intentional about sitting down with his son Solomon and saying, “Solomon, walk with God. Run after Him. Chase after Him. Pursue Him.” And now Solomon is sitting with his sons and he’s saying, “When I was your age my father did what I’m trying to do with you, just to download some divine guidance into your everyday life.” You know, parents and grandparents, it’s our responsibility to do that. And if we fail in that responsibility, if we fail in that generational transfer of godly wisdom, well, the stakes are high. There is no guarantee that the next generation will be here to fill this church. Do you know that? No guarantee at all unless we do our job in transferring godly wisdom and the gospel and the Church of Jesus Christ to that next generation.
The stakes are high even in our culture. And if you think I’m overstating the case, listen to the words of Dr. Albert Siegel. His words were published in the Stanford Observer many years ago. I have no reason to believe this man is not a follower of Jesus, but I have no reason to believe that he is. He speaks more like a sociologist. But he says “When it comes to rearing children, every society is only 20 years away from barbarism. Twenty years is all we have to accomplish the task of civilizing the infants who are born into our midst every year. These savages know nothing of our language, our culture, our religion, our values, our customs of interpersonal relations. The infant is totally ignorant about communism, fascism, democracy, civil liberties, the rights of the minority as contrasted with the prerogatives of the majority, respect, decency, honesty, customs, conventions and manners. The barbarism must,” he says, “be tamed if civilization is to survive.” Now, what the sociologist understands to be true, oh, the biblical theologian needs to understand as well. Unless we transfer biblical truth, unless we transfer the gospel to the next generation as Solomon is doing with his son in the small sphere of influence he has in his own home, unless that happens, the barbarians will take over in the next generation.
Now, if you go with me real quickly, before we get to Proverbs, to Deuteronomy 6. Years before Solomon did this and, certainly years before Dr. Siegel made his observations, Moses was standing with a generation of Israelites who had traveled and wandered through the wilderness for 40 years. Some of them were gonna die in the wilderness. Other, the next generation, were going into the Promised Land. So he’s on this side of the Jordan River. And the book of Deuteronomy is a series of speeches that Moses gives to that crowd of people. And in Deuteronomy 6 beginning in verse 4 he says, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.” And then he says to that generation of parents and grandparents, “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” Moses tells us how to tame the barbarians. And I love the way he says it. He doesn’t say, you know, get one of those podiums and dad set it up in the middle of the house and have lecture time to your kids. No, that doesn’t work. You’ll get the eyes rolling back into the head of you start the “when I was your age” kind of lecture at the dinner table or in the family den. But I love how Moses paints a picture of how parents transfer this generational wisdom from one generation to the next in the normal course of everyday life. He says, “When you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” In other words, look for those teachable moments. Look for those teachable moments when you’re picking your kids up from soccer practice or from school or from the all-nighter. Look for those teachable moments when you just have 10 minutes with them in the kitchen or a little thing that you’re doing in the afternoon. Oh, there are times to sit down as a family and to have family discussion and open up the pages of God’s Word perhaps in a more formal way. But what Moses paints the picture of here is kind of exactly what Solomon is doing, is in the normal course of life just pass on the godly wisdom. It takes patience. It takes a little sense of timing to do that.
I’ve not always been good at it. Once in a while I hit the bull’s eye. I was having a conversation with my son recently, who is a freshman in college. And something he said made me squirm just a little bit. It wasn’t a big thing, but I resisted the moment as we were FaceTiming of correcting him at that moment. And a couple of days later when we were on another FaceTime call, in the natural course of that conversation I was able to kind of direct it back to a couple days ago and make the point that I wanted to make at a time when his heart was more open to receive it. You know what I’m talking about, parents? I don’t always get it right. Believe me, this is the only story I could really tell, all right. But it reminded me…because he welcomed what I had to say, it reminded me of the patience and the timing sometimes it takes as parents and grandparents to get around to what you want to say. Say it in the right way at the right time. I think that’s what Moses is describing here, and it’s what Solomon is attempting to model for us.
So in a very simple way, I want to talk about a father’s advice to his children, because that’s kind of what Solomon does here. It could equally be a mother’s advice or a parent’s advice to their kids. But in the context here, Solomon is gathered with his sons. And he is thinking about perhaps training the next generation of kings, and he has some wise counsel he wants to give them, simple things. Like, number one, pursue wisdom, he says. Verse 4, “My father taught me and said to me, ‘Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments, and live. Get wisdom; get insight; do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not forsake her, and she will keep you; love her, and she will guard you. The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight. Prize her highly, and she will exalt you; she will honor you if you embrace her. She will place on your head a graceful garland; she will bestow on you a beautiful crown.” These words sound reminiscent of the way Solomon starts in Proverbs 1, talking about how wisdom is to be something that is pursued as the first priority in your life. And when you do, she will reward you handsomely in life. Solomon talks about pursuing wisdom. That is if you want to live a life skillfully and in keeping with God’s wisdom, then you’re gonna have to get after it. It doesn't happen automatically. You’re going to have to pursue it as a first priority. You’re gonna have to chase after what matters and chase after what lasts. And when it gets tough, you’re gonna have to never give up. This is a lifelong pursuit. You’re gonna have to read, study the Word of God. You’re gonna have to meditate upon it. You’re gonna have to commit portions of it to memory. This idea of pursuing wisdom is a daily process of chasing after God and choosing the right path. And Solomon didn’t soft-pedal it. It’s hard to see the passion in the printed text. But read it again and feel Solomon’s passion when he says to his kids, “Get wisdom. And whatever you get in this life, get wisdom.” Get after it. Chase after what matters. Chase after what lasts. Pursue God as passionately as He is pursuing you. And when you do, when you make it a first priority in your life, it will reward you handsomely. He says, “She will exalt you. She will honor you if you embrace her.”
Kind of reminds me of what Jesus said in Luke 9. He says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow me.” Jesus never soft-pedaled anything. The high, high cost of discipleship. Jesus laid it out there. Oh, yeah, He paid it all. Your salvation is free of charge. But if you want to be a man or a woman of godly wisdom, you’re gonna have to get after it. You’re gonna have to make it a first priority, this pursuit. So many other pursuits in life will distract you, maybe discourage you from it. But you're going to have to make this a first priority. To say it another way, your one, holy ambition. Solomon says, “Prize her highly.” Do you have a holy ambition to be more like Jesus Christ? A holy ambition to get after it and to chase after God as much as He is chasing after you? I hope you do. Solomon says pursue wisdom.
Secondly, he says watch your step. As simple as it sounds, watch your step. Let’s pick it up in verse 10. “Hear, my son, and accept my words, that the years of your life may be many. I have taught you the way of wisdom; I have led you in the paths of uprightness. When you walk, your step will not be hampered, and if you run, you will not stumble. Keep hold of instruction; do not let go; guard her, for she is your life. Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of the evil. Avoid it; do not go on it; turn away from it and pass on. For they cannot sleep unless they have done wrong; they are robbed of sleep unless they have made someone stumble. For they eat the bread of wickedness and drink the wine of violence.” Again, words that are reminiscent of Proverbs 1 where Solomon warned against running with that crowd that is always running toward evil. He says in a very simple way here things that most parents and grandparents say to their kids. Watch your step. Be careful where you walk.
I remember years ago the Joneses were on a family vacation. We went to the Grand Canyon. What a great place to go do, some of our national parks. And the kids were younger at that time. But the Grand Canyon is a beautiful, beautiful national park. But did you know there are no rails along the edge? I mean, you’re just driving along as flat as it can be in Arizona. Then you come to this canyon. And there is a visitor’s center area. But if this were the edge of the canyon…I mean, it’s way, way down there. It’s a big drop. There are no rails on the edges. Now, I don’t do heights. Okay. This is about as high as I want to be, okay. So I yell…people are walking along the edge. I’m back here, you know, kind of enjoying the canyon from a distance. Other people are just, you know, running up to the edge and just, you know, doing this kind of thing. I’m coming unglued on the inside. I’m just so uncomfortable, especially when this family with two little toddlers are walking along. And he’s enjoying this. She’s enjoying this. And the kids start doing this toward the edge. I’m really coming unglued, saying, “Watch your step!” I’m just surprised there aren’t more stories of people who go over the edge. And then somebody wanted me to ride a mule down that thing. And these mules go along these little paths. You’ve got to be kidding me. One step in the wrong direction, and you're a dead man or a dead woman. Solomon says to his son, “Watch your step. Watch where you walk.” He says, “Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of the evil. Avoid it; do not go on it; turn away from it and pass on.”
You know, the Bible has a lot to say about how we walk. I think of 1 John 1 where is says to believers, “Walk in the light as he is in the light, because in him is no darkness at all.” It’d be a really foolish thing to walk along the edge of the Grand Canyon with no rails in pitch blackness. I wouldn’t do it. I’d fall over the edge. I’d get into big trouble. And you may be here this morning and say, “Oh, Pastor, I’m a follower of Jesus. I would (0:19:00.1) never intentionally walk in darkness.” I appreciate that. You’re here this morning, and you want to walk in the light of Jesus Christ. But you know what I find in a lot of so-called Christian and maybe even in my heart? We love to straddle the light and dark. One foot in the light, one foot in the darkness. That’s called trafficking in the gray. And a lot of us may not experience the power in our personal relationship with God and experiencing the things that we would like to experience because we’re trafficking in a lot of gray areas and, if the truth were known, walking in unapplied truth. Oh, we know the light. We know it when we see it. We know it when we hear it. We’re just not living it out like we should. Verse 18, “But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day. The (0:20:00.1) way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know over what they stumble.” Solomon just says very simply to his son, “Watch your step. Watch your step, and walk in the light. Walk toward the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day.” That’s Jesus. More brighter, more purer than 10,000 angels that would gather together is the Lord Jesus Christ. Walk in the light as He is in the light.
Thirdly, Solomon says to his son, “Guard your heart.” Let’s read on in verse 20. “My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Let them not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart. For they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh. Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” That’s the key verse in this chapter. “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you. Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.” Again, the key verse is verse 23. “Keep your heart with all vigilance.” Another translation says, “Guard your heart. Guard your heart with all diligence.” In other words, get after it. Your heart is like a garden, all right. You get out there in the spring. And you weed it, and you till the ground. You plant some flowers. And before long, you find other weeds popping up. You’ve got to keep after it, don’t you? You gardeners know that. Well, the heart is like that, because the Bible says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can understand it?” The natural tendency of the human heart is toward darkness. And so you have to garden your heart and garden your soul. You have to get after it. You have to be diligent about pulling those weeds that would crowd out room for the Lord Jesus Christ.
Of course, the heart in the Bible does not refer to the physical organ. It refers to one’s inner being, the seat of consciousness, the place where emotions, will and decision-making resides. And Solomon says to his son, “Son, above all things, above all else, whatever else you do as you’re chasing after wisdom, guard your heart.” Because the Bible says and warns about a proud heart, a double heart, a hard heart, an unbelieving heart, a cold heart, an unclean heart, and also a lukewarm heart. Remember that one? Revelation 3? Chapters 2 and 3 record seven letters that Jesus sent off to the seven churches of Asia Minor. The last one in the order was the church of Laodicea, the lukewarm church. I’ve been to Laodicea. You can go visit the ruins there in western Turkey. We did that several years ago on a Something Good Radio tour where we toured all the seven churches of Asia Minor and then went over to Athens and places like that and looked at the ruins of the early Church. The city of Laodicea is in a beautiful, beautiful valley in western Turkey. And if you’re standing here, off this way toward the hills is the city of Hierapolis. Just think of Hot Springs, Arkansas. It’s where all the hot springs are. And it was kind of a spa that people went to at that time and even is today. Beautiful place, beautiful warm springs there. Then off in a distance over here is the city of Colossae. There was a church in Colossae and a letter that Paul sent to the Colossians. We have it in our New Testament. Interestingly enough, in Laodicea they received their hot water from Hierapolis. You know, they built an aqueduct for the water to come down from the hills, the hot water. They got their cold water from Colossae, from a distant city there. Again, an aqueduct system that brought them the hot and cold water. But as you can imagine, by the time the cold water came from Colossae and the hot water came from Hierapolis, both were lukewarm. And Jesus uses that context. And He looks inside a church in Laodicea. And He says, “I wish that your heart was either hot, or that you were just cold and indifferent to Me. But you are lukewarm. You have a tepid, spiritual temperature, and I want to spit you out of My mouth,” Jesus says.
If you know anything about the book of Revelation and these seven churches, many scholars believe that not only were they literal churches—we can go to the ruins today. And these were letters that, under the inspiration of the Spirit, John wrote down, but letters from Jesus to these seven churches. But they all also may represent kind of seven seasons in church history. The last before the turn of Jesus Christ is Laodicean church, a time of lukewarm, tepid spirituality on the earth in the Church just before Jesus returns. I hope that doesn’t describe us. I want Him to come tomorrow. But I know that if He does come tomorrow, we’re living in those lukewarm times. And we’re gonna have to get after it to passionately pursue God and to love Him; to not be cold, but to be hot; to not be indifferent toward Him and sort of ho-hum in our relationship with Him; not to have one foot in and one foot out. “But if anyone wants to follow after Me,” Jesus says, “deny yourself.” Don’t indulge yourself like the culture says. “Deny yourself, take up your cross daily,”—it’s not gonna be easy—“and pursue Me. Follow after Me. And along the way you’re gonna have to guard your heart.” Because, again, that heart is like a garden that tends towards weeds and all kinds of stuff that will choke the beautiful flowers out of existence.
How do you do that? How do you guard your heart? Well, Solomon gives us some hints in verses 20-27. Four things, he says, if you want to protect your heart. First of all, protect what you hear. Protect what you hear. “My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings.” What we listen to affects our heart, doesn’t it? The music we listen to, the words that we listen to. Boy, we live in a verbose culture today, don’t we? All the social media chatter. You could spend hours on that kind of stuff. A flea market of ideas out there in social media. That affects your heart. So protect what you hear.
Secondly, protect what you see. He goes on to say, “Let them not escape from your sight.” A little bit later in verse 25, “Let our eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you.” You know, successful people in life have a focus, don’t they? They understand their goals. They know where they’re going. Even athletes, as they’re stepping onto the field for an intense competition, they get their game face on. Their eyes are focused. You can see when their singing the national anthem. Oh, their lips are moving, but their eyes are focused. Job said, “I’ve made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at another woman.” The writer of Hebrews says, “Fixing our eyes on Jesus, who is the author and finisher of our faith.” He told us to run the race that is before us and, like an athlete, fix our eyes on Jesus. And don’t look to the right. Don’t look to the left. Don’t get distracted.
So you protect your heart by guarding what you hear, what you see, thirdly, what you say. He says in verse 24, “Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you.” You know, the Bible has a lot to say about what we say, doesn’t it, and how we say it. In fact, in a couple weeks we’re gonna talk about all that Proverbs says about the tongue. Strap on your seatbelts that morning. The lips, the tongue, our speech, oh my, the Bible has a lot to say about that. And Jesus even said what comes out of our mouth is a reflection of what’s in our hearts. James says, “Be slow to speech, slow to wrath, quick to listen.” God gave you one mouth and two ears. Listen twice as much as you talk. All of those kinds of things.
And then finally you protect your heart by guarding where you go. It’s back to the feet and watching your step. He says in verses 26 and 27, “Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.” Yeah, where you go, where you hangout, you know, is going to affect your heart. And either what you hear, what you see, what you say and where you go is going to produce a wonderful garden of spiritual fruit and flowers in your life, or it’s gonna produce weeds that will eventually choke out the beautiful thing that Christ wants to do in your life.
This is just a little fatherly advice to his son. Pretty good stuff. And maybe the application for you this morning as a parent or as a grandparent is to find a natural way to kind of weave some of this into a conversation with your children or your grandchildren. Or maybe the application for you this morning is, “Pastor, man, I got a lot of weeds growing up in my heart this morning. I’ve been chasing after the wrong things. I’ve been stepping in places that I shouldn’t be. My heart is crowded out by so much of the world today- what I listen to, what I see, what I say, where I go. It’s just a mess. And I need to get right with Jesus this morning. I need to walk in the light, the bright, shining light. Even if it exposes some of my sin before Him, because I know He is a God of grace and mercy and His blood will cleanse me from all unrighteousness. For others of you still the application may be you’ve never come to faith in Jesus Christ. You’ve never learned that there are two paths in life to follow. You’re just kind of going with the crowd, going with the world, so easily swayed by whatever flea market of ideas are out there. You’re kind of directionless. How is that working for you? Like everybody else, come to the cross of Jesus Christ. Let Him diagnose your human condition. The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can understand it? All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. The wages of sin is death, the Bible says. But the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. There is a turning point that needs to take place in your life today. A repentance. Not a regret and a sorrow that you got caught doing something, but a true repentance that is born of the conviction of sin, that you’ve offended a holy God. And that holy God did something about your sin by sending His Son to die on the cross for it and take the punishment that you and I deserve. Then He rose three days later from the grave. And He is the only one with the credentials to save you and rescue you, because His grave is empty today. And He is promising to come again. And because He is coming again, He is running towards you. Make sure you're running toward Him. He is passionately pursuing you. Chase after Him. Chase what matters. Chase what lasts. Chase the Lord Jesus Christ and keep your eyes fixed on Him. Let’s pray together.
Father, thank You so much for Your Word and for these strong words of counsel and even gentle words of counsel from Solomon to his sons that You preserve for us for this time right now, for this divine appointment where every one of us is here because You brought us here and for a purpose and for a time. For a decision that we have to make about what we do with what we’ve heard, how we let it transform our hearts from the inside out. Father, start with me. Start with me as the pastor. Start with me as a person before You. And may these words become more a part of my own life and in the lives of so many people here today. And we pray this in Jesus’s name, amen.