I am often overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude to God for placing me in a Christian home with a wise and godly father who diligently taught me the Scriptures; and, although I didn’t know the saving grace of God until I was an adult, there are certain inestimably valuable things my father taught me when I was a teenager that continue to have an impact on me today. One of these was the way in which my father challenged me to read the Proverbs. Perhaps it continues to impact me in a significant way, in part, on account of the fact that there are ten father-to-son talks in the Proverbs (1:8; 2:1; 3:1; 4:10; 5:1; 6:1; 7:1; 23:19; 24:13; and 27:11). These talks reflect something of the concern that a godly father has for his son; but—foundational to that—they reflect what God the Father desired of His eternal Son as the Redeemer, then of His is adopted sons who are united to Him by faith. It is only as we read the Proverbs in light of the perfection of the Son of God that we will be able to put them into practice in our lives and see them practiced in the lives of our children.
Sinclair Ferguson has helpfully explained that, in one very real sense, “the Proverbs are a training manual” for fathers to train their sons in light of God’s Covenant promises in the Gospel. He says:
“The Proverbs are a training manual for a father to use with his teenage boys….It was to help fathers plant into the minds of their sons the principles of godly instruction…What is the father seeking to do? Well, you remember how the opening verses of the Proverbs puts it in a wide variety of ways—the Father is seeking to teach his son what it means to be wise, and he’s teaching him wise sayings…and we understand that the context for these Proverbs is God’s covenant…that is to say that these Proverbs are not blank checks, they’re not a slot machine…[as if to say], “Let me just slide in Proverbs 16:7… and it works”—No! They are ways of describing what happens when people are faithful or unfaithful to God’s Covenant. These Proverbs are describing how God’s Covenant promises work out in a profoundly fallen world, in which very often for the believer, God’s promises appear to be contradicted by God’s providences. So this is a book for right where I am as a father, for right where my children are as children—especially for my teenage sons as teenage sons; and so the book begins, interestingly enough with ten father-to-son talks that become the compass for us—what God wishes father’s to teach their children.”1
It is a fairly safe assumption that Solomon wrote the ten father-to-son talks in the Proverbs. Of course, we must recognize that the Holy Spirit inspired them; but they were, in all likeliness, the mature product of the relationship between Solomon and his earthly father, David. The relationship that David sustained to Solomon is, on one hand, just like any other relationship between any other father and son; yet, on the other hand, it was unique in the context of God’s Covenant promises in redemptive-history (2 Sam. 7:1-17). When we consider the Covenant promises that God made with David concerning his son we come to understand that there is a greater Father-to-Son relationship—one that helps us to understand earthly father-to-son relations, as well as one that enables earthly sons to obey the heavenly Father’s desire for His sons to walk in the path of wisdom and righteousness. This is only and ever because His own, eternal Son took up the “father-to-son” talks in the Proverbs and perfectly walked the path of wisdom and righteousness for us.
The need to walk in the path of uprightness is inextricably linked to our need for a Savior. Even the father-to-son talks in the Proverbs teach us this. Proverbs 7 is one of the ten father-to-son talks found in the book. A father counsels his son with respect to the danger of going after the adulterous woman. Interpreters have sometimes understood this to be a warning against adultery and sometimes as a warning against evil in general. The latter interpretation is supported by the fact that, in Proverbs 8, wisdom is personified as a woman who calls out to young men, in contrast with the adulterous woman of Proverbs 7. Whether the adulterous woman of Proverbs 7 is understood to be a specific sin or evil in general makes little difference; the same warning is being sounded. In the end, sin is deadly.
It is likely that King Solomon wrote Proverbs 7. It was most certainly something his father, King David, taught him when he was a boy. Sadly, both David and Solomon fell into adulterous relationships. This shows us that, at ground zero, we need someone who can forgive us when we fail to follow the commands of the heavenly Father, and one who can enable us to walk in the path of wisdom and righteousness.
David’s greater Son, Jesus Christ, is the only one who perfectly obeyed the father-to-son talks in the Proverbs. He did so that we might have a Savior who forgives us—by His atoning death—for the many ways in which we have disobeyed the Father’s commands. He forgives us when we repent of having acted in the manner of the foolish man in the Proverbs. Additionally, He obeyed so that we might receive the same wisdom and righteousness that He exemplified. In this way, the lives of believers are brought into step with the description of the wise and righteous man in the Proverbs. We are not meant to take up the father-to-son talks in the Proverbs in order to merely seek character development. Neither are we to take them up to seek to obey them in order to establish our own righteousness. We are to see in them—first of all—the Heavenly Father’s demand for perfect obedience in order that we might flee to the Son, as the Savior, who always did the will of His Father (Ps. 40:6-8; Heb. 10:5-7). After this, we are to continually draw wisdom and righteousness from the Father and the Son (Col. 2:3; 1 Cor. 1:30; and James 1). Both earthly fathers and their sons need these father-to-son talks in order to see the need that we have for the all wise and righteous Son, and in order that we might gain the wisdom and righteousness described in them by faith in Him.
Hail to the Lord’s anointed, great David’s greater Son!
Hail in the time appointed, His reign on earth begun!
He comes to break oppression, to set the captive free;
To take away transgression and rule in equity.
Nick Batzig is the church planter of New Covenant Presbyterian Church in Richmond Hill, Ga. He has written numerous articles for Tabletalk Magazine, Reformation 21, and is published in Jonathan Edwards and Scotland (Dunedin, 2011) Nick is also a regular panelists on Christ the Center, a podcast of The Reformed Forum, the host of East of Eden: The Biblical and Systematic Theology of Jonathan Edwards and the editor of The Christward Collective. You can friend him on Facebook here. Nick is on Twitter at @nick_batzig.
1. An excerpt from Sinclair Ferguson’s sermon, “The Man of the House.”
(Article first published June 4, 2014 as "Father-to-Son Talks")
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