There are some things that we hear again and again, and at times we can become weary of the repetition. As young people we can chafe under the repeated warnings of our parents, teachers, and preachers. Why do they have to bring those same things up again and again? Can’t they trust us? Don’t they think we heard them the first time?
As parents teach their children, there are certain themes that come up again and again. There are certain warnings that are repeated. These themes and warnings are necessary because they are areas where the devil is especially at work and where we as young people are prone to be weak. The Bible teaches the need for repetition, and the book of Proverbs teaches what themes need to be repeated, over and over, for the spiritual benefit of our young people.
Your parents and those in authority know the peer pressures that accompany sin, and they know the craftiness of the devil. Remember, they were young at one time as well, and out of love for you they repeat certain themes. But, even more importantly, they know the Bible. And they know that the Bible teaches that there is an important place for repetition.
As you young people are aware, the book of Proverbs contains a wealth of instruction for young people. Solomon wrote the book for the benefit of his son.Proverbs 8:1: “My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother.” God spoke through Solomon and makes this His word for His sons and daughters. God, through Solomon, repeats certain themes that we must hear. In no specific order I want to mention six truths that I find repeated through the book of Proverbs, truths that Solomon viewed of highest importance in the lives of his spiritual children. I realize that there are many more themes found through the book of Proverbs. My list is quite subjective, but I believe that the other points can be fit under these main truths.
First, Solomon states repeatedly the need for children and young people to hunger after wisdom and understanding. One such passage is found in Proverbs 2:1-5:
My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee; So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding; Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; Then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God.
The most important thing that you young people can pursue is wisdom and understanding. What is your calling before God? You are bound as a student to be busy growing in knowledge and understanding, along with wisdom. This means that your school work, your catechism instruction, and the Bible studies in your life are of highest importance.
We are often not interested in wisdom or in understanding. We don’t take our school work and catechism seriously. We are interested only in ourselves—our will, our pleasure, and our own pursuits. In those situations we need to hear again and again the fact that the most important pursuit in life is the pursuit of wisdom and understanding. Our sinful flesh, the wicked world, and the devil are constantly tempting us to pursue the foolishness of materialism, earthly honor, and sin. Solomon sets forth wisdom and understanding as attractive and desirable for the young person.
How do you show in your life a desire for those spiritual traits? How do you pursue them? What kind of mockery and shame are you required to endure for that kind of commitment? God never promises that the way of the godly young person will be easy. But God does promise that those who pursue wisdom and understanding will experience God’s rich blessing.
Second, Solomon notes the need for correction, and for that correction to be both administered and received in the right spirit. The foolish child rejects the admonitions of his parents and those in authority.Proverbs 13:1: “A wise son heareth his father’s instruction: but a scorner heareth not rebuke.” How do you respond to the correction of your parents? The way in which you respond reveals whether you are a wise or a foolish young person. If you respond with anger and try to run from those who correct you, then you are a fool. A fool is one who tries to ignore God and tries to convince himself that he can do as he pleases with no consequences. God won’t be mocked by that kind of an attitude.
Our actions do have consequences. God, out of love for you, gives you Christian parents, teachers, and pastors who are called to show the love of God to you in the way of their correction and discipline. You must receive that correction and turn from your sins. You must also learn to appreciate the correction and see it as necessary for your salvation. Proverbs 3:11, 12: “My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord; neither be weary of his correction: For whom the Lord loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.”
We need to remember our parents in our prayers, as God gives them a high and difficult calling. They are called to use the rod and reproof in the discipline of their children. Proverbs 29:15: “The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.” When you respond to reproof by becoming angry with your parents or teachers or pastor, then you face the judgment of God. “He that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy” (Prov. 29:1).
Third, Solomon notes the threat of legalism as a strong temptation for a young person. Young people are better at following the letter of a law than the spirit of the law. They thrive on trying to twist and turn the words of their parents against the parents and their teachers against the teachers. Young people can be masters at twisting those words so that the words and rules work to their benefit. And they separate themselves from the sin by justifying their actions. Young people are adept at detecting inconsistency in others, while not realizing their own lack of sincerity. They are inclined to separate their outward actions from their motivations. They will do what is required, but they will not do it with the right spirit or with the right motivation of heart. This legalism is condemned.
The fruit of this legalism is a spiritual and natural laziness. Rather than being diligent in the use of the gifts God has given, they become spiritual sloths. Solomon opposes this spirit by stressing the need for obedience from the heart. Proverbs 4:23: “Keep thy heart with all diligence: for out of it are the issues of life.” What is most important is not outward conformity. You need to live and walk in obedience from the heart. Don’t just go through the outward motions to please your parents and your teachers. They are looking for more than just outward obedience. They want to see evidence of a love for the truth and a desire to live your life for the sake of God and His glory.
Fourth, Solomon realizes the importance of good Christian friends and the threat of bad friends. “My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not” (Prov. 1:10). Repeatedly he warns against the ways of the fool and the need to forsake the foolish so that you can live. There are foolish young people all around you. Tragically, often we ourselves are the fools. We make ourselves and our own desires a god. We live for ourselves. The fool’s influence on your life is not for good, but for evil. The fool lives for himself and his own pleasure. The fool refuses to submit to instruction and discipline. The fool says in his heart that there is no God—I am god, and I can do as I please. Do you have the courage to turn away from such a fool? You will be mocked. And fools may seek revenge against you. But you need to separate yourself from those who are living as fools. You need to surround yourself with young people who respect their parents, who love God and love the church, and who seek to live their lives for the sake of God and His glory.
Fifth, we find Solomon repeatedly warning about the need for chastity and purity in sexual relationships. Solomon himself was guilty of sin in this regard, and God gave him the sensitivity to that sin and the grace to warn you and me. He repeatedly warns his son against wicked women who are eager to entice. The young man and young woman are constantly being pursued and tempted by the devil to give their bodies over to their lusts and pleasures. There are wicked and foolish young people who have no love for God or for you. They talk about love, but all it is, is lust. They want to satisfy their lusts at your expense. Love gives. Love seeks God and His will. But lust takes. Lust is interested only in self. Resist these tempters and their temptations for God’s sake. Your body and spirit belong to Jesus Christ who bought them. Keep your bodies and your minds chaste and pure. Your sexual desires are to be enjoyed in marriage alone. Pray for grace to control those desires and seek to marry in the Lord. Those who treat lightly their sexuality are those who are on the pathway to hell. “Her guests are in the depths of hell” (Prov. 9:18).
Sixth, Solomon teaches his son the need to have a heavenly, eternal perspective. As we live in the midst of this earth, we need to be looking beyond the things of this earth. It is natural for young people to be concerned mainly, and often only, about the here and now. They lack the gift of being able to look ahead and see the consequences of their actions. They often lack the ability to view themselves as pilgrims and strangers on this earth. Again and again God warns us to keep a right focus with regard to our possessions and our ambitions. “Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues without right” (Prov. 16:8).
There are times when the admonitions and instruction are not enough. God has to wake us out of our earthly mindedness by touching us in our youth with a death of a young, close friend. God does this in order to encourage us to spiritual maturity and to give us a heavenly, eternal perspective in life.
May God encourage us to see the benefit of repetition. Rather than becoming angry or irritated when we hear the same warnings again and again, let us examine our hearts and minds. There is a deeper reason for these repetitions. You need to see your sin. And you need to see the need for forgiveness. If you don’t see your sin, you won’t see your need for Jesus Christ. God is speaking to you and reminding you how sinful you are and how great your need is for Jesus and His saving work. Repent of your sin and live out of the joy of forgiveness through Jesus Christ. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9).