My son, hear the instruction of your father,
and do not forsake the law of your mother.
We live in a world that was birthed in the bed of rebellion. From Eve’s rebellion in the Garden to the murder of Abel by his brother Cain, we see the sin of rebellion, the open, hostile, rejection of authority, as one of the bedrocks of human existence.
But it’s beginning is far older than the book of Genesis. For it was rebellion that caused the Lord to banish Satan and his followers from heaven and cast them down to the earth (Isaiah 14:13-15). That’s why Satan is known as the “god of this age” (2 Cor. 4:4) and the “prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2). In fact, Satan even boasted of this when he tried to tempt Jesus by offering to give Him “all the kingdoms of the world” if He would just “worship before me” (Luke 4:5-6).
And what is at the root of all rebellion? Pride.
It was pride that brought low mighty King Nebuchadnezzar and drove him out into the fields, living on all fours and eating grass, humbled like an animal (Dan. 4:33). It was pride that led Pharaoh to vainly fight against the Lord and not only see the destruction of all Egypt, but of his own house and family as well. It was pride that almost kept Naaman from being healed of leprosy (2 Kings 5;11) and pride that saw Haman hanged on the gallows he prepared for Mordecai (Esther 7:10). And it was the sin of pride that led Peter to foolishly exalt his commitment to Jesus as greater than the other disciples when he said, “Even if all are made to stumble, yet I will not be” (Mark 14:29).
But the Lord says He hates “pride and arrogance and the evil way” (Prov. 8:13) and that the prideful are so enamored with themselves they do not “seek God” nor is God “in any of their thoughts” (Psalm 10:4). They are clueless, self-deceived, and so inward-focused they can see nothing but themselves. They have themselves become the center of their self-created universe, the most valued and important thing in their lives, and their personal happiness and pleasure is the all-consuming passion of their short, sad lives. But the Lord promises to humble the man who exalts himself (Matt. 23:12) and to bring to nothing the one who arrogantly smirks at both God and others (Isaiah 2:11).
The future of the proud and rebellious is indeed bleak.
Rebellion and Our DNA
But we are a people that see pride and rebellion as one of the core values of our society. We spend countless hours watching movies and sitcoms that are saturated with the theme of pride. Our popular music exalts self to the point that we have elevated self-indulgence and narcissism to an art form. Even in our churches we find the worship leader, our own version of a personal Christian rock star, gets more face time and notoriety than the Lord Jesus.
But it gets worse.
We, as a people, rebel against anything and everything. Why? Because rebellion is cool and popular and pride, the source of our rebellion, is deemed a virtue in our culture. Just think, we rebel against our government and refuse to be “subject to the governing authorities” as commanded in Scripture (Rom. 13:1-4). In fact, our nation was founded on rebellion and we wear that rebellion as a badge of honor and celebrate it each July 4th as a national holiday. We rebel against our employers, miserly giving as little as possible yet demanding they pay us all the more, always grumbling and never content with our wages. And we do this in direct contradiction to the Word of God (Col. 3:22-25). We even rebel against the authorities placed over us for our own good: our teachers, law enforcement personnel, older siblings, and even pastors and ministers.
And, most importantly, we rebel against our parents, or any person who loves us yet dares to place upon us expectations or standards we disagree with or that stifles our drive for independence. And this rebellion begins almost as soon as we learn to walk.
It seems like everywhere in our culture parents are portrayed as “out of touch old fogies” or “old fashioned geezers” or “ignorant killjoys” that won’t let their children do anything they want to do. And the children are often seen as the ones who have it all together, the ones who alone can think rationally and have their emotions in check, and the ones who can see the big picture and not get sidetracked on issues that don’t really matter— like respect, obedience, diligence, commitment, honesty and hard work.
After all, the last thing our children want to do today is ask their parents for advice or follow their instructions. But that’s the exact admonition the Lord gives us in the Proverbs.
Learning How to Listen and Obey
Consider the words from a loving father to his naive, impressionable son:
Proverbs 1:8 – My son, hear the instruction of your father, and do not forsake the law of your mother.
In this Proverb we find the father, as head of his home and family, imploring his young son to listen and hear the law and wisdom of his parents in order to protect him from the evil and hurts in this world that want to ruin the young man’s life. And how do we know this? Because all fathers want to keep their children from stepping on the same land mines they did. All fathers want to protect their children from suffering the same hurts or making the same mistakes they did when they were young and simple-minded and thought they knew everything. All fathers want their sons to learn from their own mistakes and not have to repeat them over and over again.
So here we have the father speaking to his son, to “My son”— and pleading with him to “hear the instruction of your father” and not to “forsake the law of your mother” (Prov. 1:8). This plea is not generic, but a deeply personal and passionate plea coming from the lips of a loving father to his naive, gullible young son. So much so the phrase “My son” is used almost twenty times in the Proverbs alone. 1
And what’s at the core of the plea? To “hear” or “listen” to someone wiser than yourself.
The word translated “hear” is shama and means more than just letting sounds bounce off your ear drums to cause a recognizable vibration. It means to “listen” or “hearken” and to “obey” what has been heard. It’s a two-fold definition. It means to both listen and obey. Not one or the other. But both.
But to “listen and obey” what? The “instruction (or, discipline, chastening, and correction, with the imagery of a father disciplining his son that he loves) of your father.” The command is to “listen and obey” what the father has to say. The word for instruction is the same word we find in Proverbs 1:2, 3, 7. It’s the same instruction that “fools despise” in Proverbs 1:7. It’s the same instruction God promised the book of Proverbs to reveal (Prov. 1:2). And it’s the same instruction given us by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
But note this, listening without obedience is still disobedience. For the son to listen to the instruction of the father and not obey that instruction is the same as not listening at all. It’s nothing more than pride and rebellion and a forsaking of the “law of your mother” (Prov. 1:8).
To Forsake is to Abandon
The word “forsake” means to “leave alone, ignore, or abandon.” And the word for “law” is torah and is a general term for “instruction and direction” either from God or man. So the command is to listen and obey the instruction and discipline of your father and not to ignore or forsake the directions of your mother. Both parents are in play here. Both are important. Both are involved in shaping the character of the young man.
And the son’s only job in all of this is to not play the fool but “listen and obey” the words of the two people who’ve loved him more than anyone else on the face of the earth. He’s to embrace and not forsake the directions given him by his parents, the very ones who have sacrificed their lives to give him life and a future. And part of their instruction is to impart the wisdom they have accumulated over the years making many of the same mistakes they are hoping to keep their son from repeating.
It’s classic Parenting 101.
The Lost Art of Listening
But one of the great tragedies facing the young son is that there is so much noise surrounding him that it makes it difficult, if not impossible, for him to hear the needed words of wisdom. And it’s the same for us today. Everywhere we go we’re surrounded by noise. The radio is constantly playing in the car even when we’re not conscious of it. It’s a natural force of habit when we drive. We have the sound of the television playing in the background even when we’re not watching it or know what’s on. It’s just there. Always. Just a constant hum of music and dialogue. And when we walk, run, sit, or wait in line, we instinctively cram in our earbuds to drown out the sounds of reality for the noise of our own choosing— as if the latest song is more important than people and the activities of life all around us.
Listening and hearing is rapidly becoming a lost art and the consequences for the Church and the Believer are horrific. Consider the importance of being able to hear and listen and ultimately obey the Word of God:
Proverbs 2:1-2, 5 – My son, if you receive my words, and treasure my commands within you, so that you incline your ear to wisdom (to listen and hear), and apply your heart to understanding (to obey)… then you will understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God.
Romans 10:17 – So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
John 10:27-28 – “My sheep hear My voice (to listen), and I know them, and they follow Me (to obey). And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.”
What does this say about those who don’t hear His voice? What about those whose lives are so filled with the noise and chaos of this life the very voice of Jesus is drowned out? What about them?
And then over and over again we find this admonition from the Lord Jesus, in both the Gospels and the Revelation:
“He who has an ear to hear, let him hear!” 2
Remember finally, the Lord is not One who is loud, brash, boisterous or pushy and demands to be heard. He’s actually quite the opposite. After the Mount Carmel experience, He revealed Himself to Elijah at the mouth of cave, not in the “great and strong wind” that “tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces” (1 Kings 19:11). Nor was He found in the mighty “earthquake” or even in the consuming “fire” that passed in front of Elijah— but in a “still small voice” (1 Kings 19:12) that refused to compete with any of these things. A voice so small and so still that you could easily miss it if you weren’t listening closely. A voice that still speaks today if we would only take the time to shut out the noise of the temporal and listen intently to the voice of the eternal.
And when we hear Him, when we hear Him unmistakably break through the noise and clatter of our lives and speak to us today, our only response is to obey. To listen and obey. Just like the wise and loving father implored his young son to do.
Proverbs 1:8 – My son, hear the instruction of your father, and do not forsake the law of your mother.
After all, nothing else really matters, does it?
1. Has God ever spoken to you? And, if so, what was that like? How did that happen? What did God tell you when He spoke into your life? And what have you done in response to that event?
2. Has God ever convicted you of something in your life that you’ve refused to change or correct or surrender to Him? If so, what was that? How did He communicate His will to you and why have you refused to obey Him?
3. Are there areas in your life that reek of rebellion? Are there areas that you have defiantly refused to give over to Him? If so, why? What are you waiting for? And if not, is it because you view your disobedience in much softer, generic, PC terms than rebellion? But does your terminology slight-of-hand make your rebellion less of a sin?
4. Do you obey your parents in all things? How about your husband? Your employer? The government? How do you view the authority of the church, your pastor, elders and ministers? Is the Lord trying to speak to you in any of these areas?
5. On a scale from 1 to 10, how would you rate God’s wisdom in your life right now and in your decision making process? What was it yesterday? Are you growing in the wisdom of God? And, if not, why?
Next Step Challenge
Take your Bible and look up the following phrase “He who has an ear, let Him hear” in the Gospel accounts. Read them in context to determine what Jesus was speaking about when He made that all-important, yet somewhat cryptic statement.
What does “He who has an ear, let him hear” really mean? Was Jesus speaking to everyone? And, if not, who was He speaking to? And what was He saying to them? What was He trying to emphasize? Can you see a pattern in any of this? And, if so, what is that pattern?
And what does it mean for you today? Do you have “ears to hear”? Are you listening? And if so, what is He saying and what are you prepared to do about it?
1. Proverbs 1:8, 10, 15; 2:1; 3:1, 11, 4:10, 20, 5:1, 5:20; 6:1, 9, 20; 7:1; 19:27; 23:15, 19, 26; 24:13, 21; 27:11; 31:2.
2. Matthew 11:15; 13:9, 43; Mark 4:9, 23; 7:16; Luke 7:8, 14:35; Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22.