Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).
1. What exhortation is given to us in Proverbs 4:1-4 (printed below) as we listen to the godly father as he addresses his son?
Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction; pay attention, so as to gain understanding. (2) I am giving you sound teaching, so do not forsake my instruction. (3) When I was a boy in my father’s house, still tender and the only beloved in the sight of my mother, (4) he taught me and said, “Let your heart hold on to my words, keep my commandments, and you will live.” (Proverbs 4:1-4)
Verses 1-4 exhort us to pass on to our children the godly teaching we ourselves have received. The godly father of Proverbs is seeking to impart to his son the spiritual teaching and relationship with the Lord he himself received from his father; he now urges his son to receive it as his own. In an age of relativism when so few know truth from error and right from wrong, it is so important to make known to our children the Word of God.
2. According to the godly father of Proverbs, what is of utmost importance? What is the thing we should cherish most? See Proverbs 4:5-9 (printed below) How would you explain the father’s statement recorded in verse 7?
Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget the words I speak or turn away from them. (6) Do not forsake wisdom, and she will guard you; love her, and she will watch over you. (7) Wisdom is the primary thing; therefore, get wisdom. Indeed, give all that you have acquired in order to acquire understanding. (8) Hold her in high esteem, and she will exalt you; if you embrace her, she will honor you. (9) She will set a garland of grace upon your head, and present you with a crown of beauty. (Proverbs 4:5-9)
In verses 5-9 we are exhorted to impress upon our children that the most important thing in all of life is to cherish divine wisdom. Bear in mind that what Proverbs is referring to when it speaks of divine wisdom is nothing other than the revelation of the mind and will of God as it is made known in the Scriptures; and the revelation of the Person of God as He makes Himself known in His Son the Lord Jesus Christ. In verse 7 the counsel of the godly father of Proverbs is that we should take all that we have acquired and use it as the payment with which we purchase “understanding” (another term for divine wisdom). The point of this counsel is to impress upon us the supreme value of divine wisdom and understanding (cp. Matthew 13:45-46).
3. What testimony does the father make to his son in verse 11 (printed below?)
I have instructed you in the way of wisdom, I have led you in the paths of uprightness. (Proverbs 4:11)
Listen carefully to the godly father’s testimony to his son: “I have instructed you in the way of wisdom, I have led you in the paths of uprightness.” Not only does the godly father point out the way of godliness, trust in Christ, obedience to His commands, a life oriented around Christ; he also sets the example of all these things (note Deuteronomy 6:5-7). Christian father, when your son/daughter looks at your life, do they see that you cherish divine wisdom above all else? That you practice the counsel the godly father gave in verse 7?
4. What confidence does the father express in verse 12 (printed below?)
When you walk in these paths, your steps will not be impeded; indeed, if you run, you will not stumble. (Proverbs 4:12)
Up to this point in life the father has been the counselor (pointing the way) and the guide (leading the way) for his son (verse 11). But now his son is becoming a young man, he is about to launch out on his own; therefore, verse 12 shifts to the pronoun “you” and away from the pronoun “I.” Now notice the confidence the godly father expresses in verse 12a: “When you walk in these paths, your steps will not be impeded.” There is the confidence that the son will go in the paths of righteousness and there is the confidence that the Lord will watch over him along that pathway. Notice, too, the desire and the hope the godly father expresses in verse 12b: “if you run you, will not stumble.” There is not only the confidence that his son will “walk” in the pathway of righteousness (i.e.; that he will be committed to Christ and lead a godly life), there is also present the desire and prospect that his son will “run” in that pathway of righteousness—the hope that his son would become like those who bring forth not merely thirty or sixty, but one hundred fold fruit for Christ (Matthew 13:23).
5. To what is “the path of the righteous” compared in Proverbs 4:18 (printed below?) How would you explain the significance of this imagery?
But the path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining brighter and brighter until the full light of day. (Proverbs 4:18)
“The path of the righteous” is compared to the rising sun as it makes its way to the zenith of noonday brilliance. The point being made is that the further you travel with Christ along the pathway of righteousness, the brighter and more certain the way becomes—i.e.; by the experience of His presence you become increasingly convinced of His truth and faithfulness. Furthermore, you become increasingly transformed by the truth of Christ.