My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings.
For you to be great, you must listen and learn. Being attentive to instruction is one of the great secrets of wisdom, just as Solomon wrote in his introduction (Pr 1:5). The better a man listens and learns, the greater he will be. Rather than think of what you would like to say or what you do not like about the person speaking, you should focus all your powers on humbly listening to every word. Your success in any endeavor depends on it.
How well do you pay attention to instruction? Do you hear what you are taught? Solomon was a great king, the wisest of men, and a loving father. He knew his son’s success depended on learning from his vast experience and wisdom. He had seen his son shortly after birth, had watched him during childhood, and had witnessed his foolishness during puberty and adolescence. His son knew nothing and had everything to learn!
Proverbs is the book of wisdom, designed to teach understanding. Since all men arrive as helpless and ignorant infants, there is a great learning curve to take them from the breast and diapers to be the sober and successful leaders of others. Solomon knew the keys were humility and attention to the instruction of parents and teachers, so he emphasized these points often (Pr 1:8; 2:1; 3:1; 4:1-5; 5:1,7; 6:20; 7:24; 8:32-33; 19:20; 22:17; 23:12).
Consider your own progress. You did not know your own name for many months, were fed from a bottle, and dirtied your own clothes and bed. It took you a year to learn how to stumble. Tying your shoes and learning to ride a bicycle were difficult tasks. Spelling words with four letters and adding numbers with four digits were hard assignments. You were intimidated by the written examination and driving test to get a drivers’ license.
But you learned your name, how to eat, how to use the toilet, how to walk, how to tie shoelaces, how to ride a bike, how to spell and add, and you eventually passed your drivers’ test. How did this progress occur? You were taught and trained by others with more knowledge and understanding than you. You had to listen and learn, for children kept alone in a room without instruction will not acquire these basic learned skills.
Life has much greater challenges than riding a bike. What is the basis of wisdom? Is working hard important? What does God hate? Does pride affect judgment? How is a beautiful woman dangerous? Can offended rulers be appeased? What makes a good wife? How are children trained? Can I get ahead on my job? What are bad financial risks? How is tattling wrong? Am I a true friend? These questions and many others like them are only answered by wise instruction, which you must hear, comprehend, retain, and apply.
Public education teaches children to believe and think as the state deems best. Since a Creator God with written Scripture is a threat to humanism and social experiments, children are taught they came from monkeys. They are also taught the contradictory lies of socialism, self-love, free expression, rights of the individual, animal protection, child abortion, human progress, sodomy is normal, and so forth. Living in a modern world with mass media, parents must teach and warn children often against such profane nonsense.
Are you a good listener and learner? Or do you daydream? Or are you already thinking of your next words? Here is the difference between success and failure. A wise man listens well, because he knows that is the only way to learn. A fool, thinking he already has the answers, refuses to listen and remains an ignorant loser for the rest of his miserable life. Wise men always listen better than fools: they get wiser, and fools stay foolish (Pr 9:7-9). A sure proof of wisdom is your humility to hear instruction and apply it to your life.
The Lord Jesus Christ told Pontius Pilate that He came into the world to bear witness to the truth (John 18:37). Pilate, like most educators and politicians, scornfully rejected the idea of truth (John 18:38). Jesus told His hearers to be careful how they listened to the truth. If they were diligent and eager, He would bless them with more truth; if they were negligent, He would take from them the little truth they thought they had (Luke 8:18).
Hearing is not a take-it-or-leave-it offer, when it comes to the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the Creator of the heavens and the earth, and He expects His preached and printed words to command your attention and obedience. He promised to punish His own people Israel for not hearing (Is 30:8-14; Jer 13:16-17; 22:5-9,20-26; Mal 2:1-3; Acts 3:22-23). And things are only worse today, when so-called Christians will not endure sound doctrine but seek out entertaining preachers that will satisfy their lusts with fables (II Tim 4:3-4).
It is now common for children to yawn, sleep, scorn, or leave when parents try to correct, instruct, or warn them. It is common for church members to doze, daydream, look around, read their Bible, or leaf through a hymnal while the pastor preaches the truth of God’s word. The certain rule is that such children and church members are always losers. Your only hope for success is to humble yourself and learn the instruction and wisdom of first parents, then pastors, and always and only as defined by the infallible word of God.
Rather than think of listening and learning as a burden, think of it as a blessed privilege. Very few today consider a long sermon a blessing (II Tim 4:3-4). But hear Israel under Nehemiah and Ezra after returning from a 70-year captivity in Babylon, “And all the people went their way to eat, and to drink, and to send portions, and to make great mirth, because they had understood the words that were declared unto them” (Neh 8:12).
Almighty God, creator of heaven and earth, is calling His sons and daughters today. He uses creation, providence, conscience, parents, scripture, and teachers. Are you listening? Do you pay attention? Do you ask for more? Listen to Him! “How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him” (I Kgs 18:21). The choice is simple, but only a very few will make the right choice, and the rest will be consumed in fiery vengeance that is rapidly approaching (II Thess 1:7-10).
Adult reader, once you repent of arrogance or stubbornness and are ready to listen and learn to make rapid and great progress, you must find where truth and wisdom are taught. Where can you be attentive to truth and wisdom and incline your ear to them? God has ordained that He will communicate His wisdom by preaching in the local churches of His Son Jesus Christ (I Cor 1:19-21; I Tim 6:3-5,20-21; II Tim 3:16-17; Titus 1:1-4).
There is a famine for real preaching of God’s word today (Amos 8:11-12), but the witty inventions of the Internet allow a search better than ever before. You need to find a God-called man that boldly and plainly declares God’s truth without regard for the opinions of men. God is able and willing to help you, so pray for it (Acts 8:26-40; 16:6-15). May God bless sincere and honest hearts to find the certain words of truth and prosper by them.