He taught me also, and said unto me, Let thine heart retain my words: keep my commandments, and live.
Here is the greatest gift from a father – wisdom and truth! What is your family giving from generation to generation? Solomon admitted that his father, David, had taught him. So he taught his children to continue the perpetuation of knowledge from father to son. He stressed that a successful life required his son to retain and keep this knowledge.
Note the proverb’s opening words: “He taught me also.” Solomon was the favorite son of David, so the instruction David gave him came from a loving heart desiring the very best for his son (Pr 4:1-4). In faithful fulfillment of his own role as a father, King Solomon appealed to his own children to hear instruction from him like he had from his father.
How is truth perpetuated in the earth? What is the greatest gift parents can give children? The greatest heritage parents give their children is wisdom and truth, which is how both are kept in the world. Two passages of Scripture carefully describe four generations as every man’s goal (Ps 78:1-8; Joel 1:1-3). Therefore, godly families should never repeat the same mistakes, and they should greatly increase in wisdom, generation by generation.
Fathers are to be teachers. This is not an option or suggestion. Under both testaments, the father was the designated teacher (Deut 4:9; 6:4-7; Eph 6:4). If a child remains a fool and shames his parents, it is because the father did not do his job (Pr 22:6; 29:15). It is a horrible shame that television, public schools, and peer pressure do most teaching today.
Sons like Solomon are not chance events. David and Bathsheba taught Solomon. While God blessed Solomon with much wisdom after he was king, it was David who had given him an excellent foundation from youth up. Surely David had seen the dire consequences of neglecting his other sons, Adonijah, Absalom, and Amnon (I Kings 1:6). David wrote about calling his children to him so he could teach them the fear of the Lord (Ps 34:11).
David taught Solomon three things in this proverb. First, retain what I teach you. Do more than hear me. Listen to what I say, grasp its meaning, agree in your heart with its truthfulness, meditate on it, review the principles, and apply them to every case you see. Remember the lesson by careful comprehension at first hearing and by regular review.
Second, keep my commandments. It is not enough to hear and retain a father’s advice, you must keep it – you must do it. As with the word of God, it is the doers of the word who are blessed, not the hearers (Jas 1:21-25). Parental rules are only good to the degree the rules are obeyed. Sons must be taught to obey, and their obedience must be enforced.
Third, the goal and result of this instruction is your successful life. You are not reading about minor things here – you are dealing with life, your life! Keep these rules and live. Live well! Live righteously! Live abundantly! Grow in favor with God and men. This is the good life. This is the blessed life. This is the protected life. This is the prosperous life.
There are three men and generations in the proverb – David, Solomon, and Rehoboam and his siblings. Each reader, especially the men, had fathers and grandfathers, and they will in most cases have children and grandchildren. Five generations can be identified rather easily. Are you conscious and convicted of this important privilege and committed to do your part to transfer truth and wisdom down your family tree? God will bless it.