The call to “listen” occurs some 25 times in the book of Proverbs – most often in the first nine chapters which are devoted to the praise of wisdom. Almost an equal number of times (and again, mostly in the first nine chapters), the writer addresses his children (my sons).
In chapter 4, the author picks up on a requirement of the law found in Deuteronomy 11: “Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land that the Lord swore to give your forefathers, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth.” The message he is passing on to his children was given to him by his father, and early in life: “When I was a boy in my father’s house, still tender, and an only child of my mother, he taught me and said, “Lay hold of my words with all your heart; keep my commands and you will live.”
Parents have an obligation not just to educate their children, but to teach them how to live. Among those teachings are three outstanding ones in this chapter: First, success in life depends to a great extent on a parent’s teaching and a child’s listening. The parent must be confident that what he has to say is important. The parent must also have credibility. A man whose life has been a miserable failure in so many ways told me once: “I have lots of valuable advice based on my failures. My children should listen to me.” Perhaps. The problem was his failures cost him his credibility. Just because a person knows by experience the way not to go doesn’t mean he knows the way to go.
Second, there is a right way to go. It is important to be an observer of people’s lives to see which way they are heading. The idea is not to follow the crowd, or even the few, but to observe where the crowd is going, and pick the right path, even if you travel it with the few.
Third, take stock of the kind of person you want to be. Solomon says: “Guard your heart.” Life challenges and temptations, successes and failures, will mold us if we are not careful. We must always be careful in considering how we are being molded.