Calvary Road Baptist Church


Proverbs 1.1-9

Turn to Proverbs 1.1-9, where we will find some rich treasure of great significance on this Father’s Day, to sons who would rather be wise than foolish, to anyone who thinks life is too short and far too important to risk completely messing up, and particularly to those of you who crave success in all that you do.

One of the great misconceptions of life, particularly among the young men of my day, and I suspect among the young men of this day, has to do with your skill in making good decisions. I used to think I was a good decision maker, being one of the so-called smart kids in my high school, successfully gaining admittance to the Air Force Academy, finding college easy enough that I did not really have to study very hard, and doing quite well professionally as a young man. However, as I look back on that period of time from a distance of thirty to forty years, I am convinced that I was not only extremely foolish, but that one of the characteristics of foolishness (being a very poor decision maker) was an embarrassingly prominent feature of my personal history.

What was missing from my life? Obviously, Christ was missing in my life. But considering that this message is directed to Christians this morning, what do I seek to impart to you who are young enough to make some midcourse corrections in your life? That is what my Father’s Day sermon is about. Stand and read Proverbs 1.1-9 with me:

 1      The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel;

2      To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding;

3      To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity;

4      To give subtilty to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion.

5      A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels:

6      To understand a proverb, and the interpretation; the words of the wise, and their dark sayings.

7      The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

8      My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother:

9      For they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck.

 Allow me to comment on each of these verses before this morning’s sermon. Though what we are reading certainly has application to you young ladies who are here this morning, it is quite obvious that this passage deals most explicitly with young men.

Young man, you were born foolish.

You were born ignorant.

You were born immature.

Over the course of the last few years, you have grown in stature. You have increased in knowledge. Moreover, your opinion of your own decision-making skills has increased exponentially. However, are you equipped to succeed in your life yet? Is life, and are people, important enough to you yet that you will take appropriate steps to avoid ruining it and greatly harming yourself, as well as them? We will see.

 Verse 1: “The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel.”

So, we know who authored most of these proverbs. Later sections of this book were authored by different men, some named, and some unnamed. Nevertheless, the first 24 chapters, at least, are Solomon’s proverbs. But what is a proverb? A proverb is a short, pithy saying, which expresses a timeless truth and wisdom. Proverbs are used to arrest the thoughts of the reader so that he might reflect on how divine principles should be applied to life’s situations.[1]

Verse 2: “To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding.”

Wisdom has to do with making right decisions. Instruction has to do with the discipline by which men are trained. Understanding has to do with discerning good and evil. It is obvious, then, that Proverbs plays a key role in the genuine and lasting success that comes from making good decisions, being a disciplined and properly instructed individual, and knowing the nuances and subtleties of right and wrong. Ultimately, of course, this all leads to the gospel and wisely embracing Jesus Christ as your savior.

 Verse 3: “To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity.”

This verse shows that one of the goals of the book of Proverbs, and one of the characteristics of someone who is wise, is related to a person’s willingness to receive instruction, with that instruction leading to decisions and courses of actions that reflect wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity. In other words, one of Solomon’s goals in writing Proverbs, and one of the chief characteristics of someone who is wise, is his willingness to factor in input and advice from other men of wisdom when making decisions. Again, the pinnacle of such willingness is the wisdom to come to Christ.

Verse 4: “To give subtilty to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion.”

 This word “simple” refers to someone who is rash and hasty, and the Hebrew word can be applied to the young, to the inconsiderate, and to the unwary person.[2] The young tend to make decisions very quickly, without admitting to the importance of long term consequences of their decisions or actions. Young men do not know nearly as much about making decisions as they think they do, something I realize more fully each and every day as I look back on the days of my youth with sorrow and regret.

 Verse 5: “A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels.”

 The wise, no matter his age, will listen to the counsel of others and will learn from what he hears. The man of understanding listens to wise counsel. How different this approach to decision making is from those who are foolish. I could name men who have never made a wise decision about anything their entire lives, yet they are so convinced of their own wisdom that they take great pride and delight in listening to no one, and in always doing things their own way, no matter what tragedies result or whose lives are adversely affected by their inability to make good decisions and wise choices.

 Verse 6: “To understand a proverb, and the interpretation; the words of the wise, and their dark sayings.”

The fact of the matter is that those who listen to wise counsel will, themselves, someday be wise. The foolish, on the other hand, are only convinced that they are wise when the truth is that they understand very little.

Verse 7: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

Here is the starting point for all wisdom, for all knowledge, for all instruction. The person who is without fear for the LORD cannot be helped. Until a man fears God, he is incapable of learning, because he is incapable of listening. You cannot teach anything to someone who does not fear God, because even life is not very important to him. This is evidenced by his tendency to fritter away his time, to spoil his opportunities, and his goofy notion to think he has forever to accomplished what the God-fearing man knows he must hurry to accomplish.

Verse 8: “My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother.”

Here is where we get to the Father’s Day part of the passage. Three comments here: First, how can any thinking woman not admire God’s Word, the Bible? Do you ladies realize that of all the religions of the world, only Judaism and Christianity honor women by demanding that women be honored? Be it Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, or any other religion, they always exalt men to a higher relationship to God than women can ever attain. Second, I would like to comment that this verse forbids the young man from discounting the law of his mother. God’s Word shows men and women to be on equal footing in relation to God, in contrast to Gentiles, who historically provided that children respect only their fathers. In other words, from this verse we see that no son becomes so much the adult male that he has the right to ignore what his mother has taught him. Finally, Solomon gets around to telling his son what he has been leading up to for seven verses.

For seven verses this wisest man who ever lived has talked about wisdom, about listening to the counsel of others, and about being receptive to the wisdom of others when it comes to making decisions. Now he informs his son that what every man should generally do with every decision he makes the son should especially do with his own father. Listen to your father’s counsel. Seek your father’s advice. Hunger for your father’s insights. No man is so wise that he will not benefit in some way from the words of his father when he is contemplating a decision.

Verse 9: “For they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck.”

The word “they” refers to the words of your mother and your father, his instruction and her law. Of course, all of this applies to godly fathers and mothers whose counsels are in accordance with scriptural truth, but notice the imagery. Princes and kings wear crowns on their heads and chains around their necks. In like manner, what your father says to you, and your mom, can be likened to “an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck.” What does this mean? It means, and Ephesians 4.29 bears this out, that one way in which God will give you grace for making wise decisions in your life is through the counsel of your father.

Habakkuk 2.4 states the principle by which God’s people live our lives:  “. . . the just shall live by his faith.” This principle is so important that Paul quotes it twice, once in his letter to the Romans and once in Galatians, in his two explanations of the principle of the Christian life.

However, what is faith? From the perspective we have in Proverbs, faith can be seen as the confidence a person has in the wisdom of another.

I am not suggesting, on this Father’s Day, that any child of God should rest his confidence in the wisdom of his dad. To be sure, many people have fathers who are not godly men, who are not men known for their wisdom, but who have reputations for making hasty and foolish decisions. What I am suggesting, on this Father’s Day, is that the child of God should rest his confidence in the wisdom of His heavenly Father.

No matter how smart you may think you are, no matter how arrogant of disposition you happen to be, and no matter how little you think of your dad’s wisdom and how it galls you to seek his advice, those who are wise do exactly that. Those who display excellence when it comes to making decisions that are pleasing to God, and whose decisions are beneficial to all affected by them, are men who seek and who receive the counsel of others, not the least of which is their own dads.

To seek your father’s counsel, and to actually follow your dad’s advice when it is sound advice that is given, is a consequence of fearing God. If you fear God, you will do this thing. If you do not do this thing you do not fear God, and there is little hope for you.


This is Father’s Day and, in a society and a country where the importance and the influence of fathers is generally discounted, I want to encourage you to do something that will set you at odds with the mainstream of American culture. I want to encourage you to set yourself apart from those fish who allow the current to carry them along. I urge you to swim against the current, to head upstream to greater heights, into clearer and cleaner water, by making a decision that will result in you becoming a much better decision maker than you presently are.

If your father is no longer alive, or if your father has been so wicked that he has taken himself out of your life by making extremely foolish decisions himself, or if your father is nearby but so antagonistic to the cause of Christ that he simply cannot be counted on to function as a father should, then you need to make certain adjustments.

If you are a Christian and a church member, then your pastor should function in ways much like a father, according to First Thessalonians 2.10-12. You may also have a grandfather, an uncle, or a seasoned old Christian friend you can adopt to act like your dad. Just as every president has his cabinet, so should you have your cabinet of counselors who help you make good decisions whose wisdom holds up over time.

Whatever your individual situation may happen to be, keep in mind that the Bible expressly teaches that wise men do not make their decisions alone. Good decision makers do not think or act in isolation. Men who enjoy spiritual success are not men who keep their own counsel and who erroneously think it is possible for any one person to think of everything that needs to be considered when making important decisions.

How do you plan on looking, by which I refer to your appearance? What visual message do you seek to present to people when you make a first impression upon them? Where will you go to school? Where will you live? What kind of car will you drive? How will you style your hair? What will you major in when you are in college? What ministries will you participate in at church? How should you plan for future ministry? What kind of clothes should you wear?

Do you realize that the most powerful people in the world pay advisors to help them arrive at the answers to such questions as these? Did you know that the wealthiest people on the planet typically do not arrive at the answers to these kinds of questions on their own? Why not? They think answers to such questions are far too important to risk making a mistake, so they seek wise counsel.

Understand that the idea of seeking counsel before making decisions is not a principle that is found only in the Word of God, is not a concept that is unique to Christianity. Intelligent and powerful men have always known that decision-making is too complex an exercise to be done alone. Only stupid people think they can and should take only their own counsel and make decisions on their own. Neither is the uniqueness of God’s Word related to whose counsel to seek, in the main. Men have always known that it is advisable to seek, and usually safe to take, their father’s counsel and advice, or the advice of some old man with vast experience. Scripture is unique in adding the law of your mother to those words of wisdom you should listen to.

I want to encourage you to do something that every culture in human history has had the keenness of mind to endorse, has had the sense to encourage, and has generally complied with until that civilization began to crumble. I want to exhort you to listen to your dad. I want to urge you to listen to your dad concerning three things:


Understand that I am not suggesting that you turn your brain off to do exactly and explicitly what your father suggests. After all, you are responsible to God for the living of your own life. I am only encouraging you to listen to your father, to ask his opinion, to hear him out, to find out his reasons for advising you to do or not to do something.

One man I know once told me that his father advised him to be a gigolo when he was a kid. Of course, such nonsensical advice should never be followed, even when it comes from your father. Another man’s father once suggested that he kill himself. Always reject the counsel of a man who urges you to do something idiotic, or anything that is a sin against God. However, the counsel of a man who seeks God’s best for your life should always be considered.

Let me use myself as an example of how important this can be: When I attended college, I majored in mechanical engineering. Why did I major in mechanical engineering? I do not remember having a particularly good reason for choosing that major. However, years later my mom told me that my folks always thought I would be better suited and happier as an attorney, a career my father always regretted not pursuing. In retrospect, had I sought their advice I probably would have been a better attorney than engineer.

Sometimes a foolish child resists his father’s encouragement in a certain direction, be it for a career, or be it for something else. But oftentimes a father’s encouragement is the result of having observed his child for 18 to 20 years, and having a better notion of what his son would enjoy and find fulfilling than the young man would himself. It wasn’t until I was in my forties, overhearing a comment my mom made to my wife, that I realized something my parents knew about me all my life, that I would much rather engage in an activity with someone as do that same thing by myself.

What might your dad know about you that you do not realize about yourself? Have you ever talked to your father about what you are going to do, what your major in college will be, what job you might take, what church ministry you should pursue, or what effect some hobby might end up having on your marriage? I am amazed at some of the truly life-changing decisions some people make, and they are people who have no experience with success in making difficult decisions, without seeking anyone’s counsel, much less their own father’s.


 I remember when my uncle bought a small plot of ground to live on. He thought it was a wonderful piece of property, and so did his wife. After they had lived there for some months, and made considerable improvements in the property, my grandfather visited them. While he was there, my uncle asked him (too late to affect his decision to purchase the property) what he thought of his new place. My grandfather said that property would be perfectly fine until it was flooded out. When my uncle told him that the Realtor indicated the properly was too high above the river to be in danger of any flood, my grandfather asked, “Then where did these big boulders come from?” Sure enough, my uncle was flooded out.

Your father does not want to hurt you. He wants your best interests, unless there is something terribly wrong with the man. So, when you are deciding where to live, how far to live from church, how far to live from school, how far to live from your folks and perhaps your wife’s folks, ask him for his advice. “Pop, what do you think about this place? What do you think about this town? What do you think about the distance from church, from my job, from you and mom?”

You may think it does not matter where you live, just so long as you like it, but you are mistaken. I think this American tendency to move far away from church and loved ones is insane. Where you live needs to be where you can get to the people you love easily, and also where the people you love can easily get to you. Where you live needs to be close enough for you to get to your church, and close enough for your church to get to you. Where you live needs to be in the same world, on the same planet, that your church family and your loved ones are on.

Consider what I mean by this: Is it any surprise that we once had two students from an extremely affluent community near our school for less than a week? Is it any surprise that we have never had anyone from the upscale city next to ours? Do you wonder why we have never had anyone from Corona regularly attend our church? Is it a surprise to you that one family stopped attending shortly after they moved to a location that takes 60 minutes to drive here? Where to live is not only a distance issue, but also a social and cultural issue. Beverly Hills may only be a few miles from here, but it is actually a whole world from where you and I live.

Ask your father’s advice where to live, if your father is a well-grounded Christian. One man’s father wants him to move to another state to take over his business. I am not suggesting that he has any intentions to hurt him, but his dad does not have his son’s spiritual well-being in mind. When your father is mature and solid, seek his advice about where to live. He knows things you do not know. He appreciates the grind of long distance driving better than you do. He understands other things better than you do.

One consideration before moving on: When my wife and I were directed by my pastor to Bible College, we moved. But where to move? I decided that because the flesh is weak, it would be better for us to live close to church rather than close to school. I knew that there would be times when I was dead tired, and that under such conditions it would be easier to attend church if we lived close. The result of that decision was that I never missed a service while I was in Bible College, tired as I oftentimes was. Better to live close to church than close to work, or close to church than close to school. Church is more important than either work or school. Living close to family is important, too.

Sometimes dads get all out of whack when you ask them advice about where to live. Some dads advise you to live in the house with them. No good, if you are married. Even worse no good, if you are married and have kids. Next-door is also not a good idea. Too, close. A mile is good. Maybe five miles is good. Twenty miles is not good. Twenty feet is not good. But ask your dad for his counsel about where you should live, even if your final decision is to not follow his advice.

 Finally, And Also More Specifically, LISTEN TO YOUR DAD CONCERNING WHO TO MARRY

Perhaps I should rephrase this, since by the time a young man is considering marriage to a young woman he is typically long since past asking for or listening to anyone’s counsel. Instead, I want to encourage you to listen to your dad concerning what kind of girl to consider, concerning what type of woman to entertain thoughts about, concerning what type of female to imagine yourself married to. By the time you are thinking of marrying the woman, it is far too late for dad’s input, I promise you.

I have been in the ministry for more years than most of you young men have been alive, and I maintain without apology that women, as a general rule, make lousy decisions concerning the men they pick to marry. Thus, when a man finds himself pursued by a woman, when a guy gets called by, or approached by, or when conversations or outings are initiated by, a woman . . . make no mistake about who has selected whom for marriage. And what have I found to be true? In the vast majority of cases, a woman selects for her mate someone who she thinks she can dominate, who she thinks she can manipulate, who she thinks she can orchestrate.

What I suggest, and I can preach a whole series of sermons to support my thesis that since men are to be leaders in the home it should be the man who selects and pursues through courtship his intended bride, is that a young man not ask his father’s advice on whether or not to marry a women he thinks he is in love with. I suggest the young man ask his father’s advice on what woman the young man should select to become the object of his love and affection. Yes, you heard me. Ask your father’s advice long before things degenerate to what most people call love (which is really lust, isn’t it?). Glean pointers from him on the type of woman, her character, her personality, her mouth, her temper, and all the other things that he thinks are important. What things are important to your dad will almost certainly be important to you, as well.

Keep in mind, young man, that the strength and vitality of your marriage will be greatly affected by the relationships that exists between your wife and your parents, and between her parents and you. Therefore, failure to seek the counsel of your father concerning what type, if not what person, to marry is one step closer to marital disharmony in an era when marriages are as likely to fail as they are to succeed.

Two things on my way to concluding:  First, it is a free country and you can do whatever you want to do. No one is even suggesting you not make your own decisions. I am only suggesting that you seek the counsel of others, especially your father, when making decisions that no one in human history has been shown competent to make alone. Second, keep in mind that while you may be seeking counsel before making any decision, the ultimate responsibility to make a decision is yours and yours alone. But the more people who are involved in the process of offering advice, of providing information to consider, of sharing their own personal experiences, the more people who will be keenly interested in the outcome of your decision, and the more people who will want to help you succeed when you need help to succeed.

We know that the child of God is given grace by God to both know and to do God’s will. Not only are we saved by grace, but we are also being saved through each day’s experiences, temptations, and challenges, by grace. So, we need grace. God has chosen to give grace to young men through the counsel of their fathers, the counsel of their mothers, and the counsel of others, . . . so you will be wise and not hasty, discerning and not rash.

The bottom line is this: What are you more interested in, making your own decisions without input from anyone, or making the right decision? I have found that one reason foolish people do not seek advice is because the foolish thing they are thinking of doing just sounds so stupid that they dare not risk being laughed at by telling anyone what they are thinking of doing, or seeking advice for it. So, if you are willing to ask for advice it is more likely that what you are planning is not really so dumb.

One final comment: You may think your father is not so wise. You may think that he has not made so many great decisions in his own life, so why should you ask his advice? Keep in mind that when you ask your father for advice, two things can happen that may not happen at any other time: First, it will give him opportunities to rectify mistakes he has made with you, for which he will be eager and very thankful. Second, it will provoke him to thinking about things he may not normally give a great deal of thought to, which will end up helping him tremendously in his own life.

As I look back on my life, I deeply regret many of the lame decisions I made simply because it never occurred to me to ask my father’s advice, or the advice of my pastor, or other wise Christian men. My desire on this Father’s Day is for the men of this church to restore to the masculine side of our culture something which men of all ages and eras have always known, but which seem to be lost on my generation and yours. Ask your father’s advice. In the years to come, you will be amazed at how God has imparted wisdom to you by seeking counsel from others.

[1] See footnote for Proverbs 1.1 from John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, (Nashville: Word Publishing, 1997), page 877.

[2] Adam Clarke, Clarke’s Commentary, Vol 3 (New York: Abingdon Press), pages 701-702.

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