MENTORING DADS: PROVERBS TIME
This series is for dads who want to mentor their children but aren’t sure where to start. You just need the book of Proverbs, a journal and pen, and the best donuts you can find. The goal is to understand and discuss the simple life principles from Proverbs and make a plan for how you will use these skills for life under God.
Having discussed the list of characters in the first article, a topic to which we shall return in future posts, I believe it is important for you to start with the most fundamental principle of the entire book of Proverbs, placed like bookends on either side of the childhood section:
Proverbs 1:7, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.”
“The fear of the Lord” is, according to Solomon, “the beginning” of knowledge and wisdom. If we do not start with the fear of the Lord, we will never hope to find or impart knowledge or wisdom. The search begins there. Nothing else we study will make any sense if we don't get this right.
So what is the fear of the Lord? It’s common to pass this off as respect. We respect God and give Him the rightful place in our lives that He deserves, and this is correct, but it is not a complete understanding. The word “fear” means to dread. This is what happened to people every time they came into the presence of God in the Bible: they fell down and were barely conscious. They thought for sure they would die because they were confronted by an exalted, majestic holiness that resulted in panic stricken terror. They laid bare, exposed as sinners who crumbled into pieces before Him. To start with, you could ask your child something like:
• Can you think of a time that you were afraid? What made you afraid?
• Do you think we should be afraid of God? Why or why not?
• Did you know that the Bible says, “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”? What do you think it means to fear the Lord?
• Did you know that the people in the Bible who saw God were very afraid of Him at first? Why do you think that happened?
Even as you ask this, as a dad, aren’t you stuck with the fact that the Bible says God is loving, gracious, patient, merciful, and kind? Isn’t He a Father? It seems counter-intuitive to tell our kids to be afraid of God. No doubt they will wonder, “How do we fear a loving God?” Share this tension with your child.
But then relieve the tension: the people who saw God and trembled in fear before Him because of their sin, experienced that love, mercy, and grace as God stepped towards them to cover their sin (see Isaiah 6:1-8 as a classic example). When God covered their sin, the result was what the author of Psalm 130:4 said, “But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.” We are left in awe of God who is so big, high, and holy, who invited us into His presence and drove away that sin’s penalty and power. We love Him for it, and we hate the sin all the more because of it.
You see these both come together in a story that you can use to illustrate these truths to your child in a memorable account in the life of Moses. When God gave the famous Ten Commandments, the people learned the fear of God:
Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.” Moses said to the people, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.” (Exodus 20:18–20).
Did you see that? Do not fear God; instead fear God. Huh?
The people saw how big, high, and holy God was, so they pulled away, and didn’t want to come near Him. That was the wrong response. Moses told them not to have the kind of fear that makes them run from God. Instead, God wants them to fear sinning against Him.
That is the fear of the Lord. Be very afraid of sinning against the holy God who loves you and draws near to you. And when you stand before Him exposed as a sinner, come near to Him whose love covers you with forgiveness. That is what we call the gospel.
The gospel then opens the way for wise living, because you and your child are rightly related to God (forgiveness) and rightly motivated to forsake sin (fear). You can then live in His presence moment by moment, drawing near to Him and running away from that which hinders your relationship.
Dad, do you fear the Lord? Do you live your life as if in His very presence, moment by moment? Does the fear of sinning against your Father strike you with dread? If so, your son or daughter already sees and knows it. If not, today is the day to make it right with God and lead you child forward as God teaches you. Everything else in your spiritual lives depends on getting this right.
Want more mentoring tips or helps on other topics? Check out the book Seven Friendships Every Man Needs. You can get it, and other practical resources at: justin-erickson.net.