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Listen, My Son

February 14, 2014
Listen, My Son

There is nothing that can take the place of having a family Bible study with the kids. It can be highly productive in instilling a Biblical world view. Your kids are never too young to participate, but they will get too old if you wait to institute the habit. With twenty-one grandkids I am constantly made aware of how much the little ones love to hear someone read to them. There is nothing that captivates them more. They can be pulled away from play or from any form of digital media with the simple announcement, “Let’s read.” My grandkids will stampede to the reading chair, vying for the best seat. By the time they reach puberty, their childish enthusiasm wanes; so the time to make it a fun habit is well before the teen years.

Rule #1

Never force them to participate if they don’t like it. That would be like making them eat chocolate-covered cherries when they have a stomach virus, throwing up every few minutes. They will come to associate chocolate-covered cherries with the upchucks and will thereafter despise the very thought of cherries and cream in chocolate.

I have preached thousands of sermons in my life, and I have seen people go to sleep, start talking to a neighbor, read a book, or just stargaze at the ceiling. I have never been offended or felt that I needed to rebuke them; I knew that it was my fault. If I cannot make a sermon interesting enough to hold their attention, I shouldn’t punish them for their appropriate response. If you cook food that no one likes, don’t force them to eat it. Take a cooking class.

Rule #2

Leave your religion with the bookmark in an unused devotional guide. STOP being spiritual. It makes me weary just thinking about it. I can understand why your kids avoid the Bible thing. Don’t take yourself so seriously. If you have deep feelings, take a walk in the woods and shout it off or cry it out; don’t try to roll it over on your little ones. I have seen many kids grow up deeply resistant to God and the Bible because they “had it shoved down their throats.”

Rule #3

Keep it light and fun unless the subject calls for soberness. But fun should be the rule and soberness the exception. If you are not having fun, why should they? Remember, they are fun-loving kids, not psychiatric patients.

Rule #4

Don’t be a slave to your family Bible time. It is not one of the Ten Commandments. You won’t lose favor with God for skipping a day, or even a month. Think of it as a treat, not a duty.

Rule #5

Use a King James Bible, not one of the commercial versions; it is much easier for the kids to understand and to memorize. And it is the only one that is accurately rendered in the English language. Of course, if you are more comfortable in another language, there are accurate translations in most of them as well. If you are ignorant of this issue, order the book In Awe of Thy Word. You will be amazed.

Rule #6

Have an English dictionary on hand for every child. Used book stores, or what we call “junk stores” (e.g., Salvation Army), are the best places to obtain early 20th century dictionaries. One of the oldies that have archaic meanings is best. One of those old ten-pound, cloth-backed dictionaries is worth two years of Bible College—four where some colleges are concerned.

Rule #7

Have paper and pen on hand for each kid. If you have the capability, you might want to print for each child a double-spaced copy of the book of Proverbs, with an open left-hand column, and mount them in folders with their names on them. This will provide a place to make notes, underline, use colored markers, etc., and it will provide a record of your study, which will be suitable as part of your homeschool records when The Department of Human Destruction comes calling, challenging your right to homeschool. Best of all, it will be a depository of permanent memories for each child.

My kids and I made our way through Proverbs several times as they were growing up. Each time we went through, it was a whole new experience as they matured and their life perspective changed. It is something they treasure and their children will treasure thirty years from now.

Rule #8

Construct your study so that all the kids participate. They learn more by doing than by hearing. It can be one of their most profitable homeschooling experiences. They learn to read, to reason, and to relate. They will become bold in public speaking, articulate in speech, and wise in the dangers of the world.

Rule #9

Work yourself out of a job. Involve them to the degree that they are able to take your place as the leaders of the study. A sixteen-year-old boy will learn more from teaching his siblings than he ever learned listening to you.

Rule #10

If your husband is too busy or too whatever to conduct these studies in the evenings do NOT have “feelings” about it, and do not “carry your cross” in front of him so as to make him feel ashamed. Rather, just cheerfully make the Proverbs study a part of your homeschooling day. You may find it desirable to do both. Conduct a more academic approach during the school day, and then Daddy can do his monologue every once in a while in the evening. If you treat his limited or nonexistent participation as normal, the kids will not suffer from it, but if you get an attitude, you will prove to be the fool Solomon speaks of so frequently, and the kids will be damaged by the entire experience.

The last two studies on Proverbs have been so popular with our readers, I am going to start in chapter one and provide you with a guide that will help you institute your own family tradition.

This is just a suggestion as to how it might go. Don’t be rigid. Actually, that is why I have laid it out so simply. I am giving you permission to loosen up and relax.

Chill out, mother. Pick a time in the evening when everyone is belly-full of food and hungry for fellowship. Make sure all the readers have their own personal Bibles open to the passage and their dictionaries on hand. An older child can sit with the younger ones and help them read. Read the passage you hope to cover and then address the kids with thought-provoking questions.

Proverbs 1:1–6 (KJV only)

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.

Teacher: “Johnny, read verse one again and tell me what it says.”

Johnny reads: “Proverbs 1:1, The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel;”

Teacher: “What is a proverb?”

Have the children look up the word proverb in their English dictionaries. Discuss the meaning of a proverb and why God would use proverbs to convey wisdom.

Teacher: “Who wrote this book?”

Sam: “David.”

Teacher: “Look at the text carefully. Who wrote the proverb? David or his son Solomon?”

Now would be a good time to give them a little background on David and Solomon. If you know a little history on Solomon and David, share it briefly. If you don’t know anything about them, you can look up David and Solomon in a Bible dictionary before the study. They will think you are so smart.

Teacher: “Suzie, read verses 2-4. They go together.”

Proverbs 1:2–4

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.

Teacher: “Frank, why did Solomon write this book?”

After he gives it a shot, discuss each phrase and encourage each kid to share his opinion of what it means and why it is important.

“Why did Solomon want his readers to know wisdom? What is wisdom?

“What is the opposite of wisdom?

“Give me an example of making a wise decision instead of a foolish one.”

This is tremendous already. When a child comes up with an illustration of wise choices over foolish ones, it is a lesson more powerful than one hundred rebukes. If you have normally adjusted kids, they will be eager to share their ideas on wise and foolish. It is glorious instruction. They are teaching each other, cementing truth into their souls. This kind of sharing is better than an AA meeting for alcoholics.

Teacher: “What else did Solomon want his readers to know?”

Johnny: “Instruction.”

Teacher: “What is wisdom and instruction?”

Johnny: “It is when your parents teach you how to do something.”

Sam: “Our workbooks have instructions in them.”

Suzie: “Yeah, without instruction, you won’t know what to do.”

Teacher: “Does Solomon say wisdom comes by following instructions?”

Sam: “If someone refuses to follow instructions, they might make mistakes.”

Now would be a good time to tell the story about big brother trying to put a household item together without reading the instructions, and what a mess he made until he went back and followed the instructions.

The kids will all laugh as brother tries to defend himself.

Teacher: “Does God give us instructions on how we should live? What instructions has he given?”

Answering the question will cause them to review all they know of the commandments and will of God.

Teacher: “The text says in verse two, ‘To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding….’ What does the word perceive mean? Look it up in your dictionary.”

Suzie: “Perceive means to recognize or identify words that are based on understanding.”

Teacher: “Just because someone is an adult does that mean their words are wise and filled with understanding?”

Kids in unison: “NOOOO.”

Teacher: “When have you heard an adult say something that wasn’t wise?”

Again, they will search their experience and remember an adult saying something really dumb or evil. This is incredible reinforcement of virtue and wisdom.

Teacher: “So we need to ask God to help us perceive the words of understanding.”

You could stop here for a moment, and one of the kids could pray that God would grant them wisdom and perception.

Teacher: “Suzie, read verse three again.”

Suzie: “Proverbs 1:3, To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity; ”

Teacher: “What is the key word in that verse?”

Johnny: “Receive! He wants us to receive wisdom when we recognize it.”

Teacher: “That’s right. The verse before it says we are to know and perceive wisdom, and now he says we are to receive it after knowing it. Does it do us any good to know what is wise if we don’t do it?”

Kids: “NOOOO!”

Teacher: “What is justice, judgment and equity? Look up equity in the dictionary.”

If several kids have dictionaries, they will sit on the edges of their seats, ready to compete to see who can find it first. There may be times when you will want to restrain everyone else and let the slower child find the word and read the definition. Don’t allow him to be a constant loser, even if he is younger. Being “the man” every once in a while will energize him to keep trying.

Sam: “Justice is dealing with someone fairly.”

Teacher: “That is what the dictionary says, but the Bible is its own best interpreter. Solomon gave us three different words for justice; we call them synonyms. This allows us to have a clear understanding of what he is saying. This is a common Bible technique. He says we need to have the wisdom to receive justice, judgment, and equity. What is judgment?”

Frank: “Judgment is where we go when we die.”

Teacher: “Yes it is, but he is not talking about a place we go when we die, rather an area in which we should have understanding. We should make wise judgments. When do we have to make judgments?”

Suzie: “When Linda told me that we should not talk to Carla because she is stupid, and I said no that was not nice.”

Teacher: “Yes, I was proud of you for showing equity. You showed wise justice, good judgment, and equity. What is equity?”

A smart kid got tired of being last so he has already looked it up and is ready with the answer.

Bobby: “Equity is justice, fairness, and impartiality.”

Teacher: “Notice that the dictionary uses the same synonyms to define the words, so we see that justice, judgment, and equity express different shades of the same concept.”

Ask for more examples and run that idea around the block a couple times until they have exhausted their personal experiences. There is no better way to teach literature interpretation, grammar, use of reference material, reasoning, public speaking, virtue, and the Bible than these family Bible studies.

Teacher: “Read verse four.”

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

Aw! Such beautiful “archaic” words. I love them.

Teacher: “What does subtilty mean? The modern spelling is subtlety.”

Bobby: (Eager kid always trying to get the jump with the dictionary) “No wonder I couldn’t find it.”

Frank: “I found it!”

Suzie: “I found it first.”

Teacher: “Well, you didn’t speak up quick enough.”

Sam: “It means delicacy, wisdom, prudence, sensitivity, tact, wiliness.”

Bobby: “Wily is like a coyote.”

Teacher: “Notice that we have parallel construction again. The passage says the same thing twice in two different ways, so there will be no misunderstanding: ‘subtilty to the simple’ is parallel to ‘knowledge and discretion to the young man.’ What is discretion?”

Suzie: “I got it. I won! I beat him this time. Discretion is—the ability to keep delicate information secret.”

Teacher: “So subtilty is discretion, and the young man is the simple one.”

Frank: “What is simple? Doesn’t that mean easy?”

Teacher: “Look it up.”

You will run into about 11 different definitions of the word simple, so you will have to fall back on the Bible’s use of the word. The best way to do that is to take a concordance and look up every time the word simple is used, and by these multiple uses you can determine the definition quite easily. It is still used today to refer to a person of a mental state that is not sophisticated or discerning. After a thoroughly confusing dictionary search and then a Strong’s concordance search of the twenty references of simple; having determined the meaning, you can put it all together for them. This is where a chalkboard or dry-erase board comes in handy. Write the two phrases one over the other, and utilizing the definitions you have gleaned, explain the meaning—or have one of the older kids explain it.

Teacher: “There you have it. Solomon wants to impart subtilty and discretion to the simple, gullible, not-so-wise, young man. In other words, some young men don’t know how to keep their mouths shut and keep a secret. They want to blab everything, and they are going to put their feet in their mouths. They lack discretion and that is not cool in a social setting. The girls don’t like a guy that says the wrong thing and thinks it is cute.”

“Read verse five and tell us what is says.”

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

Johnny: “I see parallel construction again. Putting the two phrases together it says a wise man, that is, a man of understanding, will listen to wise counsel and increase learning. He contrasts the wise man to the simple one. A wise man will listen and learn but the simple one will not listen to good counsel.”

Teacher: “OK, Smarty, tomorrow you be the teacher.”

— Michael

Listen, My Son

“A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels:” (Proverbs 1:5).

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5 comments on “Listen, My Son”

  1. Wonderful idea to have a copy of proverbs with space for notes and drawings. Thank you. However, I was a tad shocked by your suggestion that if a parent doesn’t know about David and Solomon they ought to look it up in a Bible dictionary. If they don’t know about those two, I think they need to read the Bible!

  2. I have a question regarding what you say about not forcing a child to participate… What do those of us do who have done things incorrectly, and where they older children don’t want to participate? I understand this isn’t all fun and games–just us and Bibles around the table, so this isn’t the most exciting time of the day. So, do we just let the older one or two (yep, the 11-12 year crowd) do their own thing and do Bible time with the younger ones who are willing to participate?

    1. Make it fun. As Mike says, don’t make it a requirement. Announce before you start that you are going to sit down and enjoy some time in God’s Word; set the time you will start, and make it known your older children are free to participate if they want to, but they don’t have to. Then be sure to start on time, and make it lively. You want them to feel they are missing out; and if you are giving them God’s Word, they will be missing out if they aren’t there.

      For example, choose the story of Jonathan and his armor bearer, and start the time out by whispering the words of Jonathan to his armour barer, “Come on, let’s go check out the garrison of those uncircumcised Philistines!” Make sure you “whisper” in a volume and way the older children can tell you are saying something. This will pique their interest. Then act out the story. I guarantee that if you start “yelling” to the Philistines, announcing your presence as Jonathan and his armor barer, then pretend to labor and climb up a mountain, you’ll get their interest. Make it as real to them as it is to you. If you love it and God’s Word is truly real to you; your children will catch the love of the Word. But don’t make it a drudgery. Again, like Mike says, don’t force it. Just guessing, but your older children that aren’t presently interested will probably peak in to see what is going on before you finish telling the story. And when they do, involve them in the discussion. Show them you really want to know what they think. Accept and listen to their input. Ask them if they have ever wanted to see God move that way. Ask them if they know what discomfiture is. (1 Sam 14:20) and get them thinking and talking. I hope this helps. You can’t undo the “wrongs” you have done, but you can change the pattern from here forward.

      May love be our motivator, as it was with our Precious Saviour.