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February 2014: Proverbs 3 by Doug

Proverbs 3:2 is an excellent example of Yoda speak when you see it in the NASB. You can see here how word order can force emphasis to other parts of a sentence, this pairing moves the reward closer to the condition. Some translations will obscure the emphasis shift by giving you better English here. It is not a translation mistake, just a decision to put the word order in typical English. Which is what you usually want, but you do miss a few beautiful things along the way.

I want to focus, though, on Proverbs 3:12 today. Take a look at this: For whom YHWH loves, He reproves, even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights. (That’s nearly the NASB.)

First, the earthly parenting. Fathers discipline, they correct their sons. Let’s take it gender-specific first. Why? Most indications of the culture of the time, and many cultures since then, place the bulk of the child-rearing on mothers. Credited to about a dozen wise men is the saying that “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world,” and that’s a valid point. Generally, history shows that ruling families were even more likely to lean on mothers or helpers to prepare children for life. Fathers just showed up from time to time.

Yet Solomon tells us that fathers should be involved in keeping their sons on the right path. Not only their sons, but their favored sons. The ones who typically got the brand new chariots. Do you think Solomon is partly remembering how David handled Absalom or Amnon? Or perhaps the story of Eli, Hophni, and Phinehas? We have sons here with no correction from their fathers.

Now, a moment of note on correction: correction is a necessary part of parenting. If it is all the parenting you do, then Ephesians 6:4 is for you. Build the dynamic relationship of parenting with your children: you are always the parent, always hold the right and responsibility of correction, but the same “NO!” that you use to keep 2-year-olds out of the traffic must develop into a relationship.

Second, an extension on earthly parenting. Many of us have Christian influences that we might call our “fathers” in the faith. These fathers may not hold the authority over us that parents have—in Baptist land where I live, there’s not a definite line of authority between individuals and God Almighty. We think the Biblical structure of Christian life is direct relationship between people and God through Jesus Christ. Spiritual fathers help, but picture them as helper lines, not locking chains.

These fathers, though, still bear a responsibility because of their influence over others. The responsibility increases the more favor shown by that leader to a person. For example, many times I have seen famous figures in Christianity look over the offenses of their favored sons, while spotting the minor flaws in others and using those sins against them constantly. That should, however, adjust: the more favor one has, the greater the responsibility to correct.

I have, in the above, focused on the father-son concept, because that is what is present in the text. I would suggest that most of the application is gender-unspecific. That is, mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters, are all in view. However, the historical context is important as you look at the meaning.

Finally, though, this verse is not just about human relationships with each other. These mirror our heavenly relationship, with God, YHWH, as our Father.

And He disciplines, reproves, corrects. Just as we would expect from earthly fathers, with one exception. He never does it wrong. I am a father. I make mistakes. God never does—though we may misunderstand His work, His work is never mistaken.

This Proverb reminds us that we should hearken to His reproof and change our ways to His ways.


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