Proverbs 19:16, 20
“Whoever keeps the commandment keeps his life; he who despises his ways will die. Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.”
The book of Proverbs is an invitation to be an apprentice. It is a call to listen to the voice of truth and learn the standards of how life works in the world that was created by God, broken by sin, and redeemed by Jesus. It is a call to trust God, pursue truth, and do the work.
The word for “instruction” in this verse is the now familiar musar. Scripture is reminding us to submit to the process of God’s instruction. Musar, as you will recall, is the disciplined process of getting wiser and more skillful every day by learning to consistently apply God’s principles to your life. It is the necessary process by which wisdom is acquired.
The disciplined process of instruction and training must be fully embraced if the wisdom of Proverbs is to be of benefit to you. In order to be wise and live skillfully, you must learn and be trained. It is one of the central truths that is taught throughout Proverbs.
“Keep hold of instruction (musar); do not let go; guard her, for she is your life.” (Proverbs 4.13)
“Hear, my son, your father’s instruction (musar), and forsake not your mother’s teaching.” (Proverbs 1.8)
The message is this: Don’t get tired of being instructed and trained. Stay on the path of discipline-driven learning. Do not despise the Lord’s process of instruction and training. The followers of Jesus should be life-long learners; dedicated students of the truths (spiritual and physical) that God has built into the world he created. Scripture tells us that if we do stray from the learning and training process, the Lord will correct us and reprove us. At times even chastise us. The Lord does so because he loves us as a father loves his children.
A wise person wants to correct their off-path thinking and behavior. A wise person recognizes and submits to the Lord’s correction. God corrects out of love. He does not want his people to continue in life-damaging attitudes and behavior. Correction, though sometimes painful, is seen as a favor, a sign of grace.
Only fools reject correction.
“Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse, and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury. Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.” (Proverbs 9.7-9)
Unfortunately, there are many foolish people in the world. There are many who scoff at God’s truth, reject the Lord’s standards, and ridicule the principles of the Christian faith. Of greater concern, however, are the Christians who resist the Lord’s correction. It is conspicuously evident that the professing church in the West is not living in substantial obedience to the call of Christ. We are not living and working as christianly as we should. As a result, our influence and impact in the world is growing weaker.
Why? Because we are not submitting to the Lord’s process of teaching, training, and correction. In many ways and in many places, we have been foolish.
My prayer is that in some small way this devotional series on Proverbs will speak to the hearts of the Christians who read it and encourage them to maintain the way of godly discipline (musar), as well as call back those who have strayed from the way of godly discipline. I can speak for myself and say that Proverbs does both of those things for me.