Hear, my son, your father’s instruction,
And forsake not your mother’s teaching (Prov 1:8, ESV).
Having set our hope in the right person, we are now called to do the right thing in response. In verse 8, we have the first instance of one of the most repeated commands in Proverbs 1-9: the command to hear or listen. Solomon made every effort to give us a written record of his instruction, and he calls us to hear it over and over again. Will we do it? Will we listen? Will the instruction sink down deep and become a part of us? Will it make any difference in how we live our lives?
This question is so important that he repeats the command incessantly. Hear my instruction. Don’t forsake your mother’s teaching. Remember the commands of the Lord. Make your ear attentive to wisdom. Incline your heart to understanding.
Notice, too, that the word “instruction” connects back to Proverbs 1:2, where the first purpose of Solomon’s proverbs was to help us know wisdom and instruction. The “instruction” that he refers to is not his own personal advice, but rather the instruction of God, revealed through his Word, of which Solomon is now a representative. Solomon is not asking his audience to hear and obey every personal whim of his simply because he’s the older, more experienced one among them. He is pointing them to a greater set of instructions: those that came right from the Lord and can be applied to every detail of our lives. This conclusion flows from Prov 1:7 where fools despise the Lord’s instruction, but those who are wise fear the Lord (and thus hear his instruction).
How does this apply to us? If God has put us in positions of spiritual authority over others (as parents, elders, pastors, teachers, etc.), then we should be simultaneously confident and humble in our leadership. We can be utterly confident as representatives of the God of the universe (Josh 1:5, 2 Cor 5:20). Yet we’re also humble, knowing that our instruction does not always match God’s teaching perfectly; there’s room for us to grow, even as leaders. In other words, we must never ask for unqualified obedience on the merit of nothing more than the leadership position God gave to us. For example, “You better obey me, because I’m your father!” We must always aim to be representatives of a greater authority (the Lord himself). And, only in so far as our advice is in line with God’s revealed wisdom, ought we to expect those under us to hear and obey.