Proverbs
< Table of Contents

4.
Father

I grew up hearing about the legend of Bill Glass. Bill was a college football superstar and NFL pro-bowler in the late ‘50s and ‘60s. He played twelve years in the NFL before retiring and becoming an evangelist. He founded Bill Glass Ministries in the early ‘70s, focused primarily on prison ministry, at a time where there wasn’t a single national prison ministry in existence. Bill passed away in December of 2021. Without question, Bill had a significant Kingdom impact. The ministry he founded continues to do some amazing work. I actually had dinner one time with Bill. I had always heard that he was a huge man and when I met him, he didn’t disappoint. In my mind, I remember him filling the entire side of the booth where we ate. His head was huge. If I close my eyes I can still see him sitting there eating.

Bill, in his book detailing the launch of his prison ministry, tells an incredible story that illustrates much of his approach to incarcerated men.

The inmate’s name was Steve. He was about forty, although he looked fifteen years older. His face was scarred. His leathery skin rippled with muscles and tattoos. He had so many tattoos that he had tattoos on top of his tattoos. I couldn’t help but think that something had to be terribly wrong in his life because he had been punishing himself with all those tattoos. This is a man who had spent most of his life looking at the world through bars. He had spent most of his life watching his back. He spent most of his life making sure never to show any emotion, because emotion is a sign of weakness in prison. Weak inmates become dead inmates…Steve was very much alive…But he was weeping. He couldn’t help himself. This man looked so frightening, he could rob a bank without having to draw a gun. If you saw him walking down the street, you’d duck into a store until you were sure he passed by. But he was crying in front of everyone. Why? Because in his heart, he understood what had happened: He’d lost. “Mr. Glass,” he said. “I know what you mean. I never got ‘The Blessing.’” I wasn’t surprised. Not everyone who has a Father Problem ends up in jail, but almost everyone in jail has a Father Problem.

The blessing that Steve references in this story is a powerful message that Glass has preached countless times. “The Blessing” “deals with fathers and sons, and how so many sons never received ‘The Blessing’ of their fathers. It’s about the importance of fathers and sons, how the relationship isn’t just one of discipline but also of love and acceptance. It’s the older man giving the younger man a hug. It’s the older man telling the young man that he is valuable to him, no matter what.”

In Proverbs, we find the blessing of a son by a father. The student is blessed by the teacher. The phrase “my son” is repeatedly found in the extended prologue of Proverbs, which goes from chapter 1, verse 8 through the end of chapter 10. Regardless of whether that is a biological father speaking to his biological son or a father-figure speaking to his adopted son, it remains an important moment, nonetheless. The Apostle Paul’s relationship to the young pastor at Ephesus named Timothy would be a biblical example of the father and son relationship without the biological connection (1 Timothy 1:2, 18; 2 Timothy 1:2; 1 Corinthians 4:17). In chapter 4, we even find Solomon reflecting on the training he received from his own father. “When I was a son with my father,” he writes, “he taught me” (Proverbs 4:3-4). This great King received royal instruction in the ways of wisdom from his father, who is now passing the generational torch of wisdom and instruction to his young son. He was truly blessed. This is “The Blessing.”

But what if your story is more like Steve’s and less like the son of Solomon? “Today, more than 70 percent of African American children live in fatherless homes; so too do about 45 percent of white and Latino children. Those statistics represent a social disaster.” What if those cold statistics are your story? What if you’ve been wounded by your father? Abandoned? Abused? Manipulated? Molested? Scarred? Unloved? Maybe it wasn’t your “real” dad who did these things, but still a man who called himself your father. As a pastor, I have seen the father wound leave men and women emotionally and spiritually crippled. I have cried with friends who can’t understand why their father doesn’t want anything to do with them. The day I started this chapter, I sat with a man as he wrestled with the reality that his father had likely murdered his mother. Jen and I have counseled stories of physical, sexual, emotional, spiritual, and verbal abuse by a father to their own children. Rather than feeling blessed, they feel abandoned, betrayed, and even embarrassed by their fathers. Children are supposed to give their parents gray hair, not the other way around. Even reading Proverbs you may feel the ache of your own fatherlessness or reading as a father your own shortcomings and failures.

In Proverbs, we come to the ideal picture of a father and son. We overhear and, by God’s grace, are given access to their heartfelt, private conversations. This may prompt you to jealousy or even to skip this chapter because of what someone has, and you don’t. Thankfully in this conversation, the book of Proverbs is bigger, more amazing, and truly divine. In Christ, it is our Father speaking to us, His sons and daughters! God, our gracious, divine Dad is sitting us down for instruction. Maybe, as you read Proverbs you need to envision yourself sitting on your eternal Father’s lap with His big, strong arms safely, warmly holding you. Maybe you need to read this book of wisdom, imagining going with Him for a long walk, a run, a hike, or enjoying a picnic. You may need to imagine getting in the car with Abba Father (Romans 8:15) and taking the epic road trip you’ve dreamed of, listening to His stories and wisdom along the way. Maybe you need to know your true Father is in the stands cheering you on, shouting, “I believe in you.” Hear his words of blessing, instruction, and love. Feel His embrace and His words, “You are ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’” (Psalm 139:14). This is our Heavenly Father saying “I love you. I sent my only Son to die for you. I have chosen you. I have adopted you. You are safe.” These are the words of our Father, Creator, and King. Let the healing begin and let your Father instruct you.

“Hear, my son, your father’s instruction.” (Proverbs 1:8)

“Hear, O sons, a father’s instruction.” (Proverbs 4:1)

“Listen to your father who gave you life.” (Proverbs 23:22)

Maybe you are a father. This chapter is about the crucial, irreplaceable role that you have. Let me say that more clearly: YOU CANNOT BE REPLACED! Not by teachers, coaches, mentors, friends, pastors…NOBODY! Your presence and your words of instruction and blessing matter. One of my favorite authors, Meg Meeker, makes this point profoundly clear. In her book “Hero: Being the strong father your children need,” she writes, “let me challenge you with something you need to remember: as a father, your words have an enormous, disproportionate impact on your family. You may not feel it, but your wife and children do because you are the inevitable leader of your family. To your kids, you are never just an angry, sad, or frustrated guy, you’re their dad. Every word you say has the power to wound or heal, crush or inspire.” Meeker writes a little earlier in the book, “In the long term, no one can take your place in your son’s imagination or your daughter’s heart.” The power that a father singularly holds is unfathomable. “You know that everything you say as a father matters, that it is magnified tenfold in the ears of your children.”

In Proverbs, you and I are instructed by the Father and simultaneously shown how to be a father. The ultimate challenge is that you and I would be fathers who reflect the character of the Heavenly Father, with the end goal of transferring our kid’s discipline and dependence to the Lord. Every godly, Christian father wants his sons and daughters to grow to know, love, serve, and fear the Lord. Our role as fathers in the home is to emulate the forever Father. When we misrepresent the Heavenly Father, we must quickly correct course, knowing that the impact of our sin will skew the still forming opinion our child has on the nature and character of God. Course correcting is repentance. Joel Belz once told my friend, Jimmy Dodd, “If I had to do it all over again, I would repent more…in front of my children.” That tenderness emulates our heavenly Father and sets a powerful example.

In Proverbs 3:11-12, Solomon writes, “My Son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him who he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.” We see four aspects of the Heavenly Father that He wants earthly, temporary fathers to show to their children: discipline, reproof, love, and delight.

A GODLY FATHER DISCIPLINES AND REPROVES

The Hebrew words that are translated discipline and reproof by both the English Standard Version and New American Standard Bible or more traditionally by the King James Version (sometimes referred to as the Authorized) as chastening and correction, are extremely similar. “‘Discipline’ (musar) basically refers to instruction, especially the sense of correction and training. The word is used for God’s discipline in Deuteronomy 11:2; Isaiah 26:16; and Psalm 50:17. Some of the Proverbs use it for corporal punishment (Proverbs 13:24; 22:15; 23:13). When paired with ‘wisdom,’ discipline means submitting to instruction in order to reach the goal of wisdom.”

Discipline includes the rod of correction, but there’s much more to it. Training isn’t just spanking or punishment, although I wish more fathers were willing to lovingly spank their children. The word translated reproof seems to be more about correction (KJV) when things have gone wrong or when the training given wasn’t obeyed. In the New Testament, the word translated from the Greek as reproof in 2 Timothy 4:2, “carries the idea of rebuking in order to convict of misbehavior or false doctrine.” Reproof corrects behavior that has gone bad and, very often, the wrong thinking that goes along with it. The father in Proverbs is teaching and training his son how to behave and how to think. When that son gets out of line, so to speak, a gentle or firm reminder, depending on the circumstance, is what the father does. Discipline is disciple making. It’s training in the way of the Lord. 

“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)

A father in reflection of the Lord, trains, teaches and uses a child’s mistakes as a moment of corrective instruction. These are the teaching moments that every father must seize. Don’t miss these moments of crucial training. Think about it like a sports team. Every team has practices and games. Coaching happens both in practice and in games. Practice is the preparation for an opposing team and a game is when that practice is put into, well, practice. Throughout the game a coach may say, “This is what we prepared for…do you see what they are doing…we ran drills for this…we planned for this.” Parenting and coaching, in this instance, are so similar, especially from the point of view in Proverbs. The family is the place of practice and preparation. Sadly, many kids are never prepared by their fathers for the world or the challenges of walking in holiness to the Lord. When game day comes it’s a brutal defeat. They never practiced or planned for the schemes of their opponent (Ephesians 6:11).

Solomon is instructing his son in the safety of the home. He’s in practice. He is imparting to his son wisdom from his experience. Of course, the son can join the ranks of the fools and refuse to hear his father’s counsel. In that case, the father is clean, although he will certainly be grieved by his son’s foolishness. The parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:11-32 is partly an illustration of a grieved father and the plight of a foolish son.

            “A father of a fool has no joy.” (Proverbs 17:21)

“A foolish son is a grief to his father.” (Proverbs 17:25)

“A foolish son is ruin to his father.” (Proverbs 19:13)

“He who does violence to his father and chases away his mother is a son who brings shame and reproach.” (Proverbs 19:26)

“If one curses his father or his mother, his lamp will be put out in utter darkness.” (Proverbs 20:20)

“A companion of gluttons shames his father.” (Proverbs 28:7)

“Whoever robs his father or his mother and says, ‘That is no transgression,’ is a companion to a man who destroys.” (Proverbs 28:24)

“There are those who curse their fathers.” (Proverbs 30:11)

“The eye that mocks a father and scorns to obey a mother will be picked out by the ravens of the valley and eaten by the vultures.” (Proverbs 30:17)

However, statistics show that fathers aren’t having these conversations or seizing these teaching moments. They have delegated the discipline and/or reproof of their children to a third party. In 1 Samuel, a tragic story is given of a parent who instructed his sons but failed to follow through with correction. Eli was the high priest, chosen by God to lead His people in faithful worship. Eli’s sons, Hophni and Phinehas were wicked, manipulative spiritual leaders. They abused their power for money and sexual gratification. Eli confronted them but wouldn’t drop the hammer. In response to this unchecked wickedness in the house of God, the Lord confronted Eli through a prophet. One phrase is particularly chilling. The prophet, speaking for God, says, you, Eli, “…honor your sons above ME” (1 Samuel 2:29, emphasis mine). Eli refused to reprove his sons and brought about judgment and an end to his entire family tree in one day (1 Samuel 2-4). The high priest chose peace in his family over peace with God. Our discipline and reproof to our sons and daughters is the decisive key to their victory. So why don’t more fathers step up? This thought probes to a much deeper and more troubling question. The foundation of discipline is love. Do fathers actually love their children?

A GODLY FATHER LOVES HIS CHILDREN

Throughout the entire book of Proverbs, the importance of discipline is given. The entire setting of the book in the first verses is “instruction” (Proverbs 1:2-3). Discipline is evidence of love. These two ideas cannot be divorced from one another. A loving father disciplines and instructs his sons and daughters. A father who trains and instructs demonstrates with those actions a real, genuine love for his kids.

“Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.” (Proverbs 13:24)

“Discipline your son, for there is hope; do not set your heart on putting him to death.” (Proverbs 19:18)

“Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.” (Proverbs 22:15)

“Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die. If you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from Sheol.” (Proverbs 23:13-14)

“Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart.” (Proverbs 29:17)

Do you love your kids? Do you discipline, instruct, and reprove? Many fathers have just embraced laziness, apathy, and, like Eli, “peace” in the home. We have surrendered our leadership and ultimately our children. With zero insults to any generation, we have raised sons and daughters who have chosen, without hesitation, the path of the fool. Fathers love their hobbies, jobs, self, and even their sin more than their kids. It is the truth and it’s fundamentally why we don’t discipline, and we forfeit the joy of delighting in our kids as they grow. When I tell people I have three teenage kids living at home right now, they are simply unable to hide their faces of pity. For most people that sounds like a nightmare, because Fathers don’t and won’t instruct and discipline consistently. Fathers who fail to discipline set their children up for catastrophe. Discipline as we see in the above verse includes the rod, but it’s more than that. Discipline is training, instruction, and reproof (correction when mistakes are made). This leads to the fruit of the long, hard labor of being a father - the privilege of delighting in your kids.

A GODLY FATHER DELIGHTS IN HIS CHILDREN

In one of the funniest (and at times slightly inappropriate) books I’ve ever read entitled “Dad is Fat,” comedian Jim Gaffigan writes about his adventures and misadventures as a father. While reflecting on his young children growing up, he writes:

I am a little godlike to my children. This is what I’m going to miss the most. Even though they don’t view me as the tyrant I’d hope to be to them, I’m all-powerful: I’m their creator and provider. They love me and kind of fear me. They want to be in my arms when they are scared. They want my forgiveness after they’ve done something wrong – “Daddy, are you happy with me?” They want to be with me. I know this won’t last. The expectations have been set too high. It’s only a matter of time before they are totally disappointed when I fall off that lofty pedestal and they realize I’m just a giant kid myself.

The book is an extremely amusing look at fatherhood. Gaffigan has five children. He likens having five children to drowning and then somebody handing you a baby. I know the feeling. Throughout the book, you really do get a sense of someone who delights in their children, and through the jokes, you delight in your own children a little more as well. Delighting is the trophy for a job well done. It is the harvest after months (years and decades) of labor, sleepless nights, seemingly endless discipline, and repetition. “No one is born wise or without the need for discipline.”   So, we train, teach, instruct, counsel, impart wisdom, only to repeat those things and lessons over and over again. Delighting is the celebration that a son or daughter has chosen the path of wisdom and shunned the road to ruin.

“The Proverbs of Solomon, a wise son makes a glad father.” (Proverbs 10:1)

“A wise son makes a glad father.” (Proverbs 15:20)

“My son, if your heart is wise, my heart too will be glad. My inmost being will exult when your lips speak what is right.” (Proverbs 23:15-16)

“The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice; he who fathers a wise son will be glad in him. Let your father and mother be glad.” (Proverbs 23:24-25)

“He who loves wisdom makes his father glad.” (Proverbs 29:3)

After quoting Proverbs 3:11-12, Hebrews says:

“It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:7-11)

Discipline proves the legitimacy of a parent, establishes respect, instills grit, promotes good behavior, and drives a child toward holiness. Yes, it’s painful, but the long-term effects for both father and son are peace! The writer of Hebrews assumes that an earthly father will lovingly discipline his son because he wants the best for his children. Again, the father is called to reflect the Father. We want our sons and daughters to understand loving discipline and have confidence that we are dependable. Our goal is that they will then embrace God’s discipline and authority in their lives and live in complete dependence on Him. “I have no greater joy,” John writes, “than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 1:4).

As I write this portion of the chapter, it comes with great sorrow, grief, and conviction. I have so often been a terrible reflection of my true Father. I have selfishly chosen work, hobbies, pleasure, and sin rather than embrace the sacred responsibility of fatherhood. I must repent and continue repenting when I abandon my post. We must repent and return to the wisdom of the Father so that we may learn how to be the fathers we are called to be.

A FAMILY TREE OF FOOLS

“…the son of Adam, the son of God.” (Luke 3:38)

The first son, Adam rebelled. He had walked with God the Father, been instructed, warned, given the gift of creation, entrusted with stewardship of the garden, and blessed with a perfect partner. All of this, and he still chose the destructive path of the fool. Because of his sin, “…in Adam all die” (1 Corinthians 15:22). Death has been the constant and great dread of all the sons of Adam (Hebrews 2:15). Adam led humanity in rebellion against our good and gracious Father, choosing another father in the process. Adam changed the family tree. We “are of [our] father the devil, and [our] will is to do [our] father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (Slight paraphrase of Jesus’ words in John 8:44). Our human father, Adam, chose rebellion. Our spiritual father, Satan, chose rebellion. And like good members of this sinful mob family, we unashamedly rebel too. We choose foolishness over our creator…our true Father.

A WISE SON

“Behold, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.’” (Matthew 3:17)

“A voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.’” (Matthew 17:5)

The second Adam, who was actually the first, heeded the wisdom and instruction of the Father. Trained, according to Hebrews 5:8, through the things that he suffered, Jesus was the beloved son of God, who pleased his Father and the Father audibly declared this over and over again. A wise son pleases the Father. Jesus is the wise son of Proverbs, whereas Adam and all men outside of Christ are the foolish sons who bring destruction and shame. Through Christ we are welcomed as sons and daughters of the King, bowing down in reverent, fearful submission, we are now wise sons and daughters who bring great joy to our Heavenly, eternal Father. We cease to be part of the Family Tree of Fools and become adopted into the family of God. We become wise sons and co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17). Satan ceases to be our demanding, cruel, and abusive father, and God becomes our faithful, loving, and compassionate Dad. We become eternal objects of His steadfast love (2 Samuel 7:14…repeated in Psalm 89:32-33). We are no longer slaves to sin, but slaves of righteousness (Romans 6:18). This is the delight of the Father over His sons, because of His son Jesus. He disciplines, chastises, instructs, corrects, reproves, loves, and delights over us, His children! In the grand and eternal sense, delighting is actually the everlasting reflection of the Heavenly Father, both on His son Jesus and His sons and daughters that were adopted through Christ’s work. Paul writes:

“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have recieved the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs - heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” (Romans 8:15-17)

Reading that passage, you can’t help but see a delighting Father and His children delighting in Him.


Claire, Belle, Mav, Ruby, and Mavis,

Being your Dad is one of the greatest joys of my life. Jesus saving me and your mom being my wife are the only two joys that rank any higher. You are each so gifted and pleasant to be with. I really enjoy being with you. I love road trips with you or the zoo or museums or Disney World. I love playing and discovering with you. I love working with you because I’m amazed at what you can do! I love to watch God’s beautiful creation sparkle in your eyes. Sometimes in those moments, my body is present, but my brain is somewhere else. Forgive me for that. I will work hard for the rest of my life on being truly present with you.

As I visualize overhearing the father in Proverbs talking with his son, I can’t help but think of us. You and me talking at dinner or in the car or the blue chair. I realize there are times where I try to teach at the most inopportune moments. I’m sorry. God wired me to be a teacher, so when I see a lesson to be learned, everything else in the world just kind of stops. In those moments, my sincere hope for each of you is that you would know, love, and serve Jesus all the days of your life. I have prayed over you, with you, and for you, countless times, that you would hear and obey the voice of the Lord. I have had to wrestle with the desire for you to be successful by the world’s standards. At times I have pushed too hard and the Lord (often through your mother) has had to bring me back to what really matters. I don’t care what career or academic path you take, as long as you serve Jesus. I honestly could not have said that ten years ago. I have always been extremely ambitious and that has in many ways extended to how I have been a father. My ego and showmanship have been hard to navigate and at times hurtful. I know that I can be demanding and temperamental. I have failed to reflect the Heavenly Father. He is patient, gentle, and kind. Forgive me for missing the mark so often.

Lord willing, when you become mothers and a father, you will realize that it’s hard not to just feel like a miserable failure. Even if your kids “turn out ok,” you still can’t shake the mistakes. Throughout your life, you will make mistakes. You will fail. During those times embrace the Lord’s correction. His discipline during those failures will become a goldmine of wisdom for the rest of your life. We have already confessed a lot of our mistakes with you and shared a lot of these lessons. We hope that other people can gain some wisdom from this book, but your Mom and I wanted to tackle this project, primarily for each of you. We want to teach you to fear the Lord and flee from evil. We want you to search for wisdom. We want you to have joy-filled and peaceful lives. We’ve learned over and over that those things are only possible with the Lord. Girls, find and marry men who reflect the Heavenly Father. Mav, reflect the Father. Run after wisdom so that in years to come you can be a Dad who breaks generational chains and raises sons and daughters who love and serve Jesus. I can’t wait to see how the Lord uses you. I love each of you.

Sincerely, Your glad Father

“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” (3 John 1:4) 


Questions for Reflection

Did you get “The Blessing” from your father? If not, did you get it from someone else?

What were some significant talks or moments you had with your Dad?

What’s the best fatherly advice you’ve heard?

What’s the best fatherly advice you’ve passed along?

What are some father wounds that you have?

How do those wounds impact your view, approach, and perspective of God?

As a believer, how has God disciplined and reproved you? How did you accept that?



< Table of Contents
Office: 8393 E. Holly Rd. Holly, MI 48442 | 248.328.0490 | info@theriverchurch.cc

Copyright © 2022 The River Church. All Rights Reserved.