The Ideal Education (4:1-27)

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How many of you have ever wanted to be compared or assessed according to the ideal?
This morning, we see, outlined for us, the ideal teacher and the successful student.
Definition of ideal. “desirable or perfect but existing only in the imagination: in an ideal world. representing an abstract or hypothetical optimum. noun a person or thing regarded as perfect. a standard or principle to be aimed at.”[1]
We know, as Christians, that our goal is to become like Christ. We also know that we will never attain that goal until we are in heaven. Even though we know that we will never attain this goal, while on earth, we continue to aspire to it and we are not threatened by the ideal being presented to us.
In similar fashion, we are going to assess what is the ideal teacher. Even though we will realize that we will fall short of the ideal, there is still benefit in allowing the ideal to be painted for us, so we have a model to constantly be striving for.

Qualities of the Ideal Teacher

The ideal teacher is a parent (4:1-3). In our passage, we find the implicit teaching that parents, maybe more specifically fathers, are responsible for the training of their children. “Hear, O sons, a father’s instruction, and be attentive, that you may gain insight” (). While implicit in this passage, it is more explicit in other passages in both the Old and New Testament. “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” ( ESV). “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” ( ESV).
Consider some of the practical reasons for this principle. (1) A parent, unlike any other, has the ability to live out the lesson on a daily basis. (2) The student will more likely know that any training or discipline is motivated by love not obligation. (3) Due to the ongoing presence of a parent with their child, teaching opportunities can come at varied and appropriate times. Teaching can be timely instead of being theoretical.
The ideal teacher loves the student (4:3). I don’t want to overstate this point or imply that other teachers don’t love their students, but the love of a parent is definitely more intense than any other potential teacher. Solomon describes the son as “tender, the only one in the sight of my mother” (). Parents, consider for a moment, when you’ve gone to an event that involved your children, did you really pay much attention to any of the other kids besides your kids? Or, were you glued in to your child or children? This love is going to be result in the teacher being motivated by what is in the best interest of the student.
The ideal teacher teaches at an ideal time (4:3). This Father realized that he needed to teach his son when he was still impressionable. The idea of tender communicates delicate, soft, frail, and inexperienced. In the context of teaching, it refers to the time when the child is still moldable and pliable in their thinking and their beliefs. While this pliable nature has certain disadvantages, such as a susceptibility to accepting error, it is hugely beneficial in respect to the effective training of children. As a side note, this reality also seems to imply that while we grow older, we become less receptive to teaching.
This ideal time can be understood in a few contexts. (1) Broadly speaking, we need to take advantage of our children’s malleable nature and teach them as much as we can when they are young. They have an ability to learn and a willingness to be taught unlike adults. (2) More specifically, we need to be aware of the kind of training that is most effective at certain developmental stages. The younger a child is, the less of an ability she will have to understand multifaceted concepts, but she will have an uncanny ability to memorize. On the other hand, as our children mentally develop, they grow in their ability to understand and process concepts. By this time, they have hopefully memorized a lot of the base information and now could start processing it all conceptually. (3) Even more specifically, any teacher ought to always be looking for the opportune time to teach a lesson. As we have all likely experienced, there can be bad moments to be taught certain lessons. Parents, unlike no others, have the ability to wait for the most opportune time to have a helpful teaching moment.
The ideal teacher uses the right curriculum (4:4-9). “He taught me and said to me, ‘Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments, and live. Get wisdom; get insight; do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth’” ( ESV). The father exhorts the son to “keep my commandments” and “get wisdom.” In so doing he equates his commandments to wisdom. In this passage they are one in the same. This is only true, if the commandments of the father is equivalent to the wisdom that is mentioned in chapter 2. The father had already admitted that the source of all true wisdom is from God. Therefore, the confidence he has in his teaching is due to the fact that it is the wisdom that comes from a divine source.
For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; ( ESV).
The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; 8 the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; 9 the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. 10 More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. ( ESV).
You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. ( ESV).
The ideal teacher is passionate about the student learning. Take notice of the words used in this passage that would indicate that the father is passionate about teaching his son.
· Do not abandon my instruction.
· Let your heart hold fast my words;
· Keep my commandments and live;
· Do not forsake her
· With all your acquiring, get understanding.
· Take hold of instruction; do not let go.
· Guard her, for she is your life.
· The path of the righteous is like the light of dawn
· They are life to those who find them
· Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.
The ideal teacher believes what they are teaching. While this principle is not specifically stated in the passage, it is both implicit and logical. If you don’t believe what you teach and don’t really live it, you won’t be able to sell it. While we realize that teaching the truth is not “selling” it, there are some similar principles involved.
For a span of time I was a credit card machine salesman – two weeks, and one of those weeks was my training. In that brief time, it became obvious to me that if a salesman doesn’t think anyone actually needs his product, he’s probably going to struggle selling it. Needless to say, I was ineffective at selling this credit card service to companies. I was so ineffective that even the customers told me I should get a new job. Why? Because I didn’t think they needed what I was selling. I even told one of them that I didn’t think they should buy it. If a teacher simply presents the “subject matter” and is not convinced of its importance and truth, they are going to lack in their ability to convince others.
If a parent presents biblical truths that they are uncertain of and don’t ever really live out in front of their kids, it is highly unlikely that their children are going to personally claim those beliefs themselves.
The ideal teacher is affected by the failure of the student. If the teacher is affected by the behavior or success of the student, the teacher is more likely to invest more in the life of the student. Note the impact on a parent by a child who rejects their teaching.
A child left to himself brings shame to his mother ( ESV).
A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish son is a sorrow to his mother ( ESV).
A foolish man despises his mother ( ESV).
A foolish son is a grief to his father and bitterness to her who bore him ( ESV).
A foolish son is ruin to his father ( ESV).

Qualities of the Successful Student

The successful student is receptive to teaching (4:1-3). We already discussed that the ideal teacher teaches at the ideal time. That time being when the student is most receptive to the truth. While it is important for a teacher to be aware of the most effective times to teach, it is also important for a student to be receptive to the teaching. This receptivity is captured in phrases such as the following:
· Be attentive to my teaching
· Hold fast my words
· Do not forget, do not turn away from the words of my mouth
· Accept my words
· Incline your ear to my sayings
By the way, it ought to be true of everyone that they are willing to receive teaching or wisdom. “To receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity” ( ESV). “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice” ( ESV). “Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future” ( ESV).
This is a challenge for adults. We’ve already acknowledged that are most malleable years are when we are young. The implication to this is that as we get older, we are less likely to heed instruction and change. There are great benefits to this reality, but the negative reality is that we may not be as willing to be instructed as we ought. On a positive note, theoretically, an adult is likely more mature and therefore more discerning when something other than the truth is presented to them.
The successful student cherishes the truth being taught (4:4-9). This aspect of cherishing is rooted in a number of different phrases in . (1) In verse 4, the father exhorts his son to “Hold fast my words.” The basic idea is that of grasping securely. (2) The next phrase in verse 4 is a command to “keep my commandments.” “The basic idea of the root is "to exercise great care over." A child is to keep the teachings of their parents in the midst of their hearts. They are to be careful to do. They are to give heed to what is taught. (3) Do not forget, ignore or whither. “Forgetting is not simply a psychological act of having a thought pass from one's consciousness. . . To forget God is to ignore his commandments ().”
· Acquire her
· Do not forsake
· Love her
· Prize her
· Embrace her
· Guard her
The successful student avoids that which is contrary to the truth being taught (4:10-19). The student is taught the truth. They are as well taught the consequences for not following the truth. If they truly believe all they are taught, they will avoid following error, and will as well avoid the consequences of following error. If they don’t follow instruction, they are characterized as the naïve young man or the fool who follows his own devices and woman folly which leads to destruction.
The successful student allows the teaching to affect every area of life (4:20-27). True adherence to the truth affects more than one’s mere intellect. The intent of the Father in this passage is that the son will allow the truth to soak into every area of his life. This is clearly seen in that he mentions various areas of the son’s life. (1) Ears. What we hear. “Incline your ear.” (2) Heart. Who we are. “Keep them in the midst of your heart . . . watch over your heart.” (3) Mouth. What we say. “Put away a deceitful mouth . . . put devious speech far from you.” (4) Eyes. What we see. “Look directly ahead . . . let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you.” (5) Feet. Where we go. “Watch the path of your feet . . . do not turn . . . turn your foot from evil.”


This is not meant to shame those who never received this teaching or failed to dispense this kind of teaching to their children. This is simply a portrait of what is ideal. Those who have the responsibility and ability to implement these lessons need to do so.
Considering the ideal can at times be more depressing than encouraging. Yet, it is wondrously true that amid our failings, God’s grace shines wonderfully. Even when we mess up, God effectively draws people to himself. As parents, as teachers, we may assess our effectiveness and success and find ourselves lacking or maybe even failing, but there is another truth that we must consider before ending this morning. Let’s instead be thankful for the fact that while none of us have ever been the ideal teacher or student, we do have the ideal teacher. The Holy Spirit is the ideal teacher.
Convicts of Sin. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment ( ESV).
Illuminates the Truth. I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you. ( ESV).
But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. . . . 10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. . . . no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. ( ESV).
[1] Catherine Soanes and Angus Stevenson, eds., Concise Oxford English Dictionary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).
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