Biblical Truth: God gives instruction in His Word about what strengthens family life and warns about what can destroy it.
Stay True: Proverbs 23:22-25.
 Listen to your father who begot you, and do not despise your mother when she is old.
 Buy truth, and do not sell it, get wisdom and instruction and understanding.  The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice, and he who sires a wise son will be glad in him.  Let your father and your mother be glad, and let her rejoice who gave birth to you. [NASU]
 The call to Listen to your father harkens back to chapters 1-9. But, the foundation goes all the way back to the Mosaic Law and its fifth commandment. The present command to Listen makes specific in one avenue of life what it means to honor one’s father and mother. The second line makes clear that the relationship in view is that of an adult child relating to his ageing mother. The concern is how he treats her when she is old. The relationship between parents and children certainly changes when the child arrives at adulthood and departs to establish his own family. But, the relationship continues to change as both parents and child age further. Advancing age, with all of its challenges to the physical body, changes in one’s social role, and digressing mental acuteness, demands that the child now consciously continue to work at honoring his parents. One of the best ways is to make a concerted effort to Listen to them. The Hebrew verb despise means to hold something as insignificant. An ageing adult may seem to rattle on incessantly, complain profusely or have advice about everything. But, the wise and godly child neither takes the words personally nor treats them as unimportant. Rather, he takes the time to listen, weeding out the unimportant and discerning the blossom of wisdom.
 What pleases parents more than anything else is to see their child walking in the truth. The command is to Buy truth. The verb is used in most contexts to describe the financial acquisition of land or slaves. This developed, over time, into the picture of God’s redemption of His people. This helps us understand the repeated command to acquire wisdom, though clearly the word has no literal commercial sense here in Proverbs. The point of the command is that we should consider no price too high to pay in order to lay hold of truth [Matt. 13:44-46]. Every drop of energy, every penny of provision, every resource of our lives should be devoted to the priority of gaining truth. Conversely, the first line then reverses course and demands that, having once obtained truth, do not sell it. So, treasure the possession of truth that no enticement can seduce you into surrendering it. Clearly, there is a price to be paid for attaining wisdom, but there is also a price to be paid for retaining wisdom. The second line, then, adds three more words to the goal to be pursued: wisdom, instruction and understanding. These three terms further identify just what is meant by truth in line one. This wisdom can describe the skills of a craftsman, but here points to the skillful application of moral and ethical principles. Likewise, instruction is the same word translated discipline in verses 12-13. It describes moral correction. And, understanding describes the discernment necessary to see between two issues. Let a child lay hold of these treasures and his parents’ hearts will be contented whatever else may come.
[24-25] Here, the father is featured; in the next verse, the mother is in view. The verses work together to underscore the delight of parents in their children’s social and spiritual maturity. Proverbs speaks often of the delight of parents in their children’s progress in wisdom. Proverbs also presents the contrasting gloom for a parent of a fool. Note the parallelism of righteous and wise. Once again, we note that to be wise is to be righteous, and to be righteous is to be wise. Interestingly, the father is said to beget the child [22,24] and the mother is said to give him birth . No great distinction may be intended, but it underscores what common sense should have told us long ago: God designed a mother and a father to be a part of, not only bringing children into this world, but also in raising them to maturity and wisdom.
Stay Pure: Proverbs 23:26-28.
 Give me your heart, my son, and let your eyes delight in my ways.  For a harlot is a deep pit and an adulterous woman is a narrow well.  Surely she lurks as a robber, and increases the faithless among men. [NASU]
[26-28] A new passionate appeal [26-28] opens with an appropriately tender and compelling call. The father/teacher is making his appeal by the familiar address my son. The request is Give me your heart. Since the heart is the seat of the mind and volition, this is not a request for affectionate love, but thoughtful allegiance of will. The father is asking the son to imitate his conduct. A wise father not only tells his son the correct path to walk, but goes before him, demonstrating by his consistent conduct what such instruction looks like in the daily path of life. The second line connects the heart with the eyes. The more common combination is that of the heart and the ears [Prov. 2:2; 22:17; 23:12,19], but what one watches is often as enchanting as what one hears, particularly in regard to a young man’s sexual desires [27-28]. We have been warned of this before [Prov. 6:25]. Two women are spoken of. The first is called a harlot and the second an adulterous. The harlot is a prostitute who sells sex to willing men. The term adulterous woman means, literally, ‘foreigner’ or ‘alien,’ but it is because she resides outside a marriage covenant with you that she is ‘foreign’ to you. Consorting with a woman who is not given to you by God in marriage is like falling into a deep pit or a narrow well. The point is that he who enters into such a relationship will become unable to save himself, just as a man who has become helplessly wedged in a narrow hole. Some women are not passively seduced, but actively play the seductress. They actively seek out men as a robber seeks an unsuspecting target. They lurk for their targets, lying in wait to rob them of that which is reserved for their wives alone. Proverbs 7:7-23 provides powerful imagery to supplement this picture of thievery. Such a woman increases the faithless among men. She multiplies the number of men who prove unfaithful to God, their wives, and the others in their lives who have come to expect their faithfulness to God, marriage and family. This triplet of verses then warns us that sexual promiscuity is a danger to oneself , to one’s possessions [28a], and to one’s relations, specifically, and to the larger society, more generally [28b]. Mess around, and you will be trapped and unable to save yourself , robbed and unable to vindicate yourself [28a], and defamed and unable to clear your name [28b].
Stay Clear: Proverbs 23:29-35.
 Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes?  Those who linger long over wine, those who go to taste mixed wine.  Do not look on the wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly;  At the last it bites like a serpent and stings like a viper.  Your eyes will see strange things and your mind will utter perverse things.  And you will be like one who lies down in the middle of the sea, or like one who lies down on the top of a mast.  "They struck me, but I did not become ill; they beat me, but I did not know it. When shall I awake? I will seek another drink." [NASU]
[29-30] This begins a remarkable, and unique, discourse on the evil effects of alcohol [29-35]. This presentation is distinctive both for its length and its style. The six-fold riddle of this verse gives way to the answer in the next. Exhortations follow , along with motivation based upon alcohol’s allurements , its effects [32-34] and the drunkard’s own witness . Here, the riddle consists of six questions designed to unveil the emotional, relational and physiological effects of alcohol abuse. Woe is the cry of one’s emotions caught speechless. The woes of drink are recounted throughout Scripture. A drunkard ends in sorrow. The relational havoc is described with the words contentions and complaining. The former is found most often in Proverbs and describes quarreling, disputing and nagging. The plural form lays bare the multiplied incidents provoked by the inebriated fool. The latter is a word whose root means to rehearse, repeat or go over something repeatedly in one’s mind. So, what we have here is a tormented mind that, in its solitary misery, begins to pour out to others its assessment of its miserable lot in life. The physiological results are wounds without cause and redness of eyes. The wounds are, more literally, ‘bruises.’ These presumably will have come either from the stumbling fool careening into objects in his stupor, a fight he has provoked by his ranting, or a public beating resulting from his rancor. The word translated redness probably means something more like ‘dull.’ It would point, then, not to the color of the eyes after a long drink, but to the impaired vision during the intoxication. Who suffers the effects described in the previous verse? The answer is given here. It is Those who linger long over wine. The word is used in Isaiah 5:11 of those who stay up late to drink. The self-discipline of sleep would have guarded their lives, but their freedom for more ends up enslaving them. Both the Old [Prov. 20:1; 21:17; 23:20-21; Isa. 28:7] and New Testament warn of becoming addicted to alcohol [Eph. 5:18; 1 Tim. 3:3; Titus 1:7]. The parallel problem is those who go to taste mixed wine. The wine was probably mixed with spices in order to enhance both its taste and potency. They are being led by their senses, rather than by their minds and wills.
[31-33] These phrases describe those smitten by and addicted to, not merely the physiological grip of alcohol, but also the aesthetic experience of drinking. They have become champions of drinking. They are not merely those who can ‘hold their drink,’ but are connoisseurs of alcohol and its consumption. This is about more than thirst and drunkenness; this has become an art to them. What begins so delightfully , now ends with displeasure and destruction. At the last reflects the logical outcome of excessive drinking. Wisdom is found by measuring one’s present actions by future outcomes. The bite of snakes was often viewed as an expression of God’s judgment. Here that judgment may come more by natural consequences than by the direct hand of God. Nevertheless, the price is both painful and deadly. Drunkenness produces distortions of reality. The eyes will see things that are not there or misperceptions of what is there. What comes from the mind of a drunken person is said to be perverse things. Thus both what is perceived and what is produced are twisted, backward and at odds with reality. Such an individual is destined to live a miserable life, demanding that his dream world is true reality.
[34-35] Not only are one’s perceptions and proclamations distorted but one’s physical equilibrium is askew. By middle of the sea may be meant either the bottom of the sea or the surface of the water. By the one who lies down there may be meant either that the drinker eventually dies from his drink or that, as the drunkard tries to sleep, it is as though he were trying to sleep in a boat bobbing and swaying on the waves. The latter is probably the point, for this renders the better parallelism with the second line. The top of the mast is where the pitching of the vessel is most violent indicating the extreme effects of drunkenness on the equilibrium of a person. As the drunkard struggles toward consciousness, he recognizes from the marks upon his body that, in his revelry, he has gotten into a fight, though, at the time, he did not feel a thing. The word for become ill may have the sense of ‘feel pain.’ He does not even remember the bout that has brought about his bruises. As with the fool, the drunkard learns no lessons from a beating [Prov. 27:22]. As the pain of reality begins to dawn upon him, all he can think of is finding more alcohol, so as to disappear once again into his drunken stupor. He asks, When shall I awake? He wants to know, because he is calculating how soon he can get his hands on another drink. Simple indulgence gives way to drunkenness, which soon becomes full-bloom addiction.
Stay Wise: Proverbs 24:1-4.
 Do not be envious of evil men, nor desire to be with them;  For their minds devise violence, and their lips talk of trouble.  By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established;  And by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches. [NASU]
[1-2] This chapter opens by addressing envy, a theme common to the Wisdom Literature of the Bible. The command is to not look longingly at evil men. These are not individuals who, at a given time, may go the way of sin, but those who have habitually chosen that path. They have become consumed with evil. They are tainted through and through by its darkness. No part of their lives is untouched by evil’s influence. The reason for the admonitions of verse 1 are now provided. Study the kind of people your heart has begun to envy. In both their thinking and their speaking, they show they are consumed with violence and hatred. The root of the Hebrew word translated devise describes a low, muttering sound. It refers to talking to one’s self under one’s breath. It came to refer to meditation or planning, plotting and devising something. What they mumble under their breath, what their minds meditate upon, what they devise, scheme and work out in their thoughts is only violence. Again what is conceived in the mind is then given birth upon the lips through our words, lips talk of trouble. What once looked so desirable, upon closer examination is nothing to envy. It destroys others and even oneself.
[3-4] This verse and the next form a couplet about how to establish a godly home. The word translated house may, in Proverbs, refer either to the physical structure or the family which inhabits it. The verbs built and established work together to remind us that this is about more than simply laying good footings for the physical structure. It is just as much about the hard work that makes a family flourish in God’s ways. There is a trio of virtues which form this foundation: wisdom, understanding and knowledge. These have become stock elements within the book. Interestingly, these same three are found previously in Proverbs 3:19-20, where they are the key elements upon which God founded the entire created order. Creation has foundation and order. This arises from, and is an extension of, God’s own nature. Both our houses and our households must be set upon and secured by God’s own presence and precepts. As they are, we will begin to experience the result described in the next verse. The household founded upon this trinity of wisdom (wisdom, understanding and knowledge) will experience not only stability , but also precious and pleasant riches. The promised wealth could be either literal or metaphorical. While either is possible, in light of 23:4-5, the primary focus must be on the metaphorical meaning. The precious jewels that fill the house are a harmonious, loving family and a sense of security and stability.
Questions for Discussion:
1. How do we buy truth? What is the connection between truth in Proverbs 23:23 and kingdom of heaven in Matthew 13:44-46? What is so valuable about truth that we should sell all that we have in order to buy it? What do wisdom, instruction and understanding add to the meaning of truth?
2. What is the connection between heart and eyes in Proverbs 23:26-28? How can we protect our hearts and eyes from the temptation of sexual promiscuity?
3. What does Proverbs 23:29-35 teach about the dangers of alcohol?
4. How do we build and establish a godly home? What role does wisdom, understanding and knowledge play?
Proverbs, John Kitchen, Mentor.
Proverbs, Tremper Longman III, Baker.