“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6 KJV)
The book of Proverbs is an especially difficult book for many believers because it forces them on the issue of faith. It is the one book that you can see, even in the most biblical of churches, a wavering and a questioning of what they really believe. Phrases like “proverbs are merely good ideas – they are not necessarily promises” or “these are not really axioms – they are great guiding principles” are common. It is interesting to watch how this book can be singled out to be watered down whereas equally critical passages in another book are held as literal, exact, and fundamental. For instance, if you were to suggest that maybe John 3:16, Romans 3:23, or Romans 6:23 are merely good ideas and do not necessarily pertain to you, there would be shouts of heresy. Granted, you never want to take a scripture out of the context in which it is written; however, even in the context that these proverbs are written, they are treated more as suggestions than foundational promises. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16, 17 KJV) If Paul is correct in what he is teaching Timothy about all scripture, and the scripture that we subsequently use is not taken out of context, then why are the axiomatic, or self evident, statements of the wisest man in history (see 1 Kings 3:10-12) the cause for such disbelief?
This question takes us back to a need to review a fundamental understanding of faith. Let us begin with a commonly held definition. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.” (Hebrews 11:1-3 KJV) So, how is faith implemented? Let us jump over to Ephesians and take a look. “Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.” (Ephesians 6:16 KJV) This is a very familiar, and often memorized, section of scripture. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians illustrates faith via a suit of armor. There is something very interesting about this shield though. While I am sure that it can deflect like any other shield, this passage uses a curious word to describe this shield’s function: “quench” or to extinguish. Combine the idea of “quench” (as opposed to “deflect”) with the idea of having a shield made of something “not seen” when traditionally a shield is something you want to be most evident (it is usually something you strap right onto your arm), and you have a very curious situation. I think many of us, as believers would rather have it to be the shield of the Spirit – the Word of God and a sword of faith rather than the shield of faith and a sword of the Spirit – the Word of God. This effectively switches our offensive and defensive weapons. In so doing, we have a solid and visible defense that does not require faith on our part and an offense that is subjective. Fortunately, that is not how the text reads. The Word of God is to be our offensive weapon and our faith is to literally trust in something that may not be yet seen as our defense. This is not necessarily the most comfortable position to be in, but then again neither is being nailed to a cross (see Matthew 10:37-39).
The idea of quenching or extinguishing reflects yet another characteristic of God. We see events as a sequence of events throughout time. God sees events like they really are outside of time. The idea of quenching or extinguishing does not necessarily mean that the arrow never hit its target. That fiery, burning, and searing arrow may have actually hit and injured us. Quenching a flaming arrow can be done in response to a hit target. It is not always the case that the arrow is deflected before hitting the intended target. Sometimes quenching or extinguishing a flaming arrow that has hit us hard may take months, years, or even entire lifetimes to quench or extinguish. When you understand faith as surrender, you place yourself in a position to let God show you how He is going to quench that fiery problem in direct answer to your faithfulness. Furthermore, His answer is always a very real and clear application to your specific situation. However, if you are looking at Proverbs as a means that you can manage to your end, then you will not likely see how He does answer, and that flaming arrow will completely overtake you. Remember the words of Jesus in healing, “And he said unto her, Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace.” (Luke 8:48 KJV) Notice that faith did not keep the arrow (sickness in this case) from happening, but was able to facilitate the healing and a regeneration of what was not whole.
Let us see if we can bring some of this together in this particular proverb. “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6 KJV) Training (or starting) a child in the way (notice who is “the way” John 14:6) he should go literally (notice the term “and” which is a definite conjunction rather than might, could, or would) produces a result that when he is old that he will not (not might not) depart from it. Notice how the Spiritual battle takes place here. You lead with your offensive weapon, the sword of the Spirit – the Word of God. You follow it up with dependence in faith (your shield) that though the arrows might be hot and really hurt, yet God will extinguish them in His manner and completely justify what His Word does indeed say.
If you want knowledge or wisdom, it must begin with a fear of the Lord (see Job 28:28, Proverbs 1:7, 9:10, and 15:33). Three times in the Bible we are told to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, and strength (Deuteronomy 6:5, Mark 12:30, and Luke 10:27). Luke adds, “mind”; but in all cases, the heart comes first. If your heart does not believe even the possibility that God can do what He has said, then you will not likely see either His glory when he reveals the answer nor will it be easy for you to intellectually justify the words of God that only He is capable of justifying. If the battle is to be won, it must begin in the heart.
“Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.” (Revelation 14:12 KJV)