In the Way
Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” The word “way” (derek), occurs seventy-five times in Proverbs. In only four cases does it denote an actual road or path:
- In every other occurrence it poetically indicates “a way of life or manner of actions.” This could mean two things: (1) The child future calling and station; (2) His character and natural inclination and capacity.
- The word “derek” (way) parallels God’s “works of old” – “The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old” (Proverbs 8:22) and “departing from evil” (Proverbs 16:17).
- Several times, “derek” (way) parallels the thought of walking uprightly (Proverbs 14:2; 28:6,18). This lead, then, to the conclusion that “derek” (way) in Proverbs 22:6 refers to a way of life.
- A contrast occurs between the careless keeping of a person’s way and keeping the “commandment” – Proverbs 19:16 “He that keepeth the commandment keepeth his own soul, but he that despiseth His (God’s) ways shall die.”
Proverbs 22:6 implies that parents should discern the individuality and special gifting, talent and special strengths that God has given to the child. Parents teach their child on how to make decisions and the choosing of the right way.
Training the child in “the proper way” is the most important – acknowledging the Divine standard in God’s Word (Scriptures). Wisdom in choosing the proper time and skill in adopting the best method and principles (God’s Word) as habits and character are in-grafted for life. The application most naturally refers to providing suitable instruction to a child. The child needs and potential (talent, gifting, ability, etc) guide the parents as they direct his development. There is nothing in Proverbs 22:6 that limits this to the spiritual area only. The maxim (saying) rather suggests that the full scope of the child’s training lies within the realm of parental guidance. This sphere naturally includes the spiritual within its boundaries.
The guidance would embrace other areas of development as well. Proverbs 22:6 is both a Command (“train up a child in the way he should go.”) and a Promise (“and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”). Parents should provide individualised training suitable to the needs and the potential of the child. His strengths and weaknesses, his temperament, his emotional needs, and a host of other attributes should be taken into consideration as the parents direct his way. As the parents remain faithful, they can have the assurance that their child will gradually adopt those ways and make them his own. The promise is that the child will never leave that path upon which he had been set by consistent training. The child will hold to his basic orientation, an underlying motivation that will point him along the right way of life. Mistakes in his life will not take place with enough frequently to become settled habits of life.
When children are thus trained up they will be led into the paths of life and peace, and even when they are old they will not turn aside out of them. Timothy from a child was trained up in the knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, and the faith which dwelt in his grandmother, Lois and mother, Eunice (2Timothy 1:5; 3:16), dwelt in him also, for Scriptures made him wise unto salvation. It is a great pleasure to parents to see their children walking in truth, and it is an unspeakable heightening of that pleasure when their own instructions and admonitions have been blessed by God, as a means of conducting them into that good path. Parents love their children because the children were the “heritage” of their existence, but they will look upon their inheritance (given by God) with great joy when their children walk in the way in the Fear (Reverential Fear) of the LORD.
The Consequences of the Training
“When he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6b). Here is the reward of teaching the young. The work is slow but encouraging as we will see results surfacing. When the “values” have been imparted and laid holds on the child, it is not likely to be ever effaced (wipe or rub out). The teachings of the parents and grandparents are remembered after many years because good habits and character formed are not easily broken. What makes this assurance stronger is that habit and character become more powerful with each effort and each action. Every day the good habits the child has formed and are exercising become more deeply rooted in his life
Grandparents have a lifetime of experience. Old age symbolised in the Proverbs by “grey hair,” has a certain “glory” if it comes at end of a “righteous life” – “Grey hair is a crown of splendour; it is attained by a righteous life” (Proverbs 16:31). Understandably, younger people do not appreciate the intrusion of aged parents (or grand parents) into their affairs, but they may be surprised at the sympathetic hearing they get when they take aged parents (or grand parents) into their confidence. The grey-headed (parents, grand-parents) should not be despised. Aged parents (or grand parents) needed not be written off as outdated if they have lived their years in a healthy relationship with a wise and loving God, they should have wisdom from which younger people can profit. In every generation, parents make sacrifices so that their children enjoy opportunities and benefits that they themselves were denied. Rarely do aged parents (or grand parents) show any jealousy because of this. On the contrary, they receive much enjoyment through seeing their children and grandchildren benefit from the privileges they lacked. This is one way in which “grandchildren” are the crown of the grandparents – Proverbs 17:6 “Children’s children are a crown to the aged (grand parents), and parents are the pride of their children.”