by Al Maxey

Issue #436 ------- March 19, 2010
To be yourself in a world that is constantly
trying to make you into something else
is the greatest accomplishment.

Ralph Waldo Emerson {1803-1882}

Train Up A Child
Study of Proverbs 22:6

One of my very favorite quotes with respect to the proper raising up of children, and I'm not even sure who first penned it or where I first heard it, is: "Prepare the child for the path, not the path for the child." There is tremendous wisdom found within this maxim, for it focuses our attention more upon the training of a unique soul than upon the clearing of obstacles in that soul's journey through his/her life. As loving, devoted parents it is understandable that we might wish to clear the way for our children that their path through life might be easier than our own may have been. Noble as that desire is, it's entirely the wrong approach, however, and may well do a great disservice to our children. Far better is to prepare them for the various challenges and hardships of this life, that they may be able to rise above and be strengthened by each one.

The training up of our children has always been one of the primary concerns of our heavenly Father. In the writings of both covenants we find guidance for parents in how to approach this awesome responsibility. In Deut. 6:4-7, for example, where we find the great Shema, Moses says, "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 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 up."

Within the pages of the New Covenant writings we find similar exhortation. The apostle Paul wrote, "Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord" [Eph. 6:4]. With respect to the young evangelist Timothy, Paul observed that "from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures" [2 Tim. 3:15]. Clearly, the mother and grandmother of Timothy had taken great pains to instill their deep faith within Timothy, and they began while he was still just an infant [2 Tim. 1:5]. Further, one can see the result of the loving training Jesus received in Luke 2:39-52. God the Father had certainly chosen wisely when He selected Joseph and Mary to be the earthly parents to His Son. And then there is the classic passage from the Proverbs -- "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it" [Prov. 22:6, KJV]. It is this particular passage that I would like for us to examine more closely, as it's been the source of much confusion and even consternation among parents down through the ages. "Very many parental hearts have leaned their weight of hope on these cheering words -- many to be sustained and gladded, some to be disappointed" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 9, p. 437].

First, it should be noted that this particular passage [Prov. 22:6] is not without its difficulties. Although it appears in the MT (Masoretic Text), it does NOT appear in the LXX (Septuagint). The verse is completely missing, although Theodotion (died c. 200 A.D.), who produced a revision of the Septuagint from the available Hebrew manuscripts, made the personal decision to place it back in. Therefore, those few manuscripts of the LXX where one does find this verse can only trace its inclusion back to the revision of Theodotion, and not to the original work itself. For those readers who might be interested in learning a bit more about the literature of the so-called Intertestimental Period, I would refer you to my Study of the Apocrypha and the Septuagint.

Second, there is rather significant debate over how the Hebrew of the passage should be translated, as well as what the actual significance of the proverb may be in its application. The Hebrew verb "chanak," which is generally rendered "train" in our English versions, "means 'to put something into the mouth,' 'to give to be tasted,' as nurses give to infants food. From thence it came to signify 'to give elementary instruction,' 'to imbue,' 'to train'" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 9, p. 422]. Adam Clarke, in his Commentary, writes, "The Hebrew of this clause is curious: 'Initiate the child at the opening (the mouth) of his path'" [vol. 3, p. 763]. Most feel the significance of this figurative expression is that the training of an individual should begin at the very opening (mouth) of their life's journey. From the moment they can "taste" the good things of God [Heb. 6:4-5], they should be "fed" these truths. "Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation -- if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good" [1 Peter 2:2-3]. Thus, as Paul suggested was the case with Timothy, those well-trained by their godly parents are made aware of God's ways "from infancy" [2 Tim. 3:15].

It is a true maxim that "the young twig must be early bent." As twigs, and people, grow they become less flexible, and thus less malleable. "The young mind is plastic; habit is not yet confirmed. It is easier to form a character than to reform it" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 9, p. 430]. There is an old Danish proverb that states, "What youth learns, age does not forget." That which is impressed upon us in our youth, if that impression is made early, often and well, will most likely remain with us throughout life. Yes, we may certainly exercise our own will and choose to ignore that training, but it will always be a part of us, and will not easily be forgotten. "Those minds are rare which do not show to their latest days the ply and impress they've received as children" [ibid, p. 432]. One of the most important formative tools we parents have in the training up of our young is custom/habit. Those attitudes and actions which become routine in life, soon become second nature to us, thus becoming a vital part of who we are. And those traits are most successfully transferred, and made a part of one's character, if impressed at a very early age. As Matthew Henry noted in his Commentary, "the vessel retains the savor with which it was first seasoned."

So why do some turn away from this early training?! It is an undeniable fact that some individuals, who were indeed trained up well by their parents, still abandon that wise teaching and early direction in later years. This has troubled many people over the years, and has led some to suggest the proverb itself may be fallacious. Others have stated that the proverb is true, but if a child departs from his training later in life, then the parents were the ones who failed in their training of their child. A person will NEVER turn from the proper path IF they were properly trained (after all, isn't that exactly what the proverb says?). Thus, the fault lies in every case with the training done by the parents (or, so it is stated by those who take this approach to the passage). Some scholars have tried to explain this by suggesting that although the person might depart from the direction prescribed by the training, nevertheless the wisdom and the direction conveyed in childhood will always remain a part of that person (i.e., they can never truly separate themselves from it; it's forever there, even though perhaps suppressed, to provide the direction back to the right path). Matthew Henry wrote, "Many indeed have departed from the good way in which they were trained; Solomon himself did so. But early training may be a means of their recovering themselves, as it is supposed Solomon did."

There is a stark reality each parent must accept: we cannot live our children's lives for them. At some point, each child will choose his or her own path. We provide them, from infancy, the direction and guidance and training that we pray will set them on the pathway we ourselves perceive to be the most suitable for a life well-spent. The ultimate decision, however, lies with them, and often, in spite of our best efforts, they choose another path. "Not the very best training of the very wisest parents in all of the world can positively secure goodness and wisdom in their children. For when they have done everything in their power, there must remain that element of individuality which will choose its own course and form its own character. Our children may choose to reject the truth we teach them, and to slight the example we set them, and to despise the counsel we give them. In the will of every child there is a power which can't be forced, but which can only be won" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 9, p. 438]. Therefore, although these grown children might depart from the application of that early training in their lives, they never truly depart from the training itself; it remains a part of them. We often say of such grown children, "They know better than that; they weren't raised that way; some day they'll come back." Such was the case with the prodigal son [Luke 15:11-32]. And therein lies the hope of many a heart-broken parent who prayerfully awaits the return of their prodigal.

Another possible understanding of this proverb, however, is based upon the premise that many interpreters may have mistaken the application the writer originally had in mind. Many interpret the phrase "the way he should go" as signifying "the pathway of righteousness." Thus, when a child is trained up to walk in that pathway, and then later in life chooses no longer to follow it, we question either our training or the truthfulness of the proverb. The reality may be that we have simply failed to properly perceive the real significance of the above phrase. It may, in fact, have nothing directly to do with walking in the paths of righteousness (although indirectly that may be an aspect of the training we parents are most certainly required to give our children). "The Authorized Version takes this maxim to mean that the child should be trained from the beginning in the right pathway -- i.e., the pathway of obedience and religion. This is a very true and valuable rule, but it is not what the author intends" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 9, p. 422]. Instead, the phrase "his way" or "the way he should go" should be understood in one/both of two other ways: "either his future calling and station, or his character and natural inclination and capacity" [ibid].

What this simply means is this -- the proverb is urging parents to instruct their children in an age appropriate and developmentally appropriate manner, taking into consideration the unique qualities of each child. Now, certainly, the wise, godly parent will include as a major part of that instruction the spiritual truths that are so vital to one's spiritual journey. But, the emphasis of the maxim is in helping parents design their training in such a manner as to best serve each individual child. This is clearly a valid meaning of the phrase in Hebrew, as scholars will admit. In fact, the New Jerusalem Bible (which tends to give a more literal meaning to the Hebrew than many of our English versions) translates the proverb this way -- "Give a lad a training suitable to his character and, even when old, he will not go back on it." In other words, "Each child's nature needs separate consideration and distinctive treatment. The training that would ruin one child might save another" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 9, p. 430]. Therefore, "While the main principles of education must remain the same for all children, the special application of them will vary in different cases" [ibid]. Dr. Paul E. Kretzmann, in commenting upon this proverb, points out that "the method of instruction," if it is to be effective in inculcating life-skills, must "follow the age and the peculiarity of the child" [Popular Commentary of the Bible, vol. 2, p. 245].

My wife Shelly, who is the Director of Child Care at a large Therapy Center, which provides a wide range of services to special needs people (both children and adults), has had a considerable amount of education, training and practical experience in Early Childhood Education. I've heard her speak many times of the need for age appropriate and developmentally appropriate instruction, activities, and the like. The days of a one room school house where everyone, regardless of age or ability, was exposed to the same basic educational approach and curriculum are over. Educators now realize the tremendous value of understanding the student so that the approach to that student's education and training might be more focused and appropriate, and thus more effective. I think it is extremely likely that this is the principle being advocated in Prov. 22:6, and that the ultimate success of a person in life can be linked in large measure to how appropriate his education and training were to his/her own special abilities and needs. The Expositor's Bible Commentary has made the following rather insightful observation -- "Over a thousand years ago, Saadia suggested that one should train the child in accordance with his ability and potential. The wise parent will discern the natural bent of the individual child and train it accordingly. Kidner acknowledges that the wording here implies respect for the child's individuality but not his self-will; he reminds us that the emphasis is still on the parental duty of training" [vol. 5, p. 1061]. The Ryrie Study Bible, in a footnote to this verse in Proverbs, observes that, "The instruction must take into account his individuality and inclinations and be in keeping with his degree of physical and mental development." In other words, train the child entrusted to you, who is a unique soul, in a developmentally appropriate manner. Such sensitivity to his/her uniqueness will rarely fail one in their quest to help them grow into the type of adults who will be happy, successful and productive within society. Train them according to "their way" (who and what they are individually), and they are not likely to depart from that training, for it was designed specifically with them in mind.

The noted Hebrew scholars Johann Keil (1807-1888) and Franz Delitzsch (1813-1890), in their in-depth Commentary on this passage, wrote, "The instruction of youth, the education of youth, ought to be conformed to the nature of youth; the matter of instruction, the manner of instruction, ought to regulate itself according to the stage of life, and its peculiarities; thus, the method ought to be arranged according to the degree of development which the mental and bodily life of the youth has arrived at." They continue -- "It is the fundamental and first requisite of all educational instruction which the proverb formulates, a suitable motto for the lesson books of pedagogues and catechists." Albert Barnes (1798-1870), in his Notes on the Bible, concurs: "The proverb enjoins the closest possible study of each child's own temperament and the adaptation" of the training he receives to his own unique personhood. "This maxim is an injunction to consider the child's nature, faculties, and temperament in the education which is given to him. This education in accordance with his idiosyncrasy will bear fruit all his life long; it will become second nature, and will never be obliterated" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 9, p. 422].

There is no magic formula that guarantees one's child will grow and develop into all that we, as parents, had hoped and prayed for. Our children, after all, are unique individuals with their own wills and goals. Ultimately, each one must make their own choice as to how they will conduct the course of their lives. However, if we're sensitive to their individual personalities, if we're cognizant of their unique interests and abilities, as well as their limitations and dislikes, and if we apply healthy doses of love and acceptance, joined with daily prayer on their behalf, we will likely be successful in helping them to develop along the lines for which they were specially created by our Maker. If this is our approach to child-rearing, our success rate will be phenomenal, and these precious souls will stay the course through life with respect to their own God-given abilities and potentials which we helped them to realize. As Emerson said (see the quote at the top of this article), "To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you into something else is the greatest accomplishment." Parents, train up your children to be the best them they can be. If you do, they'll rarely stray from it.

No Reflections Next Week

Shelly and I will be traveling to Oklahoma in a few days, and will be attending The Tulsa Workshop next week and weekend! Thus, there will be no Reflections mailed out this coming week. They will resume on schedule the following week with a review of the workshop and some of the highlights. I look forward to meeting a great many of you at this upcoming event, and hope we can spend some quality time together, even if that time is brief. Please pray that Shelly and I will have a safe trip there and back home (it is a long drive), and also that God will direct me in what I say during the course of my three talks to those in attendance. Thursday at 2 p.m. in the Pavilion I will be speaking on our journey "From Slavery to Freedom." On Friday I will be speaking twice in the Pavilion: at 9 a.m. on our journey "From Law to Grace," and then again at 2 p.m. on our journey "From Faction to Family." Shelly and I hope to see many of you there in just a few short days.

Down, But Not Out
A Study of Divorce and Remarriage
in Light of God's Healing Grace

A 200 page book by Al Maxey
Publisher: (301) 695-1707

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Readers' Reflections

From a Reader in Texas:

Brother Al, I would like to order your Revelation CD for our preacher at our little country church. I'm looking forward to seeing what improvements you've made since I copied your notes back in 1983 (when you were our preacher in Kaiserslautern, West Germany). I used those notes to teach a series on Revelation in 1996. I've been keeping up with you through your web site, and believe that you're doing the church a great service in the tradition of Cecil Hook, who was our preacher in New Braunfels back in the 70's. He actually gave me a draft of his first book to comment on back then. Al, have a great time at The Tulsa Workshop. I used to really love going there back in the 70's, and Marvin Phillips was always one of my favorite speakers.

From a Reader in Texas:

Brother Al, Thank you for your Revelation CD. There is a wealth of information on it, and I have really enjoyed the PowerPoint slides. I have a question: when I begin preparing my lessons for an upcoming Ladies Bible Class, I would really like to make use of some of your information! Would I be able to do that? Al, you're so precious to me. You have really strengthened my faith with your Reflections and correspondence. May our loving Father continue to hold you in His arms as you suffer for Him at the hands of the legalists. May He give you the strength you need to hold your course!

From a Professor at Pepperdine University:

Bro. Al, I have been reading your Reflections for about two years now, and I always appreciate your study and thoughtfulness on the issues you discuss (especially when we might disagree on a particular matter). I am writing to you today, though, in regard to the CFTF lectures that recently took place. I listened to many of the lectures at their Archives page (out of what, I am sure, was more a perverse sense of curiosity on my part than anything) and heard pretty much what I expected to hear. It was disheartening, and many of the things that need to be said about that event have already been noted by your readers! However, there was one moment that, as low as my expectations were, truly floored me, and it revealed why these men are so dangerous. It was a brief moment, but none the less revealing for that fact. It took place near the end of the "Open Forum" on Tuesday (right at the 55 minute mark). David Brown was speaking about how Truth was a "narrow" thing (as narrow as him, presumably), when he unknowingly gave the game away by saying, "The gospel preached in its purity as it appears on the pages of the NT, that every faithful member of the church is charged to believe and practice, was not only designed to bring a certain caliber of people into God's family, but it was also designed to keep a certain caliber, or calibers, of people out of God's family. The church is an exclusive institution."

It's been a long time since I've heard a more satanic statement uttered by someone purporting to be a speaker for God!! Despite all their disclaimers that "liberals" charge them with "legalism," every syllable of this ungodly statement, every molecule of air that he used to utter this wicked arrogance, is suffused with a sense of merit. A "certain caliber" of people?! Would to God there had been someone in that audience who had stood up and shouted that tax collectors and prostitutes will enter the kingdom before the representatives of such an attitude! I only mention all this because I think this revealing moment would be a good subject for an exposť by you, proving to any and all who doubt it that these men are dangerous and deadly, regardless of the occasional truths they might speak. I even imagine that your experience in combat in Vietnam as a doorgunner (Thank You for your service, by the way!) could give you some apt words about "high-caliber Christians." Again, while I do not always agree with you on every issue, I thank you for your tireless efforts to expose these men and their venomous, damning "gospel" of perfectionist merit, and I wish you well in Christ.

From a Minister in Arkansas:

Dear Brother Al, Your article on "The Nature of Legalism" was very well done. How can those who choose to follow the Pharisaic example of legalistic patternism call themselves "Christians"? I appreciate all the effort you put into your weekly Reflections, which are opening the eyes of a great many who are lost and wayward. I encourage you to stay strong, and pray that God will bless you in your awesome ministry. I look forward to seeing you at The Tulsa Workshop.

From a Reader in Florida:

Brother Al, Thank you for sharing a synopsis of John Waddey's three articles in your last Reflections. This is indeed an accurate picture of the nature of legalism: a plague among us that we dare not ignore any longer!!

From a Reader in Alabama:

Brother Al, I enjoyed your fair and balanced report on John Waddey's three articles. My husband would often quote an old saying that seems to reflect Waddey's position appropriately: "He ain't easy, but he can be had." I will commit to praying that the eyes of his heart will be opened to even more of God's liberating Truth.

From an Elder/Minister in Texas:

Brother Al, I have been a reader and fellow student of the Word with you for a couple of years now. You continually challenge me through your writings, and I am very grateful to you for your love for Truth, the Lord, and His called out body of believers. The recent news of what took place down at the Spring, Texas Church of Christ (the CFTF lectures) has been particularly distressing to me. My grandfather served as one of its shepherds many years ago, when the congregation was a loving, growing and active body of the Lord's people. To see what these current leaders there have done to the cause of Christ in Spring just breaks my heart. My prayer is for you and for the cause of Truth and for the oneness of the Body of Christ. I look forward to meeting you, Lord willing, at The Tulsa Workshop. God be with you.

From a Minister in Hawaii:

Dear Bro. Al, Like you, I was impressed by John Waddey's latest issue of Christianity: Then & Now. However, being very much aware of his life and ministry for several decades now, it is my sincere hope and prayer that he is not simply beginning to promulgate these truths about legalism at this particular time merely as a matter of attempting to position himself as an exemplar of mainstream, and thus orthodox, Christianity. With all of this in mind, I note that he wrote, "Calling out the opposition by name, and showering them with invective and ridicule, is ineffective." Yet, in that same issue Waddey called by name at least one congregation (and perhaps some individuals -- I didn't keep my copy) as being of the "liberal" persuasion. John would be much more convincing to me if he would also give, by name, some examples of congregations, and high profile individuals living today, whom he considers to be "legalistic." At that point I might actually be able to swallow the notion that he has truly parted ways with them. When Mr. Waddey says "liberal," we all know of whom he is speaking, because he has told us over and over. But, when he says "legalistic," to whom specifically is he referring? Does Waddey dare tell us without exposing himself?!! God bless you, brother!

From a Reader in Connecticut:

Dear Brother Al, Paraphrasing a line from a televangelist from the 80's, "Legalism is a cancer on the Body of Christ." How sad it is that my brother John Waddey can see it, recognize it, know what it is, yet still be paralyzed and blinded by it. Such is the fate, sadly, of many whom I know and love. Legalism is a very powerful drug. It may feel good at first; you feel the high of "correctness." However, you soon need more and more of it to maintain that perception of doctrinal invincibility. Thus, you go to greater and greater extremes to acquire and maintain that sense of superiority so that you can stay on top; pushing away and alienating friends and family to maintain that "high." It can be a long and painful journey to free yourself or rescue someone from the clutches of this poison called legalism. Brother, I count your Reflections among the most powerful prescriptions available today (along with love, patience, prayer and grace) for overcoming this addiction to legalism.

From a Reader in California:

Dear Brother Maxey, Thank you for this week's Reflections. It is amazing that legalists can perceive the truth to a certain extent, and yet their flaw is that they only apply these truths about the nature of legalism to anyone and/or anything more radical than their own legalism. In this way, as did John Waddey, they can claim to be "centrist." It is so frustrating! Al, I want to thank you for helping me see Truth, because I used to think that way also. When I witnessed the event in Spring, TX (the CFTF lectureship), my initial reaction was to get upset. But, thanks to you, that emotion turned to one of pity, and -- thankfully -- forgiveness. Just let them go! They don't have a full understanding of what they're doing. After all, Jesus asked God to forgive those who crucified Him for the same reason. "They know not what they do." Al, I'm really looking forward to meeting you at The Tulsa Workshop! My brother, my cousin and I are all taking a "road trip" together to Tulsa, and we can't wait to meet you in person!! May God richly bless you in the words you will speak to us at this spiritually renewing event! By the way, will you have copies of your book Down, But Not Out at the workshop?

From a Reader in Nevada:

Brother Al, I continue to read your Reflections, as well as the attacks some men keep publishing against you. Their attacks take me back to the 1700's when a man named Richard Bentley was attacked on his knowledge and abilities by Conyers Middleton of Cambridge. Bentley thought that the attacker was another man, John Colbatch, so he penned an extremely scathing response to this attack, but he addressed it to Colbatch. Bentley wrote in his pamphlet, "We need go no further than this paragraph (referring to the article attacking him) for a specimen of the greatest malice and impudence that any scribbler out of the dark committed to paper." He continued by calling Colbatch a "cabbage-head, insect, worm, maggot, vermin, gnawing rat, snarling dog, ignorant thief, and a mountebank." So, my brother, there's nothing new about personal attacks, when legitimate attacks cannot be launched. You are in good company, my friend!!

From a Reader in Arkansas:

Dear Brother Al, Please send me your 2009 Reflections CD, your 2009 PowerPoint Sermons CD, and also two copies of your Revelation CD. You will find the check enclosed. Thank you so much for all of your reflective studies and good work. Since I was turned on to your Internet site some years back, I have never missed an article!! I am hoping to make it to The Tulsa Workshop, as I would love to meet you in person and encourage you to keep on keeping on!

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