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INSTRUCTION
by Philip Owen

            Higher education.  Continuing education.  Upgraded instruction.  Refresher courses.  The list goes on and on.  As a society we are addicted to learning and self-improvement—until, that is, the subject matter involves the Word of God and our spiritual lives.  Somehow in that realm, far too many of us believe ourselves to be experts, the final word on what is right.  We may attend religious services frequently, even regularly, but it is far too frequently just a social event or a moral obligation to be endured.  We derive little value from it, not necessarily because the Word of God was not preached, but because we were in no mood to receive it.  Proverbs warns against such careless indifference regarding the most crucial instruction that anyone can receive:  “Take fast hold of instruction; let her not go:  keep her; for she is thy life” (4:13).

 

            “Take fast hold of instruction.”  Casual, careless, haphazard, indifferent—far too frequently these describe our attitude toward sound doctrine and biblical instruction.  We consider biblical truth to be a take-it-or-leave-it proposition and choose to leave it.  Solomon warns us not to do so, but to “take fast hold” of truth.  Ultimately, that process is neither manual nor mental.  We cannot hold onto instruction with our hands nor even with just our minds.  It is not enough to know and understand instruction.  We must hold fast to it.  That verb describes the exercise of faith.  To take fast hold of instruction is to believe it, and to believe it is to make it an operating principle in our lives.  When, for example, the Bible tells servants to serve their masters “heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men” (Col. 3:23), we “take fast hold” of that instruction by yielding ourselves to obediently serving our employers as we would Christ.

 

            “Let her not go.”  How quickly a little child tires of a new toy and looks around for something else to entertain him.  We are not to be as little children regarding instruction.  “Be not weary in well doing” is Paul’s admonition in this regard (II The. 3:13; see also Gal. 6:9).  Having taken fast hold of instruction, we are to continue in it.  Each scriptural truth we appropriate by faith is to become a permanent motivating and guiding principle in our lives.  Instruction is not to be kept on some dusty shelf and trotted out to impress some visitor, but it is to become as much a part of our daily lives as one of our arms or eyes.

 

            “Keep her.”  This may be a bit of Hebrew poetic parallelism, and if so, the repetition serves for emphasis, not mere poetic beauty.  But there does seem to be a development of thought in this repetition.  Not only do we “let her not go,” we also “keep” or “guard” her.  We are to protect it as a treasure.  To “keep” instruction in our lives entails more than memorizing it or putting it into practice; it involves examining our lives in the light of it, not pulling it out when we desire, but allowing it to guide and govern us, deliberately and consciously bringing to bear on our thoughts, goals, decisions, and actions the truths we have learned.

 

            “For she is thy life.”  You can be sure if we were about to parachute out of an airplane or rappel down a mountain that we would give our full attention to the instructor who was explaining how properly to use the equipment on which our physical lives depended.  Just so should we regard the biblical instruction on which our spiritual lives depend.  The truth of the Word is optional only insofar as the fact that God will not force feed our learning or become our spiritual drill sergeant.  We must understand, believe, and live in the reality that life is found only in and through the Word of God.  God’s instruction must be precious and essential to us.

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