devotions for women


Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it. Proverbs 22:6

by Gini Crawford, MSW
revised 5/1/2023

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I have a grandson named Ezekiel Daniel (Zeke). Both names were taken from the Old Testament. As you can imagine, with those names he has a lot to live up too. (The prophet Ezekiel brought a message of judgment from God because of appalling sins to a people who did not want to hear. Daniel was taken captive to Babylon, at probably seventeen, and stood firm for God his whole life.)

When I first wrote this devotion, Zeke was about a year and a half old, and was full of life and curiosity as most kids are at that age. One of the many things he loved to do was to get knives from the dishwasher and run with them. As you can guess, he got disciplined for this dangerous maneuver. One of the main ways his parents disciplined him was to put him in "Time Out". I must say, he looked pretty cute sitting in the corner with a dejected face. When he was around other kids, even much older ones, he would scream, "No! Time out!" when he saw something he thought was wrong. At that young age, as you would guess, his sense of what's right and wrong isn't from God's perspective, yet he was being trained in the way he should go. And in his childish way, he was determined to train others.

To catch you up with Zeke. He is a teenager now. I can truthfully say, the training he got from his parents has worked. Not too long ago he stood up to a bully in his classroom in a very just and even loving way.

Proverbs 22:6 interpreted

In this devotion I am going to explain Proverbs 22:6 in detail. This verse is the best known passage in Proverbs on training a child. It says,

Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it. NIV®

It is very important to put this verse (or any verse) in the context of where it sits in the Bible to interpret it. The context of Proverbs 22:6 is of course the book of Proverbs. So why did King Solomon, who wrote Proverbs, write it? You do not need to look hard for the purpose of Proverbs because Solomon starts the book with why he wrote it.

The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: for attaining wisdom and discipline; for understanding words of insight; for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair; for giving prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the young -- let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance-- for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge... Proverbs 1:1-7a NIV®

The purpose of Proverbs was to first develop, especially in the young, a right relationship with the Lord. Then that relationship allows the person to acquire God's understanding, wisdom, justice, discernment and discipline so the person can live a godly life. We need to keep in mind the purpose of Proverbs, when interpreting this verse.

The word train is described

To interpret Proverbs 22:6 we need to understand what each important word or phrase in the Hebrew language means. The first word we will look at is "train". Walvoord and Zuck say (in their Bible Knowledge Commentary) train means to dedicate. It is used of dedicating a house (Deuteronomy 20:5), the temple (1 Kings 8:63), and an image (Daniel 3:2). Only in Proverbs 22:6 is the verb translated train. This word seems to include the idea of setting aside, narrowing, or hedging in. It also has the idea of what you would expect - teaching. The word is sometimes used in the sense of starting. The Hebrew verb, train, is similar to an Egyptian word (h-n-k) that meant, to give to the gods or to set up something for divine service.

I think you would agree the Hebrew word for train, is rich in meaning: By training your child you are dedicating him or her to God and His service. In other words, you are training your child so they will someday put their faith in God for salvation, then follow Him throughout their life. Child training also prepares your child for his or her future responsibilities, for adulthood. How many of us as adults, wished our parents had trained us to love God, to be more disciplined and so forth. I would have loved to have been trained better by my parents - from a Biblical perspective. You too? As parents we need to be consciously and consistently training (or setting up) our kids for God, by teaching them the principles in God’s Word. This is so that someday they will be open to the Holy Spirit wooing them to God through believing in Jesus Christ (John 3:16).

Training your child is a long term job. It is something you need to persevere with even after they have believed in Jesus. This is so they will know how to be godly, and not be an ungodly Christian. No one likes a ungodly Christian, especially the person who is ungodly. God doesn’t want us to stay as immature babies in Jesus Christ, in other words ungodly and therefore controlled by our sinful desires or flesh. (1 Corinthians 3:1-3).

The Spirit is our training helper. I think you know the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within us the moment we believe in Jesus Christ. So the Spirit is there wanting to help you train your child and helping your child to want to grow in godliness. What the Spirit does is, work to transform you and your child into mature Christians; Christians that act very much like Jesus. It is always good to be like Jesus, isn’t it? The Spirit will slowly but surely mature us, but we need to choose to cooperate with Him. We cooperate with the Spirit by allowing Him to lead us. (Ephesians 4:13-15; Galatians 5:16-26).

And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession--to the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:13-14 NIV®
I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. ... Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Ephesians 3:16, 20 NLT®

God's Word is the training manual

God never leaves us guessing. God didn't leave the Israelites guessing as to how to set up the tabernacle for divine service in the book of Exodus. If you have read Exodus, He goes on and on about how this and that should be done, what not to do, etc. so the tabernacle would be just right. God has not left us guessing as parents. He has left us with the perfect instruction manual to train our kids, His Word. This was so our parenting can teach our kids about God - to know Him, love Him and serve Him.

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 NLT®

The way we should all go

Let's now look at the phrase "in the way he should go". Walvoord and Zuck state this phrase literally means "upon the mouth of his way". I am sure that makes no sense to those of us who don't know Hebrew. However, what it means in modern thought is, "according to".

Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it. Proverbs 22:6 NIV®

Let's step back and just look at what the word "way" means in Hebrew. Scholars have interpreted the word, way, in different ways such as according to his personality or stage in life and so on. However the word, way, in its context which is Proverbs, is generally used to mean, God's wise way of living. So we could say that way means, according to the way the child ought to go - which is living godly for God.

However, there is nothing wrong with looking at kids' personalities or their stage of life to train them. Frankly as a counselor I would recommend it! I have had several friends throughout the years that have plainly expected too much from their child at a certain age. These too high expectations tend to make for a frustrating situation – with the parents constantly disciplining and the child seemingly never getting it. I certainly did this some as a parent. If you are going to be a new parent, I would highly recommend for your wisdom and sanity - to buy a guide on what your child is capable of, at each stage in life. I would also advise you not to try too hard in changing your child's personality, such as, she naturally likes physics and he is just naturally shy. God created each child with a unique personality to live for Him. Yes, it is important to broaden your child's horizons but don't try to make her or him into someone you want instead of someone who God created. As a parent, prayerfully ask God for wisdom in how to train your child according to how God created them.

Let's sum up Proverbs 22:6 from what we have learned about the words "train" and "way". Training a child involves starting at birth and consistently dedicating that child by teaching him or her according to the way they ought to go, which is God's way. This training involves progressively narrowing that child's conduct away from evil and towards God, so when that child is grown she or he will not turn from the ways of God.

The parent responsibility

As parents, to be able to train your child in the way he should go (God's way), you need to first have a close relationship with God yourself. How do you achieve this type of relationship with God? First and foremost - you need to believe in Jesus Christ.

But as many as received Him (Jesus), to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God ... For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. John 1:12-13 & 3:16 NASB1995®

Next, God wants you to live in a close and loving relationship with Him. You do this like you would any close relationship, which is spending time with, listening, and talking to the person you love. As with any strong relationship, if there is something between the two of you, you deal with it. When there is something between God and you (sin), you acknowledge (confess) it and God will forgive you.

If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:8-9 NASB1995®

If you have your own close relationship with God, then you will personally know how to impart God and His ways to your child, and keep him or her on a godly path.

Children have their responsibility

What if you raised your children to follow the path of godly living and as adults they aren't? I know parents that are devastated over how ungodly their adult kids are living. They wonder what they have done wrong. To be frank, all of us parents do things that are not very helpful or maybe even harmful in promoting godly behavior in our children. Yet, if you predominately made living for God your goal in life, and prayerfully nurtured your kids that way, you have probably done your best before God.

Unfortunately Proverbs 22:6 isn't a guarantee. This is because proverbs are general truths that give us God's understanding and wisdom. They can be affected by people's bad choices. Remember, each person has a choice whether to live for God or not, no matter what type of training he or she had as a child.

Life Application

As a Christian parent, you need to make sure you are dedicating your child to the Lord in everything you are doing towards that child, so someday that grown-up will be a sanctified temple for the Holy Spirit.

... For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, "I WILL DWELL IN THEM AND WALK AMONG THEM; AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE" ...says the Lord... "AND DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN." And I will welcome you. "And I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me," Says the Lord Almighty. 2 Corinthians 6:16b-18 NASB1995®

As a new or even an experienced parent you need to ask yourself daily, "Are you working on your relationship with God? Are you asking God to train you so you can train your child?" Read 1 Corinthians 13. If you love your child the way 1 Corinthian 13:4-7 instructs you to love, you'll be dedicating your child towards God. Write out each characteristic of love and ask God to empower you to love your child and others that way.



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