For they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck.
A young man can be like a glorious prince with a crown on his head and chains on his neck. There are two conditions – parents to teach him God’s wisdom, and his obedience to that instruction. If either is missing, a young man will grow up dysfunctional and disgraceful. The only remedies in such a case are the powerful grace of God, intervention of other teachers, and/or his devoted diligence to overcome such a handicap to success.
This proverb is a powerful metaphor. Instead of using “as” or “like” to indicate a simile, Solomon made a stronger point by teaching that obedience to parental instruction would give a young man the visible honor usually due a prince (Gen 41:42). While obedience will not literally obtain jewelry for a young man’s public appearance, it will give him the grace and wisdom that gloriously adorn a young man in the eyes of God and men.
Solomon introduced the purpose of Proverbs (Pr 1:1-6), laid the foundation of wisdom in the fear of the Lord (Pr 1:7), and identified the importance of young men obeying their parents (Pr 1:8-9). He went on to warn against companionship with wicked men (Pr 1:10-19), and he described the terrible consequences of rejecting offered wisdom (Pr 1:20-33). Here in the first chapter of the book are the foundation stones for success in life.
Wise parental instruction is essential for a young man’s success. Without it, he enters the world as an ignorant infant, and he makes little progress beyond that without parental experience and wisdom poured into his heart and mind. He never truly grows up! He remains deformed and stunted in proportion to the neglect of his parents. He responds to life in most cases like a spoiled child. Character is formed in childhood and youth (Pr 19:18; 22:6,15). Woe to the young man with foolish, lazy, or wicked parents.
A young man learns the important things in life by watching and obeying a godly father. He learns to balance authority and affection, maximize a marriage, obtain professional success, lead a home, respect authority, manage money, avoid whores and drunkenness, walk with God, pray, apply the Bible, and forgive others’ offences. Without this training, he lacks graciousness, humility, perseverance, mercy, and ruling his spirit and tongue. He never achieves the princely grace and glory of a man with the approval of God and men.
What are the lessons this far? A young man’s success depends on the wise instruction of godly parents. Parents have an obligation from God to train their children in the fear of the Lord (Pr 23:13-14; 29:15; Deut 6:4-7; Eph 6:4). And children are bound to repay their parents for that great kindness and service shown to them when helpless (I Tim 5:4).
But wise parental instruction is only half of the equation. A young man must obey the rules and warnings of his parents in order to benefit from their efforts. A foolish and stubborn child is doomed to failure and misery. The only way he can grow and prosper before God and men is to take his parents’ advice to heart and obey it in his life (Pr 3:1-2; 4:10-13,20-22; 5:1-2; 6:20-24; 7:1-5; 23:19-23; Eph 6:1-3). The goal of being a prince before God and men is only achieved by careful obedience to good parents.
Father! Do you train your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, like David, Abraham, and others (Pr 4:3-4; Gen 18:19; Ps 34:11; 78:1-8; Ep 6:4)? The consequences of neglecting your children, no matter the excuse, will cause problems for generations.
Young man! Are you obeying what your parents have taught you? Do you humbly accept instruction, even when it differs from this perverse world (Pr 15:31; Deut 4:5-10)? Are you strong and focused enough to defy peer pressure and sinful influences (I Cor 15:33)?
Older man! If you had great parents that taught you the fear of the Lord, honor them, and thank God for them. If you did not have such parents, then you must beg God for help and put forth greater effort to learn the valuable things you were not taught in childhood.
The ultimate crown and chains of glory are reserved in heaven for those who endure temptation and pursue a life of righteousness as defined by Jesus Christ and His apostles (I Cor 9:25; II Tim 4:8; Jas 1:12; I Pet 5:4; Rev 2:10). A prince in heaven is infinitely superior to one on earth. Look well to your going. Do not miss your reward (II John 1:8).