Graduation! What an exciting thought! Immediately we are aware that another important milestone in our growth has arrived. When I think back to my three graduations I remember mostly the mixed feelings of pride and accomplishment on the one hand, but also the feelings of regret that many of the activities and relationships I had grown to know and enjoy would be no more. You who graduate probably will experience some of these same feelings.
But there is much more to the significance of graduation than just these subjective thoughts. I hope that you graduates can see more in this than I did when I was your age. Oh yes, part of the significance is that the authorities in the school declare that you have successfully completed a prescribed course of study. This is reason for pride. Some of you had to work very hard to accomplish it. But of tremendous importance, too—and this is stressed especially in our own schools — is the fact that you as graduates have been instructed up to this point in the “Fear of the Lord”. From you, therefore, a measure of wisdom is expected. That Fear of the Lord in which you have been instructed is the foundation and the beginning of true Wisdom.
Read Proverbs 4 in this respect to find out the aim of all education. We are to “Get wisdom, get understanding…” and “…forget it not” (verse 5). We are instructed to love wisdom and not forsake it, in verse 6. In verse 7 Solomon says, “Wisdom is the principal thing: therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.” We are to have a “love affair” with Wisdom — a lasting one. We are not to let Wisdom go or forsake her. With Wisdom as our constant companion we are to walk, and thereby receive on our head an “ornament of grace” and a “crown of glory” (verse 9). We are instructed to keep her, for she is our life (verse 13).
To walk in the Fear of the Lord is to follow a particular path. Whether we continue our education, or take up a different calling in this life, we are to follow that way only with Wisdom. We are not to seek other lovers and companions. Listen to the Holy Spirit in verses 14 and 15: “Enter not into the paths of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men. Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away.” We have here the explicit warning that we are to walk in the right path, in the path lit up, according to Solomon, by a shining light that shines unto the perfect day. This is in direct contrast to groping in the dark ways without our companion, Wisdom. Solomon here is very sharp concerning this antithesis, as are many other places in Scripture regarding this same contrast. What a difficult calling! How can we ever heed it?
Beloved young people, thank God that Solomon answers this for us, too. He instructs us in verse 23 that we are to be diligent in this calling. Diligence isn’t something that we leave behind in the classroom or on the shelf somewhere. It is work, hard work. Read with me verses 23 – 27 and you will find the following. We are to speak the truth: we are to look straight ahead and not be turned aside by the “Sirens” of our present day. Perhaps we who are weak will have to put wax in our ears and be tied to the mast like Ulysses was, but we are not to turn aside to a way of destruction. We are to ponder our path, and we are to let our way be established, turning not to the right or to the left.
I have confidence, graduates, that you and I, too, can do this with God’s help. We know better; we have all been taught. But again, what a difficult task! We are, for example, to sell used cars or real estate and speak the truth always. If that is to be your vocation and you never thought that those jobs and truth went together, they had better now. Some of us, perhaps, will continue our education in a secular institution or one controlled by apostates. Protestant Reformed youth, turn not to the right or to the left, but walk in Wisdom and in the Fear of the Lord. Or perhaps, some of us may have the privilege of teaching children in the home or in the school. Let’s teach those children the right way to go. Let us pray that we may not be unfaithful to Wisdom, and by our errant and wicked way lead others to darkness. These are just a few of the implications we can take from this wonderful instruction in Proverbs 4.
In closing I say, “Congratulations, Graduates!” You have earned your diploma. But don’t forget that you have been given this strength from God, and from Him alone. Look to Him now and in the future for strength and guidance in your calling. Then, and only then, will you be blessed. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct thy paths.