Teach me, O Lord , the way of thy statutes; and I shall keep it unto the end. Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart. Make me to go in the path of thy commandments; for therein do I delight. – Psalm 119:33-35
There is a very old story told by the ancient historian Herodotus of an experiment conducted by Psamtik I, pharaoh of Egypt, in the seventh century BC. Psamtik I allegedly ordered a shepherd to take two children and provide them with only basic necessities. No one was to speak with the children whatsoever for the pharaoh wished to learn what language the children would speak if uneducated.
The story goes that the children only ever spoke a single word that was (probably coincidentally) understood as the Phrygian word for “bread.” Other similar experiments by tyrants and other with few limitations in centuries past have yields similar results. In the end, depravation of instruction and discipline led to extreme retarding of potential and even psychosis.
Some have concluded from these and other studies that children are fully the product of their environment. However, this extreme point of view overlooks some rather obvious and easily observable facts. Almost from birth different children demonstrate specific and individual traits.
Immediately after birth we show our tempermental or mild nature amazing our parents. From that point we need training. We are born with potential, but potential must be nurtured. As Scriptures say, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).
Along these same lines, one of the most instructive passages in the Bible is Psalm 11:33-35. In these few words, the writer outlines the desire for the Lord’s guidance while stating very clearly our dependence upon him for the very thing we yearn for from Him. Only if God teaches us, gives us understanding and finally makes us go in the direction He teaches and gives us will we obey. We are dependent upon Him for the will and not just the way.
Without proper training every child will disobey. Even with training, we must lovingly and mercifully correct wrong behavior, because “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him” (Proverbs 22:15). We are born self-centered to the point of illogical and unreasonable self destructive behavior. Just watch an undisciplined child, and you will see.
While correction is not limited to corporal punishment, we must be taught or disciplined from the very beginning. This is the yearning of the psalmist. “Teach me, O Lord”… “Give me understanding”… “Make me to go in the path of thy commandments; for therein do I delight” (Psalm 119:33-35). If we follow Jesus, then let us humble ourselves to be disciplined to discipleship.