July 2nd, 2021 - Proverbs 5-9
Wisdom is personified in Proverbs and acts as God’s dynamic Word. In the New Testament, Jesus becomes the Wisdom and Word of God. When we look at chapter eight we see that the origin of wisdom is in God (22), from everlasting (23), and before all things (23-30). The teaching of wisdom is prudence (5, 12), understanding (5), excellent things (6), truth (7), hatred of wickedness (7), righteousness (8), knowledge (12), discretion (12), and fear of the Lord (13). And finally, the value of wisdom is found. Wisdom yields riches and honor (18). It is greater than silver and gold (19). The wise are blessed (32,34). The foolish love death (36). And while chapter 7 focused our attention on the fool and the traps that catch him, chapter 8 shifts to wisdom. It is a hymn of praise about how wonderful wisdom is. Wisdom addresses the simple but not the scorners. They had laughed at her message and turned away from the truth. Their hearts were too hard to hear.
Chapter eight begins with “Does not wisdom cry out”. Wisdom wants to reach everyone and therefore broadcasts her message publicly, unlike the immoral woman, who uses privacy and deception to achieve her goals. Wisdom’s words can be trusted and her offers of Grace are beneficial. Her words of truth contrast with the words and lies of the wicked. Wisdom will deliver on her promises and what she offers is of immeasurable worth…much more than any amount of silver or gold. Not even gemstones can compare with the worth of wisdom. Wisdom is not promising to put money in the bank for us. Instead she is urging us to seek eternal wealth by storing up things in heaven. Wisdom has better gifts to offer than perishable riches…blessings like prudence, knowledge, discretion, the fear of the Lord, humility, godly speech, wise counsel, understanding, guidance in life’s path, strength for the journey, and durable riches. A life that is enriched by God may be poor in this world’s goods, but it is rich in the things that matter most. The second part of this chapter begins with verse 12 and goes to verse 21. Once again we see that wisdom is tied directly to the fear of the Lord. And the offer of wisdom is held out only to those who fear God. Coming to wisdom requires coming to the Lord and coming to the Lord means turning away from all that God hates; evil, pride, arrogance, misbehavior, and perverse speech.
The third section of chapter eight describes wisdom’s role in creation. One of the lessons here is that the power and splendor of God, seen all around us in creation, are evidence of what God’s wisdom can do. And the same God who worked in the “old creation” wants to work in our lives in the “new creation”. Jesus Christ, who holds the universe together and causes it to fulfill His will, can hold our lives together and accomplish His purposes for His glory. When we belong to Jesus Christ and walk in His wisdom, all of creation works for us. If we rebel against His wisdom and will, things begin to work against us, as Jonah discovered when he tried to run from the Lord. The new King James Version of this proverb says “The Lord possessed me at the beginning of His way”. The Hebrew here for possessed can also mean brought forth, or created. Melchizedek used this same word to identify God as Creator of the universe in Genesis 14:19. God who is ever wise produced wisdom. God who possesses all knowledge brought forth knowledge. God’s wisdom has always existed. These verses provide part of the background for the New Testament portrayal of Christ as the divine Word, John 1:1-3, and as the wisdom of God. 1 Corinthians 1:24,30 and Colossians 2:3.
Wisdom speaks in verses 30,31. She was with the Lord, here called the master craftsman and it was with wisdom’s skill that God created the universe. And she delighted in God’s highest creation…humans. The last few verses, 32-36, is the epilogue of chapter 8. It calls everyone to listen once again. Wisdom offers blessing and life to those who need her, but cursing and death to those who hate her. Wisdom’s gracious invitation is more desirable than anything and an invitation to a blessed life. There is repetition here. Keep in mind that the majority of those who were introduced to scripture did not read. Therefore the most important things had to be repeated as they were read aloud so people would remember them.
Chapter 9 is the last contrast between wisdom and folly. Each of them holds a banquet, one for life (1-6) and one for death (13-18). In between the two banquet descriptions is a section that speaks of wisdom and the plight of folly. Wisdom has built her house and it has 7 pillars. The number 7 represents completeness. This does not necessarily mean there were seven actual pillars so much as that the house of wisdom was solidly built and substantial in character. The meal at wisdoms banquet includes meat and wine…a lovely table. Freshly butchered meat was a mark of a feast in Biblical times. Wine was a staple in ancient Israel but when a feast was special, a homemaker would add aromatic spices to the wine, enlivening the bouquet and improving the taste. This all sets up a contrast with the foolish woman. While wisdom is busy attending to every detail like a gracious hostess, the foolish woman sits at the entrance of her house with very little to do. Wisdom sends her trusted maidens throughout the city, inviting people to come and dine. Wisdom invites the simple meaning those who have not yet made up their minds about their course in life. But wisdom promises life. The person who comes to wisdom has nothing to lose but naïveté. Hebrews 5:14 speaks of a mature person as one who is able to eat and enjoy solid food, in contrast to the naïve who is only able to drink milk. Hebrews 5:13.
Scoffers or mockers are thoroughly set against wisdom and they scoff at the things of God. How are we to respond to these scoffers? It is best not to respond at all. By contrast a wise person accepts correction and responds with gratitude to the one who points out their error. A wise person always welcomes constructive criticism. Like personified wisdom, the foolish woman calls out an invitation. But she is brash, loud, undisciplined, and knows nothing. She cries out in the same words that wisdom has used but with a twist. She has no marvelous banquet for her guests, only shabby foods…stolen and meager. Though she gets a lot of attention, her appeal makes sense only to the one who lacks understanding.
Here is another way to look at this. As kids we used to says sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me. Proverbs provides another viewpoint. Words have the power of life and death (18:21). The words contained lies (14:5,25), arguments (26:17), insults (20:20), slander (10:18), gossip (11:13), rumors (18:8), flattery (7:21-22), and bragging (26:23, 21:2). All of these can be death dealing. Proverbs repeatedly emphasizes that foolish people speak foolish words. They are represented by the woman named folly who lies and deceives to harm her hearers. Words reflect the condition of the heart (16:23, 18:4). While some might conceal an evil heart by using pleasant words, a person’s true character will eventually surface (26:24-26). The words of fools not only harm others but these words also injure those who speak them. The tongue is full of wickedness that can ruin your whole life (James 3:6).
In contrast wise people speak the life giving words represented by Wisdom. (8:7-9). Wise people use their words sparingly (17:28), and are usually gentle (15:4, 16:24). A wise person knows the right time to speak (15:23, 25:11), and realizes that at times even harsh criticism is necessary (27:5). Proverbs wisely reminds its readers to pay close attention not only to what they say but also to how and when they say it.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W
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