A STUDY OF WISE LIVING FROM THE BOOK OF PROVERBS
The Naïve need wisdom or they become scoffers
Proverbs 9 SCC 8/16/15
Chapter 9 begins with another general call to wisdom. The interesting thing here is that wisdom almost sounds like it is calling in a way similar to how the adulteress calls. Both wisdom and the adulteress come from everyday life. Both are established in their ways. Both call out to the naïve. So it is up to the naïve to choose which way he will go. Here wisdom and folly both make appeals to the simpletons—the ones who need to live by wisdom but who are most easily influenced by folly. Wisdom out of love offers life with no mention of pleasure—folly out of sensual list offers pleasure with no mention of death.
WISDOM IS ESSENTIAL FOR THE NAÏVE TO AVOID FOLLY 1-6
Wisdom prepares to invite the simple to follow 1-3
Verse 1: Previously wisdom chronicled her construction on a cosmic level 8:22-31. Now she portrays her activity amongst the humans in that creation. She does so with the imagery of a house prepared and pillars establishing it. This may convey the industriousness that accompanies wisdom at work in one’s life. It might also suggest that this image of such a grand house expresses the noble hostess who lives there—wisdom. The seven pillars indicating that wisdom is at home as one builds his or her life. That construction of one’s life produces a strong and virtuous life.
Verse 2: In this house—in this life being constructed upon wisdom—the figures of ‘food prepared’ and ‘mixed wine on the table’ represent the righteous and purposeful teaching of Wisdom—it will be both palatable and profitable. A life is being prepared to be lived with order and standards and the fare wisdom provides establishes that life with vigor.
Verse 3: With the scrumptious meal prepared—the teaching of wisdom—a gracious hostess sends her maidens to whoever is willing to hear. With the prepared banquet guests are invited. Wisdom then prepares to press her appeal to suitors. Come not just for a meal but for life. All of this imagery lets the simpleton know that what Wisdom has to offer is costly but marvelous. She is calling from the ‘heights of the city’ the elevated places where all can hear the invitation. Folly, too, will call from the ‘high places’ v 14. The competition is vigorous and the naïve are in the crosshairs. They are the targets.
Wisdom invites the simple to accept her invitation to follow 4-6
Verse 4: So the call is to the simple with two aspects of the appeal: 1) Wisdom calls to the gullible to turn—that is to avoid being hoodwinked and 2) She calls to the brainless—lacks understanding—to come and stop your foolishness. We surmise that those most needing her attention were invited as Wisdom’s guests. So all has been deliberately set for those desperately in need!
Verse 5-6: Carrying forward the figure of banqueting, the invitation is for these simpletons to eat the food and drink the wine—that is, appropriate the teaching of wisdom in your life. Indulge and gorge yourself of her delights v 5. Acceptance would essentially prompt the naïve to abandon his or hers simple ways v 6. That would require repenting—forsake—turning away from folly and disorder and turning to understanding. This is the only path to life and living.
NB: The naïve need this invitation because preoccupation with the good life insulates the simple from wisdom. This preoccupation delivers brokenness, destruction, and death. Wisdom beckons but the naïve must listen If they will benefit. Wisdom does not bust down the door to gain entrance but knocks incessantly knowing you need to hear and listen before it is too late.
ACCEPTING OR REJECTING WISDOM PRODUCES SIGNIFICANT CONSEQUENCES
A mocker is unteachable 7-8a
Here is a warning. Anyone trying to correct a mocker is asking for trouble v 7. You will get at least two things out of the confrontation: 1) dishonor meaning to be ridiculed and 2) insults meaning lashing out with verbal abuse v 7. Attempts to correct and reprove will be answered by cynical heckling. These are second nature to a scoffer. This is motivated by genuine hatred—spontaneous rejection v 8. Such scorn means one must abandon effort to correct anything no matter how much they need it. Unfortunately, the scoffer is confirmed in his or her scoffing. There is no insight—no discernment. The mocker hardens even more.
The wise embrace correction 8b-11
Verse 8b-9: What a contrast. First this person will love the one correcting him or her. Love is the idea of choosing and embracing the correction because they see the profit in it. Then this translates into more wisdom and increase in learning v 9. All of this reveals one who is teachable. To be ‘wise’ and ‘righteous’ is the essence of growth in godliness. If one is unable to receive instruction in the form of correction growth is stunted, defensiveness, and preoccupation with protecting oneself takes rather than gives life.
Verse 10-11: Here the theme of the ‘fear of the Lord’ is brought forward from 1:7. The point is that the foundation of all wisdom and all righteousness is the fear of the Lord v 10. It is recognizing the Lord who sustains life and provides wisdom. In the final analysis those who fear the Lord add to their learning in knowledge both from instruction and from correction. The outcome will be looking forward to a long and productive life v 11. The difference between a wise man and a scoffer is that the wise man fears God and desires the knowledge of God.
NB: The absence of the fear of God is manifested in those who are willing to ignore the commandments of God. Those uninterested in the knowledge of God are those uninterested in theology, ignoring the study of things like sin, sanctification, and prophesy. Those scoffers will not be available for instruction. Why not just disciple everybody: because most people aren’t interested in the fear of God or the knowledge of God. Has it ever occurred to you that many people do not wish to be discipled?
The wise and scoffer are rewarded 12
Verse 12: Here is the conclusion based on these responses: wisdom rewards the wise—they learn from rebuke, they add to their knowledge, and they prolong life. But mockery suffers alone. Not open to correction the mocker can expect to bear the consequences of mockery all alone. One’s scoffing will haunt him or her throughout life. It will produce an awful lot of trouble—James 3 the tongue.
NB: Jesus said, Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces (Matthew 7:6). A good application of this is in the area of evangelism and discipleship. To argue with a mocker is a waste of time. But discipleship of those who want to learn increases their learning, understanding, and wisdom. This was the pattern of ministry for Christ and the apostles. They would speak in places like synagogues, homes, wilderness areas, and the seashore. That would create both mockers and followers. After that, they spent very little time trying to convince the mockers but focused on the followers. It is not that they did not reprove, argue, or prove. It is that they did it with those open to understanding.
THE INVITATION OF FOLLY IS DELIBERATE, BOISTEROUS AND DEADLY 13-18
Folly gives a spirited invitation 13-15
Verse 13: Here is wisdoms rival pressing her appeal to the naïve. Her character is loud, undisciplined. Folly knows no limits. Riotous, rootless and restless she appeals to the ignorant who live like this or wish too. She is attractive but unruly.
Verse 14-15: Like wisdom, she sits in prominent places trying to elicit a response v 14. Folly tries to imitate wisdom—sitting where wisdom sits—attracting like wisdom does—so only the cautious, the discerning and not the curious will make the right choice. Folly may not be blatant in the beginning but one who listens to her will eventually be harmed too late to avoid it v 15. Her deportment is one of a prostitute—hard to turn down if you have no protection.
Folly invites one to death 16-18
Verse 16-17: This competing voice, albeit louder, boisterous and more appealing to one’s who ‘lack judgment and understanding’ likewise invites people to eat just like wisdom does v 16! Stolen water may not be sweeter than wine that wisdom offers but being ‘stolen’ like the ‘bread’ unjustly gained is delicious because the idea of getting away with something is appealing to the baser instincts v 17. Again, folly imitates wisdoms fare but cannot and will not deliver wisdoms benefits. Folly must hide and cover up in order to deceive about her intentions and outcomes. The naïve are sitting ducks.
Verse 18: The presentation is such that while presuming it brings life it only delivers death. Folly’s guests are startled at such a result. They could never have guessed it. They are ensnared. The point is a life of folly—devoid of wisdom—is undisciplined, immoral, riotous living that runs counter to God’s plan for one’s life and inevitably leads to death and the death dealing consequences of foolishness. Jesus later warns us to avoid this broad way that leads to destruction and follow instead the straight and narrow path v 15 of righteous wise living.
1. Wisdom and folly compete for influence in life throughout life. Wisdom is personified in the Word of God. Folly is personified in the wisdom of the world.
2. Folly can be hard to detect especially because foolishness looks wise when it supports one’s own conclusions. Instead of challenging our moral prejudices we want them to be verified. So we look for ways to support what we believe to already be true—God wants me to be happy or I need to have that or love is tolerance.
3. Wisdom is the only perspective that delivers what my soul really longs to have. The challenge is that wisdom will appeal to the long-term and eternal, while folly appeals to the short term and the temporal. It is between these two realms that choices are made I will be accountable for.