In the previous post (Part 1), we discussed the first lesson of the book of Proverbs which was about “Resisting the enticement of sinners.” (Prov 1:8-33) Here we will see in part 2 of this same passage that we are to listen to an alternative voice instead, the voice of Lady Wisdom. Wisdom in the book of Proverbs is personified as a woman, an intriguing rhetorical device.
Life is full of competing voices, we hear from our friends, family members, coworkers, and the media as well as other sources. If we are mindless in our consumption of content (just scrolling our feeds, just flipping the channels, just watching the news, etc. and not being discerning), we will not be able to clearly hear Lady Wisdom speaking. How do we tune our ear to the voice of wisdom and turn all the other voices down? Proverbs 1:20 says,
“Out in the open wisdom calls aloud, she raises her voice in the public square; on top of the wall she cries out, at the city gate she makes her speech.” (Prov 1:20-21)
Wisdom is not silent. Wisdom is speaking and she is passionate, Lady wisdom “shouts, pleads, scolds, reasons, threatens, warns, and even laughs.” (a) Here in this speech, Lady Wisdom offers the negative side of her proclamations, compared with the positive side which will be relayed in her speech later in chapter 8. She continues,
“How long will you who are simple love your simple ways? How long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge.” (Prov 1:22)
The phrase “How long” posits that these audience members are not little boys. No, these are overgrown, gullible young men, who should have known better at this point. Commentator David Hubbard says her question implies chastisement, “It is not a true question by an implied statement. You have had long enough; you should have answered my call by now.” (b) She continues,
“Repent at my rebuke! Then I will pour out my thoughts to you, I will make known to you my teachings. But since you refuse to listen when I call and no one pays attention when I stretch out my hand, since you disregard all my advice, and do not accept my rebuke. (Prov 1:23-25)
She centers her rebuke around the word “Repent” (Literally in Hebrew “Turn!”), a common word used in the prophetic literature (see Hos 3:6). Up until this point, her audience has refused to listen to her rebuke or even pay attention to her. The phrase literally reads “none gives heed” and suggests a willful, conscious ignoring rather than just an inattentive use of the ears. The sad reality is the consequences for this will be dire. Since they did not listen to her, she will not listen to them! She continues,
“I in turn will laugh when disaster strikes you; I will mock when calamity overtakes you. when calamity overtakes you like a storm, when disaster sweeps over you like a whirlwind, when distress and trouble overwhelm you. Then they will call to me but I will not answer; they will look for me but will not find me.” (Prov 1:26-28)
Here we see vivid storm imagery, a devastating whirlwind that turns everything upside down in its path. The victory is so lopsided that there is a comic aspect to the reversal of fortunes, provoking mockery over the enemy. Waltke states, “Wisdom rejoices in turning the present upside-down world right-side up, when wisdom overturns folly, righteousness ousts wickedness, knowledge overcomes ignorance, humility topples pride, and life swallows up death.” (c)
When will they finally come to listen to Lady Wisdom? Only after the calamity comes. Then, suddenly their attitude of complacency turns to sheer terror. But, at that point Wisdom says, “No, Don’t come knocking on my door now. It’s too late.” We were indifferent to her, so she will be indifferent to us. Notice the contrast:
1:24 I call … you refuse to listen.
1:28 They will call … I will not answer.
The gullible did not respond to her, so she will not respond to them. She continues,
“Since they hated knowledge and did not choose to fear the Lord. Since they would not accept my advice and spurned my rebuke they will eat the fruit of their ways and be filled with the fruit of their schemes.” (Prov 1:29-31)
Note the finality here. When the threatened judgment falls, it will be too late to respond. Waltke states, “Wisdom’s saving voice is not at human disposal. It can be forfeited through prior rejection.” (d)
Wisdom refused to help, why? Because they ““spurned” her. They failed to appreciate her. She was undervalued. Their behavior was rooted in their unbelief of her good intentions (see Gen 3:4-5). Wisdom has no problem allowing them to suffer the consequences of their actions. This is the “fruit” of their behavior. It’s like the old saying “You are what you eat.” Their end is both final and certain. There is no second chance. She concludes with a word of hope for us. Here we see in v 32-33 a summary of the destinies of the foolish and the wise.
“For the waywardness of the simple will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them; but whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm.” (Prov 1:32-33)
Notice that word “complacency.” The idea here is a careless sense of ease. The wise person must be proactive. The world’s troubles will occur simply by doing nothing at all. Like weeds that grow in the garden, invasive difficulties come without provocation. Our lives require constant maintenance. Those who listen to wisdom will be safe (Hebrew “betah” means “to feel secure / unconcerned”). This first speech is the most threatening. This is a parting appeal to other rebellious young people who may hear and give up their alternative lifestyles and listen to wisdom instead.
What do we learn here? This first lesson of the prologue to Proverbs introduces two voices, first there is the enticement of sinners, the second voice is the wisdom of God (first given by the mother and father). There is no third voice or third way, we all must make a choice, a decision about who to listen to and accept that the consequences are serious either way. As a specific application for parents, we don’t help our kids by removing consequences from their lives. We teach our kids wisdom by offering “reality discipline,” we allow children to experience the real consequences for their actions. For example, if you don’t set your alarm, it’s not the parent’s job to make sure you’re on time. We let them be late. That’s reality. We teach them this when failure in our home occurs with a safety net. This prepares them for the real world.
For all of us, we can either choose to listen to the voice of Lady Wisdom or her rival thugs. The wise person must listen to the Voice of Wisdom before it is too late. We aren’t promised tomorrow. Opportunities pass. The problem with delaying obedience is we don’t know how long we have. There is hope, but it will not be available forever. We must listen to the voice of Wisdom as she cries out today.
Reject the Enticement of Sinners.
In the next post we will move to Proverbs chapter 2 and examine Lesson # 2.
The Ten Lessons of Wisdom:
- Lesson # 1: “Reject the Enticement of Sinners” (Prov 1:8-33) – Part 1
- Lesson # 1: “Reject the Enticement of Sinners” (Prov 1:8-33) Part 2
- Lesson # 2: “Diligently Seek Wisdom … and You Will Experience Her Protective Benefits.” (Prov 2:1-22)
- Lesson # 3: “Live before God with Consistency.” (Prov 3:1-12)
- Lesson # 4: “Wisdom is a Tree of Life.” (Prov 3:13-35)
- Lesson # 5: “Your Spiritual Inheritance Comes With a Price.” (Prov 4:1-9)
- Lesson # 6: “Choose the Way of Wisdom.” (Prov 4:10-19)
- Lesson # 7: “Guard your Heart!” (Prov 4:20-27)
- Lesson # 8: “Flee from Immorality!” (Prov 5:1-23)
- Lesson # 9: “Avoid three Kinds of Fools: “The Swindler,” “The Sluggard” and “The Sociopath.”” (Prov 6:1-19)
- Lesson # 10: “If You Play With Fire, You Will Get Burned.” (Prov 6:20-35)
- Conclusion: Two Invitations from Wisdom and Folly (Prov 7:1-9:18) – Part 1
- Conclusion: Two Invitations from Wisdom and Folly (Prov 7:1-9:18) – Part 2
- Conclusion: Two Invitations from Wisdom and Folly (Prov 7:1-9:18) – Part 3
(a) Bruce Waltke, The Book of Proverbs: Chapters 1-15 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005), 202.
(b) David Hubbard, Proverbs, The Preacher’s Commentary, Vol 15 (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1989), 56.
(c) Waltke, The Book of Proverbs, 207.
(d) Waltke, The Book of Proverbs, 210.