Reid Ferguson

Proverbs 8

 

Probers for Living

Series: Digging Deeper into Proverbs

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1 Does not wisdom call?
Does not understanding raise her voice?
2 On the heights beside the way,
at the crossroads she takes her stand;
3 beside the gates in front of the town,
at the entrance of the portals she cries aloud:
4 “To you, O men, I call,
and my cry is to the children of man.
5 O simple ones, learn prudence;
O fools, learn sense.
6 Hear, for I will speak noble things,
and from my lips will come what is right,
7 for my mouth will utter truth;
wickedness is an abomination to my lips.
8 All the words of my mouth are righteous;
there is nothing twisted or crooked in them.
9 They are all straight to him who understands,
and right to those who find knowledge.
10 Take my instruction instead of silver,
and knowledge rather than choice gold,
11 for wisdom is better than jewels,
and all that you may desire cannot compare with her.
12 “I, wisdom, dwell with prudence,
and I find knowledge and discretion.
13 The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil.
Pride and arrogance and the way of evil
and perverted speech I hate.
14 I have counsel and sound wisdom;
I have insight; I have strength.
15 By me kings reign,
and rulers decree what is just;
16 by me princes rule,
and nobles, all who govern justly.
17 I love those who love me,
and those who seek me diligently find me.
18 Riches and honor are with me,
enduring wealth and righteousness.
19 My fruit is better than gold, even fine gold,
and my yield than choice silver.
20 I walk in the way of righteousness,
in the paths of justice,
21 granting an inheritance to those who love me,
and filling their treasuries.
22 “The Lord possessed me at the beginning of his work,
the first of his acts of old.
23 Ages ago I was set up,
at the first, before the beginning of the earth.
24 When there were no depths I was brought forth,
when there were no springs abounding with water.
25 Before the mountains had been shaped,
before the hills, I was brought forth,
26 before he had made the earth with its fields,
or the first of the dust of the world.
27 When he established the heavens, I was there;
when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,
28 when he made firm the skies above,
when he established the fountains of the deep,
29 when he assigned to the sea its limit,
so that the waters might not transgress his command,
when he marked out the foundations of the earth,
30 then I was beside him, like a master workman,
and I was daily his delight,
rejoicing before him always,
31 rejoicing in his inhabited world
and delighting in the children of man.
32 “And now, O sons, listen to me:
blessed are those who keep my ways.
33 Hear instruction and be wise,
and do not neglect it.
34 Blessed is the one who listens to me,
watching daily at my gates,
waiting beside my doors.
35 For whoever finds me finds life
and obtains favor from the Lord,
36 but he who fails to find me injures himself;
all who hate me love death.

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 Solomon: Speech is more than just communicating facts by audible sounds

Proverbs 8:1–9 Does not wisdom call? Does not understanding raise her voice? 2 On the heights beside the way, at the crossroads she takes her stand; 3 beside the gates in front of the town, at the entrance of the portals she cries aloud: 4 “To you, O men, I call, and my cry is to the children of man. 5 O simple ones, learn prudence; O fools, learn sense. 6 Hear, for I will speak noble things, and from my lips will come what is right, 7 for my mouth will utter truth; wickedness is an abomination to my lips. 8 All the words of my mouth are righteous; there is nothing twisted or crooked in them. 9 They are all straight to him who understands, and right to those who find knowledge.

 

Speech is more than just communicating facts by audible sounds. When we speak, with what tone and in what way, under what circumstances also communicate – beyond the mere words themselves. The tone of the voice often says volumes more than the words alone. This of course does not mean that the words are not important – but rather that communication is a complete package. So it is Wisdom lets us know that Her speech is ennobling speech, rather than caustic and degrading. That She speaks what is right, and does not lead astray. That She utters truth – and that She does not engage in what is wicked itself, nor encourages wickedness. That Her words are not crooked or misleading. And one would have to tie that to Her tone and Her timing as well. All aspects of Her speech hang together – they coincide to give one, non-contradictory message. She has the best interest of Her hearers at heart, and that comes through loud and clear. She is not saying “I love you” through clenched teeth.

It is so with us?

In re-reading this portion, I was struck with the remembrance of another powerful “speech” passage. It is found in Mark 15 – at the trial of Jesus before the Council. There we read of Peter;

 Mark 14:66–72 “And as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came, 67 and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with the Nazarene, Jesus.” 68 But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you mean.” And he went out into the gateway and the rooster crowed. 69 And the servant girl saw him and began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” 70 But again he denied it. And after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” 71 But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.” 72 And immediately the rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept.” 

This passage is not meant as a polemic against foul language per se. Yet it is instructive in that regard. Instructive of wise speech.

What is the mechanism by which Peter wishes to demonstrate to those accusing him of belonging to Jesus that he is not? Cursing and swearing.

It would appear that this mode of language is one of the most identifiable traits of those in the world – of those who are not Christ’s. At least it was so in Jesus’ day and culture. But I wonder if it is not also true today? And I wonder if we take note of how easily we pick up the distinguishing marks of those outside of Christ in the adoption of words and phrases that link us more readily with the world, than with Him.

The language of Jesus is blessing, not cursing – even in reprimand and rebuke. It is speaking the truth, not lying. It is in affirming Gospel realities, not seeking to dodge discovery of Christ. It is ennobling, not crude.

More than the tag line so common again today of “what say you?” ought to be – “how say you?” Does your speech betray the reality of one bought by the blood of the Lamb and redeemed from the trench of lostness? Or does it pass easily as the same as the world around us? Are we full of cursing, invective, vitriol and denial? Of gutter language, or that from the streets of Heaven – full of blessing, honoring, love and affirmation of Christ?

What tell-tale signs have crept into our daily vocabulary – that prove we are identifying more with the world than Christ? What words and phrases in ordinary conversation would never pass our lips in the pulpit, but find little restraint when outside of the Church context? And are we not duplicitous in this regard? It is something to consider.

As the Psalmist prayed: May the words of my mouth – as well as the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight.

Lord, let it always be so with me.

~ Reid

Next week: Chapter Nine

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Reid Ferguson

Reid serves as the pastor for preaching and vision at Evangelical Church of Fairport in Fairport New York. A native of Rochester, N.Y., he has served in various ministry areas during his life, including: a founding member of the former Mark IV Quartet, Youth Pastor at ECF, former board member of the Fellowship of Independent Reformed Evangelicals (F.I.R.E.), and author of The Little Book of Things You Should Know About Ministry (Christian Focus Publications, 2002). Pastor Reid blogs regularly at Responsive Reiding.

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