We’ve now arrived at the third major part
of the Old Testament Scriptures —the Writings.
Proverbs 8:1-36 ESV
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.
In this study of the whole Bible, we are listening to God tell the story of his glory in Jesus Christ through salvation and judgment. Everything we read is based on the history of redemption that God purposed to accomplish to rescue his chosen people from their sins to show them the riches of his mercy. Yet it seems difficult to many students of the word to discern how “wisdom books” fit into God’s story. Part of the problem is that many are taught to view the Bible in the narrow confines of a theological system, and they tend to handle all Biblical passages without significant attention to their proper place in God’s plan of salvation achieved in history. And so the wisdom books are shuffled off to their supposed place in ethics or pastoral theology or wherever. (Another part of the problem is the wrong idea that Biblical wisdom grew out of the soil of other ancient wisdom, but that is so contrary to Biblical teaching like 2 Tm 3:16-17 that we do not need to go into it for our purposes.) What I want to show is that books like Proverbs, Job, and Ecclesiastes are connected to the true story that God is telling. To this end, we need to know that the Latter Prophets and the Writings provide commentary on the storyline in their own ways. Often both comment on the way of life of God’s covenant people and their interactions with the world. Today, we want to think about the contribution that Proverbs makes to that commentary.
Structure of Proverbs – like the Psalms, some unknown editor put the book together in the following way; different people, beginning with Solomon, speak about wisdom as God has revealed what wisdom is
- The purpose of the book (1:1-7)
- The basic idea of the superiority of the way of wisdom (1:8-9:18)
- The proverbs of Solomon (10:1-22:16)
- The thirty sayings of the wise (22:17-24:22)
- Additional sayings of the wise (24:23-34)
- Hezekiah’s collection of Solomon’s proverbs (25:1-29:27)
- The sayings of Agur (30:1-33)
- The sayings of King Lemuel (31:1-9)
- A presentation of womanly excellence (31:10-31)
Ideas and features of Proverbs
- Solomon, the main writer, speaks as a father to his son; so then, wisdom in this book is not conveyed in an academic or theoretical way, but it is personal and relational
- Wisdom is taught in relation to God; God is the starting point of wisdom; the wise person looks at life understanding God’s absolute value and significance to every part of life
- We hear about different character types, like the wise, the fool, and the simple. The wise person lives according to instruction from Yahweh, the fool rejects it, and the simple is called to listen and live; the core verses are 1:7 and 9:10
- In the Torah, especially Deuteronomy, the Lord set forth the way of life for his old covenant people; Proverbs amplifies the instruction of the Torah and explains this is the way of wisdom; for example, the Torah requires sexual morality, but the Proverbs sets forth how to live a sexually moral life in the context of marriage (Prov 5:1-23; 6:20-7:27)
- The first part of the book (chapters 1-9) has a series of poems that urge the listener to reject foolishness and to pursue the way of wisdom; most of the rest of the book is made up of short, concise, memorable statements of two or three lines that teach what wisdom or folly is
- The Proverbs make specific statements about life to show what wisdom or foolishness looks like in a life; consider four examples (12:9, 16, 18, 23)
- The Proverbs set forth the consequences of wisdom and foolishness (13:4, 10, 13, 15, 20)
A five part poem that personifies wisdom; personification is a literary device that gives an abstract idea personal form to get the concept across powerfully
I. The call of wisdom (8:1-5)
A.It is missional in nature
1.Wisdom is vocal. She calls out, raises her voice, and calls aloud to be heard. God seeks the attention of people through his word.
2.Wisdom is outgoing. She goes to where people are; it doesn’t expect people to seek her out; she goes looking for people.
B.It is inclusive in nature
1.She gives a general invitation—to all mankind. Human wisdom likes to flatter itself with giving its secrets to the intellectual or the seeker willing to pay the price. God puts wisdom where all can gain access to it.
2.She offers herself to those in need, regardless of whether they are simple or fools. God doesn’t expect some kind of preparation on the part of the needy. They need only to listen to wisdom’s cry.
Point: Spread the wisdom and knowledge of God everywhere to everyone. Wise people act in conformity with wisdom.
II. The godliness of wisdom (8:6-13)
A.True wisdom has the qualities of moral rightness.
1.It presents what is worthy (cf. Ph 4:8). Here is something of real value to invest one’s life in doing.
2.It teaches what is true. Myths, tall tales, and lies are detested; simple, factual accounts are prized.
3.It conforms to what is holy—set apart for God and his glory. Therefore, there is no wickedness, crookedness or perversity. For this reason wisdom talks about contentment (16:5), honesty in financial transactions (16:11), kindness to the needy (19:17), keeping personal confidences (20:19), and humility (21:4).
Point: God wants our way of life to show his glory.
B.True wisdom is very valuable.
1.It is to be preferred above material wealth. This is the emphasis of true spirituality that Jesus always made (Mt 6:19-21; etc.)
2.It strongly rejects all evil, pride, and perverse speech (cf. Js 3:17).
III. The benefits of wisdom (8:14-21)
It is too easy for many people to go wrong at this point. The Proverbs were written within the context of the law (old covenant). It was a physical covenant to regulate the way of life of a physical people, and with it came physical promises that God would bless or curse them physically according to their obedience or disobedience (cf. Lev 26; Deut 28). It is a very serious mistake to assume that you can apply these promises to yourself during the new covenant age of the Spirit. Failure to recognize the change in covenants can set a person up for situations in which they might shipwreck their faith.
A.The benefit of power – It enables human leaders to govern for the benefit of those they rule over; it can point out what sacrifices have to be made for the good of all.
B.The benefit of prosperity – It pursues the blessings that God promised to those with obedient faith. It trusts God that doing what is right rather than crooked will be rewarded by the Lord. Notice the need for a heart for God rather than seeking sinful shortcuts.
IV. The creation from wisdom (8:22-31)
Here we discover that this personification of wisdom is pointing to someone greater. The language used here finds its fulfillment in the Lord Jesus Christ.
A.The picture in this poem – Wisdom was with the Lord during the creation.
1.Wisdom was before the creation (8:22-25). The NIV follows an unhappy explanation of the Hebrew words. The ESV is much better here. Wisdom comes from God, set forth through the metaphor of birth. God possessed wisdom in the way he created all things.
2.Wisdom was active in the creation (8:26-31). In every “let there be” of Genesis one, wisdom was there. Order, beauty, skill, and pleasure defined everything that came from the word of the Lord. Wisdom experienced delight in mankind. All was very good (Gen 1:31).
B.The reality of the New Testament Scriptures
1.Christ the Son of God is the One through whom and for whom all things were created (Jn 1:1-3; Col 1:15-17; Heb 1:3, 10).
2.Christ is the wisdom of God (1 Cor 1:24, 30; Col 2:3).
Point: The only way to gain God’s wisdom is in the Lord Jesus Christ.
V. The appeal of wisdom (8:32-36)
Personified wisdom closes its call by presenting two consequences. Though people live in denial of reality, in God’s universe there are significant consequences for pursuing either wisdom or foolishness.
A.The consequence of wisdom – Those who seek wisdom find true happiness.
1.Notice the necessity of constant personal application. We must listen. We must watch daily where wisdom can be found. We must wait there. Be in the word everyday.
Apply: Here is where the L of our acrostic BLESS happens. We must listen to God.
2.Notice the reward: life and favor from the Lord. In the new covenant we have the spiritual fulfillment.
B.The consequence of foolishness
1.It brings personal harm. It will wreak havoc in your life.
2.It ends in death. The wages of sin is death (Rm 6:23), meaning eternal punishment. People, even in Christian circles, dislike this unpleasant truth, but this in reality in which everything but the pursuit of God’s glory through Christ leads to personal destruction forever.
Apply: You can make your choices, but you cannot choose the consequences of your choices. God does.
Ideas to transform our lives:
- Spread the wisdom and knowledge of God everywhere to everyone
- God wants our way of life to show his glory
- The only way to gain God’s wisdom is in the Lord Jesus Christ
- God, not you, chooses the consequences of your choices
Pastor Dave Frampton
The faithful and spiritually profitable labors of Dave Frampton are featured here at CMC. As a Bible teacher he excels. Teacher and student alike will profit much from his labor in God’s Word. Visit Newtown Square Baptist Church.