Proverbs Week 2: Wisdom personified
v1-6. A recapitulation of wisdom's evangelistic ministry in 1:20-22, calling out not to the righteous and wise but to the "you, O men...to all mankind...[to those] who are simple ... [and] foolish".
v7. "what is true... detest wickedness" - the moral aspects of wisdom. True wisdom is to do good and not evil, to work with God instead of against Him.
v8. "All the words ... are just; none of them is crooked" - echoes of the purity and truth of God's word ("And the words of the LORD are flawless, like silver refined in a furnace of clay, purified seven times." - Psalm 12:6)
Discussion question: How does verse 8 help us to remain steadfast in obeying God and doing good?
v9. "To the discerning...to those who have knowledge" - this is the fundamental problem of humanity. Because our hearts are hard, no matter how God speaks to us, we will not hear. It takes a wise man to appreciate knowledge; then how will fools like us ever give heed to it? The Lord must soften our hearts. We should not be afraid if we know that we are a fool, because that is the first step towards wisdom. If we know our foolishness then we should ask God, who gives wisdom generously "without finding fault" James 1:5
v10-11. If someone said, "there's a pile of gold hidden in this yard; if you can find it, it's yours", I would leap at the opportunity. It would be exciting. And when I found it, I would rejoice at all of the things I could do with it. Well, do we trust the Bible? If we do, then we wisdom is better than silver, gold, and rubies. I should be more eager to find wisdom in the Bible than finding millions of dollars of gold. Not because that would be "the right thing to feel", but because wisdom IS more precious than gold.
Discussion question: why don't we seek wisdom and knowledge of God eagerly?
v12-13. Until now, wisdom has seemed like a concept personified. But here, the author seems to be making even more interesting statements. Wisdom "dwells with prudence... possesses knowledge and discretion, hates pride and arrogance." Wisdom seems to be truly taking on a personal character. Again, when we envision a wise person, do we think of them as humble, good, and gentle as v. 13 seems to imply? I tend to confuse cleverness and intelligence with biblical wisdom. See James 3:13 "the humility that comes from wisdom".
v15-16. Wisdom is the basis for just rule. We'll come back to this later.
v17. On the one hand, this is a wonderful promise for those who seek and love God's wisdom (see Matthew 7:7). It is good to hear God's just promises to the righteous. And given God's many declarations of impartial justice, how can anyone sufficiently praise the same God who says "I was found by those who did not seek me. To a nation that did not call on my name, I said, 'Here am I, here am I" - Isaiah 65:1? The truths of God's justice magnify the riches of his grace.
v22-31. The NIV translation may be misleading at this point: "the first of his works". Compare the NASB "The Lord possessed me at the beginning of His way, before His works of old." The idea of "brought forth" would then be the sense of revealing or setting forth. It is unclear whether was intended by the author as description of Christ's role in creation, but certainly John was thinking of this passage in John 1:1-3
Discussion question: What implication does v22-31 have for science?
This passage is the Biblical basis for science. The Lord created the world with wisdom, that is with order and intelligence, as a "master workman" (v. 30, NASB). It is amazing to think about this statement in the context of the Biblical definition as well: that wisdom includes a moral component. In other words, the world was created to be good so that moral goodness fits into creation just as immorality goes against God's creation.
v31. "delighting in mankind" - we were intended to be a good and perfect part of God's creation and to bring Him not just satisfaction but joy. Christ took delight in creating us.
Discussion question: How does v. 31 encourage us when we are tempted to despair?
v34. "do not neglect it...listens...watching daily...waiting" We are encouraged to seek wisdom eagerly. If wisdom is more precious than rubies, this makes sense. Who wouldn't wait at the door of a jeweler who was giving out free merchandise?
Discussion question: What do we learn from the portraints of Wisdom and Folly in v. 1-18 about the qualities of wisdom and folly? About the consequences of choosing wisdom or folly?
1. Their houses - Wisdom's house is hewn out of seven pillars (it must be a large, expensive house), while we hear little of Lady Folly's house
2. Their food - Wisdom offers wine and meat v. 2,5 while Folly offers bread and water
3. Their servants - wisdom has servant girls, but folly has none
4. Their activity - Wisdom calls and sends, Folly sits
The imagery here is meant to show that wisdom is not merely "right", but desirable. Who would choose bread and water over a feast? Who would choose a mansion over a shack? Jesus seemed to be referring to this illustration in his parable of the great banquet (Lk. 14:15-23)
Yet both women sit at "the highest point in the city, calling out to those who pass by". It is interesting that wisdom seems to be again calling to the simple, and that folly is calling to "those who go straight on their way" which is a metaphor for those who are living righteously. God offers the gospel to sinners, while the devil tries to tempt the righteous.
v7-8. Compare Matthew 7:6 ("throwing your pearls to pigs"). We need to be wise about whether our advice will actually benefit the listener or only make things worse. Conversely, we should be ready to accept rebuke, instruction, and teaching like the wise man here. Again, what a contrast between wisdom and cleverness!
v10. True wisdom is to know the Lord.
v11-12. Again, the emphasis in proverbs is in the naturalness of God's justice. Wisdom by its nature leads to rewards, and follow by its nature leads to death. Of course, God does actively punish sin, but the emphasis here is on the way that sin leads inevitably to disintegration and suffering.
Discussion question: How and where did wisdom and folly "call out" before Christ? after Christ? How can we aid in wisdom's evangelism?