This sermon was preached at Peace Hill Christian Fellowship on June 27th, 2004. There is no audio available for this sermon.
PROVERBS 8:1-20 — WISDOM IS WAITING TO BE FOUND
IT IS NEVER TOO LATE TO HEAR WISDOM’S CALL.
Wisdom Has Called Us Openly: “Does not wisdom call out? Does not understanding raise her voice?”
These rhetorical questions are a device used by the teacher to get us to make an admission: that wisdom has been crying out to us. If we are not wise – if we have not lived by wisdom – it is not because wisdom was hidden from us or hard to find. If we have lived foolishly and made foolish decisions, we did so while choosing to ignore wisdom, which was pulling on our arm demanding to be heard.
Wisdom Has Called Publicly: “On the heights along the way, where the paths meet, she takes her stand; beside the gates leading into the city, at the entrances she cries aloud”
Wisdom’s call has also been a public one: where the paths meet in the country and in the city gates (these are places in the country and in the city where people came together and conducted business and spoke about politics and had social interactions).
Wisdom has been calling out to us – not to be confined only to our personal decisions made in private – but wisdom has demanded that we practice her in our business practices, in our political thinking and involvement, in our social interactions with people. Wisdom, the fear of the Lord, should have been directing the way we do all of these things.
Wisdom is Still Calling Graciously: “…to you, O men, I call out; I raise my voice to all mankind. You who are simple, gain prudence; You who are foolish, gain understanding [an understanding heart]”.
We may wonder why there is suddenly another hymn to wisdom in Ch.8 – after we have already seen them in Chapters 1-4. This passage is not misplaced. It is set purposefully after the very confrontational Chapters 5-7.
Wisdom is not only for those who were able to get it right – to avoid falling into sin and foolishness (if so, then the calls to repent in Chapters 5-7 would be of little use). The Father recognizes that his audience would include those who had fallen into all kinds of foolish and harmful and willful sins.
Wisdom has been calling, but here the tone is different. It is the foolish and the simple who are being invited to receive the riches of wisdom. Thoughtful discretion/prudence is being offered to those who have been thoughtless (the simple) and an understanding heart that sees and loves as God sees and loves, to those who have been rebellious (the foolish) – in order to give hope – if only they will receive it.
TURN AND RESPOND TO WISDOM.
Listen to What is Noble, True and Just: “Listen, I have worthy things to say; I open my lips to speak what is right. (with integrity) My mouth speaks what is true. All the words of my mouth are just; none of them is crooked or perverse. To the discerning all of them are right…”
Turning and responding to wisdom begins with listening. We are deeply influenced by the counsel we take. The words that we listen to and give credence to, stay in our minds and go through our minds and shape the way we think and what we think about.
Wisdom has worthy [or noble] things to say – things worth hearing. To choose to be wise is to choose to listen to what is noble – rather than what is shameful. To be wise is to listen to what is right, to listen to those who have integrity and speak honestly. To be wise is to listen to what is just [straight talk that is healing]. To be wise means to be selective about what and who we listen to.
In other words, we need to pay attention to who we are listening to. Not just any words are worth letting into our minds. Not just anyone is worth listening to. Those who do not have integrity, who are not just, whose words are full of accusation and hatred, whose speech tears down and destroys others are not worth listening to. Those whose speech is polluted and perverse [twisted] or crooked [dishonest] are not worth listening to. To allow their speeches to remain in our minds and to be influenced by them is foolish.
Choose to Be Instructed by Wisdom in Discretion: “Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold, for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her. I wisdom, dwell together with prudence; I possess knowledge and discretion. To fear the Lord is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech.”
Turning and Responding to wisdom is also a matter of learning discretion. Discretion and Prudence, here, mean, a careful consideration of what pleases the Lord. There are three areas in which we are to practice discretion and prudence:
(1) In our attitudes – practicing humility, the careful consideration of our true state and place before God.
(2) In our behavior – carefully considering and doing what is right and pure.
(3) In our speech – careful consideration of the way we speak – using good words that are honest, healing and noble.
This is wisdom – fear of the Lord. It is not just a method of thinking and speaking better. To turn and respond to wisdom is to turn and see its worth. Wisdom is more valuable than anything we can desire. If we truly believe this we will use discretion. The call to turn and respond is to love wisdom, because we have seen how damaging, how destructive, how empty foolishness is – because we long to be wise. To turn and respond is to hate evil foolishness (along with wisdom). Those who hate arrogance will carefully consider how to live with humility. Those who hate evil behavior will learn to carefully consider what is right and pure. Those who hate perverse speech will carefully consider their speech.
RECEIVE THE GIFTS OF WISDOM.
Wisdom Will Give us Sound Judgment and Authority: “Counsel and sound judgment are mine; I have understanding and power. By me kings reign and rulers make laws that are just; By me princes govern, and all nobles who rule on earth.”
The fruit of careful humility, behavior and speech is wisdom – the ability to counsel and have sound judgment (to be able to look at difficult situations and give guidance). The basis of sound judgment is to be able to listen and separate good, healing and true words from those that are twisted and destructive, and to be able to carefully consider what is right and pure and pleasing to God.
Rulers who use sound judgment – who carefully consider what is good – who know how to listen to words that are just and reject words that are crooked – are able to govern well and make just laws. This is the same wisdom that we are being offered. It has an authority and power that go with it.
Wisdom Will Give Us a Successful Life: “With me are riches and honor, enduring wealth and prosperity. My fruit is better than fine gold; what I yield surpasses choice silver. I walk in the way of righteousness, along the paths of justice, bestowing wealth on those who love me and making their treasures full.”
Wisdom is not a way to “get rich quick”. However, a wise life is a rich life. Wisdom offers us something better than just money – a wealthy life. Everywhere people look for ways for their lives to fall into place. This is the great scramble: What is real success? Is it money? Is it accomplishments? Is it finding love? Is it just being true to yourself and finding happiness? What is a wealthy life?
Wise listening and wise behavior and humility lead to a life unpolluted by a damaged conscience, by petty hatreds and jealousies. Wisdom prevents us from running after every new product, or wealth, or illicit desires, all of which lead us into unstable, dangerous and empty ways of living. Wisdom leads to a life at peace.
WISDOM IS WAITING TO BE FOUND.
Seek Wisdom and You Will be Wise: “I love those who seek me, and those who seek me find me.” Vs. 17 sums up the entire passage – it is the key verse! Wisdom is still calling us. We are being called to turn and listen to what is wise – to turn and practice what is wise. Wisdom is calling to us and is waiting to be found by us. Wisdom wants to be found.
There are many strong condemnations of foolishness in this book of wisdom – but they are not meant to bring us to despair. God’s wise intent is to bring the foolish to repentance and to make them wise. What other purpose could there be for Wisdom to continue calling? Christ, the wisdom and riches of God, is waiting for us to come to him in repentance and to seek wisdom. If we will turn and seek to be wise, we will find that wisdom has been looking for us.
This sermon was preached at Peace Hill Christian Fellowship on July 18th, 2004. There is no audio available for this sermon.
PROVERBS 8:22-36 — DELIGHTING IN GOD
This passage is not a “teaching passage”. When we look at the 2nd part of Proverbs 8, it seems pretty clear that this poetry – at least most of it – is not seeking to teach, but rather to inspire. Verse 22 begins a hymn about Creation, and this morning, rather than teaching, I want to lead you, as we look at this hymn, into worship.
DELIGHT IN THE WISDOM OF CREATION.
Recognize the Imprint of God’s Wisdom in Creation with Delight and Reverence: “The Lord brought me forth as the first of his works, before his deeds of old; I was appointed from eternity, from the beginning before the world began, when there were no oceans, I was given birth, when there were no springs abounding with water; before the mountains were settled in place, before the hills, I was given birth, before he made the earth or its fields or any of the dust of the world.”
Before God created anything or designed anything, he appointed wisdom as his goal for mankind. Remember that, the beginning, or foundation of wisdom, is the fear/reverence/awe of the Lord. All that God created has the imprint of wisdom on it. Wisdom was there before Creation and God used it to create, in order to lead us to reverence for God. Creation is a gift that displays the invisible qualities of God and leads us – or should lead us – to a response of worship
God did not just thoughtlessly drop the oceans into place – God used wisdom. God decided to design the world carefully – as an expression of his care and concern and love for us. Before God took the mountain ranges and settled them into place around the world, he considered their effect on the climate – creating deserts and rich valleys – places where men could live. God himself consulted wisdom, made choices to create beauty and things that inspire us with their immense size and power, like oceans and mountains. God designed the world to grow food, to sustain life – plants to take in our carbon dioxide and give out oxygen that we need.
When we see the design or a leaf or the balance of the earth’s ecosystems, we are seeing God’s power to shape and create, his wisdom to make such things. Paul tells the Romans that, “God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made” (Rom.1:20). To study and understand these things is good – but as believers, we are to delight in the beauty and design of Creation – to enjoy it and to see God’s wisdom though it, to reverently worship God.
Listen to the Story of Creation with Awe: “I was there (1) when he set the heavens in place, (2) when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep, (3) when he established the clouds above (4) and fixed securely the fountains of the deep, (5) when he gave the sea its boundary so the waters would not overstep his command, and (6) when he marked out the foundations of the earth.”
These six great acts of God represent the six days of Creation. (the seventh day, the day of rest, is represented in the section of rejoicing). Each of them show the majesty and the power and wisdom of God – it’s a beautiful passage.
We retell events that we saw, and that were impressive. We may tell our kids about how we watched the U.S. Hockey Team defeat the Russians in the 1980 Olympics, or how we saw pictures when Mt. St. Helens erupted, or about how we were watching tv when the planes hit the World Trade Towers on 9/11. We are struck with the horror and the fascination or the glory or the beauty of such events.
But we have seen nothing like these six acts of Creation. The Lord marked out (Lit. drew a circle around) the horizon on the face of the deep. The horizon on the ocean is 12 miles at sea level – because of the curvature of the earth. In other words, this is when God sized the earth and shaped it. We cannot even imagine the forces and the wisdom which that called for – it is awesome, and powerful.
We are always looking for things to be impressed with – from the time we are young, we are impressed with superheroes, sports figures, art that is beautiful or amazing, stories that inspire us. But we have ceased to be impressed with God’s Creation. We argue with people about it. We may read books about Creation vs. Evolution – but we often miss the point of the Creation stories of Scripture – to see the goodness of God and, to worship and praise the God who has done these things. This poem of Creation is beautifully written – the images are majestic and powerful. When we read this passage, the blood should rush to our faces and the hair stand up on the back of our necks, and maybe we should even get on our knees and say that there is no one like God. We should be fascinated and delighted and assured that God is all powerful and all wise – able to hear and answer our prayers and wise enough to guide our lives.
FIND DELIGHT AND REST IN IMITATING THE WISDOM OF GOD.
Delight in God’s Wisdom in Creation: “Then I was the craftsman at his side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence, rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind.”
At this point we need to notice a couple of teaching points…
1. We who have the NT, should begin to notice something about wisdom – Wisdom, here looks a lot like Christ – the “only begotten Son of God, before all worlds” (Nicean Creed). Christ was the master craftsman of Creation – as John 1 says, “The Word” – and God Created everything using his Word, (e.g. “Let there be light”). Looking back at vs.22-26, we also see Wisdom speaking of itself as being “born” and “brought forth”.
2. As mentioned earlier – in the structure of the poetry – this delighting and rejoicing corresponds to the 7th day of Creation – where God rested.
What does all of this mean? It means we are being called here to A Rest of Delighting in God’s wisdom – and that this Delight is a direct Imitation of Christ. Wisdom tells us that she delighted in
1) The presence of God: And we see this in Christ, who rose early in the morning to go off and pray – not because he had to, but because it was his delight. People who are in love stay up late and get up early just so they can be together and talk – (do you remember when you were dating?). This is the attitude Jesus had towards the Father – he delighted in his presence.
We cannot delight in God or rejoice in his presence until we recognize and accept the love of God for us. Love is a strange thing – it has to be mutual. We love other people because they love us. We struggle to love and delight in God because we think he only puts up with us. Jesus understood and believed that God loved him completely – it is that love for Christ that has been given to us. To receive that love is to delight in God.
2) In His Whole World: Christ rejoiced in and enjoyed Creation. He made wine at the wedding in Cana so that there could be celebration and joy. He walked through fields and ate the grain – went fishing with his disciples.
Enjoying the mountains or the beach, or the woods, or a cool day – eating good food, rejoicing with a glass of wine – fishing, walking your dog, having a picnic – all of these, when they are done with delight and thankfulness to God – are a kind of rest we were meant to have. This kind of delight and rest is a way of imitating the life of Christ. Christ used the blessings of Creation and delighted and was restored by them – we imitate him when we delight and rest in them.
3) In Mankind: Christ enjoyed people. Christ ate with sinners, spent time talking with all kinds of people, took children up in his arms and blessed them, loved to show compassion to the sick.
Delighting in relationships, getting together to have fun, playing with our kids, working together, discussing ideas – all of these things are a kind of rest and enjoyment – a delight in other human beings whom God has made. When we delight in people, who are all so individual and unique because God made each of them as a reflection of His character and glory – we are imitating Christ. When our words and actions are healing and joyful and delightful, we imitate Christ.
ASK FOR THE GRACE TO DELIGHT IN GOD.
Watch and Wait: “Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway. For whoever finds me finds life and receives favor from the Lord.” This hymn of Wisdom closes with the image of one who is waiting and watching outside wisdom’s door – to catch a glimpse (like the crowds who hang around the homes of movie stars). We are being called to watch and wait for glimpses of God’s wisdom. To look, with wisdom at Creation and to delight in what we see.
Practically, we are being called to look at Creation with new eyes – to recognize the imprint of God’s wisdom – to delight and be inspired by the power of God. Is any of us capable of this unless God gives us the grace to see Creation with new eyes? We need to begin by asking God to show us His power and divine nature in Creation.
And then, we need to ask God for the grace to delight in His Creation. God wants us to delight in him! This is part of the blessing of salvation – to find delight in the presence and works of God – to find joy. To receive and live in the favor of the Lord.
This is wisdom, to delight in God and receive favor from the Lord. “But whoever fails to find me harms himself ; all who hate me love death.“ We are left with a choice, to find the wisdom to delight in God, or to do ourselves harm and live in death.