This sermon was preached at Peace Hill Christian Fellowship on July 25th, 2004. There is no audio available for this sermon.
PROVERBS 9 — ANTICIPATING WISDOM’S FEAST
FIND ENJOYMENT IN THE FEAST OF WISDOM.
We have come to the last “Wisdom Hymn” in Proverbs. This hymn both restates the main idea of the Wisdom Hymns preceding it, and prepares us for the main text of the wisdom teaching in the book of Proverbs. The passage is tightly structured – showing us 7 ways in which Wisdom prepares her feast – 7 statements made by wisdom – and then the contrast of Folly’s call – which is a poor reflection of Wisdom’s call.
As we look at this picture of Wisdom’s Feast we are being given a picture of celebration and enjoyment, intended to capture our imagination. Wisdom is not, here, calling us to follow, or to do – but simply to sit down to a meal – a feast – and enjoy ourselves. Why? Because if we are going to hold onto Wisdom, we must come to value and love Wisdom – to enjoy it – to see it not so much as a great effort to be good – but to see it as a way of resting in and enjoying life. We are not being called to “doing”, but to appreciation of the goodness and pleasantness of wisdom. The features of Wisdom’s feast make this clear.
We Long for Stability: “Wisdom has built her house; she has hewn out its seven pillars.” The first two images of the beautiful house built by wisdom, with seven pillars, are pictures of the strength and stability of a life of wisdom. The life wisdom offers is a life of stability and enjoyment, in a large – high ceilinged, airy house – the kind you might stay at on vacation. It is a place to be at rest and at peace, and Wisdom invites us, as friends, to stay in this house and rest, enjoying her hospitality.
Clearly, wisdom is being offered, here, as a life, not of drudgery, but of rest and enjoyable security.
We Long for Fulfillment: “She has prepared her meat and mixed her wine; she has also set her table.” The next two images of prepared meat and mixed wine, are pictures of fulfillment and joy. These are the central images of the feast. The life of wisdom is like a feast – fulfilling and joyful. The image is meant to convey the idea, not only of food, but of a gathering of friends, enjoying a meal and conversation.
Wisdom has laid a table of good food and excellent wine for us – to give us what we long for – a life that is fulfilled and joyful.
We Long for Recognition and Belonging: “She has sent out her maids, and she calls from the highest point of the city…” The next two images of the maids going out with invitations, and the call of Wisdom, are images of invitation to come and be part of this celebration. Wisdom wants us – like favored guests – to come and eat at her table. Wisdom wants to serve us food, and she is calling out longingly to us. There is a place where we can belong – where we can be recognized as friends – where we can be known, enjoyed and loved. This place is in the house of Wisdom.
RECOGNIZE THE EMPTINESS OF FOLLY’S OFFER.
Everything about Folly’s Offer – which is at the end of Ch.9 as a direct contrast to Wisdom’s Feast, is a mockery of Wisdom’s Call to enjoyment. First, note that Folly is also a woman – but she is loud, undisciplined and without knowledge. She is the opposite extreme of Wisdom.
What is even more telling, however is the offer she gives – using the same words that Wisdom used (vs.4&16), “Let all who are simple come in here! She says to those who lack judgment.” But whereas Wisdom has prepared a feast – Folly has no food to offer. She plans on stealing food, eating it in secret – rather than in the beautiful house around the table – because it must be concealed.
The life of foolishness – the offer of Folly – is empty – although it calls to us as though it had the same rewards of Wisdom. It promises to be fulfilling, but it is not – no food is prepared. It promises excitement – the sweetness of stolen food – but it delivers shame – hiding while you eat.
If we are to look at and appreciate the beauty and joyfulness of the picture of Wisdom, we are also, in contrast to see the emptiness and the lie of Folly.
DO NOT THROW AWAY WISDOM’S OFFER.
The seventh feature or image of Wisdom’s Feast is her speech, made to those who have come to sit around her table. She speaks to them as friends, encouraging them to fully enjoy the feast she has set out.
She Invites Us to Live: “Come, eat my food, and drink the wine I have mixed. Leave your simple ways and you will live; walk in the way of understanding.”
The first two statements are not specific commands to do anything – but rather invitations to enjoy. Living with understanding is a feast – it is enjoyable and fulfilling. Wisdom calls to us who live like beggars – trying to find scraps of food in the alleyways. We are foolishly content with scraps – this is the true meaning of what it is to be “simple”, to be thoughtless. The simple never truly know the joys of life – like children who would trade a feast for a piece of bubble gum – the simple ignore the lasting, solid, restful, enjoyable benefits of wisdom, trading them for the temporary, insubstantial, lure of excitement, which never turns out to be what it promises.
Anyone with understanding can see the emptiness of this lure, but those who have not tasted Wisdom’s Feast cannot see their own emptiness.
She Warns Us Against a Mocking Heart: “Whoever corrects a mocker invites insult; whoever rebukes a wicked man incurs abuse Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you; rebuke a wise man and he will love you. Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning.”
The next three statements contrast the responses of mocking and wisdom. After the joyful, enticing images of Wisdom’s Feast, it is hard to imagine anyone responding to such an offer with scorn, hatred and abuse. The intent is that we should recognize, with sorrow and amazement, the true nature of what it means to mock wisdom.
In this context, Mockery is a rejection of Wisdom’s Feast – a response of scorn to Wisdom’s invitation. Those who mock, be-little or make fun of the idea that Wisdom is a feast – they reject the idea that Wisdom leads to enjoyment, peace, fulfillment and stability. Instead, the mocker calls the way of Wisdom unpleasant, a way of drudgery. The mocker hates Wisdom and responds to correction with insulting words. Rebuke angers a mocker to the point of abuse.
Wisdom exposes what is at the heart of mockery by contrasting the mocker to the wise man – who responds with love rather than hate. The wise man wants to please God – and therefore, correction is a blessing because it helps him on his way. But the mocker seeks to please himself, and so correction is a burden.
Wisdom says these things, not as accusations, but as warnings to friends at her table – that we should beware of having an evil and unbelieving heart – a heart that serves self-interest rather than seeking to please God. That we should guard our hearts.
She Shows Us How to be Wise: “The Fear of the Lord is the Beginning of Wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is Understanding. If you are wise, your wisdom will reward you; if you are a mocker, you alone will suffer.”
The final two statements restate the theme statement of Proverbs. Those who want to enjoy the feast of Wisdom should remember again that the foundational truth on which all wisdom is built is fear/awe/reverence for God. This, ultimately, is what we are to feed on with all our hearts. The Feast of Wisdom is an images – a metaphor – showing us that, if we will fear, reverence and love God, he will give us the blessings of peaceful stability, joyful fulfillment and belonging.
Mockers, on the other hand, who make fun of Wisdom, and who by doing so think that they are tearing Wisdom down, only do damage to their own lives. Rejecting Wisdom, they are left with the empty promises of folly.
THE RENEWAL OF WISDOM’S FEAST.
In the NT, Christ picks up this image of the Feast and re-focuses it, making it his own Feast. In Christ, the images of peaceful stability, joyful fulfillment and belonging are given even greater meaning…
- Wisdom promises us the peace and stability of a wise life. Christ’s feast fulfills this idea, expanding the idea of peace to include the peace and stability of the forgiveness of sins.
- Wisdom promises us the fulfillment of life the way that God Created it to be lived. Christ’s feast goes beyond this promise to the promise of new life for believers and reminds us of the promise of eternal life free from a fallen world.
- Wisdom promises us a sense of belonging and recognition by God. Christ’s feast we fulfills this promise, bringing believers together and making us brothers of Christ, and heirs of salvation.