proverbs-1

Exodus 25, Proverbs 1, Psalm 72

Today we’re reading Exodus 25, Proverbs 1, and Psalm 72.

This devotional is about Proverbs 1.

We live in the information age. Knowledge abounds and most people carry a device in their pocket or purse that can access it. Although knowledge is readily available, wisdom is rare. People in our society know more than ever but seem to have fewer and fewer basic life skills.

The word “wisdom,” biblically speaking, at least, refers to skill. It is the skill of living a successful life according to God’s definition of success. Although I said that wisdom is rare in our society, Proverbs 1:20-21 claims that wisdom is ubiquitous---nearly as common as oxygen. To demonstrate this, Solomon imagined wisdom as if it were a woman and wrote, “Out in the open wisdom calls aloud, she raises her voice in the public square; on top of the wall she cries out, at the city gate she makes her speech:”

If wisdom is everywhere then why is it so rare? The speech of “woman wisdom” in verse 23 tells us why: “Repent at my rebuke! Then I will pour out my thoughts to you....” Wisdom is rare because only the humble receive it. It takes humility to admit that you lack skills with God, with money, with other people, with the opposite sex, with career choices, with your own bad habit like laziness, etc. Most of us are too proud in one or more of the areas where we need wisdom which is why we continue to make foolish decisions.

As we read the book of Proverbs over the next 30 days, note how often the idea that your own ideas or understanding will lead you astray. That’s how our pride manifests itself. We try to figure everything out on our own, so we don’t ask God for wisdom, turn to his Word for wisdom, or seek the counsel of wise people. If we would only change our minds (v. 23: “repent”) and admit that we’re on the edge of big trouble most of the time, wisdom would be right there waiting to give us a great big kiss.

Sometimes we succeed or avoid danger / failure despite our lack of wisdom but very often our foolishness gets the better of us. But living in folly and making decisions without wisdom catches up with us most of the time. The reason is that there are built-in effects to the decisions we make. When we make wise decisions, good things happen; when we make foolish decisions, we suffer for it. Verses 25-27 promise that disaster and calamity will come to those who refuse wisdom’s rebuke. Verse 30-31 tell us that this disaster and calamity is embedded in folly; it is the direct consequences of unwise choices: “Since they would not accept my advice and spurned my rebuke, they will eat the fruit of their ways and be filled with the fruit of their schemes. For the waywardness of the simple will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them....”

Wisdom is a moral thing. That’s why it starts with fearing the Lord (v. 7). God’s commands are wisdom. When we sin, we choose folly and put ourselves directly in the path of a category 5 hurricane of disaster. But our sin nature fools us into believing that we know better than God and his Word; consequently, we humans make the same foolish decisions over and over, generation after generation, never learning from foolish disasters created by those older than us. We need God’s grace to overcome our foolishness so that we can be wise. This is what we have in Christ.

Is there anything in your life right now that you need to repent of? Any sins you’ve committed or have committed that you need to change your mind about? Wisdom is begging you to do it before calamity comes. Turn toward her open arms! God’s promise to you through her is, “whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm” (v. 33).

Proverbs 1:20-33

As we continue reading Proverbs on Saturday, today let’s read Proverbs 1:20-33.

This portion of Proverbs 1 compares wisdom to a woman. What does this analogy teach us about wisdom? For one thing, it takes on some pretty popular notions about wisdom. Many people conceive of wisdom as something that is confined to obscurity and difficult to obtain. We are told that wisdom is something the elderly have or that it is the prized possession of some guru living high on a mountain somewhere. But these verses tell us, “Out in the open wisdom calls aloud, she raises her voice in the public square; on top of the wall she cries out, at the city gate she makes her speech” (vv. 20-21). Wisdom isn’t hidden or obscure or difficult to obtain. She’s out there in the open and she is looking for you: “How long will you who are simple love your simple ways? How long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge?” Admittedly, she’s not all that nice about it. She calls us “simple” “mockers” and “fools,” but that’s why she’s rare--we’re too proud to admit who we are and what we need. The great jazz trumpeter and composer Wynton Marsalis once said, “The humble improve.” Have you ever tried to teach someone something but they’re too busy saying, “I know, I know, I know?” That’s what happens when I or you or anyone lacks the humility to learn and grow and become wise.

Ms. Wisdom calls us simpletons and fools to get our attention, to shock us out of our complacent attitude. That’s why she says, “Repent at my rebuke! Then I will pour out my thoughts to you, I will make known to you my teachings.” So wisdom is rare not because you have to wait until your old(er) to get it or because only the gurus have it, it is rare because although it is ubiquitous and trying to get our attention constantly, we do not have the humility to receive it.

This brings us to the second unconventional lesson about wisdom that this passage teaches which is that wisdom is not optional. Popular ideas about wisdom are that it is the best way to go, but not the only way to go in life. In other words, someone might say, “It’s not wise to go into debt to get a college education” but the implication is that it isn’t wrong to do so. We think of wisdom as a life-hack, a shortcut around commonly made mistakes. We think of it as shrewd, sage advice. Some of what is contained in the book of Proverbs may fit into that category, but mostly wisdom is moral. Wisdom does offer a pathway to a safer, happier life (see verse 33) but that’s because folly is a pathway to sin. True wisdom--biblical wisdom--the kind that wants to date you and marry you if you were smart enough to say yes when she asked you out flows from fearing God (verse 29).

If you walk with God, you will grow in wisdom. If you try to be wise without walking with God, believing and obeying his word, you might pick up some useful tips, but the sinful way of folly harm you in the end. Keep this in mind as we read the Proverbs together on Saturdays and ask God to give you a mind and heart that are ready to repent and receive his wisdom.

Proverbs 1:1-19

Today, read Proverbs 1:1-19.

Peer pressure is one of the strongest influencers of young people. Whether it is actual pressure from others to do what everyone else is doing or a desire to fit in and not stand out from everyone else, people who are transitioning from childhood to adulthood experience a strong desire to fit in.

As Solomon wrote Proverbs to share wisdom with his son (vv. 1-6, 8a), he wanted his son to understand how dangerous peer pressure is. His simple advice is, “just say no” (v. 10, 15) when they try to get you to join them in sin. They may make a compelling case that their sin will be fun or prosperous (vv. 11-14), but there will be severe consequences for those who follow the leader in these sins (vv. 17-19).

Since peer pressure is such a strong force, how does one develop the willpower to say no to it? Verse 7: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Do you reverence and worship the Lord? Do you believe his promise that you will reap what you sow? Do you understand that he sees all things perfectly and will call all of us to account for how we’ve lived our lives? Do you believe that his way will lead to blessing in the long term and that sin will lead to pain and destruction?

Because, the truth is, peer pressure works on us, too, as adults. We face temptations to live materialistically or to assent to the world’s thinking on moral issues or whatever. This is why we need to cultivate a daily walk with the Lord and be active in the local church. God uses these things to strengthen our fear of him so that we can withstand the temptations around us.