“Those who listen to me [Wisdom] will be secure and will live at ease, without dread of disaster.”
~Proverbs 1:33 (NRSV).
This is where Proverbs 1 gets really personal. At each juncture of our lives we are presented with the very same opportunities to invest with Wisdom—which in this section of Proverbs and other sections (for instance, Proverbs 8:22ff and 9:4-6) is personified as a woman. She graces life with a constant invitation.
Wisdom’s Eternal Warning
The Fear of the Lord was introduced earlier (1:7) and now we find out what stands to ‘collect’ us if we do not abide in this wisdom and go our simple, mocking and foolish ways. In any study of wisdom the rank opposite (folly) must also be discussed.
In Proverbs, therefore, we cannot get away from folly, fools and foolishness and simpletons, mockers and common fools characterise three discreet manifestations of foolishness—something no one reading this would want to attract.
Wisdom is paradoxically obvious. (Yet, the foolish flagrantly disregard it.)
She has called out aloud from the streets and public squares; from the “busiest corners” (1:21) she has made plain the gospel of good effect to anyone with sight and hearing for her message.
We only need enquire of her and she will pour out her thoughts to us (1:23). Indeed, she is constantly warning us and we know it by the amount of times we just get away with something silly, like talking on a phone whilst driving or indulging in substance abuse or telling that ‘little’ white lie.
The longer we engage in these things the more we know in our heart of hearts it’s not going to end well.
The Impact of Those Consequences
The first time I really heard the warnings of section Proverbs 1:20-33 was when it was far too late for me, personally. Without going into unnecessary detail there were warnings year after year that I didn’t heed within my first marriage, and ignoring Wisdom’s warnings meant that when ‘calamity came like a whirlwind’ (1:27) into my life it was far too late to do anything about it. I certainly understood then as I regaled the impact of the consequences—these that will last the rest of my lifetime, and indeed my children’s lifetimes too.
Some things in life have finalising consequences, and still God can make the best out of our folly when we genuinely turn back to him.
And we’ve all perhaps a story or three to tell of warnings we did not heed, and later than sooner we paid dearly for them. It’s the nature of wisdom, which is the nature of life and the way life generally works.
We’ve all acted in some ways foolishly. But, let’s now turn for home.
Accepting Wisdom’s Counsel
James is the New Testament’s ‘wisdom book,’ and James 1:5 (NRSV) tells us plainly: “If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you.”
God and Wisdom are one and the same. God owns wisdom. Wisdom in Proverbs 1 is inviting us into her Presence. She wants to edify us; to instruct and discipline us.
But acceptance is more than simply agreeing we need it. It’s actively chasing it. And the rest of Proverbs 1–9 is really about that. And when we go after Wisdom with sure intent we stand to reap the generalised promise at top: a life of relative ease, without threat of disaster. (This is not saying that bad things will not happen to us, but more that we will probably not be the cause of those bad things.)
We must be deliberate and intentional about it; our heartrending search for Wisdom.
© 2010 S. J. Wickham.