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“Wisdom cries aloud in the street, in the markets she raises her voice; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks: ‘How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge? If you turn at my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit to you; I will make my words known to you. Because I have called and you refused to listen, have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded, because you have ignored all my counsel and would have none of my reproof, I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when terror strikes you, when terror strikes you like a storm and your calamity comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you. Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently but will not find me. Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the LORD, would have none of my counsel and despised all my reproof, therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way, and have their fill of their own devices. For the simple are killed by their turning away, and the complacency of fools destroys them; but whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.'” ~Proverbs 2:20-33
A few more thoughts from my recent contemplations upon Proverbs 1….
Wisdom speaks openly and publicly — so publicly that four examples are given of the open places in which she stands and cries out loudly and clearly. These are places of business, places of socializing, places of leadership; in all these quarters, she speaks freely.
The first words of this section, following on the heels of the surreptitious and conniving words of evil men to gain wealth by making a compact with death, are words of a rebuke. She is not said to be directly addressing the greedy tempters, but it is clear that such are among those to whom she is speaking. Verses 24-25 and 29-30 make it abundantly evident that her counsel has already been heard and rejected by the simple and the scoffer whom she directly addresses in her opening words. Yet, she offers another warning to them — though it is quite evident that these rebukes are not indefinite and will assuredly come to an end. At some point, the time for reproof will be past and she will refuse to answer if they turn and call to her, seeking her help once they are in the midst of the consequences of their actions (26-28). Because they despised her counsel, they will indeed be made to eat the fruit of their works (29-31). And this is, ultimately, death (32).
It is abundantly clear that it is sinful to reject the counsels of wisdom — and this is why it leads to death. Verses 29-30 are the key to this understanding: “Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the LORD, would have none of my counsel and despised all my reproof,” therefore they shall abide in the consequences. Even though the words are so strident and even harsh, it is actually a kindness for wisdom to rebuke so sharply in accord with justice — it is life itself which is at stake. The chiefest of our duties as creatures of God Most High is to fear him; thus, it is the height of rebellion to despise the reproofs of wisdom that comes from him.
I also noticed in verse 23 that the one who turns in humility upon receiving the just rebuke, acquiescing to its truth and righteousness, to this one will be given the spirit of wisdom to open her words to his understanding. The words of wisdom and the spirit of wisdom are not separate, but always must go together — and both are given. Neither is gained by human endeavor alone, but must be granted by the Lord and giver of wisdom. It is quite clear and evident in Solomon’s teaching that true wisdom is from God and that the understanding of his words is something that is given and not innate to human nature.
Because human power cannot obtain wisdom, it can be stated so confidently that the one who hears wisdom will be preserved from death and the dread of disaster (33). Now, it is not said here that the wise person shall dwell in the ease of riches — it does indeed say that the wise person shall dwell secure, at ease, and without dread of disaster — but it does not say that no disaster shall ever befall him. Rather, it says that he shall be free from the dread of disaster, implying that he stands secure and at ease in his heart. Why? How? Because by his heeding of wisdom, he shows that he fears God. Fearing God, he wholly entrusts himself to his Maker. He does not have to depend upon his own self, his own power, his own limited perceptions — he is God’s and God shall guide him through every way. Thus, the fear of calamity cannot and will not override his life or his heart — because he fears the Lord, the provident Creator, and seeks the paths of righteousness, justice, and life, and does not walk the paths of autonomy, self-reliance, and covenanting with death. Following the law of God may lead a man to material prosperity, it may be, but it is not this wealth, but his fear of God, that secures him from the dread of disaster, for the same Lord who gave it can also take it away.
As this is yet the opening of Solomon’s book of instruction, I noted that he begins with warnings against those who have heard already and have rejected the things he is about to declare to his son. He shows that wisdom offers life to those who turn and heed, but that her mockery and scorn will hold forth no lawless pity on the unrepentant one who despises her words — for her words are spirit and they are life — they are the very words that teach one what it is to fear the Lord. Since to reject her is sin because it is a rejection of the Creator’s law, I understand from this that warnings indeed have a very real place in godly education. “Lest…” is an important concept in training a Christian mind — for the Lord is indeed Lord of justice and he is not mocked; all his word and all his will shall surely be accomplished. This is also in accord with the example throughout Scripture of the way the Lord deals with his people. He does not let us be ignorant of the consequences which he shall indeed cause to fall on those who ignore him and despise his lordship by rejecting his words. He is loving and honest towards us — and so ought we be towards others, even as Solomon is here towards his son by so early in his discourse laying forth these grave rebukes.
Another thing I noticed in this passage is the use of the word “simple.” In our day, “simple” is glorified as the essence of beauty, goodness, and rightness. But it is clearly not with such an opinion that Solomon uses the term. Rather, Wisdom teaches that “simpleness” is not in accord with godliness because it is ignorance — and ignorance leads to folly. Since wisdom is not innate to human nature, neither is it native to the simple and ignorant. This is why it is so necessary to search after wisdom, seeking to leave ignorance behind and to become instructed according to our Creator’s will. And is this not the very aim of Solomon’s instruction — the fear of the Lord? This implies therefore that the Lord must be known, and, as he is our Lord, our duty towards him must be learned. This the “simple ones” do not know, nor understand, nor seek after. However, they can learn. Simpleness is not a crime, per se, though the love of being so clearly is (22). It is a hatred of wisdom and knowledge, wittingly, and thus it is sin. And the Lord does execute justice upon those who despise him.
This is also a reason why Solomon’s book is so clearly written to his son, a covenant child. The warnings are so severe because this son is one who knows, even if he is yet ignorant in many ways. He is shown the ways of the Lord in his upbringing — but if he rejects it, he is justly to receive wrath at the hand of his God. If he, though yet young and simple, searches for wisdom, understanding, and knowledge, he will find the fear of the Lord and be blessed, abiding in him. The son cannot be passive, but himself must either heed or despise these prominent warnings of his father. For his sin will be his own. By warning him, his father is demonstrating his love of him by showing him the death the Lord will bring on him if he does not humble his heart before his father’s instruction. And the father is also showing his son that he will have no lawless pity on him if he rejects his teaching, but rather that he will always agree with the law that it is good and just. If necessary, he will side with the law of his God instead of with a rebellious son. For truly, in this case most particularly, the father’s instruction is the very words of God. To reject this is to reject God himself. What a responsibility rests on Christian parents! To know the words of God and thus to command their children!