1 Wisdom has built her house;
she has hewn her seven pillars.
2 She has slaughtered her beasts; she has mixed her wine;
she has also set her table.
3 She has sent out her young women to call
from the highest places in the town,
4 “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!”
To him who lacks sense she says,
5 “Come, eat of my bread
and drink of the wine I have mixed.
6 Leave your simple ways, and live,
and walk in the way of insight.”
7 Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse,
and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury.
8 Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you;
reprove a wise man, and he will love you.
9 Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser;
teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.
10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.
11 For by me your days will be multiplied,
and years will be added to your life.
12 If you are wise, you are wise for yourself;
if you scoff, you alone will bear it.
13 The woman Folly is loud;
she is seductive and knows nothing.
14 She sits at the door of her house;
she takes a seat on the highest places of the town,
15 calling to those who pass by,
who are going straight on their way,
16 “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!”
And to him who lacks sense she says,
17 “Stolen water is sweet,
and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.”
18 But he does not know that the dead are there,
that her guests are in the depths of Sheol. – Proverbs 9:1-18 ESV
In this Proverbs, Solomon portrays wisdom and folly as two women. One is industrious, a planner, and highly hospitable. She offers those who are “simple” the chance to dine at her table and gain good judgment and wisdom. She extends to them an opportunity to leave their simple ways behind and experience true life. Wisdom offers long life and the capacity to fear God and know Him intimately and deeply. The other woman, Folly, also calls out and offers her own invitation, but one with a completely different outcome. Folly is portrayed as a prostitute. She is brash and ignorant, yet doesn’t even know it. She too calls out to the simple and those lacking in judgment.
“‘Come in with me,’ she urges the simple. To those who lack good judgment, she says, ‘Stolen water is refreshing; food eaten in secret tastes the best!’” – Proverbs 9:16-17 NL
Two women. Two invitations. But depending on which invitation you accept, two diametrically opposed outcomes. One ends in life, the other in death. One offers wisdom and good judgment in place of foolishness and simplicity. The other can only offer sensual pleasures and immediate gratification of the senses, but really delivers disappointment and, ultimately, death.
The picture Solomon paints portrays life on this planet for each and every man and woman. Every day we are faced with two basic options: the way of wisdom as offered by God, or the way of folly or foolishness, that the world so tantalizingly and temptingly offers us. And every day, we are faced with the choice of one or the other.
The things of this world are so appealing. The ways of this world seem so logical and sensible. They appeal to our sin nature and focus on our physical senses. They have little to do with wisdom, understanding, common sense, or good judgment. And we’re not talking about intelligence, because even those with high IQs can be guilty of foolishness and live the life of the simpleminded. The Hebrew word used by Solomon for the “simple” person refers to one who is easily persuaded and enticed. They are naive. Satan and this world thrive on these kinds of people. And every person who walks on this planet IS that kind of person if they don’t have a relationship with God the Father through Jesus Christ the Son. They may be smart, successful, well-to-do, and even powerful, but they are ultimately simple-minded. They are dominated by their flesh and driven by their desires. They are susceptible to temptation and prone to live like fools. Why? Because they lack good judgment, common sense, wisdom, understanding, and the fear of God.
The key seems to be found in Wisdom’s invitation. “Leave your simple ways behind.” There has to be a point in time when you decide to acknowledge your propensity to be easily persuaded and enticed. Then you have to be willing to abandon that lifestyle for a better one. We have to choose to accept God’s invitation to sit at His table and feast on His wisdom. We must trade in our desire to satisfy our senses and choose God’s offer of understanding. We need to understand the times in which we live, the dangers that surround us, and our own tendency to live like fools. We need to understand and comprehend our incapacity to survive in this world without God. Without Him, we are easy targets for the enemy. God offers us wisdom. The world offers us folly. And every day we have a choice to make.
“But correct the wise and they will love you. Instruct the wise and they will be even wiser. Teach the righteous and they will learn even more.” – Proverbs 9:8-9 NLT
Nobody likes to be corrected, right? Who in their right mind likes to be rebuked, called out, or even judged by someone else? Just the thought of it can raise our blood pressure. It causes us to stiffen up and start defending our rights, protecting our territory and justifying our actions as just and right. But according to the book of Proverbs, there is a group of individuals, albeit a small group, who actually enjoy being corrected. In fact, if you do correct them, they will love you for it! Imagine that. Someone who actually loves being corrected.
Their response to correction is LOVE. The Hebrew word is ahab, and it is a verb that refers to human love for another. It is also translated as “friend” in the Old Testament. It is the word used to describe Abraham as the friend of God. When you correct a wise person, he actually views you as a friend, not an enemy. He takes your correction as a good thing, not a bad thing. He is grateful because he understands that correction is the key to change and maturity. Sometimes we can’t see our own faults. We are oblivious to our blind spots and we need the input of others to help us recognize areas of our lives that need work. The wise man knows he has faults, whether he sees them or not, and does not become defensive or angry when they are exposed. Instead, he loves the one who corrects him. He is grateful.
The wise person also accepts instruction willingly and gratefully. He is wise because he loves to learn. He has an appetite for knowledge, so he gladly accepts instruction from others. In the Hebrew text, the word “instruction” is not actually there. It simply says, “give to the wise.” It carries the idea of exchange or interaction. If you interact with a wise person, they will grow in wisdom. They love the exchange of ideas. They are not afraid to debate, discuss, or expose themselves to other viewpoints. They are not one-dimensional or closed to hearing the other side of an argument. They will gladly dialogue and grow wiser through the exchange. If their viewpoint is right, they will remain firm in their conviction. If they discover they are wrong, they will grow wiser from having had the discussion.
You can teach the wise. They are not so sure of themselves or set in their ways that they refuse to learn from others. The wise are constant learners. They learn from their mistakes. They learn vicariously, voraciously, and constantly. When we refuse to learn, we reveal that we are fools. Fools hate correction and instruction because they refuse to admit their own ignorance. They are content to remain foolish. Fools have a false view of life, seeing themselves as wise and everyone else as fools. The wise have a healthy view of life, seeing themselves as perpetual students with life as their schoolroom. Their perspective is based on a fear of God that results in humility and a growing dependence on Him. Their love of learning and acceptance of correction is based on their understanding that God is their teacher. He is the all-wise, all-knowing God who is constantly imparting His wisdom to them in a variety of ways through a myriad of sources. They see wisdom as a gift from God and learning as an opportunity, not a burden.
But as we have seen before, the search for wisdom begins with a healthy reverence or fear of God. The fear of the Lord, while a biblical topic, is not a popular one among most Christians today. We find it uncomfortable to talk about it because it sounds distasteful and unappealing to our modern-day sensibilities. In our minds, fear is to be avoided at all costs. It’s why we light up our homes like Christmas trees, hook them up with security systems, and lock them down at night. We want to remove all fear by providing as much security as we possibly can. But what motivates our actions? What causes us to put the security system in, install extra locks on the doors, and turn on the lights at night? It’s all motivated by fear. You see, in reality, fear can have a positive influence in our lives. And the fear of the Lord is one of the most positive and influential attitudes we can have.
In Proverbs 28:14, we’re told, “Happy is the man in whom is the fear of the Lord at all times; but he whose heart is hard will come into trouble.” There is a joy and contentment that comes with learning to fear God. It was the Puritan minister, John Bunyan, who referred to the fear of the Lord as a gift or grace from God. It is HIS fear that He places in OUR hearts. It is a recognition and realization of His holiness, righteousness, and power. It is an awareness of His singular role as the ruler over all the universe. Listen to John Bunyan’s description of the fear of the Lord:
Had God given thee all the world, yet cursed hadst thou been, if he had not given thee the fear of the Lord; for the fashion of this world is a fading thing, but he that feareth the Lord shall abide for ever and ever. This therefore is the first thing that I would propound for thy encouragement, thou man that fears the Lord. This grace will dwell in thy heart, for it is a new covenant grace, and will abide with thee for ever. It is sent to thee from God, not only to join thy heart unto him, but to keep thee from final apostasy—“I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me” (Jer 32:40). That thou mayest never forsake God, is his design, and therefore, to keep thee from that wicked thing, he hath put his fear in thy heart. Many are the temptations, difficulties, snares, traps, trials, and troubles that the people of God pass through in the world, but how shall they be kept, how shall they be delivered, and escape? Why, the answer is, The fear of God will keep them — “He that feareth God shall come forth of them all.”
The fear of the Lord is a grace. It is a gift from God that He places in our hearts and provides for us so that we might live for Him. It is not something to be avoided or feared. It is a motivating factor in our lives that produces wise behavior. It protects us, watches over us, guides us, motivates us, and keeps us centered on Him as our one true source for all that we need. The fear of the Lord keeps us from fearing man. Because I fear the Lord, I don’t need to fear financial loss or even physical death. My God is greater than both. It is when I learn to fear God for who He is that I will begin to grow in wisdom and understanding. Life will begin to make sense. I will see the world through a different set of lenses. I will gain a new perspective on reality. It is the foundation of wisdom. And as I grow to know God better and better, I will develop good judgment. He will give me the capacity to make wise choices and good decisions. I will instinctively know what to do and when to do it. But it all begins with the fear of the Lord. That’s a good thing.
English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.