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:
‘How long will you who are simple love your simple ways?
How long will mockers delight in mockery
and fools hate knowledge?
Repent at my rebuke!
Then I will pour out my thoughts to you,
I will make known to you my teachings.
But since you refuse to listen when I call
and no one pays attention when I stretch out my hand,
since you disregard all my advice
and do not accept my rebuke,
I in turn will laugh when disaster strikes you;
I will mock when calamity overtakes you –
when calamity overtakes you like a storm,
when disaster sweeps over you like a whirlwind,
when distress and trouble overwhelm you.
‘Then they will call to me but I will not answer;(Prov. 1:20-33 NIV)
they will look for me but will not find me,
since they hated knowledge
and did not choose to fear the Lord.
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;
but whoever listens to me will live in safety
and be at ease, without fear of harm.’
In this passage wisdom is personified and is speaking as if it has its own voice. The main emphasis of the first chapter of Proverbs is to warn of the danger of ignoring wisdom. That should serve as a cautionary warning to us. Where a warning like this is given it is because this is the most likely thing we will be inclined to do. Even before we really know what wisdom is, we are warned about the danger of not heeding its call. The reason for the warning at the beginning is to alert us to the fact that there are a number of persuasive teachers out there. We have more exposure to teachers today than any preceding generation. The Internet offers many intriguing insights. We all love a conspiracy theory. Why is that? With delight we will share with others the insight that we have into what big government is doing. We pride ourselves for knowing what most people don’t. It gives us the feeling that we have special wisdom able to see what others can’t. That kind of pride makes us very gullible to believe what we discover on the Internet. Remember that scrolling through websites is not the same thing as research. The lady wisdom in this passage is warning us about the danger of listening to the wrong teacher. Not everything that calls itself wisdom is really wisdom from above.
Lady wisdom would seek to create in us the skill of critical listening. The lady wisdom raises her voice in the public square. This is not some esoteric teaching for an exclusive group, but truth that is taught openly. It is proclaimed to government. The city gate was where the elders would meet to decide court cases and resolve disputes. Lady wisdom spoke truth for all to hear. Not everyone listens, the simple love their simple ways, mockers delight in their cynical ways and fools despise knowledge. Times have not really changed. Today biblical wisdom will be rejected. Biblical knowledge is despised. There are many who oppose God’s standard by mockery and a large number of people will hate biblical knowledge. The question is often asked, ‘why should I have somebody tell me how to live my life?’ We have seen how some people can get so angry. Those churches that have embraced the world’s standards often use mockery to despise the stance of those who are seeking to remain faithful to the wisdom of God’s word.
The lady wisdom cries out to anyone who will listen. ‘How long’, she asks, ‘will you not listen and change your ways?’ The only appropriate response to the failure to listen is repentance. When we repent, we will hear the voice of wisdom again.
The simple need to repent of holding onto their simple ways. How can we be guilty of being simple? If you are taught a truth and you fail to live in the good of that truth, or you fail to change your ways, then you have held on to your simple, untrained way and attitude. Some people define themselves, or allow themselves to be defined, by their problem. They will not let go of the hurt. It is not always that they can’t let go, it is often that they won’t let go. To fail to grow, to fail to take on board what God is saying in His word is to remain simple, unlearned and untrained.
Lady wisdom offers us a second chance. When we repent we will hear again the words of instruction. She calls again but people still refuse to listen. When disaster comes, she will mock them with laughter. The Lord laughed at the defeat of the enemy in Ps 2. When the storm of ruin overtakes them because of their refusal to listen, then lady wisdom will mock them because of their arrogance. It is arrogant to hold on to simple ways, it is arrogant to mock wisdom and it is arrogant to hate knowledge. People decide that they are wiser than God. They pursue their own path in life and eventually the foolishness of their way brings calamity. Then when they call out for help, none will be offered. They will eat the fruit of their wickedness. Holding on to simple ways, mocking wisdom, hating knowledge – all amounts to a refusal to fear the Lord. A rejection of wisdom is a rejection of the Lord.
The result of this refusal to fear the Lord will kill and destroy them. Their own schemes will become the means of their downfall.
The promise to the one who listens is that they will not come to harm. This is the wise way to live.
Lord God, speak to us through Your word. Help us not to be enticed into remaining untaught. Take away our fear of learning, take away our resistance to learning. Lord help me to use the full capacity of what You have given me to labour in Your word that I might walk along the path of wisdom. Take away any cynical attitude so that I will listen with reverence to Your word preached. Help me never to despise knowledge. Lord speak through Your word for Christ our Saviour’s sake, in whose name we pray. Amen.