For the past 21 weeks we have traveled through the first eight chapters of Proverbs. Line-by-line and verse-by-verse we have listened in as Solomon shared with his son the most important lessons in life. I believe that the education that Solomon sought to instill in his son is beyond compare because his primary concern was to teach his son how to “make a life” rather than simply “make a living.” Let me explain to you what I am talking about.
I know that there are great lessons to be learned at school: Lessons in history, mathematics, science, english, and much more. For those who choose to go beyond their high school education and pursue a college degree the classes that are taken are to fulfill a requirement so that you can get your degree. You pursue a college degree so that you can then take that degree and get a job. The higher up you go on the ladder of education the more specialized your learning becomes. You go to medical school to become a doctor. You go to law school to become a lawyer. You go to seminary to become a preacher or teacher. Therefore the lessons learned have more to do with “making a living” than they do with “making a life.”
As Solomon has shared these 12 lessons with his son he has not been concerned about his son making a living. Solomon hasn’t taught his son one single lesson on history, geometry, or physics. He hasn’t required his son to read Shakespeare, John Locke, Milton, Luther, or Hemingway. Solomon’s lessons have been focused like a laser on one task: He wants his son to acquire godly wisdom. The kind of wisdom that is necessary to build a life of integrity, faithfulness, and discernment. Solomon has taught his son the cornerstone of building his life–the “fear of the Lord” (Proverbs 1:7; 9:10). He has taught his son about the sure foundation of godly wisdom and the strong pillars of integrity, discernment, and faithfulness. I want to encourage all of us to hear Solomon speaking to us in these lessons. Do you want more out of life than simply to make a “good” living? Seek God with all of your heart.
That leads me to our Scripture for this morning found in Proverbs 9:1-18. This Scripture closes out the first section of Proverbs. From Proverbs 1:1-9:18 we have Solomon’s 12 lessons to his son. In the next section of Proverbs, chapters 10:1-22:16, we will take a look at Solomon’s Proverbs. The very first verse of Proverbs 10 says, “The proverbs of Solomon:” Between Proverbs 22:16 and Proverbs 22:17 we read, “The sayings of the Wise.” This phrase will introduce us to a third section of Proverbs.
Dr. Bruce Waltke says that the first nine chapters of Proverbs are a primer for the proverbs of Solomon that will follow in chapters 10-22:16. Dr. Waltke says that before we begin studying the proverbs we must first understand the importance of the heart. In Proverbs 1-9 Solomon’s in preparing the heart of his son for what will follow in the little pithy sayings of Solomon found in chapters 10-22:16. Dr. Waltke’s suggestion rings with such truth for the heart of the matter is truly the heart. We can gain all kinds of facts, increase our knowledge, and still miss out on the fundamental lesson of life–how can I live so that my life brings glory and honor to God? This is what Solomon has been teaching his son. Over and over again, in the first nine chapters of Proverbs, Solomon turns his son’s attention to the issue of the heart. In each and every chapter he addresses the matter of the heart.
We have to remember that for the Hebrews the “heart” was not a merely a “feeling” or an inclination–it was much more than a nebulous nudge. A person whose heart is set on walking with God is a person whose mind, will, and emotions are devoted and dedicated to living out God’s Word. Let’s take a look at our Scripture for today. Turn with me to Proverbs 9:1-18.
1 Wisdom has built her house; she has hewn out its seven pillars. 2 She has prepared her meat and mixed her wine; she has also set her table. 3 She has sent out her maids, and she calls from the highest point of the city. 4 ‘Let all who are simple come in here!’ she says to those who lack judgment. 5 ‘Come, eat my food and drink the wine I have mixed. 6 Leave your simple ways and you will live; walk in the way of understanding. 7 ‘Whoever corrects a mocker invites insult; whoever rebukes a wicked man incurs abuse. 8 Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you; rebuke a wise man and he will love you. 9 Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning. 10 ‘The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. 11For through me your days will be many, and years will be added to your life. 12 If you are wise, your wisdom will reward you; if you are a mocker, you alone will suffer.’ 13 The woman Folly is loud; she is undisciplined and without knowledge. 14 She sits at the door of her house, on a seat at the highest point of the city, 15 calling out to those who pass by, who go straight on their way. 16 ‘Let all who are simple come in here!’ she says to those who lack judgment. 17 ‘Stolen water is sweet; food eaten in secret is delicious!’ 18 But little do they know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of the grave. (Proverbs 9:1-18 NIV)
As Solomon comes to the last of his twelve lessons he lays out for his son the two invitations that he will be offered each and every day of his life. I want us to take a look at these two invitations. As we do so, you will see on the surface the similarities of these invitations, and yet the end results are radically different.
The Scripture lays out for us like this: In verses 1-6 we have the invitation of Wisdom. In the last six verses, verses 13-18, we have the invitation of Folly. Tucked in between these two invitations, in verses 7-12, Solomon contrasts the wise person who is willing to heed wisdom’s instruction and the mocker or foolish person who can’t be told anything. Let’s look at a comparison of the two invitations.
Lady Wisdom has built her house. She’s diligent and disciplined in constructing a house that is large and magnificent and able to accommodate all of us simple minded folks who desperately need her counsel and direction. She has prepared the meal, meat and wine, and she has set the table. She sent out her maids and she herself goes to the most prominent place in the city where she can get our attention. She cries out, “Let all who are simple, everyone who knows they need my counsel and advice, come to my house! All of you who lack judgment, those of you who are prone to make bad decisions, come and eat the feast I have prepared for you. Press on beyond your simple ways so that you can walk in my way and you will live–you will live if you seek to understand my way!”
The first thing we learn about Madame Folly is that she is loud. She is undisciplined and she doesn’t have any knowledge about the ways of wisdom. She hasn’t built a house, but she is sitting in front of her house. She is also offering her invitation to those who pass by. Those whom she addresses are not going to her house, they are heading somewhere else, and yet they are easily distracted. She cries out like Lady Wisdom, and yet her message is altogether different. She says, “Those of you who are simple come to my house. Those of you who are prone to make bad decisions–come to my house!” She has food and water for her guests, but unlike Lady Wisdom who has prepared a meal of meat and wine, Madame Folly offers “stolen water and food to be eaten in secret.”
Do you see the similarities? Each of these women has a home, each is appealing to the same audience, and each has food and drink to offer to their guest. Two invitations. Two choices to be made. Two claims to truth. Two ways of seeing life.
To the unsuspecting eye, to the uncritical mind, to those who don’t take the time to look beneath the surface–there is not a lot of difference between these two invitations at first glance, is there? Oh, but if you and I will dig a little deeper and pay close attention then you can see some dramatic differences.
Lady Wisdom has prepared a meal of meat while Madame Folly has stolen hers. Lady Wisdom serves choice wine to her guests while Madame Folly offers stolen water. Lady Wisdom sends out her maids, and heads out herself, to invite those who will come while Madame Folly is loud, boisterous, and profane as she sits at her door and barks out her invitation. Lady Wisdom is calling to those who are on the wrong path to walk in understanding while Madame Folly is calling to those who are heading somewhere and urging them to leave their path and follow her. The greatest difference of all–Lady Wisdom’s invitation leads to life while Madame Folly’s invitation leads to death.
This is a life and death choice that Solomon’s son must make. It’s not a once in a lifetime choice, it is a daily choice that will have to be made over and over again. Solomon wants his son to know that all that glitters is not gold. You and I need godly wisdom, we need the discernment that godly wisdom can give to us in making the decisions we are faced with every day.
Lady Wisdom and Madame Folly are alive and well in our community today. There are two opposing ideas of what life is all about and how to live life–there is God’s way and there’s my way.
There is the view that Lady Wisdom is espousing–a life lived in humble reverence and obedience to Almighty God. If you choose to live this life then you will seek as your highest aim God’s glory and not your own. You will seek to live in obedience to what God desires for your life and not what you want for your life. You will want to bless and serve others rather than having others serve you.
If you choose to make up your own rules for life and go after whatever you want then you are following Madame Folly. This life will lead you to throw all caution to the wind and live however you see fit. You will make your highest aim in life to get what you want and do what you please. The only thought of obedience that will ever cross your mind will be being true to yourself. You will write your own rules for your own life. When your life crumbles and you go through tough times you will blame those around you, the world will have treated you unfairly, and you will refuse to learn from your mistakes.
Several years ago there was a popular movie that came out called, “The Cider House Rules.” In the movie, Dr. Wilbur Larch appears to be a caring doctor and yet there is an ugliness lurking behind the scenes–Dr. Larch is an abortion doctor. His young assistant, Homer Wells, isn’t convinced that Dr. Larch should be performing abortions.
Homer decides to leave Dr. Larch and he takes a job working with migrant apple pickers. While he is working alongside of the Cider House where all of the migrant workers live, Homer meets a young girl named Rose. Homer finds out that Rose is pregnant by her father. Rose’s dad will not allow her to have an abortion. Homer cares for Rose; he is disgusted by her predicament, so he offers to abort the baby.
The most telling scene of the movie takes place one day when Homer notices a list of rules posted on the Cider House where all of the migrant workers live. None of the workers can read so the workers are oblivious to the rules of the house. When Rose finds out that Homer can read she asks him to read the rules out loud.
While Homer is reading the rules, Rose’s dad hears him and says, “Someone who don’t live here made those rules.” Roses’ dad is livid and he says that the rules of the Cider House should be made by those who live in the house, not by someone else. He says, “These rules ain’t for us. We the ones supposed to make our own rules. And we do. Every single day.” With that, Roses’ dad ripped the rules off the wall and threw them in the stove. And so it is in our day.
The question that we are faced with, regardless of how young or old you are this morning, is this–“Will you live under the authority of Almighty God or will you join Rose’s dad and write your own rules?” Those who chose to turn their back on God’s purposes for their lives and live however they see fit have torn the rules off of the wall and thrown them in the fire. We do this in all kinds of ways. Let me give you some examples.
Every semester our leaders meet with Middle School and High School kids and teaching them about God’s design for dating and sex. We have lots of guys and girls who are coming to learn and that excites me like you wouldn’t believe. These teenagers are learning that God’s purpose and plan for their lives sexually is to wait until they are married, to protect the precious gift of physical intimacy that God has given them as a wedding gift for their mate. That is God’s plan. The teenagers who now know God’s plan will be tempted to tear God’s plan off the wall and throw it in the fire. If they do that then they have chosen the way of Folly, the path of foolishness.
We have learned that God has blessed us with gifts and talents. We are to use those gifts and talents to provide for our families, to bless the lives of others, and to honor God. We know that is God’s plan. Yet, those of us who have learned that truth are tempted to disregard God’s plan and use our talents and abilities to build our own kingdom, to lavish ourselves with more and more, neglect the opportunities God sends our way to bless the lives of others, and never give God a thought. This is the way of Folly, utter foolishness.
We’ve learned in our study of Proverbs that God hates a “lying tongue” (Proverbs 6:17) God’s plan for your life and mine is for us to tell the truth–to always tell the truth. Yet, when we find ourselves in a jam or when it might benefit us more to lie, we are tempted to stretch the truth, bend the truth, or just throw “truth” out the window altogether. This is the way of Folly, utter foolishness.
During the period of the Judges we find over and over again that the people did whatever they thought was right and yet it wasn’t right in God’s eyes. The saddest commentary on this period in Israel’s history is the very last verse of the book of Judges where we read,
25 In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit. (Judges 21:25 NIV)
Israel’s experience during this time was chaos, there was no order, no trust among neighbors or friends, everyone did as he saw fit. That is the way of Folly.
In the middle section of our Scripture today we see the reasons why Lady Wisdom invites the simple-minded rather than mockers to come to her feast. Will we heed the lessons and invitations of Wisdom or will we thumb our nose and go our own way? Will we choose to seek God and live according to His purpose for our life or will we choose to do our own thing? Let’s take a look at what Lady Wisdom has to say.
7 “Whoever corrects a mocker invites insult; whoever rebukes a wicked man incurs abuse. 8 Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you; rebuke a wise man and he will love you. 9 Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning. 10 “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. 11For through me your days will be many, and years will be added to your life. 12 If you are wise, your wisdom will reward you; if you are a mocker, you alone will suffer.” (Proverbs 9:7-12 NIV)
There are two kinds of people who are seated in this sanctuary this morning. There are those who know that they need wisdom, they know that they don’t have all of the answers, and they know that they need help. These kinds of people are teachable. They are not arrogant–they are teachable. They are open to correction and they hunger for God’s Word so that they can gain wisdom and insight into God’s will for their life.
There’s another kind of person among us this morning. The second kind of person that is described in this section of Scripture is the “mocker.” The Hebrew word that is used in verse 7 for “mocker” means, “to scorn, make mouths at, talk arrogantly, to mock.” These people are incorrigible. They can’t be taught because they think they know all of the answers. If you try to correct them they will come back at you with a vengeance. “Who are you to tell me how to live! You can’t tell me anything!” Lady Wisdom has no time for the mocker because the mockers do not want to learn or grow in their understanding. These kinds of folks are going to learn the hard way. Our prisons are full of mockers who thumbed their noses at others who tried to help them.
In Mark 6, Jesus sent out His disciples in pairs. He told them to go from village to village and urge people to repent and to pray for the sick. These are the instructions He gave them.
8 These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff–no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. 9 Wear sandals but not an extra tunic. 10 Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. 11 And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them.” (Mark 6:8-11 NIV)
Jesus told His disciples that when they encountered someone who wouldn’t listen that they were to move on. Oh my friend, we really don’t want to find ourselves in the company of those who are hard-headed and unwilling to be taught.
Which camp do you find yourself in this morning? Are you teachable? Do you welcome the correction that God brings your way either through His Word, His Spirit, or some friend that He has sent to help you examine your life? Or are you the kind of person who lashes out at those the Lord sends your way to help you grow in wisdom and understanding? Are you the kind of person who is offended that anyone would try and suggest that you might not be right? I pray that if you are one of these kinds of folks that the Lord will break through your arrogance this morning and lead you to repentance.
The invitations are going out this morning. Will you come and feast with Lady Wisdom? Will you draw near to God and watch Him draw near to you in ways that you never dreamed imaginable? Will you walk in godly wisdom and taste the feast of life, abundant, overflowing, eternal life?
There’s good news for those of us who are easily distracted, prone to making bad decisions, and yet we know our vulnerability and predisposition to sin. God invites us to come to the table He has prepared for us and feast. In Isaiah 55:1-3 we see God’s invitation going out again to those who are thirsty and hunger for something more in life.
1 “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. 2 Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. 3 Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David. (Isaiah 55:1-3 NIV)
Don’t wait another minute. This very morning accept the invitation the Lord is sending out to you and come to the table. Invite Jesus into your heart as Lord and Savior of your life and your emptiness will be filled. Come to the feast!