As we continue our study of Proverbs today we hear a new voice?the voice of Wisdom. Wisdom is presented to us as a person, Lady Wisdom, who calls out at the entrance to the city to all of those who pass by and are heading into dangerous surroundings.
If you will remember our study last week then you will remember the father and mother told their son, ?If sinners entice you, do not give in to them.? (Proverbs 1:10 NIV) Mom and Dad know that there are many voices out there on the street, lurking in the halls at their son?s school, in the locker room, on the streets, in his youth group, and elsewhere. The father tells his son that when the voices invite him to do ?this? or ?that,? things that are contrary to the will and ways of God, things that will lead him astray; he is not to go along with them because it will be a dead end road that ends in destruction.
The voices are not just directed at the young?there are a myriad of voices that are calling to us from every corner. The voices call out to people of every age group, in every race, and in every socio-economic class. Among the chaotic choir of voices, enticing us and trying to lure us into what looks inviting, but is actually a dead end road, there is one voice that cries out with clarity for those who desire to hear?it is the voice of Wisdom. Wisdom is the voice of God. He calls out to us, He desires to teach us, and He wants to protect us from the destruction that comes to those who choose not to listen.
As we begin our study for today we hear Wisdom speak. Isn?t that strange? We think, ?Wisdom is not a person. Wisdom doesn?t have a voice.? Oh my friend, but you are wrong. God has a voice and anything He says to us is wisdom. He speaks to us, each of us, inviting us to learn of His ways. Let?s take a look at our Scripture for today and learn another lesson in walking with God, in walking in wisdom. I want to read to you from The Message translation of God?s Word because it so beautifully captures what God is saying to us. Solomon writes,
20Lady Wisdom goes out in the street and shouts. At the town center she makes her speech. 21In the middle of the traffic she takes her stand. At the busiest corner she calls out: 22?Simpletons! How long will you wallow in ignorance? Cynics! How long will you feed your cynicism? Idiots! How long will you refuse to learn? 23About face! I can revise your life. Look, I?m ready to pour out my spirit on you; I?m ready to tell you all I know. 24As it is, I?ve called, but you?ve turned a deaf ear; I?ve reached out to you, but you?ve ignored me. 25?Since you laugh at my counsel and make a joke of my advice, 26How can I take you seriously? I?ll turn the tables and joke about your troubles! 27What if the roof falls in, and your whole life goes to pieces? What if catastrophe strikes and there?s nothing to show for your life but rubble and ashes? 28You?ll need me then. You?ll call for me, but don?t expect an answer. No matter how hard you look, you won?t find me. 29?Because you hated Knowledge and had nothing to do with the Fear-of-God, 30Because you wouldn?t take my advice and brushed aside all my offers to train you, 31Well, you?ve made your bed?now lie in it; you wanted your own way?now, how do you like it? 32Don?t you see what happens, you simpletons, you idiots? Carelessness kills; complacency is murder. 33First pay attention to me, and then relax. Now you can take it easy?you?re in good hands.? (Proverbs 1:20-33 The Message)
I want us to notice something about this Scripture we are studying today. For so many folks the Bible is an outdated, antiquated, obsolete collection of stories from long ago. The stories may be entertaining, we might find a nugget of truth that applies to some isolated situation in our life, but when you get right down to it?the Bible was written for an age gone by. If you have been around here any time at all then you know what I believe. I believe that there is no more relevant word for us today, no wiser counsel for us today, than the Word of God. It is more relevant than any wisdom offered in our day. Its advice is more powerful than Dr. Phil, Oprah, and Dr. Laura combined. Now, you can make that statement about anything, but in the words of that great American theologian, Jerry McGuire, ?show me the money!? Don?t tell me that God?s Word is true, show me its validity, show me its applicability, show me its relevancy for my life. Thanks for the invitation?here we go.
First off, let me tell you that the setting for our study today is set right in the heart of the city. Take a look with me at verses 20-21 and you will see what I am talking about.
20Lady Wisdom goes out in the street and shouts. At the town center she makes her speech. 21In the middle of the traffic she takes her stand. At the busiest corner she calls out: (Proverbs 1:20-21 The Message)
The young man has left the security of his home. He has left the safety of his surroundings with his mom and dad, and he has matured to the place where now he is headed to the city. As he arrives at the city gates, the entrance to the city, Wisdom cries out. The setting is not in a monastery or some cloistered community for religious folks. Wisdom cries out in the ?hood. Wisdom pleads with folks downtown where commerce commences. Wisdom does her work late at night when the shady, seamy, and slimy entice the unsuspecting. Wisdom cries out above the noise of the Deejay at the school dance. Wisdom calls out when the crime is fixing to go down. Wisdom pleads with those who are standing at the crossroads of right and wrong. God is speaking to us right where we live!
As the young man comes to the city, Wisdom is already there making her plea to those who are going to be eaten alive by city life, by those who will take advantage of anyone to get what they want. Wisdom shouts out her counsel. She stands on Wall Street and offers her guidance to the young ?up-and-comers? so that they don?t end up like Gordon Gekko in the movie, Wall Street. Mr. Gekko stood before the stockholders and with passion in his voice said, ?The point is, ladies and gentlemen, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works.? We see Gordon Gekko?s prot?g??s paraded around on television today in the lives of people like Kenneth Lay of Enron, Martha Stewart, and Dennis Koslowski who emptied the coffers of Tyco ?high flying corporate CEO?s whose greed has tarnished their reputation.
Wisdom cries out to the young who are tempted to roll their eyes at her advice and live life any way they desire. Wisdom also makes it very clear that those who reject her counsel will pay a heavy price. Just ask Nate Harris. In 2002, Nate Harris was the best high school linebacker in Florida and one of the Miami Hurricane?s top recruits. Nate was a ferocious linebacker at Edison High School. He was 6?2 and weighed 210 pounds, could run like the wind, and running backs feared him. When signing day arrived Coach Larry Coker was proud to be at Nate?s school to watch the promising young athlete sign his name on the dotted line. Everyone had big hopes for Nate, but not too long after he signed his scholarship Nate was signed into the county jail for armed robbery. A lady was playing checkers on a street corner when Nate stuck a gun in her face and took her necklace, bracelet, and ring. Nate?s coach, Corey Bell, was quoted in the Miami Herald shortly after his arrest and he said, ?I told him to stay away from those guys. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Now he’s hoping and praying they don’t take his scholarship away.? Sounds to me like Wisdom had been speaking to Nate, but he just wouldn?t listen.
The truth of the matter is that Wisdom had cried out to Nate Harris again and again but he wouldn?t listen. When Nate was 15 he was arrested for stealing clothes at a mall and he spent six months in an alternative school. Just six months before signing with Miami, Nate said that he was going to dedicate himself to staying out of trouble because his girlfriend had just had his baby and now he had to be responsible. Wisdom was calling out to Nate as he put himself in a compromising position with his girlfriend, but Nate was smarter than Wisdom.
Where is Nate Harris today? After serving one year at a boot camp Nate is now at Dodge City Community College trying to put his life back together while playing football. Instead of playing in front of 70-80,000 people on Saturday nights, Nate is playing in front of 1,000. I hope Nate will learn to listen to Wisdom.
In verses 21-22 we see Wisdom calling out at the busiest street corner to three different groups of folks. Read along with me.
21In the middle of the traffic she takes her stand. At the busiest corner she calls out: 22?Simpletons! How long will you wallow in ignorance? Cynics! How long will you feed your cynicism? Idiots! How long will you refuse to learn? (Proverbs 1:21-22 The Message)
?Simpletons, cynics, and idiots?listen up!? Wisdom has called, but they have not answered. They?ve ignored Wisdom?s advice, they?ve laughed at Wisdom?s counsel, and they are going ahead with their plans?plans that will end in disaster. I want to take a minute to examine these three different kinds of folks who have thumbed their noses at Wisdom.
? First of all we have those called, ?Simpletons.? The word used here means, ?naivet?, simple, foolish, or open-minded.? The Theological Workbook of the Old Testament says,
The word generally describes the naive (not deranged) in Proverbs who must be well taught, since an immature person believes anything (Proverbs 14:15). To achieve moral and spiritual maturity, the naive are encouraged to receive prudence, to understand wisdom, and to dwell where wisdom makes her home. Apart from godly tutelage, he is on the road to death (Proverbs 7:7; 22:3).
The simple minded are those who are wide open to whatever comes down the pipe and looks good. They give no thought to the end result of their choice and as a result they constantly find themselves in a fix. Let me show you a couple of other places where the word appears.
7Watching the mindless crowd stroll by, I spotted a young man without any sense. (Proverbs 7:7 The Message)
15The gullible believe anything they?re told; the prudent sift and weigh every word. (Proverbs 14:15 The Message)
Are you beginning to get the picture? Those who are simpletons lack discernment, they don?t have any sense of direction, they are gullible, and will bite at any hook thrown their direction. What a hopeless existence!
There may be somebody here this morning who says, ?Man, that sounds like me. I just continue to make bad decision after bad decision. Am I doomed to live my life in the ditch?? I am so glad you asked. You are not doomed if you will listen to Wisdom?s invitation. Listen to these comforting words.
7 The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. (Psalm 19:7 NIV)
129 Your statutes are wonderful; therefore I obey them. 130 The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple. (Psalm 119:129-130 NIV)
Isn?t that good news! For those of you who are like me and gullible, who fall for the bait all too often, there is hope for us! Our hope is in clinging to the Lord, in listening to His wisdom, and living in obedience to His Word.
? Secondly, we have those who are described as ?cynics.? In the KJV and NIV the same word is translated, ?mockers.? The Hebrew word used here means, ?to scorn, make mouths at, talk arrogantly, or to boast.? These folks are much more dangerous than the simple minded. The simple minded go around living like they don?t have a brain in their head, but the cynic spreads his poison and infects others with his arrogance and cynicism. Once again, from The Theological Workbook of the Old Testament,
Fools scorn and mock at sin and judgment. The scorner himself may be described as proud and haughty, incorrigible, resistant to all reproof, and hating any rebuke. Wisdom and knowledge easily elude him (Proverbs 14:6).
The mocker is so cynical. He knows everything and everyone else knows nothing. When he messes up it is never his fault. He says, ?If they wouldn?t have?? ?I didn?t do anything wrong.? ?She made me?? ?They owed it to me.? The lines and lies of the mocker get old real quick. The negative attitudes and cynical, snide remarks cause others to draw back and avoid the mocker, but it?s not the mockers fault?it?s everyone else?s fault. Let me show you some other places where the same word is used. In Proverbs 13:1 we read.
1Intelligent children listen to their parents; foolish children do their own thing. (Proverbs 13:1 The Message)
9 Fools mock at making amends for sin, but goodwill is found among the upright. (Proverbs 14:9 NIV)
Wherever a mocker goes there will be strife. Peace and harmony run like roaches when the light comes on when a mocker enters the room. You want to make sure there?s dissention, disagreement, anger, and arrogance present? Devote your heart to becoming a mocker and refuse the wisdom of God.
The Bible says that if you want to experience the peace and joy of God then make sure that you avoid the mocker. Look at Proverbs 22:10 with me and you?ll see what I?m talking about.
10 Drive out the mocker, and out goes strife; quarrels and insults are ended. (Proverbs 22:10 NIV)
Quarrels and insults are ended when the mocker leaves the room. Strife, arrogance, dissention, and contention follow a mocker like stink follows a skunk?so if you don?t want to get sprayed?stay away!
? The last category of those who have turned away from Wisdom are those who are called, ?idiots.? That?s a pretty harsh word so the KJV and NIV use the word, ?fools.? It is a word that means, ?fool, stupid fellow, dullard, simpleton, arrogant one.? The Theological Workbook of the Old Testament points out the kind of choices the ?idiot? or ?fool? makes in life.
We note the kind of choices which the fool makes. His eyes are unable to see any proper way or conduct. He may roam the earth seeking it, but miss it completely. Apparently he does not concentrate on what is right (Proverbs 17:24). The fool imagines that he can buy wisdom when actually he has no inclination for it (Proverbs 17:16). He takes no delight in understanding (Proverbs 18:2), hates knowledge (Proverbs 1:22), and therefore does not choose the fear of the Lord (Proverbs 1:29). The end of the fool’s complacency is destruction (Proverbs 1:32). The fool is a serious menace to the community. Associating with a fool, who has a twisted sense of values deprives one of knowledge (Proverbs 14:7).
The fool does not desire wisdom. He is foolish enough to believe that he can figure it all out. He lives randomly. He speaks whatever comes to mind regardless if it makes sense or not. A fool is the kind of person who lays their hand on a hot stove and gets burned only to lay his other hand on the same hot stove thinking it won?t happen to him again. Wisdom counsels us to stay away from fools or we will suffer harm. Proverbs 13:19-20 offers us this advice.
19 A longing fulfilled is sweet to the soul, but fools detest turning from evil. 20 He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm. (Proverbs 13:19-20 NIV)
Stay away from fools. Wisdom says, ?Don?t allow a fool to influence you or you will go down with him.? Fools talk just to listen to themselves talk. They don?t weigh their words to see if they should be spoken or shelved?they just talk and it is meaningless talk, crude talk, and hurtful talk. Proverbs 12:23 says,
23 A prudent man keeps his knowledge to himself, but the heart of fools blurts out folly. (Proverbs 12:23 NIV)
Fools are angry. Of course they are angry. Because of the way they live their lives they constantly find themselves in strife and disagreement, they feel like the whole world is against them, and they have no restraint. Proverbs 29:11 says,
11 A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control. (Proverbs 29:11 NIV)
How do these folks respond to Wisdom?s voice? They don?t. According to Proverbs 1:22-24 they ?wallow in their ignorance,? they ?feed upon their cynicism,? ?they refuse to learn,? ?they?ve turned a deaf ear,? ?they?ve ignored? Wisdom, ?they?ve laughed? at her counsel, and they?ve ?made a joke? of her advice.? They didn?t take notes while Wisdom was holding class; they slept because it was a waste of time. They didn?t show up for the practicum because they knew everything already.
If, during the past few minutes, you have heard the Scriptures describe your disposition, your lack of character, then I hope you will wake up. I hope that this very morning you will confess your foolishness, your cynicism, or your simple-minded ways to God. Admit that you?ve been arrogant, admit that you?ve blown off His counsel, confess that you need to turn around and He will turn you around.
On the other hand, if we persist in turning a deaf ear to Wisdom then we need to prepare because the crash is on its way. What happens when we turn a deaf ear to Wisdom? Quite simply put?utter ruin. Take a look at verses 25-29 with me.
25?Since you laugh at my counsel and make a joke of my advice, 26How can I take you seriously? I?ll turn the tables and joke about your troubles! 27What if the roof falls in, and your whole life goes to pieces? What if catastrophe strikes and there?s nothing to show for your life but rubble and ashes? 28You?ll need me then. You?ll call for me, but don?t expect an answer. No matter how hard you look, you won?t find me. 29?Because you hated Knowledge and had nothing to do with the Fear-of-God, (Proverbs 1:25-29 The Message)
You want to laugh at God?s wisdom? Good, go ahead, have it your way. Have your laugh, but you won?t get the last laugh. The day is coming and is already on its way when hardships will come down on you like a 350 lb. NFL lineman. When that day comes and your world crumbles you will call out for wisdom, for someone to rescue you, for some kind of quiet in the storm, but it won?t be there. When that day comes and you are lying in a heap of ruins know this: you laughed at God?s wisdom, you rejected the opportunities you were given to bow in reverent awe before the wisdom of God, and now you are all alone in a world of hurt?a world you created with your own foolishness, cynicism, and arrogance. Wisdom says,
31Well, you?ve made your bed?now lie in it; you wanted your own way?now, how do you like it? 32Don?t you see what happens, you simpletons, you idiots? Carelessness kills; complacency is murder. (Proverbs 1:31-32 The Message)
?You?ve made your bed?now lie in it!? ?You wanted to have it your way?now, how do you like it?? The answer you will offer on your day of disaster is, ?I don?t like it.? The only problem is that the fool won?t have sense enough to turn around and begin to listen to Wisdom. He will be like King Nebuchadnezzar after Wisdom spoke and warned him of impending judgment because of his arrogance and foolishness. Let me close our study by telling you the story.
King Nebuchadnezzar was a powerful king. He was the king of Babylon, but he was ruthless, he worshipped foreign gods, and he wouldn?t listen to Wisdom. He had a dream one night and it scared him. King Nebuchadnezzar brought Daniel in to interpret his dream. The King heard that the dream was about his kingdom being ripped from his hands by God. Daniel said that the kingdom wouldn?t be restored to King Nebuchadnezzar until he confessed that God is the Sovereign King over every king. Then Daniel says in Daniel 4:27,
27Therefore, O king, be pleased to accept my advice: Renounce your sins by doing what is right, and your wickedness by being kind to the oppressed. It may be that then your prosperity will continue.? (Daniel 4:27 NIV)
Oh, do you hear it King Nebuchadnezzar? Wisdom is calling out. Don?t wait until the kingdom is ripped from your hands. Heed Wisdom?s voice today! Humble yourself before God today! Stop being a fool and thinking you know more than everybody today! Nebuchadnezzar wouldn?t listen. In the very next verse of Daniel 4 we read,
28All this happened to King Nebuchadnezzar. 29Twelve months later, as the king was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, 30he said, ?Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?? 31The words were still on his lips when a voice came from heaven, ?This is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your royal authority has been taken from you. 32You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like cattle. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes.? 33Immediately what had been said about Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was driven away from people and ate grass like cattle. His body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird. (Daniel 4:28-33 NIV)
Twelve months passed by and King Nebuchadnezzar wouldn?t listen. Wisdom kept calling out, but Nebuchadnezzar wouldn?t answer his phone. Look what the king could have avoided if only he had listened to Wisdom?s voice. I?ve got news for you and me this morning. Wisdom is calling! Will you keep thinking you can get by with it? Will you keep trying to convince yourself that you?re smarter than everyone else? Will you continue to believe that you can get away with it even though God says, ?No!? Will you continue to laugh at those ?fools? who serve God and spend all of that time reading His Word and trying to live according to His will? Or will you listen to Wisdom?s call today. It is a call to invite Jesus into your heart. It?s a call to confess your sin?your simple minded ways, foolishness, and cynicism and begin to live your life solely for the King, listening only to the one voice that comes to bless you, teach you, and lead you to safety and rest. Won?t you invite Him in?