Expository Sermon on Proverbs 1:20-33 | Smart Stuff | Book of Proverbs

Wisdom Personified

Smart Stuff (Proverbs 1:20-33)

No one thinks about talking to a parking meter but think again. There are now parking meters with computer chips and antennas that allow you to call them with your cell phone and buy more time.

Parking meters at the University of California in Santa Barbara, for example, are now part of a network that you can contact by phone. Coming soon are smart, networked parking meters that can talk to each other and report information on a website. If you drive into an area and want to know where an open space is, you simply use your cell phone to access the website and find an unused meter. Even better, you will soon be able to punch a button and make a reservation. The meter will flash a reserved sign and hold the space for you for five minutes.

Smart stuff. Of course, there’s no guarantee that these high-tech meters will make people any smarter. Story is, a meter maid was walking up the block writing tickets when she noticed a college student staring at one of the meters. “Sir, is there something I can help you with?” she asked. “No,” he said, “I’m just waiting for my gumball. I’ve got five minutes left.”

In a variety of ways, everyday gadgets are now wising up, talking to one another, and making life a little easier for us. Sewing machines can now download images and embroider them on your clothes. Swim goggles can keep track of time and laps and display this information on the inside of the lenses. Shipping crates are calling their owners for help if they get lost. And some gas pumps are now running Microsoft Windows, allowing you to order coffee, download music, and check traffic while you fill your tank.

Cheap computer chips and limited networking capabilities are now being put into products that never used to have technology. It’s a jump that’s similar to the electrification of products a century ago. Back then, people were amazed when hand drills became power drills and iceboxes turned into refrigerators.

Today, the advances are all about communication. A system called Home Heartbeat connects sensors on washing machines, microwaves, doors, and other fixtures. You can program the system to tell you—by text message—ever time the front door opens and the TV turns on. Get that particular message, and you know the kids are home from school.

God has always wanted us to be a part of his network, so he sends us a message in today’s lesson from Proverbs about staying connected to wisdom. In tonight’s text, God personifies wisdom as a lady who speaks about her own importance.

We Hear Wisdom, vv 20-21

“Wisdom calls aloud in the street, she raises her voice in the public squares; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out, int eh gateways of the city she makes her speech.”

Wisdom merits attention—Notice that she makes a very public appeal. She calls aloud, she raises her voice—she’s not keeping silent, but she wants people to hear her. She also goes to where the people are—in the public squares, at the head of noisy streets, in the gateways of the city. The message wisdom has needs to be heard—it is not a secret, not something the masses of people don’t need to know—But she goes where the people are and speaks loudly so many can hear her message.

The fact that wisdom goes where the people are also speaks of how attainable wisdom is. We often think of wisdom as something Albert Einstein had, but that the rest of us could never hope to achieve. This passage illustrates that true wisdom isn’t like that. Notice that Lady Wisdom goes where the masses are—she goes to the busiest parts of the streets, the most crowded parts of the city to make her proclamation. If the masses of humanity were incapable of grasping true wisdom, why would Wisdom go and proclaim her message where great masses of people were?

If wisdom can both be heard and attained, what is true wisdom? Notice that I said that true wisdom wasn’t like what Albert Einstein had—it’s true wisdom that is so different.

Scripture speaks of wisdom in a variety of ways—sometimes the word is used to speak of wisdom in crafting metals or the wisdom of military commanders. However, all wisdom is divine in origin. The Lord said to Job, “Who has the wisdom to count the clouds? Who can tip over the water jars of the heavens when the dust becomes hard and the clouds of earth stick together?” (Job 38:37-38). Obviously, no mortal has such wisdom. “By wisdom the LORD laid the earth’s foundations, by understanding he set the heavens in place” (Prov 3:19). “God made the earth by his power; he founded the world by his wisdom and stretched out the heavens by his understanding” (Jer 10:12).

I we want true wisdom, we don’t need understanding comparable to Albert Einstein. We don’t need to run out and buy books about how to improve our marriage, how to raise our children how to make friends and influence children, or any other such ting, for we have the wisdom of God revealed in Scripture for such!

God wants to give us that wisdom, and in this passage, Lady Wisdom stands to shout, “Come to me. Learn and get wisdom.”

We Heed Wisdom, vv 22-27

In this section, Lady Wisdom mocks those who have rejected her advice.

She asks the rhetorical question, “How long will you simple ones love your simple ways? How long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge?” The Hebrew word for “simple one” doesn’t denote one who is incapable of learning or one who is uneducated, but the word refers to those who have no moral compass, those who are inclined to evil. That, and the whole tenor of this passage, makes me see wisdom in this text as learning and doing the will of God.

How many people disregard divine knowledge in this day and age? How many people understand true wisdom to be grasping the intricacies of evolutionary thought and throwing off all moral restraints rather than following the will of God? How many people consider true wisdom to be knowing how to make much money rather than knowing how to please God? How many people consider true wisdom to be knowing how to take your enemies to court rather than reconciling with them in Christ?

Wisdom says that had the simple desired to know her, she would have made herself known to them. All these folks had to do to gain true wisdom was turn to the Source, God himself as revealed through Scripture—Timothy had known “from infancy . . . the holy Scriptures, which [were] able to make [him] wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim 3:15). God will give us wisdom if we seek it: “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (Js 1:5). Do you need to ask for God’s wisdom?

Because these folks rejected wisdom when she could easily be found, she will laugh at their disaster. This implies that disaster comes to those who disregard God’s will. How many families have been torn asunder because one or both spouses disregarded God’s will? How many folks have come to financial ruin because they became involved in activities Scripture forbids? How many inmates lay their head in a prison cell because they did not follow God’s wisdom?

This text does not imply that God causes disaster to come upon those who disregard his will, but it does teach that disaster results when people don’t follow his word. The Law of Moses was given to the Israelites for their own good: “And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the LORD’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?” (Deut 10:12-13). When Moses gave the Israelites the Law, he gave them what was good: “See, I have set before you this day life and good, death and evil” (Deut 30:15, RSV). The Law was good, for if the people kept it, God would bless them abundantly in the land they were about to cross over and possess.

Think of how good the will of God is for us. How many folks who have disregarded God’s will concerning sexuality are plagued with diseases which rob the body of its vitality and even life itself? How many folks who have disregarded God’s will concerning the instruction of their children have known heartache beyond description? How many folks who have never turned to God through Christ do not now the peace which surpasses all understanding?

Indeed, God’s will is for our own good! How much, therefore, we need to heed the wisdom he offers!

Have Our Home with Wisdom, vv 28-31

Wisdom would not answer when the fools would call. When the fools got into the disaster which came upon them, they wanted wisdom, but it was too late. They would “then eat the fruit of their ways and be filled with the fruit of their schemes.”

there comes a time when we have to pay the bill, there comes a time when you have to sleep in the bed you’ve made. “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his [flesh], from that [flesh] will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life” (Gal 6:7-8). “Then another angel came out of the temple and called in a loud voice to him who was sitting on the cloud, ‘Take your sickle and reap, because the time to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is ripe’” (Rev 14:15).

Forgiveness from God does not automatically erase the temporal consequences of sin. If I’ve abused alcohol, God can forgive me, but I still might die from cirrhosis. If I’ve committed adultery, God can forgive me, but my spouse is still free to put me away and marry another. If I murder, God can forgive me, but I still may die by lethal injection. Forgiveness means I won’t pay the eternal consequences of sin, but it does not mean that I won’t face consequences because of the law of cause and effect.

This text also speaks of those who learned that lesson far too late. How many people learn what true wisdom is only when it’s too late? Don’t you think that if Nadab and Abihu had time to see that fire coming from the Lord they thought, “Uh-oh, we shouldn’t have offered fire like that?” Don’t you think that David, after his sin with Bathsheba and all the ruin it brought to his household, thought, “Man, I should never have committed adultery?” If Ananias and Sapphira had time, don’t you think they would have thought, “Oh, if we hadn’t lied about the money!?”

How many people in our day learn the lessons of true wisdom far too late? How many people on those jets on September 11, 2001 cried out to God while knowing it was too late? How many folks have lives that are utterly ruined by sin and only then do they realize they need to listen to God? Let us not be those who wait until it’s too late to possess divine wisdom!

Whoever listens to wisdom will be at home with her—they “will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm.” The consequences of sin which overtake the disobedient will not come upon the obedient, therefore, they can dwell in safety with Lady Wisdom.

I am persuaded that this text largely deals with the consequences of sin and teaches that those who disregard God’s law will face consequences while those who obey that word will escape those consequences. However, we cannot ignore the fact that those who are obedient to God’s will shall face consequences in the next life and those who obey God will have peace and joy in the next life. Do you dwell in safety with Lady Wisdom, or do you need to come tonight and begin to make your home with her?

This sermon was originally preached by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at the Alum Creek church of Christ in Alum Creek, West Virginia.

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