Proverbs 8:1-11, 22-36
Does not wisdom call,
and does not understanding raise her voice?
On the heights, beside the way,
at the crossroads she takes her stand;
beside the gates in front of the town,
at the entrance of the portals she cries out:
‘To you, O people, I call,
and my cry is to all that live.
O simple ones, learn prudence;
acquire intelligence, you who lack it.
Hear, for I will speak noble things,
and from my lips will come what is right;
for my mouth will utter truth;
wickedness is an abomination to my lips.
All the words of my mouth are righteous;
there is nothing twisted or crooked in them.
They are all straight to one who understands
and right to those who find knowledge.
Take my instruction instead of silver,
and knowledge rather than choice gold;
for wisdom is better than jewels,
and all that you may desire cannot compare with her.
The Lord created me at the beginning of his work,
the first of his acts of long ago.
Ages ago I was set up,
at the first, before the beginning of the earth.
When there were no depths I was brought forth,
when there were no springs abounding with water.
Before the mountains had been shaped,
before the hills, I was brought forth—
when he had not yet made earth and fields,
or the world’s first bits of soil.
When he established the heavens, I was there,
when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,
when he made firm the skies above,
when he established the fountains of the deep,
when he assigned to the sea its limit,
so that the waters might not transgress his command,
when he marked out the foundations of the earth,
then I was beside him, like a master worker;
and I was daily his delight,
rejoicing before him always,
rejoicing in his inhabited world
and delighting in the human race.
‘And now, my children, listen to me:
happy are those who keep my ways.
Hear instruction and be wise,
and do not neglect it.
Happy is the one who listens to me,
watching daily at my gates,
waiting beside my doors.
For whoever finds me finds life
and obtains favor from the Lord;
but those who miss me injure themselves;
all who hate me love death.’
This morning’s reading reminds me of the one about when God created Adam and Eve.
He gathered them together one day and said, “I have two gifts to give you. The first one is the ability to pee standing up and…” Adam, very anxious, interrupted God screaming, “ME, ME, ME, I want it!…please Lord?!…please?!…please?!…please?! This would make life a whole lot easier!” Eve agreed and said those things didn’t really matter to her. So God gave Adam the gift. Adam was amazed, screaming for joy, running through the Garden of Eden, peeing on every tree he could find. He ran along the beach making drawings with his pee in the sand. He lit a fire and played fireman. God and Eve simply stared at the man, mad with happiness, until Eve asked God, “Aaaand…what is the other present, God?” God sighed and calmly responded, “A brain, Eve… The brain is yours.”
It’s no wonder that Scripture personifies wisdom with a female character as we heard in our Proverbs passage. It isn’t that men can’t be wise. It’s just that men tend to allow their more primitive natures guide their actions and decision-making. And sometimes there’s nothing wrong with this. It’s those primitive natures that often get things done. For good or bad, they can stimulate change when change is necessary. They can either produce life or death depending on how they’re channeled. Of course, those same primitive natures can be found in women as well. They aren’t unique to men alone. Women can be producers of life or death as well. Women can allow their primitive natures guide their actions and decision-making just as easily as men. Women can get things done too. To debate the abilities of the sexes is a fruitless exercise and I’d be a fool to stand up here and engage in it. I’d be a fool and unwise, something this sermon series is helping us avoid becoming…
Indeed there is great wisdom to be found in the Old Testament texts by both men and women. We all stand to gain from them, men and women, young and old, and everyone in between. The wisdom of these texts is universal, some more applicable to certain people at certain times but ultimately useful for all people.
For whatever reason, our lectionary creators want us to simply reflect on the purpose and power of wisdom. Last week we reflected on this while looking at the 1st chapter of Proverbs and this week we’re again looking at it in the 8th chapter, albeit a personified wisdom. Next week we’re going to get out of Proverbs altogether and move on to the wisdom and poetry of Ecclesiastes. Perhaps you noticed that none of the actual wisdom of Proverbs is conveyed in the 1st and 8th chapters of Proverbs! Only promotions of wisdom itself! Well, I think it would be a shame to dwell in this rich book and not actually reflect on the proverbial wisdom. So I’m going to deviate from the assigned text a little and offer up my favorite nuggets from the book of Proverbs along with a brief accompanying reflection. Here goes:
Proverbs 22:6 Train children in the right way, and when old, they will not stray.
Anyone who’s raised a child knows the importance of instilling good values in them at an early age. Children are so vulnerable to sin and the wickedness of the world. They need good values to protect them from that wickedness and become fruitful adults. Without them at an early age, they become wicked adults.
Proverbs 31:10 A capable wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.
Anyone who’s married knows the importance of having a capable spouse. Yes, the proverb refers specifically to a wife but the truth of it is non-gender. A capable partner in life, one who supports you and helps you grow and is self-sustaining, is an invaluable asset in life. Two are better than one as we hear elsewhere in Scripture and this is no more evident than in a marriage with capable partners.
Proverbs 14:12 There is a way that seems right to a person, but its end is the way to
We can all get caught up in sinful living believing it is good and right. Thus is the allure of sin! It fools us into believing it won’t harm us, that it’s somehow good for us. But all sin leads to death in one form or another.
Proverbs 4:23 Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.
We all must be particularly mindful of protecting our hearts. Our minds and bodies may carry us far but it is our spirits that actually create good life. Don’t squander that spirit and the gifts of the spirit.
Proverbs 27:17 Iron sharpens iron, and one person sharpens the wits of another.
Much like a capable spouse, it’s important to surround ourselves with people that will help us grow and become sharper and sharper. We are limited in how much we grow by ourselves. We need other people to stimulate exponential growth.
Proverbs 16:18 Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.
Aaah, good old pride! Arguably the greatest sin there is! I tend to believe that pride is the source of all sin, the fixation on the self is what drives all sin. And oh, what death that comes from pride! Our very selves are destroyed by pride so it is important to avoid getting caught up in it.
Proverbs 17:17 A friend loves at all times, and kinsfolk are born to share adversity.
Finally, a powerful nugget of truth distinguishing between friends and family. Friends often share in the good times but are rarely around during the bad times. Family, on the other hand, is often there during both the good and the bad times. What a gift it is to have family!
Those are but a few of the nuggets of wisdom that can be found in the book of Proverbs. You can hear how they’re universal in nature and all lead to life and growth. As the personified wisdom of reading says, “For whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the Lord; but those who miss me injure themselves; all who hate me love death.” And not only life but good life…joyful life. The psalmist proclaims, “you show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (16:11) When we heed the wisdom of Scripture, we experience true joy in this world and salvation from the evil and wickedness of this world. The prophet Isaiah says, “with joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” (12:3)
I invite you to explore the wisdom found in the 31 chapters of the book of Proverbs. I am confident you’ll find nuggets that apply specifically to you in your situation. The wisdom of Scripture is universal and applicable. What a gift from God! Thanks be to God!
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.