Wisdom’s offer (Proverbs 9)

Do you like getting invited out for dinner?  It’s great isn’t it to know that you won’t have to cook for yourself – and no worrying about clearing up and washing up afterwards. Even better still is the invite to a party with lots to eat and plenty of good company. 

Here wisdom sends out invites “come and dine with me.”  It’s another way of showing us once again and from another perspective the goodness of wisdom. Wisdom offers a happy, fulfilled, fruitful life. Wisdom will provide for you. Wisdom will look after and honour you.

An invite for those who lack wisdom (v 1-6)

Once again, wisdom is personified as a woman. She invites us in to her house for a feast. The image of a seven pillared house conjures up images of prosperity. This is no hovel but a large and spacious room.  The number 7 is often associated with perfection. This is a perfect place to feast. Remember, this is poetry, expect images and metaphors. Once again we have the sense of how special and important wisdom is.  Wanting to be wise (not just knowledgeable) is a good and godly ambition.

The offer is to the simple or unlearned again.  It reminds us of God’s gracious invitation to those who lack money and goods to come and trade with him. This is an offer of grace. It’s possible to acquire and grow in wisdom.  It is possible for those who “lack good judgement” (v4)  to “learn to use good judgement” (v6).

This is good news.  Some of us may feel very inadequate, embarrassed about our past, ashamed about our current situation.  We may turn up knowing very little about the Gospel and very little about wise living. We look back on our lives and we know we’ve messed up. We’ve made stupid mistakes in the past that have got us into trouble.  We’ve:

Wasted our money and got into debt

Got ourselves into destructive and abusive relationships

Alienated friends and colleagues

And the result has been that we can’t see a way out. Perhaps you identify closely with the people who failed to listen to wisdom’s warning. You have been the naïve person who has rushed into a business decision or tried to help someone out with a debt and got yourself trapped in a financial disaster. Maybe you see in yourself the description of the lazybones or sluggard, you’ve looked for the easy way through life, failed to make a timely decision and you’ve been caught napping.

Some of us may identify with something far more serious, deadly and shame inducing. Maybe it’s you who has been unfaithful to friends, family, church. Maybe the description of adultery applies to literally to you. You have betrayed your wife or husband. Or maybe the more metaphorical but no less deadly meaning describes you. Have you put your trust in idols, have you found your confidence in possessions, status, others instead of God?

Well here is an invitation to eat bread and drink wine.  Here’s an invitation to start anew. Proverbs 9 offers hope of a different future, a new life, a fresh start.  Bread and wine remain symbols of that offer to this day when we gather as a church. Here is a reminder that wisdom is seen in genuine, whole hearted repentance when we turn from sin to follow the true and living God.

A warning to those who will not listen (v 7-9)

In contrast, we are told that there are those who don’t listen, who aren’t worth bothering with. They only want to mock.  Proverbs links the mocker with the wicked (v7). There are those who show no interest in learning truth. They are happy in their sin and stupidity.

Perhaps you’ve experienced this kind of mockery. As you’ve tried to make a fresh start, they’ve laughed at you. “What do you  mean you won’t be coming out and getting drunk with us?” they scorn. “You used to be fun, you’re boring now!” “You’ve not got religion have you? Don’t tell me you believe all that stuff in the Bible.”

And for some of you, it’s the mockery you’ve got when you’ve tried t challenge people about ther behaviour. Instead of being chastened they’ve just laughed in your face. It’s made you more angry and you’ve wanted to shout at them. But actually the only wise response is to walk away.

Remember that advice and warning in chapter 1. There comes a point when wisdom stops speaking. There comes a time when you are wasting your breath trying to warn, teach and correct. Save your breath for those who want to listen and are willing to learn. 

And whilst this is good advice about how to handle the stubborn, rebellious and wilfully wicked, it’s also a warning to those who are like it. Don’t think that because the other person stops answering back you have won the argument. Don’t think that because you can continue in that affair or with your bullying and abusive behaviour without any feeling of guilt or regret that it’s okay. When your conscience is dead, when wisdom stops calling you then you should worry.  Turn and repent. Allow God to warm your cold heart, let him revive your conscience. Plead with him to teach you goodness and not to leave you in your folly.

Don’t be deceived by folly (v13-18)

If wisdom has been portrayed as the prudent, faithful, gentle, welcoming host in these chapters, then folly is portrayed as another woman with a very different type of reputation.

She sits in her doorway on the heights overlooking the city. She calls out to men going by who are minding their own business.  ‘Come in with me’ she urges the simple.” (v14-16a).

Once again the image is of the unfaithful woman prostituting herself out. There’s an undertone of conspiracy and secrecy here (v17). The food she offers is stolen.  By the way, I think there’s a sense here that

  1. The good things that wicked, foolish and greedy people enjoy are there in the end because of the wisdom, ingenuity and hard work of others. It is not good to get by and benefit on others’ work.
  2. We live in a world where people enjoy stealing the credit and glory from others.  Don’t do it. Be honest about the effort you’ve put in. Remember that God sees the truth, that it will one day be brought to light and that God will honour honest and godly work.
  3. That even the ‘knowledge and wisdom’ that exists in this world is only there because of God’s revelation. So when we claim knowledge and wisdom without recognising God as the revealer of all truth and wisdom then we are thieves and robbers too.

Now the pleasures of folly may seem enticing for a while but Solomon says that those who go that way are as good as dead.

Remember that wisdom and folly are moral qualities. So folly is about rejecting God, about being unfaithful to him about relying on our own abilities and not on him. The Bible says that this is sin and that the wages of sin is death,

Christians have left death behind, we belong to Jesus. We live in the light, we belong to life. We should live as though that is true.

Conclusion –Where wisdom starts and where it goes

And so we return to verse 10-11 which capture the theme of Proverbs

V.10 Fear of the Lord is the foundation of wisdom. Knowledge of the Holy One results in good judgment.

V.11 Wisdom will multiply your days and add years to your life.

We are reminded again that wisdom starts with knowing, fearing (or revering), trusting and worship God. As we have seen through this series, this is where Proverbs points us to Christ, it is through him that we know and worship God.

The sense through chapter 9 is that whilst some people are stubborn and proud, refusing to hear God’s voice, continuing in their sin, others are humble and ready to repent.

If we repent, we have the promise of forgiveness. So wisdom offers life. Practical moral wisdom opens up the possibility (generally true) of a long life. Christ as the wisdom of God offers eternal life This is a wonderful gift of grace and should lead us to joy, gratitude, worship and hope.

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