The Call of Wisdom (Part 1)

The Call of Wisdom (Part 1) – Proverbs 8:1-11
by Bob Burridge ©2020

When our nation declared its independence in 1776 it was influenced by principles from the Protestant Reformation. That Reformation was another declaration of freedom that took place in the early 1500s when freedom was declared from the doctrines of men and from the oppressive dictatorship of a corrupted church. In any attempt to change things that have become corrupted wisdom is needed to properly identify the problems, and to learn how to rightly correct them.

In the Protestant Reformation we see a good example of the kind of wisdom presented in Proverbs 8. At the root of it was the idea of “sola scriptura“, Scripture alone. God’s word is our only perfect test of truth and the only infallible source of instruction about how we should live.

Martin Luther and John Calvin believed in the absolute authority of the Bible. Luther saw problems in the teachings of Rome. He dared to debate its great scholars. His only weapon was the Bible, insisting that we should always let it interpret itself.

Calvin labored in Geneva to submit each of our beliefs and practices to what’s taught in the Scriptures. He was opposed primarily by two groups who rejected the sufficiency of Scripture.
1. Romanism taught that God’s special revelation continued through the church and her ordained officers. This led to new doctrines that were not found in the Bible.
2. The Anabaptists taught that Christians can still get new revelation from God beyond what the Bible says. Private visions and interpretations created a chaotic situation. Splits occurred among them as different private visions were in conflict with one another.

In the midst of this confusion Calvin continued his work. Any ideas about God, morality, or man’s nature not drawn from the Bible had to be rejected. He didn’t start with a set of doctrines to defend. He worked to restore the biblical truths that had been confused since the time of the Apostles.

Both of these Reformers labored to know what each biblical passage actually said when it was originally written. They rejected what couldn’t be defended by sound Biblical study alone.

Men came from all over the world to learn from the example of those gathered with Calvin at Geneva. John Knox came there and saw it as the most biblical form for the church and government. He took it back to Scotland where it was called it “Presbyterianism“. It was called that because the churches were to be led by local ordained Elders, “Presbyters”, not by Bishops. The term comes from the New Testament word for “elder”, “presbuteros” (πρεσβύτερος).

Back in 1776 our nation’s founding fathers wisely applied basic biblical principles when they broke away from an oppressive monarchy that had controlled the church. Some of our founding fathers rejected important biblical doctrines, but they respected its basic principles about civil government, and the freedom of religion.

Today many have abandoned that wise heritage, and the foundation of our society is being challenged. We live in a time that worships at the extreme and conflicting altars of Rationalism and Irrationalism. Both define “good” as what satisfies our needs as we fallen creatures see them.

What we believe determines how we live. If we believe that obeying law is only to avoid punishment, we break laws as long as we don’t get caught. If we believe church is only to make us feel good, we replace biblical worship with things more entertaining.

Believing distorted truth leads us and others to live lives that hurt us and our loved ones, and that offend God. When we believe that what we see as our personal comfort is our most basic standard, we abort unwanted babies, cheat on taxes, lie under oath, let a federal government dictate to our churches, take illegal drugs to escape facing reality, and engage in many other destructive practices. There’s no end to the horrors.

This idea of resting upon God’s advice instead of man’s advice is one of the basic themes of Proverbs. These studies in Proverbs 8 are about the call of true wisdom, one of the main themes of the book. True wisdom is when we think and act in obedient submission to God’s written word. It’s the only thing that can really make our lives better.

(8:1-3) Wisdom calls out to common people in life’s most common situations.

1. Does not wisdom call? Does not understanding raise her voice?
2. On the heights beside the way, at the crossroads she takes her stand;
3. beside the gates in front of the town, at the entrance of the portals she cries aloud:

Real wisdom isn’t just for the philosopher. It’s for all of us. Wisdom’s not a hidden secret. It actively calls out. God wants us to know him and his ways.

As verses 2 and 3 tell us, it calls out to the common person as he travels through the countryside, where roads cross, as he comes into towns, even in the market places which were at the entry points of cities. We need true wisdom when we go shopping, drive our cars, roam cyberspace, visit a doctor, report for work or school, watch movies or TV, or just get together with friends.

(8:4-5) Godly wisdom is there for everybody, not just for philosophers as “experts”.

4. “To you, O men, I call, and my cry is to the children of man.
5. O simple ones, learn prudence; O fools, learn sense.

Wisdom calls out to all of us, even to the simple and the fools. We don’t have to have a high IQ or a University degree to get wisdom. We come to God’s word to learn what it actually says. We come sincerely ready to trust and to do what we find there. James 1:5,6 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.”

Verse 5 mentions two things that should be learned and understood. The simple should learn about “prudence”. This translates the Hebrew word “ormah” (ערמה). It basically means: having discretion, wisdom, the ability to discern things. I believe “discernment” fits best here. Though the KJV translates it as “wisdom” here, it’s not the same Hebrew word translated as “wisdom” in verse 1. There the Hebrew word is “khokmah” (חכמה)

The simple readers should learn to have good sense about things. The word translated as “sense” here is “lav” (לב), which is the common word for the heart. It was used then as “heart” is often used now for our inner feelings and thoughts, “what does your heart tell you?” We need to have our hearts set on the values and truths which God has made known to us.

Though we might be simple people, we should learn to prudently discern things around us. We should strive to have a God enabled ability to sense things as God says they are.

(8:6-11) Wisdom is more valuable than anything else we can desire.

6. Hear, for I will speak noble things, and from my lips will come what is right,
7. for my mouth will utter truth; wickedness is an abomination to my lips.
8. All the words of my mouth are righteous; there is nothing twisted or crooked in them.
9. They are all straight to him who understands, and right to those who find knowledge.
10. Take my instruction instead of silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold,
11. for wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you may desire cannot compare with her.

Wisdom calls us to listen, and hear what it says.

1. Wisdom tells us noble things. (8:6a)
That means things that are “royal”, they are the “princes” over every other idea out there. When we come to the Bible, we’re hearing the teachings of the King of Kings.

2. Wisdom tells us what’s right. (8:6b)
Here, the word “right” doesn’t mean “correct” or “accurate”. It’s right” in the moral sense. The Hebrew word there is “mêy-shâr” (מישׁר). It means being “upright, even, and fair”. Wisdom tells us what things are conformable to what pleases God. Without godly wisdom, justice becomes perverted. Law breakers aren’t dealt with consistently, and victims suffer.

3. True godly wisdom always tells us the truth. (8:7a)
Aside from godly wisdom, what we call “truth” is confused and changes as our theories and cultures change. In the absence of godly wisdom, what people think should be believed and done is influenced by those who produce our songs, movies, novels, TV shows, and by educators in our schools and Universities. Even what people call “science” changes what it says is true as more information comes in. It was once believed that the earth was flat, the sun orbited the earth, and the atom was the smallest unsplitable particle.

Those who teach us are often not taught real truth. n training our teachers, the methods of teaching often surpass learning the content of what should be taught. When godly wisdom isn’t the foundation, education teaches as truth things contrary to what God tells us in his word. Lessons in history, sociology, and morality can be completely slanted to promoting ungodly worldviews.

This is a growing problem in training church leaders. The Seminary I attended was able to buy a huge library of good books from a Seminary in Manhattan. That New York school no longer wanted their Bible commentaries, Theology textbooks, and books about learning the original languages of Scripture. Their focus was making people feel better about themselves, do charity work, and grow large congregations. The teaching of how to learn the truth of what God has revealed is often minimized or completely neglected.

The Bible tells us that Pastors, Elders, and Teachers in a church are called to be educators of God’s truth. Titus 1:9 tells us, “He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.” [see also 1 Timothy 2:2, 3:2, 4:13, 15, 2 Timothy 2:15, 4:2, 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13, and Acts 6:4]

Today’s religious leaders may be very talented, likeable, and entertaining communicators, but many have no idea how to carefully examine a Biblical text. True Godly Wisdom calls to us to listen to what it has to say, and to hear what’s true!

4. Wickedness is an abomination to the lips of wisdom. (8:7b-9)

7. … wickedness is an abomination to my lips.
8. All the words of my mouth are righteous; there is nothing twisted or crooked in them.
9. They are all straight to him who understands, and right to those who find knowledge.

What wisdom says is “righteous”. It says nothing that’s crooked or perverted. God’s word is straightforward, and right when understood rightly. There’s only one source for that understanding and knowledge. It’s the Bible as applied to our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

5. Wisdom tells us to choose its instruction and knowledge. (8:10-11)

10. Take my instruction instead of silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold,
11. for wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you may desire cannot compare with her.

If there could be a choice between godly wisdom and other things, wisdom should be chosen over silver, gold, or jewels! Why is wisdom so valuable? It’s actually the word of God calling out for us to live within its boundaries. Wisdom reveals the nature and standards of the Creator himself.

The New Testament shows even more about this wisdom in the person, words, and work of Jesus Christ. In John 1:1 Jesus is called “The Word”. In Proverbs we see wisdom personified. In Jesus we see wisdom incarnated.

We need to base our lives on God’s word, not on the words of entertaining and seemingly friendly people. We should compare what we hear and believe with God’s word. We should even put the words of so called experts and professionals to that same test. We have the word of God. In the Bible the words of true wisdom are there for us to learn from at anytime we want. There we don’t find theories. We find things of which we can be sure.

Today, society has abandoned the wisdom which is based upon a solid Biblical foundation. Some have abandoned the hard fought for principles of the Reformation. The whole Bible, and the Bible alone, must be our standard of what’s wise and true in all things.

Of course believers will at times differ in the details when trying to comprehend its majestic chapters. In our limited minds we all need to humbly search together and willingly correct our wrong understandings. There’s a lot we are not yet told about the infinite God, all he is, and all he’s yet to do. Right now we only have a partial picture of eternal truth, but all we have in that written word is absolutely right and true. Believers need to learn to love each other and God so much that they will humbly search the Scriptures together for answers, that they will withhold drawing conclusions where God has withheld details, that they will avoid filling in the gaps with human theories. But what it clearly says should be embraced with thankful praise and commitment. We must avoid adding ideas trying to make the Bible more palatable to lost hearts. We should humbly pray that God will teach us to apply and to obey its teachings so that wisdom will be our constant companion.

(Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.)

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