The Call of Wisdom
(Part 2) Proverbs 8:12-21
by Bob Burridge ©2020
Proverbs is a book about real wisdom as God sees it. It stands in contrast with the corrupted principles that guide our fallen minds.
In Proverbs 5, 6 & 7 the ungodly advice of the world is liked to an immoral woman seducing us in the streets. Proverbs 8 points us to a different voice: Wisdom calls out in the streets to rescue fallen humans.
8:1-5 Wisdom’s call goes out to common people in life’s most common situations. It’s not just for philosophers.
8:6-11 We’re reminded that wisdom is more valuable than anything else we might desire.
In the previous study we applied this to the problem that stirred and shaped the Protestant Reformation. Serious errors had crept into the church in the 16th century. God raised up men to “re-form” what was taught to re-shape it back to the form given to us in God’s word. The standard for deciding what’s true, good, and wise is God’s Scripture Alone, “sola scriptura“.
Wisdom is “The ability to think and to live in obedient submission to God’s word.” His word tells us what to believe and how to behave in ways that please God and that are good for his people. the Westminster Shorter Catechism answer #3 says, “The Scriptures principally teach what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man.”
Today, our nation is abandoning its reformation heritage. Its beliefs and behaviors are far from being based upon the Scriptures Alone. People arrogantly say, “Nothing is absolutely true” — but to them that’s an absolute truth!
Wisdom calls out for us to turn to that only reliable standard of truth, God’s revealed word. We should come to it humbly asking for the Holy Spirit to give us understanding and submission to what it says.
God also calls and equips some to be teachers in his church. They are warned about how careful they need to be in knowing, understanding, and teaching God’s word. In Titus 1:9 every teacher in the church is warned, “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.”
In this study in Proverbs 8:12-21 we see more about how wisdom makes her benefits known.
(8:12-13) Wisdom provides a standard for ethical behavior.
12. “I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, and I find knowledge and discretion.
13. The fear of the LORD is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.
“Prudence” translates the Hebrew word “ormah” (ערמה) in the original text. It means carefully considering a matter. Positively it means having “discretion”. Negatively it’s “craftiness, trickery”. True wisdom thinks things through carefully and plans wise actions and responses. By this thoughtful approach it seeks to acquire real truth, and to have careful discretion.
Here “hatred” is promoted in a positive sense. When we have a healthy respect for God’s power, justice, grace, and glory, the wise will hate evil things. We sin when we hate what God loves, or hate others out of jealousy
Without godly wisdom there’s no good standard for ethics. Fallen hearts are ruled by selfish coveting and perversions of moral law. In the absence of wisdom, what we should hate becomes what we seek after.
Romans 1:24-25 describes our lost condition, “Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.”
A society without godly ethics becomes selfish and corrupt. It develops ungodly ways to deal with its poor, infirm, and elderly. The infirm and elderly are seen as a burden to be either maintained in institutions, or put to what they call a “merciful death”. Sometimes they are fed or cared for for political reasons or to get praise from others and a boosted ego.
The moral ethic of Scripture is filled with sincere compassion. Deuteronomy 15:7-8, “If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be.”
In the early years of the church after the resurrection of Christ the care of widows was being overlooked. The Apostles were busy with the daily ministry of study, teaching, and prayer, and the Levitical care system had ended. God instituted the office of Deacon to make sure this need for the church was taken care of. Acts 6:3-4, “Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”
God’s word has given us a “Biblical work ethic”. The able poor should be cared for, but also helped in finding suitable and productive work. Those not able to work should be cared for lovingly by their families, church, and neighbors.
Without godly wisdom, people adopt a “welfare ethic”. Able people are given material support, but are not helped to become productive workers. Their place in society doesn’t change. They’re made to feel inferior as if they don’t measure up to others. It’s not a heartless lack of compassion when the Bible says in 2 Thessalonians 3:10, “… If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.” An unwillingness to earn what we have when we’re able to work should not be encouraged or rewarded.
A society without godly ethics also perverts the sexual ethics of its people. Pornography is promoted by the arts, and spread all over cyber-space, even available to children. Sex is looked upon as normal before marriage, and with multiple partners. Marriage is seen as optional as if it was just another romantic step in a relationship. Homosexuality is seen as a “human right” or a “personal choice” issue. But God’s word tells us something very different. God instituted marriage as a life long commitment between one man and one woman. Hebrews 13:4 says, “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.”
A society without godly wisdom rejects any sound foundation for ethics. Ethics becomes a set of principles that include exceptions for our human lusts and greed. Behavior becomes finding ways to do what we want, but in a way that protects us from unpleasant consequences.
(8:14) Wisdom offers us sound personal counsel.
14, “I have counsel and sound wisdom; I have insight; I have strength.
We may at times seek advice about dealing with our problems. Without godly wisdom, counsel becomes making excuses for what we do, or blaming problems on others. Romans 2:15 tells us that in spite of their troubled conscience, “their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them.”
Ungodly counsel tells us to blame society, professionals, or others for our failures. If a someone shoots his neighbor, people blame the company that manufactured the handgun. If a child cheats in school, blame the parents or teachers for being too demanding. Ungodly counsel finds excuses for harmful or troubling behavior. It says the person just suffers from social or economic issues. They blame society for their emotional crisis.
Godly counsel sees behind what we see. It sees what’s going on in the human heart. It draws from the promises of help and comfort from our Sovereign and Gracious God. It identifies sin that needs to be repented of and corrected. It helps us find the path God has laid out for us when we’re not living as we should. It uses the power of prayer, the advice of God’s word, and the ministry of a sound church to help us. We are to help one another learn to live for God’s glory, not just find excuses when we fail to do that.
(8:15-16) Wisdom offers political instruction.
15. By me kings reign, and rulers decree what is just;
16. by me princes rule, and nobles, all who govern justly.
True wisdom enables leaders to rule society well. God gives rightful authority to leaders of nations, churches, and homes to rule within God given boundaries. Each area of leadership is limited to what has been assigned to it by our Sovereign Lord. For example, civil leaders have no right to interfere with what God has entrusted to the church or to the family.
Without godly wisdom true justice becomes corrupted, and often favors certain groups. Things God says are wrong are often permitted, and what God promotes as right and good are attacked.
Our American form of government was strongly influenced by the biblical principles of the Protestant Reformation. Even though some founding fathers were deists and rationalists many statements in our founding documents were based upon biblical ideas.
The Declaration of Independence declared that we are endowed with some rights by our Creator. This makes these rights “unalienable”, no human or government as the authority to take them away.
Atheistic political theory claims certain liberties as “rights” based on their own imagined power to grant them. If humans define our rights, then humans can take them away, or limit them. They’re not “unalienable”. Freedoms are interpreted as “rights” only to the degree that they promote their views. The right to life has been limited so that unborn children may be put to death if their mother doesn’t want them. The right of businesses and churches to honor biblical gender differences has resulted in legal action against them. Some attack teaching the Bible as “hate speech” because it disagrees with them.
A while ago I heard a news story of a mother who was arrested for contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Her crime was bringing her children with her when she took part in an pro-life demonstration against abortions.
(8:17-21) Wisdom provides great rewards.
17. I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me.
18. Riches and honor are with me, enduring wealth and righteousness.
19. My fruit is better than gold, even fine gold, and my yield than choice silver.
20. I walk in the way of righteousness, in the paths of justice,
21. granting an inheritance to those who love me, and filling their treasuries.
God rewards those who prioritize their lives with godly wisdom. When by grace God stirs us to love him and seek him, we can be assured of God’s love and care for us. True godly wisdom brings us greater rewards than the materialistic values of our lost world.
In Acts 5 Ananias and Sapphira managed their wealth without true wisdom. They lied to the Apostles about their giving to the church. They sold some property and said they were giving it all to the Apostles. However, they held some of the profits for themselves. They valued their material wealth as more important than honesty and the work of God’s Kingdom. In this special case for our instruction, they were struck dead by the Lord.
What godly living provides is far greater than all the earthly things we might value. God’s blessings are greater than fine gold and choice sliver.
Following after true righteousness and justice gives us a greater inheritance and treasure than all our earthly gains. Many are miserable though they have lots of money and great possessions. When God gives some a lot of wealth, our duty is to manage it wisely for his glory. We should recognize that real satisfaction and joy in life doesn’t depend on what we can purchase. It’s found by walking wisely following the teachings of God’s word.
This is the message of real wisdom. It cries out for us he hear the words God has spoken to us. We need to re-form all we believe, value, and do so that it conforms with Scripture as our standard of truth. When each area of our lives is shaped by what’s true and God-honoring we are promised greater peace and joy than all we can get any other way.
(Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.)