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Don’t Despise Wisdom

Date: Nov. 26, 2017

Author: Bob Henkins

Proverbs 1:1-33

Key Verse: Proverbs 1:7

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Sometime we have a difficult time choosing what passage we will with one Sunday after Thanksgiving and before Advent starts. So we chose this passage because at the end of Daniel it mentioned those who are wise and so we thought about wisdom and soon after Proverbs 1 popped up. As I was preparing for this message, I was reminded that in the spring of 1998 Burger King took out a nation-wide, full-page ad in USA Today and introduced the first ever left-handed whopper. In order to cater to their 1.4 million left-handed daily customers, the fast food chain rotated all the condiments 180 degrees to suit the left-handed burger connoisseurs. What this did was, redistribute the weight of the sandwich so that the bulk of the condiments would skew to the left, thereby reducing the amount of lettuce and other toppings from spilling out of the right side of the burger. The next day, thousands of left-handed people were sadly disappointed when they went in to claim the newly designed burger only to find out that it was an April Fool’s joke. However, many of the Burger King stores were thrown into chaos because they were not properly notified. How many of you have ever fallen prank to an April Fool’s joke? While it’s pretty harmless to fall for an April fool’s joke, however being a real fool is no laughing matter. Through this passage we’ll see why.

Verse 1 tells us that this book, Proverbs, came from Solomon, the son of King David. While most of the book seems to be written by Solomon, there seems to be a few other authors added as well. Solomon was known as one of the wisest people to have ever walked the earth. How did he get that way? I don’t know if you remember when we studied 1 Kings back in 2014, Solomon was only twenty years old when he became king of Israel. He was so young and inexperienced to become king, knowing this he goes up to Gibeon to offer sacrifices. While he was there God appeared to him and said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” (1 Ki 3:5) Listen to Solomon’s response. “7 “Now, Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. 8 Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. 9 So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”” (1 Ki 3)

Even at a young age Solomon already had some wisdom and he displays it here. The Lord was so pleased that Solomon asked for wisdom he said, “I will give you what you asked for and so much more.” “I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be.” (1 Ki 3:12) “And if you obey, I’ll give you a long life too.” God blessed Solomon beyond his wildest dreams. And thus, Solomon wrote down the wisdom God blessed him with in the book of Proverbs.

One of the first things the book of proverbs starts off with it is telling you what it’s good for? In a sense it’s a manual for living, written down so we’ll know how to live well and understand what life means and where it’s going. Let’s take a look at verses 2-6. “for gaining wisdom and instruction; for understanding words of insight; for receiving instruction in prudent behavior, doing what is right and just and fair; for giving prudence to those who are simple, knowledge and discretion to the young— let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise.”

Solomon’s purpose for writing down the wisdom that God gave him was to help others to live a life that pleases God. We only have one life to live so we have to make it count.

The first thing Solomon mentions is, for gaining wisdom. What is wisdom? If you look it up on dictionary.com it’ll tell you that wisdom is the state of being wise. Well, that’s not very helpful is it. Those who are wise are described as “having the power of discerning and judging properly as to what is true or right; possessing discernment, judgment, or discretion.” I look at wisdom as being able to apply, or use the intelligence that you have. In our day and age, we are overloaded with information. Everyday we are bombarded with information. We have the people around us, friends, family and co-workers that communicate with us. We have school, books and teachers, TV, radio, email, news feeds and various kinds of apps (Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram), texting, phone calls, billboards, bumper stickers, even office lights in the buildings downtown are used to give us information. We live in the information age and we are bombarded with so much information each and every day. We are being filled with information and given knowledge all the time, but my question is this: how do you know which information is good and which is bad? Especially in our era of “Fake News,” like the Burger King ad. That was done in fun, but what about those who are not in it for the fun but have real evil intentions, such as identity theft and fraud. Not only that, not all knowledge is good. There are some things that are better left unseen. Eve was tempted in the Garden of Eden because she had the desire to gain wisdom but she went outside of God, or around God, to get that knowledge. (Ge3:6) The knowledge she gained was not what she expected or hoped for. In the end, it led to her and husband’s downfall. So how do we filter all the information we consume, so that can retain only the good? We need discernment. We need to be taught how to be discerning. And that’s what Proverbs is good at doing, instructing us so that we can have understanding words of insight. Then this understanding can be put into action and helps to DO what is right and just and fair. Our mind is like the rudder of a ship, it guides our direction. What you think about is important because from your thoughts spring your actions. Verse 4 says, “for giving prudence to those who are simple,” the word for simple here means someone who is gullible, without moral direction and inclined to evil. To give prudence in the this context means to be wise in the practical areas of life so that someone who is gullible doesn’t fall for a practical joke or an email from someone who wants to give you all their money to store in your bank account.

Another thing we see is that this wisdom is for everyone, the young and the wise. According to verses 4b & 5, to the young it gives knowledge and discretion. This is like a little child being taught to think and judge and choose for themselves. In the beginning they need help because they don’t know right from wrong, so we teach them so that when they are alone, they know what to do and how to act. The young have to learn how to do this because we won’t be there for them at every moment. At first thought you might think that the wise are already wise, so why do they need more wisdom? The truth is, you can never have too much wisdom. We continue to grow and learn every day. Also, the world changes all the time so we need to keep learning. When I was young who would have thought that I would have to worry about a scam email because personal computers didn’t exist when I was born. So, what that tells me is that you (now I’m talking to you the next generation) is that you’re going to have to worry about things that haven’t even been invented yet. So even the wise have to keep learning. Actually, the saying is true, the more you learn, the wiser you become, the more you realize how little you actually know. This Only the fool thinks that they know it all.

Verse 6 shows us that this wisdom helps understand parables which are the sayings and riddles of the wise. Jesus’ disciple Matthew tells us that Jesus always spoke to the crowds in parables (Mt 13:34), why? Because parable are stories designed to teach some truth. However, unless you have the DESIRE for wisdom, a parable will only seem like a nice story and you will never gain anything from it. People like this don’t want to make the effort required to learn, but just be spoon fed the easy way, this reveals that they don’t really want to learn, but only to move on to the next thing. However, for those who WANT to learn, you will find that you can dig out many wonderful treasures of wisdom from parables. It’s like a gem hidden in plain sight. Once you see it, it’s always exposed.

In the first six verses Solomon was making a point of how valuable wisdom really is, so the next question is how do we get it? That can be found in verse 7. Let’s take a look at it. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” This is really an odd saying. How can fear be the beginning of anything but being afraid of something? What verse 7 teaches us, is that in order to learn, we need to be humble. The first step in learning is bowing down to God. The fear of the Lord means to have awesome respect for God. When we respect God and humble ourselves, then we are ready to receive wisdom. Otherwise when we are proud and think we know it all, that way we are not ready to receive anything because we don’t think we need it. That what it means when fools despise wisdom and instruction.

In order to safe guard against becoming a fool, the writer of Proverbs makes a plea to the readers to use our God given ears to listen. Take a look at verses 8-9. “Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. They are a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.” As a teenager I might have had a different view of the chain mentioned in verse 9. Growing up living in a strict household, to me it might have appeared to be more of a choker than a necklace. But the writer has wisdom that they want to impart and we should listen to what he has to say. Information is important and we shouldn’t cut it off before having time to evaluate it. Most parents love their kids and want what’s best for them. And they don’t usually talk to their kids only to hear their own voice, they usually have a reason for why they are speaking. Usually they are trying to help their children to have success because they don’t want them to run into trouble. And since parents have had more life experience than their kids, they might be able to help so it would be beneficial for kids to listen to their parents.

Be on your guard for bad company that entices you into sin. Take a look at verses 10-14. “10 My son, if sinful men entice you, do not give in to them. 11 If they say, “Come along with us; let’s lie in wait for innocent blood, let’s ambush some harmless soul; 12 let’s swallow them alive, like the grave, and whole, like those who go down to the pit; 13 we will get all sorts of valuable things and fill our houses with plunder; 14 cast lots with us; we will all share the loot”—” We see this type of thing happen in Chicago. With so many gangs in the city, we see their violence played out in the news. How can you live through all that violence and think that there will be no repercussions? Gang members use their influence to recruit younger people as they entice them into sinful life. They have no conscience. Innocent blood gets shed as neighborhoods turn into battlefields. But probably most of us may not relate to this because we don’t live it every day. Maybe it connects better on going after things the easy way. Maybe like students cheating on exams. Sure, you pass the test but you don’t really learn the material. They ask what’s the answer instead of how does this work. Always scheming for the easy way to get the next thing instead of taking the time and putting in the hard work to learn and do it the right way.

Verses 15-19 tell us, “15 my son, do not go along with them, do not set foot on their paths; 16 for their feet rush into evil, they are swift to shed blood. 17 How useless to spread a net where every bird can see it! 18 These men lie in wait for their own blood; they ambush only themselves! 19 Such are the paths of all who go after ill-gotten gain; it takes away the life of those who get it.”

Through the verses we see good advice from the author. Often people who rush into evil do not think through all the details. They are in such a hurry to get ill-gotten gain that they make foolish mistakes. Please don’t misunderstand me, I’m not advocating for smarter criminals, that would not be good for us all, I’m just saying that sometimes those people do not use the best judgement for example like spreading a net where every bird can see. This reminds me of Mt 16:26 which says, “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” Even if evil people have the wisdom to carry out their misdeeds, what good is their success if those deeds lead them to sin and enter into hell? They exchange a small gain for eternal condemnation. I don’t know about you, but to me that doesn’t seem like a very wise decision.

A blessing I see in this passage is how wisdom is personified and how it calls out to us. Verses 20-21 say, “20 Out in the open wisdom calls aloud, she raises her voice in the public square; 21 on top of the wall she cries out, at the city gate she makes her speech:” Wisdom is out there for those who really want it all we have to do is be sensitive to its call. If we block our ears, or focus our attention on doing evil, it makes it much harder to hear wisdom’s call. Even though wisdom is calling it will not call forever. If we refuse to listen, at some point wisdom will stop calling. So it asks the question, when will you turn from your ways? Take a look at verse 22. “22 “How long will you who are simple love your simple ways? How long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge?” This is a warning for us and we should take it to heart. How long will we stubbornly refuse to listen? Verse 23 gives us valuable advice, it says, “23 Repent at my rebuke! Then I will pour out my thoughts to you, I will make known to you my teachings.” We don’t like to be told to repent, but that is the wisest course of action for us that are stubbornly following a destructive path. For if we reject wisdom, we will eventually experience the cold hard reality of our foolish decisions. Take a look at verses 24-27. “24 But since you refuse to listen when I call and no one pays attention when I stretch out my hand, 25 since you disregard all my advice and do not accept my rebuke, 26 I in turn will laugh when disaster strikes you; I will mock when calamity overtakes you— 27 when calamity overtakes you like a storm, when disaster sweeps over you like a whirlwind, when distress and trouble overwhelm you.” In the end, wisdom will have the last laugh at the foolish people’s expense. For there are consequences for our actions, there are consequences for rejecting wisdom. Only when it’s too late does the fool come to their senses and seek wisdom. But by that time, safety is out of reach and calamity is at their doorstep. The consequences for rejecting wisdom can be found in verses 28-32. “28 “Then they will call to me but I will not answer; they will look for me but will not find me, 29 since they hated knowledge and did not choose to fear the Lord. 30 Since they would not accept my advice and spurned my rebuke, 31 they will eat the fruit of their ways and be filled with the fruit of their schemes.32 For the waywardness of the simple will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them;” Destruction is the final destination for the fool. However even in the midst of this bad news we can see a ray of hope in verse 33. “33 but whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm.”” In this passage, the writer makes one final plea to the reader to listen to wisdom. This is like the last “Bridge Out” road construction sign that is posted to warn those on the road. If drivers ignore the sign to other warning will come and their fate is in their own hands. This is a sobering thought.

So, in conclusion, what should be our take away from this passage? We should value wisdom and try to get as much as we can. Listen to those who give it freely. We shouldn’t try to go through life alone without reading the instruction manual our creator gave us. Men like to do this, we don’t need to read the instruction manuals of the things we get. We think we are smart enough on our own. But then we complain when things don’t turn out as we hoped. Who do we have to blame? Only ourselves for not seeking wisdom. Therefore, we should listen to others that offer us wisdom. Value their input. Then maybe one day we can be a source of wisdom for someone else. Also, we should aware to not be enticed by sin, or taking the easy way. Do what is right – always. We should use our ears to hear, not just to hold up our glasses, Remember, listening is a skill, develop it. Repent when needed. And if you haven’t paid attention to wisdom, it’s not too late to start. Be wise, don’t reject wisdom because before you know it, it will be gone.

Have you ever seen those motivational signs that encourage us to do our best? How about the reverse ones that kind of mock them? They can be found on the site despair.com. Some of those are so funny. There is one that says, “Mistakes: It could be that the purpose of your life is only to serve as a warning to others.” Sadly, this is true is some people’s lives. Solomon might be an example of this. Solomon started out good, but later in life he went astray. Ecc 2:10 tells us that “I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my labor, and this was the reward for all my toil.” To give you an example, he had about 1000 wives and concubines. Eventually he was led astray by these wives.  However later, he came to his senses and repented before God. What was his conclusion after going through this? Ecc 12:13-14 says, “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. 14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.” Solomon realized that God was the source of all wisdom. If you want wisdom, you need to come to God. God is willing to give it. James 1:5 tells us, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” Even in this passage it tells us that wisdom calls aloud raising her voice in the public square. She is not hiding in some back alley but is at the city gate for all to see. Think about where you want your life to end up, then seek wisdom to help you get there. Wisdom is not abstract, secular, or academic but personal and theological. To reject wisdom is to reject God. I pray that each of us may be wise and seek God daily for wisdom.

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Daily Bread

Seek Righteousness, Seek Humility

Zephaniah 2:1-15

Key Verse: 2:3

  Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land,
    who do his just commands;
  seek righteousness; seek humility;
    perhaps you may be hidden
    on the day of the anger of the LORD.

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