************ Sermon on Proverbs 1:22 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on July 17, 2016
"The Coming Storm"
"Strongest storm in five years approaching Valley." That was the headline December 9, 2014. It was predicted that the state's snowpack would go from only 35 percent of average to 75 percent or higher. We were warned about slippery roads, flash floods, and strong winds. I don't know if you remember what actually happened: the storm fizzled out and we remained in drought conditions.
In our Bible reading, congregation, we also are warned of a coming storm:
(Prov 1:27) "when calamity overtakes you like a storm, when disaster sweeps over you like a whirlwind, when distress and trouble overwhelm you." However, this warning is a sure thing and won't fizzle out like many of our storms in the Central Valley.
Our theme continues to be wisdom. Wisdom is so important. It is needed in our families, churches, schools, country. Wisdom is a matter of life and death. The presence of wisdom indicates you are listening to God. The presence of wisdom means you know how to live rightly before God. The presence of wisdom means your heart is right with Jesus. And the absence of wisdom? What does that indicate? That the coming storm will overwhelm you!
Therefore, I need to encourage you, dear friends, to pursue wisdom. As the song we will sing after the sermon puts it, "Love so amazing, so divine, Demands my soul, my life, my all." Wisdom demands my soul, my life, my all.
I Wisdom is Demanding (vs 20-21)
A Looking at our Bible reading we first see that wisdom is demanding.
In Proverbs 1:8-18 wisdom speaks as a father preparing a son and daughter for beauty and greatness as one of God's people:
(Prov 1:8) "Listen, my son, to your father's instruction and do not forsake your mother's teaching."In our Bible reading today wisdom speaks as a woman. Listen to verses 20-21 where wisdom is referred to as a "she":
(Prov 1:20-21) "she raises her voice in the public squares; (21) at the head of the noisy streets she cries out, in the gateways of the city she makes her speech:" This is most unusual because in the time and place and culture of Proverbs, women were not given the same voice as men. Yet here is Lady Wisdom, presented as a street preacher, warning and scolding and demanding. Taking the whole Bible into account, we know Lady Wisdom is a picture of Jesus Christ.
B Why does Lady Wisdom go out to the public squares, noisy streets, and city gates? Because the people are there. This is where they live. This is where they interact with each other. This is where they shop and work and transact business. This is where they meet with friends. This is where they need wisdom. Do you see what we are being told about God's wisdom? It is not designed for some guru or hermit in a secluded cave or on an isolated mountain top. Wisdom is meant for God's people in their day-to-day lives.
But we can say more. Note that Lady Wisdom goes out to the city gates. In the Ancient World that is where the leaders of a community met. Here in Visalia, our leaders meet at City Hall in the City Council Chambers. In the Ancient World, City Hall and Council Chambers was the city gate. That's where they met. That's where they transacted the business of a town or city. That's where men brought their complaints and their cries for justice and agreed to binding contracts. Lady Wisdom speaks, then, to the movers and shakers of society too. She speaks to the Opinion Leaders. She speaks to those who are most able to win friends and influence people.
C Lady Wisdom "calls aloud." She "raises her voice." She "cries out." She "makes her speech." She is demanding to be heard. She is demanding that we listen to her. God wants to speak to your life and about your life, congregation. He has wisdom, words of advice, for day-to-day living. So you had better listen.
But Lady Wisdom is also demanding to be heard by our leaders. Barrack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, City Council, County Supervisors, Sacramento, members of Congress, Supreme Court Justices, you had better listen to her. Don't drown out her voice. Don't ignore her cries. Sit up, take note, pay attention. Lady Wisdom has something to say to you as leaders. And, this is true for leaders in the church and kingdom -- we, too, need to listen and listen carefully to Lady Wisdom.
Lady Wisdom is available. She does not hide herself from anyone of us. However, we can allow her to be drowned out by all the noise of the world. So the question becomes: Are we listening?
II Wisdom is Dangerous (vs 22-31)
A Our second point is that wisdom is dangerous. Wisdom can be dangerous like a fire or wisdom can be dangerous like poison. Poison can only be life-threatening. Fire can be helpful. For instance, fire in a refining oven can burn away the impurities so what is left is 99 percent pure gold. Fire does not harm the gold; it purifies the gold. With this in mind, listen to verse 22:
(Prov 1:22) "How long will you simple ones love your simple ways? How long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge?"
Lady Wisdom is bad news for mockers and fools. Neither the mocker nor the fool will listen. They are stubborn, willful, thickheaded. Their folly is dangerous like poison and will kill them. The simple, on the other hand, still have a chance. The simple does not mean simple-minded. The simple are the uncommitted, those drifting along, those who do not have a close walk with God. They might respond to Lady Wisdom. That's why she is calling to them. But they need to make up their minds. They need to sit up and pay attention and listen. And when they do, Lady Wisdom purifies like a fire.
"How long?" is the cry of Lady Wisdom. How long will she allow mockers and fools to ignore her? How long before the simple listen? This is a good question for you and me. How long will Lady Wisdom cry out to us? How many sermons is it going to take? How many devotions are needed? How many Bible Studies or Bible lessons need to take place? How long?
B "How long?" is the cry of Lady Wisdom. Here is the first answer:
(Prov 1:23) If you had responded to my rebuke, I would have poured out my [Spirit on] you and made my thoughts known to you.What is Lady Wisdom looking for? She is looking for a response. She is looking for change. To use theological words, she is looking for conversion and repentance. She is looking for people who realize they are imperfect. She is looking for people who realize they need help. She is looking for people who realize they need wisdom. She doesn't look for perfect people and she doesn't work with perfect people. She looks for people who are willing to change and be changed.
And then comes a wonderful assurance: "I will pour out my Spirit on you." Our pew Bibles use the word "heart" but the Hebrew clearly says "Spirit." Do you know what Jesus is promising to penitent people? He is promising the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD (cf Is 11:2). He is promising to make the Bible come alive to you and in you. He is promising to make you passionate for Christ and the things of the Lord. He is promising to fill you with His power. He is promising you, as a Christian, the deepest desire of your heart.
C "How long?" is the cry of Lady Wisdom. Here is the second answer:
(Prov 1:24-27) But since you rejected me when I called and no one gave heed when I stretched out my hand, (25) since you ignored all my advice and would not accept my rebuke, (26) I in turn will laugh at your disaster; 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.At some point, maybe today, God's patience will run out. If we don't listen to Him, a storm is coming, a storm of judgment. You can't go on ignoring Him. You can't keep God on the margins of your life.
Notice God's laughter and God's mockery (vs 26). It was the fools and mockers who were first laughing. But now it is God's turn. We have a saying -- we can call it a proverb -- that he who laughs last, laughs best. God doesn't laugh at the pain of fools and mockers; rather, He laughs at the defeat of evil. That's the coming storm I mentioned in my introduction. The storm of God's wrath. The storm of God's anger. The storm of God's judgment.
"How long?" Right now is your moment to turn to God and say, "I am listening, Lord. I am listening to Lady Wisdom. I want a closer walk with you. I give you my soul, my life, my all!" But if you turn away, a storm is coming. A terrible storm. A calamity. A disaster. Trouble. And you will be overwhelmed.
D What is God's judgment like? What form does it take? What happens to fools and mockers who don't listen to Lady Wisdom?
(Prov 1:31) they will eat the fruit of their ways and be filled with the fruit of their schemes.Their suffering and their sorrow and their punishment comes from within. It comes from the dark energy of their own choices. This reminds me of what Paul writes in Romans 1. He talks about those who suppress the truth by their own wickedness. Although they knew God, they neither glorified Him nor gave thanks to Him but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Remember their punishment?
(Rom 1:24) Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.
(Rom 1:28) Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.
Do you hear God's judgment? God's judgment for sin is more sin. God's judgment for sin is every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. God's judgment for sin is envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. God's judgment means they are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless (cf Rom 1:29-31).
Wisdom is dangerous, like a fire. It will purify you. Folly is more dangerous, like a poison. It will turn you into a howling, miserable person. Which danger do you face: a poison or a purifying fire?
III Wisdom is Safety (vs 32-33)
A Our last point is that wisdom is safety. Listen to the last two verses of our Bible reading:
(Prov 1:32-33) For the waywardness of the simple will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them; (33) but whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm."
Our reading ends with a contrast. We are told there is destruction for fools and safety for the wise. We are told there is complacency for fools and ease for the wise.
Going back to our last point, Lady Wisdom is dangerous but if you listen to Jesus you are safe and secure. Jesus says:
(Mt 11:28-30) "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (29) Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (30) For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."This is true ease, true safety -- being in the arms of Jesus. All you have to do is listen to Lady Wisdom. All you have to do is come to Jesus.
B "Whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear or harm." I love that word "whoever." "Whoever listens." Here we see the universal appeal of the Gospel. "Whoever listens." Who is not included? No one. Who is excluded? No one. Everyone qualifies. There is room for you and me in that word "whoever." There is room for family members and neighbors. There is room for atheists and other sinners. There is room for Hindus and Muslims. All they need do, all we need do, all anyone need do, is listen to Jesus, is listen to Lady Wisdom.
C It sounds so easy to listen. But it is also so hard. If we listen to Jesus, we will change. Listening to Jesus means I give Him my soul, my life, my all. But, I need to warn you, then the world will reject and persecute us or ignore and neglect us. That's the price you pay for listening to Jesus, to Lady Wisdom. It might be scary. But not taking that step is even more scary.
Lady Wisdom warns us, congregation. She warns us, dear friends, that a storm is coming.
Jesus tells us that everyone who hears Him and obeys Him will be like a wise man who builds his house on a rock (Mt 7:24-27). When the storm comes, the rock of grace will hold. But everyone who does not listen will be like a foolish man who builds his life on the sand. When the storm comes, that house will fall, and the result is catastrophe.
A storm is coming congregation. How do you respond to Lady Wisdom?
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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