************ Sermon on Proverbs 9:4a ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on June 12, 2016
When Ruth and I travel to Seal Beach to visit our aunt, we always have to make a decision just past Six Flags Magic Mountain: do we stay on Highway 5 or do we take the 405?
We are confronted with a similar choice in Proverbs 9. The passage portrays two houses, one on either side of the road. On one side the house stands open with an elegant lady named Wisdom inviting us in. On the other side of the road another house stands open with a seductive lady named Folly inviting us in. Wisdom beckons on the one side and Folly calls loudly from the other side. Which house will we enter?
Doesn't Jesus confront us with a similar choice in the Sermon on the Mount?
(Mt 7:13-14) Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. (14) But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.Two ways, two gates, two houses, two ladies. The choice is yours. Which do you choose?
The right answer is easy when Ruth and I visit our aunt. We do a quick check on Google Maps for traffic conditions. We pick the highway that doesn't have an accident or heavy traffic. When it comes to Lady Wisdom and Lady Folly the right choice is equally obvious, but we still have a hard time choosing.
Why? Because we are born sinners. Which means our natural inclination is to choose folly. Which means we can know what is the right and obvious choice but we still pick folly. Add to this our actual sins and their consequences. The result? It is you and me standing in front of the two homes of Proverbs 9. We are the ones standing at the crossroads. We know what is the good choice, the right choice, the wise choice, yet we want to pick folly. This is the real you and the real me that God loves in Jesus Christ.
And, yet, by the grace of God in Christ we are still able to make the right choice when it comes to wisdom and folly. We see this grace of God in an important and often repeated word in the book of Proverbs. It is the word "son" -- which appears fifty times in the book. Imagine that: we who pick folly over wisdom are counted as sons and daughters of God.
God is the Father and we sinners are His children. Isn't this the message of the Gospel?
(1 Jn 3:1) How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!According to Hebrews, Christ is not ashamed to call us His brothers and sisters (Heb 12:7). One time when Jesus was told about His mother and brothers He pointed to His disciples and said, "Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother" (Mt 12:49-50).
As sons and daughters of God, as children saved by grace through faith, as pardoned sinners, as brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ, we are told to choose between wisdom and folly.
Our passage is divided into three paragraphs. The first and third paragraphs mirror one another -- but the first is wisdom inviting us in and the third is folly inviting us in. There is no third option. We need to choose either wisdom or folly. The invitation to wisdom is open to everyone except mockers. The middle paragraph of chapter 9 explains why God excludes mockers. But He welcomes both the wise and the simple.
I Wisdom's Invitation to Live
A Wisdom is pictured as a classy lady opening to us her home. Actually, with its seven pillars it is pictured more like a palace (Prov 9:1).
Who is this classy lady? Taking the whole Bible into account, this is a picture of Jesus Christ. I think, for instance of what Paul writes to the Corinthians about Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Cor 1:24).
The word for "wisdom" in verse 1 is plural in the Hebrew --"wisdoms." But we need to understand this plural correctly. It isn’t a numerical plural, as if there are alternate wisdoms to choose from. Rather, it is a plural of majesty. In mind is wisdom with all of its perfections and fullness. Meaning that Jesus Christ is more than able to give us everything we need. Remember what Jesus said to His disciples? "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full" (Jn 10:10). The fact that wisdom’s house has "seven pillars" says the same thing -- think of all the work to hew them out, think of all the wealth needed to finance them; none of this is beyond Jesus because His is all power and all wisdom and all wealth and all glory. He is the greatest and wisest person in the universe. He knows exactly what is needed to give you a great and wonderful life.
B Look at verse 2: "She has prepared her meat and mixed her wine; she has also set her table" (Prov 9:2). No junk food at this table! And, no vegetarian diet either. Lady Wisdom serves meat. The Jewish people didn't use their flocks and herds for food, so opportunities to eat roast beef or lamb were infrequent and welcomed. And, mixing the wine does not mean watering it down. It means adding spices to make the wine even better. The point of verse 2 is that Lady Wisdom has prepared a banquet -- a banquet of her best. For us. For us who are the sons and daughters of God.
What is the banquet that has been prepared? Let's backtrack for a moment and look at the different courses that have been prepared. Proverbs 1: wisdom preserves us from violence. Chapter 2: wisdom keeps us in the paths of the righteous. Chapter 3: wisdom improves us financially. Chapter 4: wisdom gives us status. Chapter 5: wisdom gives you a great marriage. Chapter 6: wisdom makes us work and accomplish worthy goals. Chapter 7: wisdom protects us in temptation. Chapter 8: wisdom opens our eyes to the beauty of creation. And that’s just for starters. We have not even gotten to the actual proverbs yet, in chapters 10-31. The point? Christ has set a feast, a banquet, for us.
What really is the feast Lady Wisdom has prepared for us? It is the Gospel feast to which Christ invites all to come. The message is to fear God and find life. The only path to peace is along this road established by Wisdom. Without it you will surely enter the gates of hell.
C Look at what is written in the rest of this section about Lady Wisdom:
(Prov 9:3-6) She has sent out her maids, and she calls from the highest point of the city. (4) "Let all who are simple come in here!" she says to those who lack judgment. (5) "Come, eat my food and drink the wine I have mixed. (6) Leave your simple ways and you will live; walk in the way of understanding (Prov 9:3-6).
Wisdom -- actually, Christ himself -- has sent messengers out into the world to invite more and more people into His banquet. Wisdom is bold and public. Wisdom cares deeply about people. And we are His messengers today. But even though we are involved, a divine voice is being heard. Notice how verse 3 puts it: "She has sent out her maids, and she calls ..." Her servants are getting the invitations out, but Lady Wisdom herself is speaking through them. It is a picture of the prophets and the apostles. It is a picture of Christian parents and Sunday school teachers and preachers today. This reminds me of what Paul wrote to the Thessalonians:
(1 Thess 2:13) ... when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God ...This understanding of the ministry of the Word is almost forgotten by most Christians and churches today. But when I am preaching, I am not tossing out my own opinions. The preaching of the Word of God is the Word of God. Through the preacher and Christian parents and Sunday School teachers and youth leaders God is inviting you into His banquet.
D This is now the third call of wisdom. Wisdom's first call was to the simple, the mockers, and the fools (Prov 1:22). The mockers laughed at her, so in her second call she invited only the simple and the fools (Prov 8:5). But the fools didn't want God's wisdom, so in this third call she invites only the simple to come to her feast. It's a dangerous thing to reject God's invitation; you never know when it may be your last one (Lk 14:24).
In the Book of Proverbs, a simple person is someone who is not wise. So he is in danger. Evil people can easily lead simple people to do evil actions. But nobody is really good. Everyone does evil things. Everyone fails according to God’s standards (Rom 3:23). So, we are all simple people by God’s standards.
God invites us simple people to learn His wisdom, to come to His banquet. This means God and Christ must be in our lives. Of course, this also means leaving the old crowd, the crowd of fools and mockers.
II The Exclusion of Mockers
A This brings us to the second paragraph: the exclusion of mockers. Notice what mockers don't do according to verse 7:
(Prov 9:7) Whoever corrects a mocker invites insult; whoever rebukes a wicked man incurs abuse.Do you hear what mockers don't do? They don't listen to advice. They don't take advice. Instead they get angry and mad and throw a temper tantrum and start fuming and make all sorts of phone calls. This kind of person is dangerous. Unstable. Undesirable. Not someone you ever want to be around.
These people are fools. They have the opportunity to gain wisdom but instead come out attacking. And, don't think for a moment that the Bible is describing only the young. I have met plenty of old fools and middle-aged fools throughout the years who also cannot take advice and rebuke and correction and instruction.
Here we receive some advice from Solomon regarding how and when we should deliver Wisdom's message to others. We must discern those who scorn and mock the truth. Not all sinners are scorners and mockers, and we must fulfill our duty to proclaim the Gospel to them. But there are times when to reprove someone with the Gospel message creates disdain and scoffing and mocking. If we encounter someone like this, we should wait. We should not flinch from giving the message of Christ, but we must also be wise to know when it is best to speak.
B We are being reminded here that God corrects and rebukes and instructs and teaches. He does so in the Bible, through parents and teachers, from the pulpit. He does so because He loves us: "Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline" (Rev 3:19).
But because it is His loving heart speaking to our lives, we open up and say, "Lord, I want to grow. I want to become a better person. I want to be like You. Please tell me and show me how. Correct me. Teach me. Train me. Rebuke me."
Do you know what Proverbs calls this kind of attitude? It is wisdom. It is the fear of the Lord. It is reverence.
III Folly's Invitation to Die
A In verses 13-18 we see striking parallels with Wisdom’s invitation in verses 1-6. The message is even the same: "Let all who are simple, come in here!" (vs 4,16). Both are wooing our heart: the one for life and the other for death. Both are intensely anxious for success. Wisdom calls. The woman Folly is loud. Both call from "the highest point of the city." Both spread out a meal for the simple and ignorant.
B But there are differences. We notice Wisdom builds her house, but Folly sits at the door of her house and expects us to be impressed. Wisdom offers us meat and wine, but Folly offers bread/food and water. Wisdom deals honestly with us, but Folly makes glamorous promises that cannot come true. Wisdom’s followers live forever, but Folly’s guests end in the depths of the grave. Wisdom's meal is a feast but Folly's meal is a funeral.
C Folly is truthful at one point: stolen water is sweet to us and food eaten in secret is delicious -- for a little while, that is, until guilt sets in. Our corrupt hearts do enjoy evil. In a moment of great honesty, Augustine writes about a time he stole something he already had plenty of. He stole because it was wrong, because doing something wrong and getting away with it was exciting and dangerous and exhilarating. Augustine wrote, "Such was my heart, O God, such was my heart. You had pity on it when it was at the bottom of the abyss." Do you have a taste for sin and folly? You are in good company because we all do. We all know what it is like to be stuck down there in the abyss of sin. We all know what it is like when our passion is not for Christ but for lesser things, even wrong things.
"Come in," cries Folly. She wants us to drink stolen water and to eat food in secret. She wants us to transgress God's commandments and end up in the fires of hell.
Two ways, two gates, two houses, two ladies. The choice is yours. Which do you choose? Which voice do you hear? Which voice attracts your heart? Whose guest are you? At the end of your life will you be attending a feast or a funeral?
I urge you, dear friends, to hear the gospel again. This is the message of Wisdom. Know that Christ loves you. Know that Christ died for you. Know that Christ was raised for you and sits in heaven for you. Know that He welcomes you to Himself.
If you look to Him in faith, then you have heard and answered Lady Wisdom. If you fear Him and love Him, then you have heard and answered Lady Wisdom.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
Back to Index of Sermons Page