← back to list

May 19, 2019

Proverbs Renews Our Desire for Wisdom

Passage: Proverbs 9:1-18

Preacher: John Huizinga

Series: Why Should I Read Proverbs Now?

Category: Proverbs

Keywords: wisdom, confession, correction, folly


We pick up the book of Proverbs again and read together Proverbs chapter 9. The last of the introductory chapters in the book calls us to renew our desire for wisdom. We will contrast wisdom and folly. These are actions we don’t usually consider. We’re more likely to focus our attention on right or wrong, beneficial or sacrificial, good or bad. But those judgments don’t always help us when it comes to our daily decisions and choices. In a life that is increasingly filled with anxious thoughts, stress and distress, and little margin for error, what we crave is clarity of purpose, kingdom insight, and godly hope. This requires wisdom. Proverbs 9 cautions us in our natural attraction to folly. What is that? And how do we learn to desire wisdom instead?


120 years ago a special meeting in one of the first Christian Reformed congregations in Chicago addressed the spiritual question

we still wrestle with today.

The world famous Abraham Kuyper

isited Chicago and debated

the locally famous Klaas Schoolland.

The question everyone was struggling with

was how to live faithfully to God

as a follower and disciple of Jesus Christ

in this new country.

That old question is like the question asked today:

As The Big Bang Theory TV sitcom ended this week, Sheldon was having a hard time with change.

So much keeps changing

that the only constant in our life is change,

he concluded.

He was searching with most of his generation

 the answer to that same question,

how do we live in this country

that tells me to change along with it?


Klaas Schoolland spoke for what we call today

the Benedict Option: withdraw and keep to yourself. He said, In our isolation

and in our independent action

be our strength and our purpose for the future.


Do you agree with him?

We are tempted to stick to ourselves

when it comes to faith.

Though we say the great theme of the Bible

is the Kingdom of God

and faith means living out

that reign and rule of Christ in all areas of life:

not just Sunday church,

but Monday work and Saturday play;

not just worship on Sunday,

but praise and gratitude to the Lord God

in all our roles, relationships and responsibilities;

not just serve one another,

but join with neighbors serving

as Jesus so loved and served;

not just personal piety

but faith that cries out for justice for the oppressed.

Tho we say this,

we are tempted to stay separate

whether that means keeping our faith private,

or focusing our church on ourselves,

or even thinking of Christian school

as a place to keep safe

instead of engaging the world.

(Christians school boards struggle

with that society pressure all the time,

so let’s not forget to pray for wisdom

as they serve on the board.)

Of course, it’s not just Christians

who can decide to act this way.

Most people are tempted to surround themselves

with those who are just like them:

who talk the same way,

think the same way,

like the same things

and dislike the same things.

But let’s examine our own actions first.

Are we using and abusing faith

just to keep us safe and separate?


But Abraham Kuyper spoke differently.

He encouraged a robust confidence

in the presence of Jesus as Lord and King

over all things and in whom all things hold together, and said Christians should take their faith

to the streets:

A mere Hollander,

he said back in 1898 to our community,

is a ten cent man.

Ten cents was worth a lot more back then.

But he wasn’t finished, he said,

the Americanized Hollander is a dollar man.

A dollar was a big deal 4 generations ago!

Robert Swierenga notes Kuyper

was urging our forebears to bring our light out

from under our private bushels and let it shine, transforming our neighborhoods and organizations,

homes and schools,

bringing the gospel to bear outside the church walls.


This speaks to us even as we are tempted

to a more 1 Thessalonians 4 kind of life.

What’s your mission when you are sent from here

with God’s blessing?

To impact the world serving as Jesus served,

or 1 Thes 4 –

make it your ambition to lead a quiet life:

You should mind your own business

and work with your hands . . .

There’s a correct context for that verse:

it’s opposed to a life of getting and having more,

calling us instead to live a life serving Christ.


How do we live?

What do we teach our children?


That’s what Proverbs 9 is asking

as it presents to us wisdom and folly.

The picture we get is

that both wisdom and folly invite us

to their way of life.

Our response matters when it comes to living well

in the Kingdom of God.

The consequences are life and death.

This surprises us,

because when we think of the good life

we don’t first think of wisdom and folly.


I can more easily think of other desires

that I think will give me a good life:

Be happy

Be safe

Be right

Get what I want

Be wealthy

Have this pain hurt go away

Be comfortable

In Carl Sandburg’s poem A Father To His Son he offers his own wisdom on the matter:

A father sees his son nearing manhood.

What shall he tell that son?

"Life is hard; be steel; be a rock."

And this might stand him for the storms . . .

"Life is a soft loam; be gentle; go easy."

And this too might serve him.

Brutes have been gentled where lashes failed.

A tough will counts. So does desire.


Proverbs 9 teaches us to desire wisdom above all.

4     “Let all who are simple come to my house!”

To those who have no sense she says,

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 insight.”


Wisdom is pictured with rich and full images:

an expansive house made solid with seven pillars.

It’s picturing a huge space,

room enough for every kind of endeavor

from family to fellowship

to work space and places of rest also.

This is a home that’s going to last.

Like a house built on a rock

that no storm can threaten.

You can have the fullest of lives there.

And wisdom’s invitation is to a banquet:

2 She has prepared her meat and mixed her wine;

    she has also set her table.


We imagine a full course meal

with more than enough

for all who respond to the invitation.

You can almost smell the smoke from the grill,

you can almost taste the cool refreshing beverages.

The point?

Living wisely doesn’t mean

you’re going to miss out on life;

it is the way to good abundant living.

True wisdom follows the life of Jesus

and trusts that when I struggle and cry,

‘why can’t I get ahead,’

or ‘why can’t I catch a break,’

or ‘why can’t I get what I want,’

I rest in peace that my life

is not about any of those things

but living for the glory of God.


And here’s the amazing grace of it all:

You can be wise!

Even I can be wise!

Wisdom calls to each one of us,

inviting us to the feast:

4     “Let all who are simple come to my house!”

To those who have no sense she says,

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 insight.”


The wisdom of God

for living well in the Kingdom of God

is a gift for you to receive.

Is this your heart’s desire?

Why would I want something less?


That’s why Proverbs 9 goes on to warn us about folly.

Because sin has corrupted our hearts and minds

folly looks way more attractive to us.

Folly looks like fun.

Folly looks exciting.

Folly is enticing.

But its looks are deceiving:

13 Folly is an unruly woman;

    she is simple and knows nothing.

14 She sits at the door of her house,

    on a seat at the highest point of the city,

15 calling out to those who pass by,

    who go straight on their way,

16     “Let all who are simple come to my house!”

To those who have no sense she says,

17     “Stolen water is sweet;

    food eaten in secret is delicious!”

18 But little do they know that the dead are there,

    that her guests are deep in the realm of the dead.


We’re meant to heed this warning:

stay away from folly!

But it’s going to take deliberate effort because

folly demands our attention –

loud, disruptive, rowdy,

folly is found also at the high points in the city,

that is,

where you would expect to go for what’s best

you’ll find folly hanging around –

for us we can say folly will be found

at all those places of influence in our lives:

entertainment, government, schools,

in finance and in work places,

it is easy for human beings

to wind up worshiping folly.


But Proverbs 9 wants us to see

folly can’t deliver what it promises:

To those who have no sense she says,

17     “Stolen water is sweet;

    food eaten in secret is delicious!”

18 But little do they know that the dead are there . . .


Wisdom’s table is filled

with the finest and richest of meats

and the tastiest of drinks.

It’s a table of life and freedom.

Literally, folly offers bread and water,

the food of prisons.

Wisdom’s table surrounds its guests

with the joy of one another;

folly isolates us and leaves us hungry and all alone.

In the end folly leads to emptiness and death,

no life at all.


Get the picture? asks Proverbs 9.

Because the point is for us to desire wisdom

above all other desires.

because only God is good,

and the Lord God alone

is the source of all good in our lives.


Wait a minute! you object

What I’m going thru right now isn’t good at all.

I crave God’s goodness

but I don’t experience it right now!

Our sorrows and losses

rob our souls of our trust in our Heavenly Father.

So even in our pain and need

it is good to come together

and be reminded that the cross of Jesus insists

. . . we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,

who have been called according to his purpose.  (Rom 8:28)

No, not all things are good,

and not all things are God’s things,

but God works in all things for our good.

Blessings by Laura Story

helps us sing again in wisdom:

What if my greatest disappointments

Or the aching of this life

Is the revealing of a greater thirst

this world can't satisfy

What if trials of this life

The rain, the storms, the hardest nights

Are your mercies in disguise


Only wisdom gets me such a living faith.

So how do I know the difference

between wisdom and folly?


Dr Neal Plantinga reminds us

that while not all folly is sin,

all sin is folly.

When we choose our wills

over our Heavenly Father’s will

our sin isn’t just wrong, it’s stupid.

Because to sin against God

is to deny the source of all that is good in our lives;

it is playing with fire.

Plantinga writes, To rebel against God

is to saw off the branch that supports us.

To flee from God to some far country

to search for fulfillment there

is to find only black market substitutes:

instead of joy, the buzz in your temples

of too much drink;

instead of self-giving love,

sex that leaves you empty in your heart;

instead of the steady

and what looks like boring support

of a spiritual family,

the deadly thrill of going it alone

where the devil prowls

like a roaring lion to devour you.


So it’s worth examining our choices

whether they are wise or foolish,

not just right or wrong –

for instance,

marijuana is no longer illegal, but is it wise to use?

I’m an adult I can drink –

it’s not wrong, but is it always the wise choice?

I can gamble on sports or buy lottery tickets,

but is it wise stewardship and trust to do so?

The Hollywood and TV culture

is doing more than entertaining us;

it is forming and shaping our attitudes and practices.

If you watched a night of television this week

most likely you were taught that

sex is not reserved for marriage anymore,

that I can be recreationally responsible with it –

but God’s moral teaching says that’s foolish.

Similarly, the command to keep the Sabbath day

is about both wisdom and righteousness.

Not keeping a Sabbath day

is both disobedient and foolish.

Parents, I see your kids regularly;

many of them are exhausted and stressed out,

ands many of you parents are too.

It may seem good to have your kids

in every sport and extra-curricular activity,

but it’s not wise if there’s no space for God,

quiet, rest, or life together?

And we can ask this about all sorts of practices today

from phone use to gender issues –

if God is the source of all that is good,

and God’s word leads us toward certain boundaries

and behaviors,

isn’t there wisdom in submitting to God’s will

in these things?

1 Corinthians 10:23 reminds us:

I have the right to do anything, you say –

but not everything is beneficial,

that is, not everything is good for you . . .

See? What’s the wisdom here?


What’s involved in receiving wisdom’s invitation

and finding the courage to ignore

folly’s enticing offers?

Proverbs 9 points us toward some habits and stances

that may help us re-gain a love for wisdom:

7 Whoever corrects a mocker invites insults;

    whoever rebukes the wicked incurs abuse.

8 Do not rebuke mockers or they will hate you;

    rebuke the wise and they will love you.

9 Instruct the wise and they will be wiser still;

    teach the righteous and they will add to their learning.

10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,

    and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.


Focus on the words correct, rebuke,

instruct, and teach.

A basic response to wisdom’s invitation

is to value being in relationships

where confession and correction

are respected and practiced.

This is not something I want to do.

In fact, this is something I might think shameful.

So it’s good we talk about it here.


The dividing line in Proverbs 9

between wisdom and folly

has to do with correction.

None of us likes to be corrected.

Part of it is we think too much of ourselves;

another part of it is we expect too much of ourselves.

So we feel ashamed

when someone points out our faults.

We avoid correction by defending ourselves,

or making excuses for ourselves,

or grading ourselves on the curve,

hey, at least I’m not as bad as that guy!

Listen to our Bible reading,

. . . rebuke the wise and they will love you.

9 Instruct the wise and they will be wiser still;

    teach the righteous and they will add to their learning.


Can we take these words to heart?

Parents talk about these words with your children.

Life groups have you practiced this?

Probably not,

it’s not easy to mentor one another,

but how about we start receiving

this foundational understanding

that a wise person wasn’t just born with wisdom,

she was instructed in it,

often by confession and correction.

Can we as friends or spouses or siblings

practice confession and correction

sometime this week?


How else can we awaken a desire for wisdom?

10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,

    and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

We’ve talked about this a few weeks ago,

so if you missed it

or are wondering what the fear of the Lord is,

go back to our website lombardcrc.org

and study the message from April 28

on the Fear of the Lord.

To fear the Lord is to confess with awe and wonder

that the Creator God gave a holy shape

to the way life works.

We gain a joy and desire for living this way

when we worship

the Triune God and trust Jesus as the wisdom of God.

The fear of the Lord points us to Christ

who is God with us and God one of us.

1 Corinthians 1:30 It is because of him

that you are in Christ Jesus,

who has become for us wisdom from God—

that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.


So pay attention in worship:

to what we do together in worship.

There are reasons for what we do and why

in each worship service.

We are being placed in the grand story of God.

We don’t write our own stories,

we worship the author and finisher of our faith,

and find our story in Christ’s story.

The worship acts of praise and confession

and listening and gratitude and being sent out

all add to the purpose and meaning

of our lives and sufferings.


For folly is a stubbornness that denies God.

And folly looks for comfort and goodness

and peace without God.

So worship helps form,

re-shape us in the presence of Jesus.

Have you attended worship after a tiring week,

and even if you were at worship

more out of habit than desire

you went home somehow blessed

by just being with your fellow Christians  

on the road of the cross to the empty tomb?

You were re-shaped, renewed

in the grand story of God

graciously reminding you that

our comfort in body and soul, life and death

is belonging to our faithful Savior Jesus Christ.


Rosalind Pickard –

testifies to the blessing of God’s wisdom:

When I first opened the Bible

I expected to find phony miracles,

made-up creatures, and assorted gobbledygook.

To my surprise, Proverbs was full of wisdom.

I had to pause while reading and think.

While I never heard actual voices

or anything to justify summoning a neurologist,

I felt this strange sense of being spoken to.

It was disturbing yet oddly attractive.

I began wondering whether

there really might be a God.


Have you ever tried

to assemble something mechanical,

and it only kind of works?

Maybe the wheels spin, but not smoothly.

Then you realize you were missing a piece.

When you finally put it together correctly,

 it works beautifully.

This is how it felt when I handed my life over to God: I thought it had worked fine before,

but after it was “fixed,”

it worked exponentially better.

That’s not to say nothing bad ever happened to me—far from it.

But in all things, good and bad,

I could count on God’s guidance,

comfort, and protection.


Today, I am a professor

at the top university in my field.

I once thought I was too smart to believe in God. Now I know I was an arrogant fool

who snubbed the greatest Mind in the cosmos—

the Author of all science, mathematics, art,

and everything else there is to know.

Today I walk humbly,

having received the most undeserved grace.

I walk with joy,

alongside the most amazing Companion

anyone could ask for,

filled with desire to keep learning and exploring.


Desire wisdom and your life too

will be changed for the better.