Beth Moore — At the Corner of Wisdom and Folly
Proverbs chapter 8, this particular Old Testament book falls in the genre of wisdom literature alongside Job and Ecclesiastes, and much of it is believed to have been written by King Solomon, and it is written to his son, and sometimes we see the word "sons". Dates between about the tenth and the sixth centuries B.C., and the purpose of it is back in Proverbs 1, but I want you with your hand right here on Proverbs 8, to turn back to Proverbs chapter 1, and I want you to hear it with me, Proverbs 1:1-7, so that you can get the feel of it.
"The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel: To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight, to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity, to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth, let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. Fools despise wisdom and instruction".
I want you to turn with me to Proverbs 4, and there is a verse and a phrase I want you to underline, and with this, we will have our theme. Proverbs 4:7, says, "The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight". We have come to get us some wisdom. I'mma tell ya right now why the devil so despises wisdom, because there is absolutely no place it cannot show up, absolutely no place. Right in the situation you were in, no matter what situation you are in, no matter what place you find yourself, there is no place that wisdom cannot show up. There is no crossroad where it is not an option. There is no ground where wisdom cannot be found. There is no earthquake on earth it cannot erupt from. You cannot go so far down that you cannot wise up. Does anybody know what I'm talkin' about? There's no flood on this earth where wisdom cannot be found in its wake because Proverbs 8:35, says, "For whoever finds me finds life". You gotta understand with me that our human brilliance can lead to our greatest folly, but our greatest folly, if we allow God to do what God wants to do, can lead to divine God-given wisdom.
One of my best friends has a cousin that has a lot of that same kind of path that I was describing a moment ago. She just goes from one thing to another thing to another thing to another thing, I mean, just like disastrous decision after disastrous decision, and I've caught a lot of compassion for that because I lived in that trap for what seemed to be a very, very long time in my life, and it got, at some points, where it was further and further in between, but sooner or later, I was always going back to that same pattern, and so my friend nicknamed her, I mean, out of tenderness and a little bit of a grin, "Miss Mess," and she'd just get us up to date, and she'd even put it on the prayer list sometimes. At work, she'd just say, "Miss Mess is in another mess". They were just like... and I thought to myself, over and over again, "I have been Miss Mess". Anybody else in the room? Or I've been her. I have been her, all right. I've been her.
I don't care if you're Miss Mess, if you're Miss-led, if you're Miss-fit, if you're Miss-ionary, if you're Miss-placed, if you're Miss-treated, if you're Miss-deeds, if you're Miss-givings or Miss-cellaneous, if you feel like you are Miss-understood, Miss-represented, Miss-diagnosed, Miss-matched, Miss-shapen, Miss-spent. You may have a misdemeanor... or a felony. You may feel like your whole life has been one big mistake, but you don't have to miss the wisdom. Anybody get it with me? Satan cannot keep you from getting wisdom, and he knows, with wisdom comes the turn. No matter where you are right now, no matter where you are, the enemy cannot keep you from getting wisdom if you want it. The question is going to be "What do you really want"? Because, do we want to stay in that same cycle of our bitterness, our resentment, our unforgiveness, our mean-spiritedness or addiction or malformed defections, or do we want wisdom? 'Cause, for somebody here and for everybody here, it's your turn to get some fresh wisdom.
Go back to Proverbs chapter 8, and I want you to look at it again alongside the very first verses of 9, and then where 13 goes to verse 18, and you will notice with me that there is a personification of two women, two women that we're going to call "Lady Wisdom" and "Woman Folly," and it's so intriguing that they're personified here in these verses, and in the words of one scholar, they share a common domain. So we have them both, a chair representing each one of them, because they are sitting near one another, and what we're gonna find in our lesson this weekend is that Folly can, in many ways, imitate Lady Wisdom.
There's a reason why the New Testament tells us that we know we're maturing when we begin to discern the difference between good and evil because what is good and what is evil is not always very clear. What is wise and what is folly needs a discernment that is very often beyond what can be seen or rationalized with the human mind. Now, I ask you as we get started this weekend with our concept, what would cause, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, King Solomon to teach the lesson through personifying two women, one, Wisdom, one, Folly.
I want you to see something. Glance with me at Proverbs 1, verse 8. Proverbs 1, verse 8: "Hear, my son, your father's instruction, and forsake not your mother's teaching". I mean, you wanna cross-stitch somethin' for your son's room? That is it right there. That would be it, right there. Who is it written to... is what? His son. It's written to King Solomon's son, and this is a young man that this is all addressed to, so understand that that is the audience, and the young man, when we get to Proverbs chapter 8 and Proverbs chapter 9, the young man is depicted in this metaphor of a traveler, a sojourner, and so his father is telling him how to recognize the difference between wisdom and folly.
Now, if you were teaching a young man — Solomon was teaching a young man, his own son, about the pitfalls of life and would try to grab his vision wherever he was looking. What metaphors would he use but the metaphors of women? So right here, we see a little bit of an insight as to why. Maybe, for us, it would be that it would be for a young woman, this Man Wisdom and this Man Folly. For this young man — Solomon was teaching him — he was saying to him, "You want to know, in this personification, the best woman you will ever find is Wisdom as imagery, as a personification," that we'll come to understand through the course of the weekend. There is Wisdom, and there is Folly, and Wisdom will be very, very, very good to you.
I want you to see something. You're in Proverbs 8. Turn with me for just a moment to 1 Timothy. My eyes have been in this part of my Bible for, well, over the last year because of this series on 2 Timothy, and so I read and read and read 1 Timothy as well because, of course, it is the precursor. It's the first letter. It's the second letter coming on the wings of the first, and I want you to see some wording, a place that I really didn't get to go in the study, but it really, really, really stirs my heart up every time I think about it.
1 Timothy 6:17-19, "As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share," verse 19, "thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life".
Do you hear what he's saying? Paul is saying to Timothy, "There is life, and then there is that which is truly life, and it will not be found in your riches, and it will not be found in anything that you could hold tangible, anything you could hold in your hands". There is life, and then there is what Jesus called "There is abundant life". There's what Paul called, in his own terminology, under the inspiration of the Spirit, there is really life. There is truly life". It is a word that means "really and truly," taking hold of that which is really and truly life.
Now I wanna tell ya something 'cause this is very, very, very, very, very important, and probably the biggest purpose we have in tonight's lesson is that we understand. We have got to change our perception and widen it, not replace it. We need to add to it, our perception of wisdom, because what you and I will tend to do... I can't tell you how many people in this room, I could estimate, who probably thought to themselves, "You know what? I know I need it, but I wish we were studying something exciting," because our tendency is to picture wisdom, the full length of it, that it, in its entirety, is basically being proper, making proper decisions and just being proper about things, decorous about things.
That is wisdom to us, but what I want to throw at you this weekend and get your mind out of a... this is not gonna be in a context of sensuality. Get over here in the real live meaning of the word in a general sense. I want us to see this weekend the wild side of wisdom. I want us to see this weekend that wisdom is one of the most provocative things, I mean that in the true sense of the word that we could possibly study this weekend, and it is what you want. It is what I want. I wanna use provocative in the sense of what it means in that first definition out of Merriam-Webster's. It says, "serving or tending to provoke, excite, and stimulate". There is nothing more exciting that we could study this weekend together than wisdom, that no matter how old you are, if you're 13 years old or if you are 93, that what you want is wisdom and that wisdom has a wonderfully wild side.
Divine wild, that's what I'm lookin' for. Yes, yes, wisdom is settled, it's sane, it's peace-giving, it's rest-giving, but it is also full of life and adventure, and I'm gonna prove it to you in the Scriptures. We are here to sink our titanic misconceptions of wisdom that it is boring and it is old, and, I tell you, one reason why we're not excited about wisdom — because we associate it with this picture right here. Anybody? Tell me what you call that little... what's that little phrase that goes without a what? Oh, say it again. That's a wise, old owl. I ask you a question: Who, who, who? When I wrote that in my notes, I got tickled at my own self. Everybody, say, "Who wants to be a wise, old owl"?
I don't even know an old woman who wants to look like that. I don't know one. I don't know one. Well, how would we want to be that? I want to remind you, Proverbs happens to be written to a young man, from the very first chapter, and then it says, "then let the wise grow wiser still". It's written from the youngest to the very oldest that there's still wisdom to be gotten. You would not still be drawing breath if you had gotten the last of the wisdom you were going to need. You're not the one that already got it. There's somethin' you've come to get, and we're gonna get it. There's a wisdom you and I need for the season we are in right now. There's direction you and I need. There's insight. We got some people who are drivin' us absolutely crazy, and we need insight into them. We either need to understand 'em, or we're about to kill 'em.
Somebody knows what I'm talkin' about. Understanding's gon' save their lives. You come into some wisdom. It's the best thing that ever happened to your 17-year-old. Come into some wisdom. Here's what you need to know: Wisdom does not equal asceticism. Asceticism sees self-denial as the measure of self-discipline of spirituality, what you deny yourself: Everything's bad, everything's bad, everything's bad, because, for some of us... and if you ask me, "What is asceticism,"? Well, let me just tell you especially in a spiritual context. This is so prevalent among many believers in their thinking. Asceticism is what Paul talks about in the book of Colossians, in Colossians chapter 2, when he says, "You're talkin' about asceticism here. What I'm talkin' about is not asceticism". Wisdom knows that folly is the one that rations... that wisdom feeds. Wisdom is the one with the feast. Did you see it? Did you see it?
Proverbs 9, "Wisdom has built her house. "She has hewn her seven pillars. She slaughtered her beasts. She has mixed her wine. She has set her table". Look at it what it says in verse 13: "The woman Folly is loud, seductive, and knows nothing, sits at the door of her house, takes a seat on the highest places of the town, calling to those who pass by, who are going straight on their way, 'Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!' Whoever lacks sense, she says, 'Stolen water and bread eaten in secret.'"
Do you see what is at her table? See, here's the picture we have this weekend, that every single one of us in this room, we are sojourners. One of my very favorite psalms, talking about the traveler, the sojourner, and I'm also thinking in terms of Peter, who, in his first letter, reminded us that we are foreigners, and we are pilgrims here, that we're on our journey. Psalm 84 says that we are "on pilgrimage," and that's the word the NIV uses, "on pilgrimage 'till each one of us appear before God in Zion". And here we are at a crossroad where we can go with Folly, or we can go with Wisdom, and we're gonna see that Folly takes her seat right at that crossroad, and we're going to see in that same general domain, Wisdom takes her seat right at that crossroad. Both of them are calling out, both of them. Both of them have a table set. One is with savory food and sweet drink. The other is bread and water. Do you see our perception? Because you and I will think over and over again, to do the wise thing, "I'm gonna need to go for the bread and the water," when Wisdom is saying, "I have set you a feast. Why have you associated with me with famine"? Thinking our titanic misconceptions of Wisdom.
Oh, look at Wisdom on the wild side. Wisdom does not equal legalism. One of my coworkers... I always throw out the concept to them, and we discuss it together. They are some of the godliest women I know, and one of 'em pointed out, so I said to them, "Wisdom does not equal legalism. Let's talk about it". And one of 'em said, "Well, legalism is lazy". And I said, "Okay, talk to me, talk to me, talk to me. What would make legalism lazy"? She said, "Because legalism is about what you don't do. It's not about gettin' your tail up and doin' somethin'. Legalism is 'I don't do this, I don't do that, I don't do this, I don't do that, I don't do this.' It's all driven by 'Thou shalt not,' and 'No, thou shalts...'"
Legalism just wants to be right. Wisdom is about God being right. Wisdom is not perfectionism. Wisdom is not just heady. It's not just heady. I wanna show you something because I love it. Proverbs 8, verse 5 says this: "O simple ones, learn prudence. O fools, learn sense". "Learn sense". You're goin', "Man, I love that verse too. That is..." no, but what we can't see is that, where it says, "sense," right there, where it says, "Learn sense," that word in Hebrew is the word for "heart," for "heart". Learn heart. Learn sense. What it's saying is this, that we're not just talkin' about something that is in our heads. It also transmits down into our chest, into our hearts, not just heady. It's hearty. It's hearty. Somebody's gonna find their heart again this weekend.
You gotta see Proverbs 2:6, because it's imperative to what we're studying this weekend. We're gonna go a couple of places over the next couple of minutes so that we can see our framework as New Testament believers. It says, "For the Lord gives wisdom. From his mouth comes knowledge and understanding". "For the Lord gives wisdom". Everybody, say those five words with me: "For the Lord gives wisdom". Say it again. Now, listen, nothing is unimpressive about worldly wisdom. I mean, there's some people out there, and throughout the generations, all sorts of inventions, all sorts of things done from people that may have had zero belief in Jesus Christ whatsoever. There is worldly wisdom. Man, out of God's mercy, was created in the very image of God. There is worldly wisdom.
We've known or been beneficiaries of wise people who are not believers, but this is so much more than that, that 1 Corinthians 1, basically says it this way, that worldly wisdom, at its very best, is foolishness to God, that godly wisdom is in such a different category, it makes worldly wisdom look like idiocy. Does anybody understand what I'm saying? We're here this weekend to get something we can only get from God. In order to operate in the way that you need to and in the way that I need to, you and I need to know and operate out of wisdom God alone can give us. He knows. He knows. Look at one another and say, "Only God knows". The thing about it is he wants to translate some of that to us, and he wants to do that through wisdom.