Monday, June 22, 2009

Proverbs 8: 1-11

The Commendation of Wisdom

Does not wisdom call,
And understanding lift up her voice?
On top of the heights beside the way,
Where the paths meet, she takes her stand;
Beside the gates, at the opening to the city,
At the entrance of the doors, she cries out:
"To you, O men, I call,
And my voice is to the sons of men.
"O naive ones, understand prudence;
And, O fools, understand wisdom.
"Listen, for I will speak noble things;
And the opening of my lips will reveal right things.
"For my mouth will utter truth;
And wickedness is an abomination to my lips.
"All the utterances of my mouth are in righteousness;
There is nothing crooked or perverted in them.
"They are all straightforward to him who understands,
And right to those who find knowledge.
"Take my instruction and not silver,
And knowledge rather than choicest gold.
"For wisdom is better than jewels;
And all desirable things cannot compare with her.

Today's Thought Questions:
  1. What words does wisdom speak?
  2. Reread verse 6. To what or whom do you listen? Read Ecclesiastes 5: 1-3. Reflect on the importance of listening more and speaking less.

Chapter 8 opens with the similar refrain found in chapter 1: Is wisdom calling out? In comparison to the dark, sneaky ways of the sultry, persuasive adulteress, wisdom is calling out to be heard, to be seen. Where is she seen? My favorite phrase in the passage--"Where the paths meet, she takes her stand." (8:2b) Wisdom is standing at the point where we have to make a choice between right paths and wrong paths. That she takes a "stand" implies that she is fixed, solid. Wisdom doesn't waver.

She calls to the naive and foolish, as we talked about last week. Whereas the lips of the adulteress ooze flattery, the lips of wisdom reveal right things (vs 6), utter truth (vs 7), righteousness (vs 8), straightforwardness (vs 9). The adulteress may flash her gems, jewels and precious metals to entice, but wisdom says that her instruction and knowledge are better than those. Indeed, "all desirable things cannot compare." (vs 11)

Something else I found interesting in reading the King James translation. Verse 5: "O ye simple, understand wisdom: and, ye fools, be ye of an understanding heart." Picking up from yesterday's finish about the importance of the heart in receiving wisdom, I found the phrasing to be a bit stronger and more meaningful. The Hebrew word for understanding used here means "to separate mentally, to distinguish." [Strong's] The heart is the center of it all, and we need wisdom to dwell there to separate all the things she brings from all the foolishness that lies outside.

Verse 6: "Listen...." Before we can have wisdom, we have to listen for it. Our study authors invite us to look at Ecclesiastes in considering listening:

"Guard your steps as you go to the house of God and draw near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools; for they do not know they are doing evil. Do not be hasty in word or impulsive in thought to bring up a matter in the presence of God. For God is in heaven and you are on the earth; therefore let your words be few. For the dream comes through much effort and the voice of a fool through many words."
--Ecclesiastes 5: 1-3

This passage specifically refers to approaching God, but it's just as wise to follow such an approach in a relationship with anybody. "Draw near to listen." That is a very active instruction. When you are reading God's Word or in prayer, do you do so in the middle of a party or with the ballgame on the radio? Are you reading and cooking; hearing a radio broadcast and driving? We all may do some of these things. But, if we really want to listen, getting close means cutting out the distractions and being silent before Him.

Being "more ready to hear," as is used in the KJV, implies to "hear intelligently (often with implication of attention, obedience, etc.) [Strong's] It's not to hear for the sake of hearing. It's listening for the sake of wisdom--to make the wise choice, to take the right path.

Hearing also means not talking or thinking about talking. Not hasty. Not impulsive. This can be a little challenging if we are hearing that we need some discipline! We might be barking back in defense a little bit. Not the time! "For God is in heaven and you are on the earth; therefore let your words be few." Who's in charge again?! When righteousness means right-by-Him, then we need truly to hold our tongue and listen.


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Tomorrow's Scripture Focus and Thought Question:

Proverbs 8: 12-21
  1. Wisdom is speaking to us in today's passages. What understanding do you receive from what she says?

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Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation, specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB). I will quote other sources if used in a post.
I also use Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (with notes from the King James Version).

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