Welcome back, friends, to another Wisdom Wednesday! Today we’re going to begin looking at the call of Wisdom in 1:20-33. However, this is a longer text, which means we’ll break it up over the course of a few weeks. Otherwise this would be one insanely long post, and – let’s be honest – ain’t nobody got time for that.
This week we’ll start with vv.20-23:
Wisdom cries aloud in the street, in the markets she raises her voice; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks: “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge? If you turn at my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit to you; I will make my words known to you.”
Proverbs seems to present a picture of Wisdom which is quite different from that which the world would have us to believe. For the author, Wisdom makes herself readily available to all who would wish to know her ways. We consider, for instance, the Gnostic movement of early Church history which insisted that the only way to true knowing was through the “secret knowledge” which they promoted. Yet biblical Wisdom wishes to be known and makes herself available to all who wish to understand. The location of Wisdom is especially noteworthy: Wisdom does not beckon from within a house or in some unknown corner, hoping that the truly cunning can find their way; rather, Wisdom stands “in the street” (or, simply, “outside”) and “in the markets,” “at the head of the noisy streets” and “at the entrance of the city gates.” Those who pass by will know exactly where to find her; the question is simply whether or not they wish to understand.
Also significant here is that Wisdom is the one calling out to us, rather than having to be summoned. One of the characteristics of biblical wisdom is that it calls to all who wish to leave ignorance and folly behind. Four expressions are used here to indicate Wisdom’s call: she “cries aloud,” “raises her voice,” “cries out,” and “speaks.” In each case, Wisdom makes her presence known. It is no surprise that Paul will refer to Christ as “the power of God and the wisdom of God” in 1 Corinthians 1:24. Of whom are the aforementioned characteristics more apt descriptions? Christ calls out to all who wish to know the deeper things of the Father and invites them into relationship with Himself by the power of the Holy Spirit – and yet how many simply choose ignorance? How many choose folly? It should come as no surprise that Wisdom has often been equated with Christ Himself.
The words Wisdom speaks stand against folly and ignorance. Although society has often painted a picture of Christians as willfully ignorant (and, to be fair, there have been many who have chosen to remain ignorant rather than to grow in their understanding of Scripture and general knowledge), Scripture promotes learning and development. Choosing intellectual simplicity is not the path of Christ. Is this to say that everyone needs to drop what they’re doing and sign up for some college classes? By no means. It is simply to say that Scripture does not promote the choice to remain ignorant when developing the mind is possible. We note that Paul will encourage the Romans to conform not to the pattern of the world around them, but to be “transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). A transformed mind is, biblically, the key to a transformed and Christlike life. Wisdom’s call is therefore very much in accordance with the biblical witness and invites the reader into a deepened understanding of God which leads to a deepened grasp of life. All too often people choose ignorance rather than understanding.
The invitation of Wisdom is one of repentance. Consider the fact that Jesus’ message of the Kingdom upon His arrival was, “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.” Unsurprisingly, Jesus addressed the people of Israel with reproof in the hopes that they would turn from their ignorance and wickedness to walk with Him. Those who did received both His Spirit and His understanding. Jesus repeatedly opened the minds of His disciples to understand the Scriptures and ensured that His Spirit was poured out upon them. The disciples were the ones who did indeed turn at Jesus’ (Wisdom’s) reproof, and they received exactly what Wisdom promised in extraordinary measure. Jesus’ life among us demonstrates a literal fulfillment of Wisdom’s promises to those who would follow. We who live under the New Covenant can know the power of God’s Spirit in ways that the original readers of this text could have only dreamt. We can understand Scripture in new ways because of the Spirit who dwells within us and teaches us its meaning. Those who fear the Lord gain wisdom, knowledge, and instruction – just as we were promised.
It never ceases to amaze me how often I encounter someone who chooses ignorance. My parents instilled within me a love of learning which has defined much of my life, and the love of learning has undoubtedly made itself known in this writing. I love the process of digging into a book and finding some new gem of knowledge which can potentially impact our lives. To a certain extent, my love of learning is natural; I’ve always enjoyed digging into certain subjects which captivated me. On the other hand, there is an extent to which this is a learned behavior (no pun intended!). Although I always loved casually learning something new, it required intentional investment on the part of my parents to get me involved in learning in such a way that I would spend time going out of my way to discover something. I think many kids have this inclination toward laziness.
In my first semester as an adjunct professor, I looked out at the classroom one day and saw just how many of the students had blank expressions which quite obviously indicated their disinterest in being present. It sparked what was probably my longest and most unrelated rabbit trail of the semester as I stopped the lecture and began a new one: the privilege that it is to be educated. I was mad at how much they took for granted, but I also saw in the students’ faces that day a reflection of Proverbs 1:22. People just enjoy their ignorance and simplicity.
Ignorance is often a place of safety. Being able to claim that we didn’t know seems like a comfortable place to be. Knowledge brings with it responsibility; ignorance allows for a free pass, or at least we think it does. I believe our bent toward willful ignorance is the reason for the drastic rise in agnosticism in our culture today. After all, how can God hold us accountable if we simply didn’t know?
The problem, of course, is that willful ignorance is itself a choice – and a dangerous one at that. It brings to mind Jesus’ rebuke in Revelation 3 – “Oh, how I wish you were either hot or cold! But because you are lukewarm, I will spit you out of My mouth.” In other words, some people choose ignorance on the topic of God – and it doesn’t go well for them.
The good news, however, is that each of us has the chance to make a choice. Each of us, at any time, can hear the call of Wisdom and choose to leave ignorance behind for the paths offered by Christ. The application is simple – accept the reproof! Turn and follow where Wisdom leads!