Welcome to another Wisdom Wednesday! Today we finish Proverbs 1 – leave it to a preacher to draw 6 weeks of content out of a single chapter. All of Wisdom’s invitation and subsequent rebuke lead up to this moment in verses 29-33:
Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord, would have none of my counsel and despised all my reproof, therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way, and have their fill of their own devices. For the simple are killed by their turning away, and the complacency of fools destroys them; but whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.
Wisdom began by opening herself to those who might wish to know the deeper things of God. There was no secrecy to what Wisdom offered; it was freely available to all who would seek her. Yet the fool does not have even the desire to know Wisdom and her ways. Verse 22 asked previously, “How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge?” By noting that those in question “hated knowledge” in v.29, Wisdom is identifying them with the aforementioned fools. Not only this, however, but they also “did not choose the fear of the Lord.” Recall that what essentially amounts to the thesis statement of the book is 1:7 – “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; wisdom and instruction, fools despise.” It is part of the core identity of the fool to spurn knowledge, wisdom, and instruction. It is noteworthy that the fool did not “choose” the fear of the Lord – this demonstrates the existence of free will and the ability to decide for ourselves. Those arguments which seek to prove that humanity cannot be held responsible for its decisions due to fate or predestination seem contradictory to such a statement; humans are still able to choose whether to accept or reject the things of God (in this case, Wisdom), and their subsequent destruction is their own doing.
Wisdom seems to be going back to her previous statements in these verses, with 1:30 recalling almost exactly what is already mentioned in 1:25. Compare the two:
1:25 – “because you have ignored my counsel and would have none of my reproof”
1:30 – “would have none of my counsel and despised all my reproof”
Both are largely the same statement. What initially reads as something of an escalation based on this translation (moving from simply “ignoring” to “despising”) is likely not present in the original text. The Hebrew term in v.25 can mean something like “disdain,” with v.30 then being a simple rephrasing for the sake of avoiding redundancy.
Fruit imagery in Scripture is often used to bring attention to the outcome of one’s works. Jesus in the Gospels speaks of knowing false prophets “by their fruit” (Matt 7:16). Paul will speak of the “fruit of the Spirit” (Gal 5), which serves as evidence of the Spirit’s presence within a believer. Wisdom tells us in 1:31 that the fool will “eat the fruit of their way,” indicating their receiving the natural consequence of their erroneous ways. This is further confirmed by them “having their fill of their own devices” as the verse continues. They receive the fullness of their foolish sowing as they reap destruction and death.
The last word on the fool comes in 1:32 as a summative statement on the dangers of simplicity. Where the text has not said so explicitly before, we now see unequivocally the end of the fool’s path is death, and not any death, but an end which is the result of their own errors. They “are killed by their turning away” – in other words, they bring all of these things on themselves! Their “complacency” is what results in their destruction. These are interesting statements, as they demonstrate that Wisdom is not actively involved in the downfall of the fool; rather, Wisdom is able to see their downfall on the horizon but does not work toward that end.
The passage’s ending is one which comes back to a focus on the paths of life which Wisdom offers to all who are willing to listen. Where the simple find themselves surrounded by chaos and destruction, those who submit to Wisdom are blessed with ease and security. The invitation is open to all who wish to move away from their own foolishness: destruction is not an inevitable outcome but can rather be easily avoided when we yield to the ways of Wisdom. If we wish to find life and health and peace, we must first seek Wisdom.
Many a conversation have I had through the years in which it was evident that the other party was never going to listen. This is not to say that I am the definitive source of wisdom; far from it! But in my own field of study, I tend to do fairly well in my understanding. It is often frustrating when we have a discussion with someone who has read a few articles online and insists that they know just as well as we do when we’ve invested years of our lives into research in our field. How often do people go to the doctor and say, “I have this disease, which I know because I looked it up”? It does happen, but when it happens, we often refer to such people in derogatory terms because they look directly at those who have years of experience and study while insisting that their 10-minute Google search was just as useful. I have now reached a point where I no longer continue a conversation with someone if they break out the phrase, “According to my own research.” Experience has taught me there will be no positive outcome from there.
Each of us should be willing to acknowledge our own shortcomings and listen to those whose knowledge and experience is greater than our own. But above all else, we must listen to the guidance of the Spirit and the wisdom He offers. In my experience, it is often the case that Wisdom speaks through those who have dedicated themselves to study. This makes sense, given the fact that these are almost always those who love knowledge rather than spurning it. Are there exceptions? Of course! Every hint of instruction and knowledge we receive – from me, from our doctors, from our political leaders, anyone at all who seeks to guide us – must first be run through the test of Scripture and the leading of the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit of Christ who leads us deeper into the knowledge of the things of God and, ultimately, deeper into the paths of life which Christ has shown us.
Let us submit to knowledge, but not just any knowledge – let us submit to the Lord in holy reverence, allowing Him to lead us to true understanding and to life everlasting.