Yom Chamishi, 29 Iyar 5777 — יוֹם חֲמִישִׁי כט אִיָּר ה' תשעז Thursday, 25 May 2017
Pursue Wisdom

INTRODUCTION:

Wisdom. Is there anyone here who thinks they have enough wisdom? Anyone who says I don't need anymore. Thanks but I've had my fill. It's a silly question isn't it? Wisdom is one of these things we all want and we can never have enough of.

Daily we are faced with decisions and dilemmas for which we want wisdom. What advice should I give my friend? Should I buy that? Should I move there? How do I raise godly children of character? Should I marry this person? Should I say yes to that request? We all want wisdom. We all desperately need wisdom. Well, how do we get wisdom? How do we become wise people?

That is what the book of Proverbs is about, and that is what we are going to discuss this evening. How do we get wisdom?

CALLING US TO ATTENTION - VS 1-4

Join me in reading the opening verses of Proverbs chapter 8 [verses 1-4]:.

1 Does not wisdom call out? Does not understanding raise her voice?

2 On the heights along the way, where the paths meet, she takes her stand;

3 beside the gates leading into the city, at the entrances, she cries aloud:

4 "To you, O men, I call out; I raise my voice to all mankind.

In these opening verses we see that Wisdom has something to say. She raises her voice. She calls aloud. She gets our attention.

And we see that she raises her voice to ALL MANKIND. What she has to say is for every one of us.

This should be a word of encouragement to you and I. Wisdom does not hide. Wisdom makes herself available for all to hear. God wants us all to have wisdom.

Isn't that what James says as well. Many believe James echoes the book of proverbs throughout his letter.

In James 1:5 we read:

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.

And look with me at the image of availability we read about here in Proverbs 8. To make sure we all can hear her voice Wisdom places herself in a very strategic position.

"On the heights along the way, where the paths meet""beside the gates leading into the city, at the entrancesshe cries aloud"

For those of you who have been to Jerusalem you will recall the ancient gates that lead into the city. A walled city with gates only has limited access. And so all who want to enter need to enter through the city gates. The city gates in biblical times became the prime place for important affairs. They became the centers for all activities be it daily business, justice, employment and even recreation.

You may recall that when Boaz wanted to marry Ruth he went to the city gate to meet with her nearer kinsmen redeemer to obtain his permission to marry her.

So as you can tell there is no better place for wisdom to make her voice known than to take her stand at the city gate. At the entrance to the city. This was a message for all to hear. Not just a few. Not just the learned or the elite. But for all. And why? Because it was an important message that everyone needed to hear.

And her message? Well Wisdom makes a threefold call here in chapter 8.

  • A call to gain,
  • a call to choose,
  • and a call to hate.

And as we think of these three words -

  • A call to gain,
  • a call to choose,
  • and a call to hate.

These are action packed words. Words that move us to get up and do something. In a nutshell Wisdom's call was one of action. A call to not only passively hear but more importantly a call to actively get up and do. A call to pursue. A call to actively -- pursue wisdom.

WISDOM'S CALL /WHAT SHE WANTS FROM USA.

A. GAIN prudence and understanding - Vs 5

Wisdom's first call of pursuit is found in verse 5You who are simple, GAIN prudence; you who are foolish, GAIN understanding.

Here Wisdom calls us to GAIN

We are to acquire, to obtain. We are to go after it. So what are we to go after, what are we to gain? Prudence and understanding. Prudence is to have a good sense, to have discretion. It has the idea of forethought. The poetic parallel here is understanding.A prudent person understands the ramifications of their actions. They see what is really happening and they anticipate. They make wise decisions.The Hebrew word here for prudence is "ormah" which really has the meaning of craftiness, to be cunning. A cunning person has an eye for what is happening. So does a wise person.

That's why Y'shua can tell us:

"to be as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves"Wisdom also calls us here to gain understanding. To pursue it.

Here in Boston, we live in the educational capital of the United States. A city with over 60 universities. It's been coined the educational capital of the United States. It's a place of ambition. People come here in pursuit of an education. Seeking to gain knowledge and an understanding of a specific field of expertise.

And knowledge is a good thing. But here in this proverb the call is to a very different type of understanding. A different knowledge to that found in text books. We are called to gain, to pursue an understanding heart.

The Hebrew here actually includes the word heart. I think sometimes people are more concerned with an understanding head than an understanding heart.

There is a big difference between the wisdom that comes from a lot of knowledge and information and the wisdom that comes from an understanding heart.

Garrett and I have a friend who is extremely intelligent. A bright guy who loves to study. He is a reader. A thinker. And is passionate about the Bible and Theology. Many hours have been spent on his couch debating and discussing the things of God. But though he has so much knowledge and information he is unable to connect all that knowledge to his day-to-day life and more specifically to his marriage. And sadly his marriage did not last. He just could not see what was happening in his marriage, he just could not understand what was happening to his wife, things that seemed so plain to us. So necessary for the health of his marriage. Here was a man with so much knowledge and information but so little real understanding.

So little true wisdom.

Folks what we need is not more head knowledge, we need understanding, we need to grasp what is really happening. We need to pursue wisdom.Wisdoms first call to us is to GAIN. To gain prudence and understanding. But wisdom also calls us to choose, to make choices.

B. CHOOSE instruction over SILVER and toCHOOSE knowledge & discretion over GOLD - VS 10 -21

Take a look with me at verses 10 & 11:

Prov. 8:10 Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold

Prov. 8:11 for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her.

We are to choose. To choose instruction. To choose knowledge and to choose discretion.

The Hebrew word for choose is literally to TAKE or to GRAB. We are to grab hold of. To eagerly CHOOSE.Life is full of choices and this particular choice seems always before us. Are we going to choose God's instruction, His knowledge. In a sense His ways. Are we going to choose God's ways or are we going to choose silver and gold - the riches and wealth of this world?

This is not just a concern of Proverbs 8; to guard against the pursuit of riches, is perhaps one of the most repeated admonitions in all of Scripture.

And why is it repeated so much?

Because boy do we need to be reminded of itThe pursuit of money. Who can easily escape it's seeming glamour? And it's entice that seems to say. Have me. Choose me. Take me. Grab me. Pursue me.

I can still so vividly see Gollom before me in "Lord of the Rings." His gluttonous pursuit of the ring. He just HAD TO HAVE IT.Like Gollom we too are tempted regularly to grab. To take. To have. To pursue. But here Proverbs 8 implores us:

To choose, to take — to essentially grab wisdom over silver and gold. Because nothing we desire can compare with it.

In verses 18 -21 we hear wisdom say

18 With me are riches and honor, enduring wealth and prosperity.

19 My fruit is better than fine gold; what I yield surpasses choice silver.

20 I walk in the way of righteousness, along the paths of justice,

21 bestowing wealth on those who love me and making their treasuries full.

True wealth lies in wisdom not money.

And Job understood this. Job was an incredibly wealthy man.

He had seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred oxen and five hundred donkeys. He had a large number of servants. In Job 1 we read, "He was the greatest man among all the people of the East."And yet even he says to us...

Job 28:12 "But where can wisdom be found? Where does understanding dwell?

13 Man does not comprehend its worth; it cannot be found in the land of the living.

15 It cannot be bought with the finest gold, nor can its price be weighed in silver.

Job knew that wisdom did not come from the pursuit of gold, but rather the pursuit of God. Money can come and go, but the one who chooses to follow God, the one who chooses to follow His instruction, is the one that finds life and true prosperity.Wisdom calls us to GAIN and wisdom calls us to CHOOSE, but WISDOM also calls us TO HATE.

C. To FEAR the Lord and HATE - Vs 13Take a look with me at verse 13.

13 To fear the LORD is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech.

to FEAR the Lord is to HATE evil.

And frankly we are quite uncomfortable with this idea, to fear the Lord.

At times we try to soft coat it's meaning by saying it is more a sense of honor. Or respect. Or awe of the Lord.

But really the Hebrew translates it as just that - FEAR.

In the book of Jonah the same Hebrew word is used to describe the terror the sailors faced when they came to understand that the raging waters were as a result of the punishment God was inflicting on Jonah for running away to Tarshish.

Those sailors did not have reverence, they had fear. They were terrified.

And then in Psalm 2 verse 11 we see this same idea:"Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling."

Well I don't know about you but by now I am really uncomfortable. This does not sound like an attribute of God that I would like to promote.

But I think one of the problems, for many of us, is that we see fear as a negative word. It congers up a negative connotation for us. We are uncomfortable talking about God in these terms. But fear is actually a very good thing. There are many times when it's good to fear.

Allow me to illustrate this point to you. There are times we want to teach our children to fear. I can think of a time when Garrett and I wanted Zach to learn to fear the ocean. There is a real reason why we ought to fear the ocean. Especially when you are three year old and you think that running towards the breaking waves is a huge thrill. And a little healthy fear and respect was indeed called for that day. It does not mean the ocean is out to get us. But there is nothing wrong with a little bit of healthy fear. --- And there are many things we need to learn to fear, and that indeed are wise to fear. Fear -- is a good thing at times.

And Scripture tell us

"the fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom"

I do think that many believers today fall in the trap of stressing God's imminence. His accessibility, His closeness -- over his transcendence. Transcendence in the sense that God is Holy and to be feared. Something tells me that if we truly understood how holy God who judges the earth is. How awesome He is. How pure He is. So completely without sin. Then we would truly have a healthy dose of the fear of the Lord.

And that fear of the Lord would cause us to hate evil.

Part of wisdom is to have a fear of the Lord, which is a learning to hate the things that God hates. Learning to see evil for what it is, and desiring to stay away from it.Here in Proverbs 8 we are called in particular:

To HATE Pride
To HATE arrogance
To HATE evil behavior
and To HATE perverse speech.

Basically we are called to hate the evil on the inside and evil on the outside.Pride and arrogance are what you and I are thinking on the inside; it's what only God really sees. But there is also evil behavior and perverse speech. The evil on the outside. The evil expressed in what we do and in what we say.

And in Proverbs 8 we are called to hate these things.

And if we are honest, do we really hate the evil things we think and do and say, or do we just have a dislike for them... we find them distasteful. Unpleasant. Folks we need to cultivate a hatred, for those things we think, and do and say that are displeasing in God's sight.

Prov. 8:13 To fear the LORD is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech.

So here we have wisdom's threefold call:

  • TO GAIN WISDOM AND UNDERSTANDING
  • TO CHOOSE KNOWLEDGE, INSTRUCTION & DISCRETION OVER THE RICHES OF THIS WORLD and
  • TO fear the Lord and HATE EVIL

Wisdom is calling out to all of us. It is calling us not to a life of passivity, but to an active pursuit. We are called to actively pursue understanding. To pursue God's ways over riches. We are called to pursue a desire to hate evil.

And basically as we pursue this life of WISDOM, in the fear of the Lord, we are pursuing the Lord himself.

WHO IS THIS WISDOM? Verses 22-31

And in fact this pursuit of the Lord is also alluded to here in Proverbs chapter 8 in a very unusual fashion.Take a look with me at some excerpts from verses 22-27.

Here Wisdom says:

Prov. 8:22 "The LORD brought me forth as the first of his works, before his deeds of old;

23 I was appointed from eternity, from the beginning, before the world began.

24 When there were no oceans, I was given birth, when there were no springs abounding with water;

25 before the mountains were settled in place, before the hills, I was given birth,

27 I was there when he set the heavens in place,

Here Wisdom is personified.

"The LORD brought me forth"
"I was given birth"
Wisdom is created, created from eternity. From the beginning. Before the world began.

Wisdom says"I was there when he set the heavens in place."

And then in verses 30 & 31, we hear Wisdom say:

Prov. 8:30 Then I was the craftsman at his side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence,

31 rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind.

Here Wisdom seems to imply being with God from the beginning. "Rejoicing always in his presence."AND being "the craftsman at his side". Creating.One who has come from eternity and one who set the heavens in place.

So here we see Wisdom as both being with God but also as God personified.

This is why many commentators see these verses as ultimately pointing to the Wisdom of God, or better the Word of God made Flesh, JESUS, who was both with God from the beginning and who was God.

The Apostle Paul saw the personification of wisdom in the person of Christ; and we read in 1 Corinthians 1:24

"Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God."

CHRIST is that wisdom of God who we must ultimately pursue. And as we learn of Him -

  • we GAIN understanding,

  • we CHOOSE knowledge,

  • and we learn to HATE evil.

And as we purposefully pursue Christ, we gain THE ultimate blessing of LIFE and God's FAVOR as it's promised in the closing verses of this Proverb.

BLESSING OF LISTENING TO WISDOM'S CALL - vs. 32-36

In verses 32 -36 we see

32 "Now then, my sons, listen to me; blessed are those who keep my ways.

33 Listen to my instruction and be wise; do not ignore it.

34 Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway.

35 For whoever finds me finds life and receives favor from the LORD.

36 But whoever fails to find me harms himself; all who hate me love death."

 

This blessing from God. This Life. This favor God promises is for all who are willing to passionately pursue His Wisdom. It's for those of us who are WATCHING daily at His door. For those WAITING at His doorway. It's for those ACTIVELY LISTENING.

In verses 33 & 34 we read:

33 Listen to my instruction and be wise; do not ignore it.

34 Blessed is the man who listens to me

The word used here for listen is from the Hebrew word Shema. Which means to not only hear with our ears alone but also to hear and obey. There is a sense of the listener saying YES LORD I HAVE HEARD YOU AND YES LORD I DESIRE TO OBEY YOU. I DESIRE TO CHOOSE THE PATH OF WISDOM.

It's my hope that today this is the type of listener you purpose to be. One who hears and does something about it. One who not only hears this message, this call today with their ears alone, but one who hears and is moved to pursue wisdom.

We began this morning by asking "How do we get wisdom?" Well we have learnt that we get wisdom by pursuing it. If we actively purpose to:

  • GAIN prudence and understanding,
  • CHOOSE the knowledge and ways of God,
  • Cultivate a fear the Lord that HATES evil

And folks if we do these things then we can be assured that we will grow in wisdom.

And as we grow in wisdom we WILL find LIFE, and FAVOR from the Lord.

This day determine to pursue Wisdom with all your heart, with all of your soul, and with all of your strength.

Let's pray