Summary: Wisdom's plaintive plea. The danger of refusal. A promise to those who will hear.


Proverbs 1:20-33

One day I was out shopping on one of the pedestrianised streets of Norwich, England, when a sudden commotion stopped me in my tracks. The City Crier’s vigorous ringing of his hand-bell, and his cry of ‘Oh Yay! Oh Yay!’ seemed to be right in my ear, and momentarily demanded my attention. However, this did not detain me any longer than was necessary: he was simply announcing a Music Sale in a nearby Hall, which was of no immediate interest to me.

Lady Wisdom, in our text, also takes her message outside (Proverbs 1:20-21). She raises her voice in the open squares. She cries out in the concourses: the large open areas in front of public buildings. She uttered her words at the gates of her City, where people customarily met to conduct business (Ruth 4:1), to discuss, or to exercise judgment (cf. Amos 5:15).

Amos delivered his message ‘in the midst of the house of Israel’: to the extent that he was accused of filling the land with his doctrine (Amos 7:10). Similarly, in Jeremiah 7:2, a later prophet was told to ‘Stand in the gate of the LORD’s house’ and there proclaim the LORD’s Word (which evidently wasn’t being preached inside!) Even Jesus would have his disciples go into the highways and hedges to gather the lost (Luke 14:23).

So, Lady Wisdom raises her voice. Initially it is a plaintive plea: “How long will the naïve love naivety, the scoffers delight in their heckling, and fools hate knowledge?” (Proverbs 1:22). Just an ordinary session at Speakers’ Corner!

Then a call to “repent” at her reproof (Proverbs 1:23). Turn away from the scoffers, for example, of Proverbs 1:11-14. Turn away from the fool who says in his heart ‘that there is no God’ (Psalm 14:1; Psalm 53:1). Instead, turn to me, and, according to the Hebrew: “I will pour out my spirit upon you; I will make my words known unto you” (Proverbs 1:23). It is quite evident here that when Lady Wisdom speaks, she speaks as God (cf. Isaiah 59:21)!

“I have called, and you refused,” she complains: “I have stretched out my hand, and no-one regarded” (Proverbs 1:24). This the LORD also says: ‘All day long I have stretched out my hands unto a rebellious and contrary people’ (Romans 10:21). Is this not a picture of the Cross?

Well, says Lady Wisdom: “Because you refused my counsel, and would have none of my rebuke, I also will laugh at your calamity” (Proverbs 1:25-27). The LORD, too, laughs at the arrogance of men (Psalm 2:4). Even with all the warnings that Scripture makes against refusing its appeal, people still choose to go their own way: and reap the consequences (cf. Galatians 6:7-8).

The irony is that when people refuse the LORD ‘in a day when He may be found’ (Isaiah 55:6), they miss their opportunity. Then later, perhaps in a time of crisis when they decide to pray, He will not hear (Proverbs 1:28). ‘As I called, and they would not hear, so they called, and I would not hear,’ says the LORD (Zechariah 7:13).

The indictment follows. It is, if you like, a judicial hardening. Refusal to live in “the fear (reverence) of the LORD”, and “despising reproof”, means that “they shall eat of the fruit… of their own devices” (Proverbs 1:29-31).

God gives unrepentant sinners over to the consequences of their sins (Proverbs 1:32; cf. Romans 1:18-31). But the allure of Lady Wisdom continues in the second half of this little proverb, with the extravagant reward on offer for those who will hear (Proverbs 1:33). It is a promise of both Gospel, and eternal dimensions.

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