Summary: Wisdom is the key to life. Choose wisdom. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
It’s interesting how often in the Scriptures we find ourselves addressed as though we were walking along and had come to a fork in the road. Here we have to make a decision. Do we go right or do we go left? And so often the decision is a life changing one. Joshua in Joshua 24 tells the people they need to decide which of the local gods they’re going to serve, but as for him and his household, they will serve the LORD. Jesus says, in Matt 7:13-14: "Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. 14[But] the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it." Paul in 1 Cor 3:10-13 warns: "Each builder must choose with care how to build on [my foundation]. 11For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ. 12Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw-- 13the work of each builder will become visible, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each has done."
There are some decisions we make in life that change the course of our life from that day forward. We’ve all made them I’m sure. What university will I go to? What subjects will I study? What degree will I go for? What work will I take up. What sort of career am I looking for? Will I work hard? Will I do anything the boss tells me to? Who will I marry if that possibility arises? Where will I live? Will I move interstate to that new job? The list is endless isn’t it? Some major, major decisions, other’s perhaps less important, less life-changing.
But it’s interesting that so many of those decisions could have gone differently and we would still have enjoyed a fruitful life. No-one could point to them and say, you really blew it with that one didn’t you? I have two friend who both completed their PhDs in Nuclear Physics around the same time. One went on to work for one of the major nuclear energy organisations, lobbying for the use of nuclear energy, while the other decided to become a high school physics teacher. Now some might suggest my second friend was wasting his ability becoming a teacher. But was he? None of his students would think so, I’m sure. No, this was a life changing decision for him, but it was no more right or wrong than my other friend’s decision to continue in the field of nuclear energy.
A Life-determining Decision
But here in Proverbs 9 we come to one of those decision points where the decision we make will undergird everything we do and think from then on, every decision we make. Here we come to a fork in the road where we have a totally life changing decision to make. As in the rest of Proverbs 1-9 the decision is personified in the persons of two women, standing at each branch of the fork in the road offering a banquet to those who turn their way.
At one branch stands wisdom, with her house set up to welcome all who come to enjoy her godly hospitality. At the other sits the foolish woman, seeking to entice any who are without sense to come and taste her forbidden fruit, to come and drink of her stolen water. Her plea is the lie that if you get away with something illicit, the pleasure is multiplied. But behind the lie is a deadly and fearful truth. Here we find a situation that mimics our own time. The foolish woman’s lie is still being told.
But before we move on to the two women, the two choices, I want you to notice that there are three types of people referred to in the passage. First there are those who are wise. Look at the end of v8 and the start of v12. The wise are those who listen to wisdom’s teaching and make the most of it. They become wiser still. They understand that learning from wisdom doesn’t make you less important, it actually builds you up to be more so.
The second type is the scoffer - vs 7&8. This is the person who thinks they know everything. Try to correct this sort of person and they’ll only abuse you. Rebuke them and they’ll hate you. Why? Because they think that your rebuke, your life lesson is a put down. They think they know so much that no-one else could possibly know more. They’ve built up an image of how great they are and when they find themselves being shown up they hate it. They’ve lost face. And you’re the one who did it to them. But notice the end of v12. Such people have no-one to blame but themselves when things go wrong, when the foolish decisions they’ve made come back to bite them.