Wisdom Calls, A Devotional on Proverbs 1:20-33
Christ and the Rich Young Ruler
The passage at hand warns the reader of the personal ruin he will suffer if he does not attend to wisdom: he will eat the fruit of his works, and be filled with his own schemes; he will be slayed by the deviation of the simple, and he will be destroyed by the prosperity of fools. All these statements simply allude to a universal principle established by God: "whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap" (Galatians 6:7, KJV). A wise person understands this principle, and therefore is careful to make good choices.
However, the universal principle of sowing and reaping is not the main point of Proverbs 1:20-33. The main point is found in the words “turn you at my reproof” (Prov. 1:23, KJV). The simple, the scorners, and the fools are reproved for their simplicity, scorning, and foolishness; and they are exhorted to turn. That turning means abandoning their simplicity, ceasing from scorning, and making an end of foolishness. In other words, they are being asked to repent. They must repent, or else they must face the consequences.
Repentance does not only constitute abandoning their ways. It does not only mean leaving behind simplicity, scorning, and foolishness. It also means embracing the fear of the Lord and loving knowledge. Repentance means that they must turn from their sins for the purpose of submitting to God and His ways. That is what they are asked to do, and that is what this proverb teaches the reader to do.
However, there is an important feature not to be overlooked. Wisdom is personified. It is depicted as a person proclaiming his message in the streets, in the main gathering places, and at the gates of the city. This preacher, this prophet, is exhorting people to repent, to turn to God, to seek knowledge of God's ways. The point is that wisdom is accessible to everyone through the preaching of God's word by His prophets (these words are recorded for us today in the Bible).
In essence, this proverb makes the same point as the Gospel: repent from sin and turn to God to escape divine judgement.
According to this proverb, judgment is a real future event that one cannot escape once it has begun. The time to repent is now: once judgment begins, it will be too late. Wisdom will not help those who experience judgment; instead, wisdom will rejoice in their judgment. The only time wisdom will help anyone is prior to the judgment. The time of judgment will be a definite time of calamity, fear, desolation, destruction, distress, and anguish. At that time, their search for wisdom will go unrewarded.
Nevertheless, those who repent prior to judgment will experience safety and quiet; they will not face evil (misfortune, ruin). Those who repent will also receive the spirit of wisdom over them, and the words of wisdom will be made known to them.
These promises for all those who repent are very significant. What kind of man is wisdom (remember, wisdom is being personified) to put out his spirit upon others and to reveal his words to others? There is no biblical evidence that indicates a human can pour his spirit on anyone. The only one who can pour his spirit on humanity is God (in Joel 2:28-29, God declares He will pour His Spirit on all the people).
What then does this mean? Is wisdom being portrayed as God also, and not only as a human prophet? If that is the case, how can the human and divine natures reside in one same person? The answer is not obvious in the Tanach (Old Testament), but the New Testament does indeed introduce us to one person who is both fully man and fully God: that person is Jesus of Christ.
Is it possible that, several hundred years before Christ, the book of Proverbs was telling us that God would walk in the streets, pass the city gates, visit places for gathering (like synagogues), and proclaim that human beings need to repent and turn to God in order to receive the Holy Spirit and be saved? I believe this is quite possible.
Wisdom is a feminine word in Hebrew, and wisdom is also portrayed as a woman further ahead in Proverbs. Nevertheless, in this particular passage, wisdom pours its spirit on human beings who repent to give them revelation (v.23), prayers are also offered to wisdom (v.28), and wisdom is portrayed as a prophet, a role the Bible more often gives to men. Thus, it is quite possible that wisdom here does not represent a woman, but a male figure, which better fits God and Jesus Christ.
Questions for Personal Reflection or Group Discussion
Have you repented of your sins and disregard of God, turning to Him for forgiveness and salvation from His judgment? Why or why not?
How are you responding to God's word, whether you are reading it or whether a pastor is preaching it to you? Do you disregard it or do you seek to obey ?
What sins have you committed, or are practicing, of which you have not repented or which you still need to confess to God (if discussing in a group, do not be too specific)? Are you willing to ask God for forgiveness and for help to rid your life of those sins?
Have you received the Holy Spirit in your life? How do you know? How is your relationship with Him doing?
© 2017 Marcelo Carcach