William J. Stewart | Lessons from the Book of Proverbs
Several times in the first 7 chapters of the book, Solomon has warned about the immoral woman. Her way is the way of death. In chapter 8, Solomon points his son again to the “woman” he needs in his life; he personifies wisdom. As the immoral woman calls for the young man to follow her, so wisdom cries out, seeking to be the course he will go (8:1, 3-4; cf. 1:20-23).
She cries out by the gates, at the entry of the city, at the entrance of the doors: ‘To you, O men, I call, and my voice is to the sons of men.’ (8:3-4)
The call of wisdom is a universal call. Notice the stance that is given to her in the text: she is on the high hill, at the paths, at the gates of the city (v 2-3), she is everywhere seeking to be heard. And her message is not just to a few, but “to the sons of men” (v 4).
Some are inclined to listen to the voice of wisdom, their attention is already secured at this point, but she wants all to hear, so the plea continues,
O you simple ones, understand prudence, and you fools, be of an understanding heart. (8:5)
Every soul needs to hear the call of wisdom—for it leads away from destruction and to life.
She summarizes her message with a few key words. Wisdom leads in things that are “excellent” and “right” (v 6). Wisdom speaks “truth” and “righteousness” (v 7-8).
The Hebrew word used here for “excellent” contains the idea of nobility and honour. In the secular world, folks are often focused on attaining “the finer things” of life. It is not found in material wealth or corporate prestige. The chief things in life, and which lead to eternal life, are found in the wisdom of God’s word.
God’s word leads us in the “right things” as well. The Hebrew word used has the idea of equity, uprightness, straight (as opposed to crooked). When people deal with us, we want them to be honest and equitable. We ought to be the same way in our dealings, and likewise with ourselves. What good is it if we are upright in some of the affairs of life, but corrupt in others (ie. Our service before God)? Wisdom calls us to walk right.
Remember the question of Pilate, “What is truth?” (John 18:38) Had Pontius been there a chapter earlier, he would have heard Jesus declare in prayer, “Sanctify them by Your word. Your word is truth” (John 17:17). God’s word, His wisdom, leads us in truth. The Hebrew word used by Solomon contains the idea of stability, certainty, assurance. The comfort of being established, of having something that is faithful and verifiable. God’s word offers all this and more. We can trust God’s word, that it will speak right things, for she tells us, “wickedness is an abomination to my lips” (v 7)
She says that her words are righteousness. This is a different Hebrew word that what was used for “right things,” though the meaning is very similar. It is a focus on what is just or right, naturally, morally or legally. Godly wisdom will not lead us in the wrong direction; it will tune our hearts to have a sense of justice. As wisdom herself says, “…nothing crooked or perverse is in them.”
SIMPLICITY AND VALUE
They are plain to him who understands, and right to those who find knowledge. Receive my instruction, and not silver, and knowledge rather than gold; for wisdom is better than rubies, and all the things one may desire cannot be compared with her. (8:9-11)
The precepts of wisdom are not difficult to understand, if one seeks to understand it. If an individual is focused on things that are excellent, right, truthful and righteous, the message of wisdom is plain. Consider the flipside of that statement: If an individual is focused on things that are awful, wrong, deceptive and wicked, the message of wisdom will go unseen. The key then is what do we focus our hearts upon? Are we desiring good things or abominable things?
In telling us to receive instruction and not silver or gold or rubies, Solomon is not saying there is anything wrong with silver, gold and rubies. In fact, we know that he had a substantial amount of wealth. His message is not that there is anything wrong with such possessions, but it is a comparison of value. Solomon and his son lived in a world where silver, gold and rubies were costly items and a sign of great wealth. These were desirable. Wisdom is more to be desired. Hear the words of the Psalmist:
The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much find gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. (Psalm 19:7-10)
Most of us are quite familiar with that portion of Psalm 19. But consider one verse further:
Moreover by them Your servant is warned, and in keeping them there is great reward. (Psalm 19:11)
That is Solomon’s emphasis to his son. Keep God’s word, for it is excellent, it is right, it is truthful, it leads in righteousness. It is of more value than any commodity this world can offer; there is nothing this world has to offer that is comparable in value. For there is nothing this world offers that leads to eternal life.
Hebrew word definitions from Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance