Before It's Too Late
Topic: English Passage: Proverbs 1:20-33
Read Passage: Proverbs 1:20-33
One of the many tragic stories we have in the Bible in the life of Esau. Esau was a firstborn twin, the older brother of Jacob. And from the moment he was born, it was clear that Jacob was out to get him.
Esau grew to be an expert hunter, an outdoorsman, while his younger brother was basically a momma’s boy, who preferred to help in the kitchen. And as you might imagine, those kinds of differences led to a lot of conflict in the home. And Esau was probably a very proud and independent man.
Genesis 25 tells us the turning point in Esau’s life. Jacob was in the kitchen cooking some stew, and Esau shows up exhausted after having hunted for some time with nothing to show for it. Tired and hungry, he tells Jacob: “Gimme some of that stew!” Jacob replied: “Sure, if you give me your birthright right now.” By this point in their life, he’s probably noticed that Esau doesn’t value it very much.
Now, a birthright, is a major deal in that culture. When their dad died, the estate would be split into three equal parts. Two of those parts would go to Esau, since he’s the older one. And Jacob, would get the other third. And because God had blessed Abraham and Isaac so much, this is a considerable inheritance. Being first born meant getting twice as much as your siblings. It also meant having the honor as the head of the family or clan.
Jacob is hoping to cut Esau’s inheritance in half and double his own. So what does Esau do?... He reasons: “What good is my inheritance if I die right now?” He’s clearly not thinking straight, and Jacob knows it. So Jacob makes him swear. He makes him seal the deal. And Esau does it. Half his inheritance, gone in a moment. For what?... For a piece of bread and a bowl of red lentil soup. And Genesis 25:34 ends by saying: “Thus Esau despised his birthright.”
This is not just the story of a man who was tricked. This is not the story of an innocent victim. This is the story of a man who, because of his own foolish way of thinking, was led to one moment, where he made a foolish decision that could not be undone.
Hebrews 12 says Esau was unholy, and that brought with it a significant cost. Later, when he tried to be blessed by his father, he got no blessing. It says, there was no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears. He tried to undo everything he had done, but it was too late. It was too late.
Those are some of the worst words you will ever hear someone say to you: Too late. Too late.
That kind of ruined life is not just what every parent wants their kids to avoid, it is what God wants to keep you from as well. And in order to keep us from the foolish and painful decisions that all of us are capable of, He has given us wisdom.
The wisdom of God is found in every page of His word, but it is especially concentrated here in the book of Proverbs. Our section today is a speech to us from wisdom personified. It’s if wisdom were a living person.
In English, we talk about wisdom as a thing. We call it an “it.” But you don’t do that in Hebrew (or even in Spanish). Words are either feminine or masculine. And the word for wisdom is a feminine word, so wisdom is being pictured as a woman.
And this woman comes with a message—a message from God. There are four sections in this passage and each section gives us a lesson on wisdom. And this is sort of a broad introduction to the rest of Proverbs.
The first section is Wisdom’s Plea [petición]. And the lesson we learn from wisdom’s plea is that wisdom is available. It’s available. Let’s look at verses 20-21.
This is a woman shouting in the streets and in the plazas and at the gates. Those are the places people do business and have public interactions. The gates are where a person has to enter into a walled city. You might remember when Boaz won Ruth for himself, it was through a legal contract done at the gates of the city. So, these are prominent and accessible places.
Back in those days, there were people selling things and there were teachers gathering students, and they would be outside trying to call people to themselves.
The closest thing I could think of in my own life was the opening week of college. The plaza is filled with tables for groups and clubs and teams and fraternities and sororities, and all of them are trying to get ahold of a freshman.
That’s the picture here. Lady Wisdom is calling out. And here’s the significance of that. Listen to this. Wisdom is teaching openly. Wisdom is available. It is made accessible to everyone who wants it.
I know that some people like to feel like they are in some kind of secret society, and they know what only a few other people know, but that’s not how the wisdom of God operates. It’s available to everyone. It’s free. It’s inviting. It’s accessible. It’s yours for the taking.
And the extension of that reality is that you and I have no excuse for not receiving it. There’s no excuse. It’s here for you if you want it. John 1 says that Christ enlightens every man. I don’t think that’s talking about salvation, that’s talking about a basic knowledge of the foundation of wisdom.
Romans 1 and 2 says we have creation and conscience that points us to the reality of a holy and power Creator who will Judge us. All of us here have that basic knowledge. And so, all of us have been invited by wisdom. Wisdom is accessible. It’s available.
Now, the same could be said about dirt, right? Dirt is basically accessible to all of us. We can just go outside and get some. But dirt is not exactly going to help your life. The message from wisdom is more than just that it is available to you. Secondly, we learn that wisdom is beneficial. Wisdom is available and beneficial. And we see it’s benefit in verses 22-23. This is Wisdom’s Promise. PROVERBS 1:22-23.
For some reason, when I was growing up as a kid, on occasion, I would watch infomercials. For those of you who don’t know what they are, they’re essentially a half-hour ad, trying to get you to buy a product. It’s a waste of time.
And one of the common elements in a classic infomercial is the opening black and white scene. And it’s got a person who looks frustrated or sad or angry. And it’s basically, asking: “Is this your life? Do you ever feel like this?” And then whatever product they’re trying to sell you is supposed to fix that situation.
Well, in verse 22, that’s the question: “Is this you? Do you fall into one of these categories?” And these are the categories: We have the simple (or naïve) [simples], the scoffers [burladores], and the fools [insensatos/necios]. Does that describe you? Do you fall into any one of those categories?
Being a simple person, in this passage, is talking about being a person who doesn’t have a grid for discernment. They don’t know what is good or bad for them. Another translation might be “gullible” [crédulo], someone who is easily persuaded.
The Hebrew word here carries the idea of something that is open. Today, it’s thought of as a virtue to say you’re open-minded. But God would say: “Don’t have an open mind. Have a discerning mind.”
Before you go to bed, what do you do to your doors? You close them. You protect yourself. You don’t leave it open so that whatever person or whatever animal can come right in.
But for some people, their mind is just like an open door. They have no grid for discernment. They have no filter for content. They’re like children, believing anything somebody else tells them. They can’t tell truth from error, or safety from harm. They let everything in indiscriminately. That’s a simple person. And that is some of us.
Next, is the scoffer. This is the person who hears the truth but laughs at it. They ridicule the truth. They make fun of rules or morals or religion. They scoff at the idea. Nothing is taken seriously. Nothing is sacred. They are scoffers. and maybe that’s a better label for your own life.
The last category is the fool. They have no sense. They’re puffed up in their own opinion. So, even if they don’t openly reject or mock the truth, they think they can figure it out all on their own. It’s an arrogant ignorance. And that could be who you are.
You might be a simple person. You might be a scoffer. Or you might be a fool who hates knowledge. Whatever you are, here’s the promise of wisdom. Here’s the benefit of wisdom: I can help you. I will help you. That’s verse 23.
If you turn to her, she will make you wise. You’re not going to be teased for not coming sooner. You’re not going to be asked to jump through hoops. You’re going to get help. You’re going to get wisdom. This is the heart of God.
James 1:5 says that if you need wisdom, ask God, and He’ll give it to you. He gives it generously and without reproach. [da abundantemente y sin reproche]. It’s yours if you want it. If you’re willing to turn from your life (verse 23) and listen to wisdom.
This is such a picture of God’s readiness to give. It’s not like you’re going to get some mystical, fortune-cookie wisdom that no one understands. You will know these words. It will transform you.
Wisdom is available and it’s beneficial. But here’s the third key to take note of. Wisdom is critical. Wisdom is critical. Multi-vitamins can be available, and multi-vitamins might be beneficial, but usually nothing is really at stake if you don’t take them. Some people never take them, and life goes on.
But wisdom isn’t like that. Wisdom is not optional. It is critical for life. And this brings us to the third section, which is wisdom’s precaution. Wisdom’s precaution.
Wisdom’s plea told us that it’s available. Wisdom’s promise told us that it’s beneficial. And now wisdom’s precaution tells us that it is critical.
If you remember from last week, there was a warning from a father. This week, it’s a warning from wisdom personified. This is the warning label to life.
Practically everything we buy now comes with some kind of warning label. Some are helpful some are blatantly obvious. And you might ask: “Why doesn’t life come with a warning label?” It does. It’s called Proverbs. It’s the warning of disregarding wisdom. Don’t ignore the wisdom of God. Here’s the warning. VERSES 24-31.
You can see all the words used here to talk about how a person rejects wisdom.
24—you refused, you didn’t pay attention
25—you neglected, you didn’t want it.
29—you hated it, you didn’t choose it
30—you wouldn’t accept, you spurned/rejected
And so, what was the result? The result is disaster.
27—like a storm/hurricane, like a tornado
there will be dread and anguish
Wisdom is critical if you want to avoid a disastrous life—a ruined life. Sometimes that includes death, doesn’t it? I think almost every day we hear about someone dying because of a foolish decision they make. You hear it on the news. Drunk driver. High speed driver. Overdose. Suicide. Shooting, etc. Many times, brought upon by the foolish decision of a person. And it’s tragic.
But we also hear about and know people who have ruined their lives because they ignored the righteous wisdom of fearing the Lord. Listen folks, and especially you, young people. You are making decisions every day that will affect the rest of your life. Some of those decisions seem big, like: Whom will you marry? That’s a big decision with major consequences.
But there’s also the seemingly very small decisions. And those thousands of tiny decisions you make every day will have an impact on your life. And rather than just go through life in neutral, living by your impulses, you need to train yourself to live by the principles of God, not by your feelings.
This section of Proverbs doesn’t fall into a specific category of wisdom because it applies to all of them. Decisions about your speech, your sexual conduct, your anger, your love for family, your work ethic, your self-control, your friends, and more—all of those lessons are in Proverbs and they all come with this warning. Do not ignore me. It will ruin your life.
All of us have stories of decisions we made that we can’t take back, and that have negatively affected our lives. And if we could step back in time, we would tell ourselves: Don’t do it. Do start down that path. Don’t focus just on the temporary. Fear the Lord.
Don’t start down the path to laziness, to rebellion, to overeating, to pornography, to sex outside of marriage, to anger, to drunkenness, to foolishness with friends, or foolishness with money, or any other aspect of life. Don’t head in that direction. As early as you can, to train yourself in the wisdom of God. Don’t ruin your life.
One common response of a foolish young person is: “Oh that would never happen to me! I’m in control. I’m not going to end up like everyone else!” That’s where all those other people started to. And a large part of it was because they thought that biblical wisdom and biblical principles were merely rules for a good life. That’s not what this is. That’s not what wisdom is.
Look at verse 29 again. The fools aren’t just rejecting some guidelines for life. What have they rejected? The fear of the Lord. This is very personal. You see, God is watching YOU. God is the one your life is directed toward. Whether you acknowledge Him or not. And if you live in rebellion to God, do not expect Him to look the other way. Worse than that do not expect Him to approve of you or protect you from His judgment.
One of the worst mistakes you can make is treat God like a safety net, instead of like the Judge. Some of you might think: “Well, I can go do something foolish and sinful, just this once, and then I’ll confess later on and God will fix it. Because He loves me. Of course, He will.”
That is a serious problem because it ignores the other part of this warning. Ignoring the wisdom of God doesn’t just bring ruin, it brings a ruin that cannot be undone. It can’t be fixed. And that’s not because God can’t fix it. It because He won’t.
Look at how the wisdom of God responds to the person who ignored His instruction and ruined his life.
v. 26—I will laugh, I will mock
v. 28—call and seek, but I will not answer, you will not find me
v. 31—you will eat the fruit of your own way.
This is God saying: Too late. Too late.
As a dad, that’s a phrase I’ve used on occasion. Once I’ve stood up and called my kid into a bedroom, he or she try to convince that they can make up for what they did. They plead with me: “I’ll listen! I’ll listen! I’ll go say sorry.” And my answer to them is: “Too late. Too late.”
Would God actually say that to someone?! Is this an accurate view of God? This can’t be my God! This can’t be Jesus!
The Psalms say to call on the Lord and He will answer. The prophets say the same thing. The New Testament says to cast my cares on the Lord. To ask and seek and knock, and God will respond. What do you mean God won’t respond?!
I mean that a time will come when God will no longer hear. It will be too late. And you’ll be left to anguish in the consequences of your choices. You’ll be left with no one to turn to.
Psalm 2 speaks of kings plotting against Christ. And verse 4 says that God sits in heaven laughing. He scoffs at the scoffers.
In Judges 10, verse 14 we have the Israelites calling out to God for help. They are confessing their sin and asking for mercy from their enemies. And this is what God says: “You have forsaken me and served other gods; therefore, I will save you no more. Go and cry out to the gods whom you have chosen; let them save you in your distress.” [ustedes Me han dejado y han servido a otros dioses. Por tanto, no los libraré más. Vayan y clamen a los dioses que han escogido; que ellos los libren en el tiempo de su aflicción]
Later in Israel’s history, we have the promise of Micah 3:4. Israel’s leadership is given over to their sin. And this is what God says: “they will cry to the Lord, but he will not answer them; he will hide his face from them at that time, because they have made their deeds evil.” [clamarán al Señor, Pero El no les responderá; Sino que esconderá de ellos Su rostro en aquel tiempo, Porque han hecho malas obras.]
Isaiah had the right message when he said: “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near” [Busquen a Jehová mientras puede ser hallado, llamadle en tanto que está cercano.]
Which tells us that the promises of God come with a time limit. Sooner or later, it will be too late.
This is the motivation of disaster. The possibility of ruin is intended to move you to change paths. We should be motivated by the blessing of God, but we should also be motivated by the promise of discipline and disaster.
Think of it this way: Who runs faster and with more effort and with more urgency? A man running for the Olympic gold medal? Or the same man being chased by a lion? It’s a tough call. But that’s the motivation of ruin.
That’s the warning wisdom gives us. One day, it will be too late.
But today, it’s not. Today, you can make the decision to follow the wisdom of God. Today, you can turn from foolishness. Today, you can step into the blessing of God.
The closing verse, verse 33 is Wisdom’s Protection. Wisdom’s protection. And what it tells us is that wisdom is dependable. It’s dependable. VERSE 33.
This is what God wants for you—safety, security. You’re not wondering if someone is out to get you. You’re not wondering if something is going to come back to bite you one day. God promises peace of mind if you will follow the wisdom He’s given you.
Like I said, these principles apply to all aspects of life, all the categories of life that Proverbs talks about. And you can be spared death or disastrous consequences if you obey the wisdom of God.
But there is one specific aspect of wisdom I have to mention. This is the key component in all this. This is the foundation, and it is the eternal component. No matter what you do to improve your own life, in the end, it will be meaningless if you do not surrender your life to Jesus Christ.
The plea of wisdom is the plea of God. It’s the plea of Christ to come to Him. Salvation is available to everyone. No matter what your life has been like. Jesus is available. And He comes with promise of salvation. And He comes with a loving, urgent warning.
Your sin—the things you do wrong, the things your conscience tells you you’re not supposed to do—the things God’s word says not to do—those aren’t just examples of your weakness. They are examples that your heart is in rebellion to God. You want to run your own life, instead of acknowledging Creator and Ruler of everything.
And God will not allow a rebel into His kingdom. His judgment will come. But here’s the message of Jesus Christ. He came as God in human flesh, and He lived the perfect life that you could never live. He embodied the wisdom of God. He loved and obeyed the Father perfectly. And yet, He took the judgment of God upon Himself. Why? So that everyone who repents of their sin and surrenders to Him will be saved, and will be protected from the eternal judgment of God.
There is no more dependable promise than that. All who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved. This is God’s heart. Yes, judgment will come. Yes, it will be too late one day. But it’s not too late today. Today is the day of salvation. As surely as Christ rose from the grave, Christ will save all who come to Him in sincerity.
Call out to Him. Pray to him for forgiveness. Place your faith in the crucified and risen Lord and you will be saved. Repeatedly, God pleads with His people: Why will you die? Why will you die? Don’t throw your life away! Come to Me all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.
You can’t fix this on your own. It only gets fixed by Jesus. Feeling guilty isn’t enough. Feeling scared isn’t enough. Those feelings will fade. Those feelings won’t save you. Only Christ will save you if you pray and plead with Him for mercy.
Don’t be the fool of Proverbs and the fool of the Bible who ignored and rejected Jesus Christ.
Let me close with one final passage.