The Two Roads for Life

November 4, 2018 Preacher: Luis A. Cardenas Series: Proverbs

Topic: English Passage: Proverbs 9:1-18

We come this morning to end of the prolonged introduction to the book of Proverbs. That is Proverbs chapter 9. Proverbs chapter 9. We’re going to cover the whole chapter today, and I’d like you to go there, so we can look at it together. Proverbs chapter 9. This is God’s word for us today, so let’s listen. Proverbs 9:1-18

Have you ever met someone, or seen someone, who you thought was exceptionally good at what they did? Maybe you hated them for it. Maybe you envied them. Maybe you admired them. But whatever your response, they had something that you didn’t. They had an ability or a skill.

Well, one of the words the Bible uses for ability and skill is wisdom. The word was used, not just for old men who knew a lot, but for men who were experts in their craft. They were artisans. They had wisdom. And the people knew it. It was evident

Well, in a similar way, God expects all His people to stand out from the rest. He expects them to be different from the world. That is not just a New Testament idea from Jesus. That is from the beginning.

When the nation of Israel was about to enter Land promised to them, Moses knew that he was about to die. So he encouraged them to stay faithful to God as they were about to enter into a Land of prosperity and blessing. Moses commanded them to stay obedient.

But he wasn’t after blind obedience. He wanted them to understand the big picture. He wanted them to have the big picture. And the big picture was God’s glory.

Listen to what Moses said to Israel in Deuteronomy chapter 4, beginning in verse 5 — See, I have taught you statutes and rules, as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should do them in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. 6Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the people, who when they hear all these statutes, will say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.” 7For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is to us, whenever we call upon him? 8And what great nation is there, that has statutes and rules so righteous as all this law that I set before you today?

God wants His people to stand out. He wants His people to be different. He wants them to have wisdom.

If you’ve been tracking with our messages through the book of Proverbs, then you should know that Proverbs is a book about wisdom. And wisdom is defined as the skill to live a life that honors and fears the Lord and invites His blessing. It is the understanding of His truth and the application of that into your life.

If someone has true wisdom, then it will be seen in every aspect of his life. And that’s what chapters 10-31 of Proverbs do for us. They describe many, many aspects of life through which we can demonstrate our obedience to God, and in which we can receive His blessing. But before we get to those various and specific topics regarding the application of wisdom, we get one final general lesson in chapter 9 about wisdom and about our approach to her.

And I say “her” rather than “it” because, like we saw last week, wisdom is being personified for us in this section. She is calling to us, and particularly to you younger ones, to prepare you for your life ahead. And so, as we go through this chapter, we’ll break it up with some headings about wisdom.

The opening lines of this chapter speak to us about Wisdom’s preparation. That’ll be our first heading for today. Wisdom’s preparation.

The first couple verses indicate activity that would normally be reserved for men, but Wisdom, we’ve been finding out is an amazing woman—very hardworking. And this work is being applied toward a preparation.

First of all in verse 1, wisdom’s preparation means that she has built her house and hewn her pillars. The idea there is not she has moved in or is decorating, but that she built it from scratch—from the bottom up. Pillars could have been made of wood, and they had to be cut and then propped up to hold up the roof.

The number of pillars in your house was an indication of the size of the house and of the status of the person. And for the Israelites, the number 7 was also considered a number of completeness or perfection. So, saying that the house has seven pillars is a way of saying it has enough. It’s complete. There’s enough space for whoever will come.

So, the idea we get here is not just some woman getting ready for a meal with her family. This is a wealthy noblewoman preparing for a lavish banquet. [banquete lujoso]

And once the meeting place is ready, verse 2 says that the food is ready. That’s part of the preparation as well.

She has slaughtered her beasts; she has mixed her wine; she has also set her table.

This is a reference to the animal sacrifice, which again, was normally the man’s job. But she’s doing it all herself. She’s got the meat ready—the chicken, the lamb, the carne asada. It’s all there.

And so is the drink. When my kids go to a party, they don’t want water; they want juice. Well, back in those days, water wasn’t always acceptable either. The people celebrated with wine. And it was mixed with water many times so that the fermentation wouldn’t be too strong. And, in order to make it even more enjoyable, it was mixed with honey or spices to enhance the flavor. So, Wisdom has got it all ready. There’s food, there’s drink, and it’s all very appealing. We’re also told that the table is set.

Now, not every home had a table back in that culture, but the rich people did. So again, this is a fancy banquet. It’s not just food thrown out on a table. You’ve got plates. You’ve got napkins. You’ve got centerpieces. You’ve got silverware. It’s all ready to go. All the guests will have to do is sit down and eat. It’s all prepared. Work has gone into this, and everything is ready.

And following Wisdom’s preparation, what comes next is Wisdom’s invitation. Wisdom’s invitation. This is not a new concept in the book. It’s been a continuing theme. Wisdom calls us to join her. Verse 3.

She has sent out her young women to call from the highest places in the town

This is the queen sending out her servants into the streets. And the messengers don’t speak for themselves. They speak on behalf of Wisdom. And here’s the message. This is the invitation. Verse 4.

4“Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!” To him who lacks sense she says, 5“Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed. 6Leave your simple ways, and live, and walk in the way of insight.”

Notice, like we’ve seen before, this is a universal call. The messengers go to the highest places in the town so that everyone can hear. Everybody gets an invitation. And in order to highlight how broad this invitation is, Wisdom specifically directs her words (verse 4) to the lowly, the simple, those who lack sense.

“Simple,” we’ve said before, is translated as “naïve” in the NASB. The Hebrew term is connected to the word for “open.” And the idea is that this is a person who is open-minded.

Now, a lot of people in our culture say that’s a good thing. “We’re supposed to be open-minded,” they say. But to the Hebrews, having an open mind meant that a person didn’t have any powers of discernment. It’s like an open door that lets anyone or anything in. There’s no filter. There’s no screening that goes on. There’s no discrimination of what comes in.

So if a person was open-minded or simple, it meant that they were inexperienced and could be easily persuaded. They were gullible. They were easy targets.

That’s generally how we think about kids, right? They don’t know enough to make good decisions for themselves all the time. They can be easily swayed. They are essentially newbies/rookies at life.

Well, these kind of people, though they are the opposite of wisdom, are not excluded. They are the ones wisdom especially wants to join her for the banquet. “You’re simple. You need to learn. You need someone to instruct you. You need some sense knocked into you. So, come to my feast, and I will give you insight. Eat my bread. Drink my wine. And you will find the true path of life.”

Remember, Proverbs 9 is like the end of the introduction. Chapters 1–9 are like the extended invitation to the rest of the book, which is chapters 10–31. That’s the day-to-day, practical stuff, which we all need. But this is setting our course so that we have the right approach.

I have no idea how long we’re going to be in Proverbs, but I am excited about it. It’s a book I love, particularly because I still think of myself as fairly young man. And I love it even more now that I’m a father. I want to take this wisdom, apply it into my own life, and then pass that on to my children. I want to be marked by God’s wisdom. And I have so much to learn.

So, as we get ready to start studying the variety of topics in Proverbs, chapter 9 should orient us in the right path. We need to be ready to receive the wisdom of God.

You might think of it this way: Wisdom has built herself a house, and now she’s throwing herself a housewarming party. And we are all invited. And we don’t have to bring a gift. We just need to bring a humble, teachable heart. Wisdom’s banquet includes the Proverbs that are to come.

And the imagery here is a comparison between the benefit and satisfaction of food, and the benefit and satisfaction of true wisdom, God’s wisdom.

It’s not a unique analogy. The prophet Isaiah made a similar comparison in the opening verses of chapter 55. It says: Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. 2Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.

Jesus made the same comparison after He fed the multitude. They ate the bread and the fish. And then He told them: I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh… For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.

It’s a call to receive and embrace and take this into your life, for your own benefit. And again, even the simple can respond. Even those who lack sense.

Do you consider yourself a simple person? Are you someone who needs to be instructed? Do you need some sense knocked into you?

If we know Christ’s holiness, and if we understand our own sinfulness and foolishness, then our answer as Christians should be, “Yes. I need instruction. I need to be taught. I need to be sharpened. I have a lot to learn about life. I don’t have it all figured out, so I need God’s wisdom.”

If you don’t have that attitude, if you’re not teachable like that, God’s word calls you a scoffer. And there will be no blessing for you.

This is what verses 7 and 8 describe—the person who refuses to come to the banquet. This person refuses to eat and drink and receive and apply the wisdom of God. Let’s call this section Wisdom’s Rejection. Wisdom’s Rejection.
Verse 7.

He who corrects a scoffer gets dishonor for himself, And he who reproves a wicked man gets insults for himself.

What is that saying? It’s saying that trying to teach someone who doesn’t want to learn is not only a waste of time, it’s dangerous.

Wisdom, to use the words of this verse, includes correction and reproof. It’s a form of discipline. And that means that wisdom has an element of criticism, doesn’t it?

If God, or your parents, or your FLG leader, or your friends want you to get better at something, then implicit in that teaching is the idea that you’re doing (or will do) something wrong or imperfectly. Right? Otherwise, you wouldn’t need instruction. So, if you’re not ready to be corrected or critiqued, then you’re not ready for the wisdom of God.

The scoffer doesn’t want to be corrected. He thinks the lesson is unnecessary. That’s why he scoffs. He mocks it. He makes fun of it. He blows it off. And this verse tells us, that response is wicked. It’s wicked.

Verse 7 isn’t describing two different groups. It’s using a poetic parallelism to say the same thing twice. To correct is to reprove. And to get dishonor is to get insults. And to be a scoffer is to be a wicked person.

If we understand Wisdom’s Rejection, then we also learn that some people aren’t worth investing in. You might try a couple times to help them, to give them wisdom. But if they’re going to reject it, it’s a waste of time. Don’t invest more time than you need-to on a person like that.

It’s like when Jesus said in Matthew 7: Don’t give dogs what is holy. And don’t throw your pearls before pigs. Or they’ll trample them under their feet, and turn to attack you.

Those who continually reject and oppose God’s wisdom are a danger to themselves and to others. And that’s why the first half of verse 8 gives us the instruction: Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you.

Listen very carefully to this. I don’t want you to get the wrong impression, but I want you to consider something.

If you are a fairly lonely person—if you struggle to have close, intimate friends—if it seems like people generally avoid getting close to you, it could be because you are a scoffer. You’re stubborn. You’re not open to listen to others and learn from them. And so, people have learned to avoid you. Because you don’t make their life better. You only care about yourself, and it hurts those who get too close.

Someone of us here need to hear that. And maybe it would serve you to take a moment this week to ask someone: “Is that me? Am I a scoffer?” And be ready for the answer.

Now, even if they don’t ask, some of you might need to lovingly and graciously and privately, sometime this week, pull someone aside and say to them: “Brother, I love you. But I think that’s you. You don’t listen. You don’t show love and humility to others. But by God’s grace, we can work on it. We can learn wisdom together.”

The opposite of Wisdom’s Rejection is Wisdom’s Reception. Wisdom’s Reception. And that’s what verses 8-12 focus on. This is the contrast. Look at the second half of verse 8.

Reprove a wise man, and he will love you. 9Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.

This is the exact opposite of the one who rejects wisdom. The person seeking wisdom responds with love, with affection, for those who instruct him. Rather than getting upset when he’s corrected, this guy keeps growing in wisdom and knowledge. Which means that he recognizes there’s always more to learn and apply.

Aren’t those the best kinds of people to teach, or to pour our lives into? Those who are teachable. Those who are humble. That’s a real disciple. That’s what we want in others, and it’s what we want in ourselves.

Saying that we love reproof doesn’t mean that it doesn’t hurt. It doesn’t mean that we don’t feel the sting of correction. Nobody like the pain of conviction. But being wise means that we love godliness and holiness more than we pursue convenience and comfort.

It’s like working out or dieting. If you’re doing it right, working out hurts. It’s awful. But if you have the right mindset, you embrace it, don’t you? You wake up the next day, you feel those aching, sore, torn muscles, and you think: “Yes. It’s working.” And you go do it again.

That should be our approach to wisdom. We are being called to value wisdom and holiness more than convenience and comfort.

And just to give us one final reminder, before entering into the world of the Proverbs, there is one final reminder of what true wisdom is really all about. Verse 10.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.

We’re not simply learning how to be better people, or how to have better lives. We are learning how to fear God—how to live before Him, how to walk in His ways. This is not an instruction manual. This is a response to the living God. And if we honor Him, if we pursue that path, we invite God’s blessing. Verse 11.

For by me your days will be multiplied, and years will be added to your life.

God wants us to have His joy in us. Richard reminded me of a verse last week—John 15:11. Jesus said: These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

Even in difficulty, even in sorrow, we can have God’s peace and love and joy, if we’re walking in the ways of wisdom. And Proverbs makes them very practical and very personal. It’s not talking about society right now. It’s not talking about your family. It’s not talking about the church. It’s talking about you. You personally, your life. Verse 12.

If you are wise, you are wise for yourself; if you scoff, you alone will bear it.

This doesn’t mean that your life doesn’t affect other people. But it means that the path you choose in life, ultimately and primarily benefits or hurts one person. And that’s you.

Commenting on verse 12, Derek Kidner writes: “The one thing you cannot borrow or lend or escape is your character. It is you.” You are who you are. That’s your character. And your character will lead to reward or to remorse. It can lead to joy or to tragedy.

Galatians 6 says, we read it at the beginning of our service, whatever you sow [lo que usted siembra], whatever you plant, YOU are the one who reaps. You sow to the flesh, to sinful desires, you reap corruption. You sow to the Spirit, you reap eternal life. And that’s not just eternal life after you die. That’s eternal life now, in the present. Knowing and walking with the living God and His Son Jesus Christ.

There’s an old quote, and I think a lot of you might have heard it already. No one seems to know how it originated, but some famous authors have quoted it. Some think it might be an Old Chinese Proverb. It goes like this:

Sow a thought and reap an act; Sow an act and reap a habit; Sow a habit and reap a character; Sow a character and reap a destiny.

What’s all that getting at? Your attitude and your decisions in the present have a tremendous impact on your future. What you do today, affects tomorrow. YOU reap what YOU sow. Life will get better or life will get worse depending on what you do. So take wisdom seriously.

That’s what the father of Proverbs wants for his son, and it’s what our heavenly Father wants for us too. And it’s an urgent plea.

The urgency of wisdom doesn’t come simply from wanting the child to enjoy wisdom’s blessings. It also comes because wisdom is aware of the alternative. There are only two paths in life—the path of wisdom and the path of foolishness. And if you ignore God’s wisdom, God’s truth, then there’s only one alternative.

And in the closing verses of the chapter, we are exposed to Wisdom’s Opposition. Wisdom’s Opposition. Wisdom has been personified as a women. We’ve called her Lady Wisdom. And now what we’ve got is her rival—Lady Folly. Lady Folly. Let’s read the closing verses.

13The woman Folly is loud; she is seductive and knows nothing. 14She sits at the door of her house; she takes a seat on the highest places of the town, 15calling to those who pass by, who are going straight on their way, 16“Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!” And to him who lacks sense she says, 17“Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.” 18But he does not know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of Sheol.

Hopefully you can notice the contrast. There are some similarities between Lady Wisdom and Lady Folly, but there are some major differences.

Both of them call out to the people from the highest places in town. Both of them want people in their house. Verse 16 says the exact same thing as verse 4: “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!” To him who lacks sense she says.

If some naïve, simple young man were walking down the street, both calls would sound the same at first. But there are some major differences to look for.

Lady Wisdom is presented to us as a noble woman. As a woman of respect. She works hard. She has skill. She has servants she directs. Lady Folly, on the other hand, is undignified. Verse 13 says she is loud. Other translations say: rowdy, boisterous, unruly, and brash. She’s noisy. She humiliates herself.

First Peter 3 says that what makes a woman truly attractive, what God finds very valuable and precious, is a gentle and quiet spirit. That, God says, is imperishable beauty. That’s true adornment. But that’s not this lady. There’s no reverence here. There’s no fear of God.

The culture today might accept this kind of behavior, but not God. The foolish woman has probably already started drinking her wine, and it wasn’t diluted. She started the party without you. And now she’s drunk, making a raucous. What a contrast!

And another indication of her lack of dignity and self-respect is her clothing. She is seductive. She’s get her makeup on. She’s got her fancy dress. But she’s not wise, verse 13 says. She knows nothing. So Lady wisdom is dignified, and Lady Folly is shameful.

A second contrast is that Lady Wisdom is diligent, and Lady Folly is lazy. Wisdom prepared her home and her meal. She did the hard work necessary to get ready. And what about Lady Folly? Verse 14 says she’s sitting down. She’s lazy. She’s not preparing for the feast! So, where did the food come from? It’s all stolen! That’s what’s verse 17 says: Stolen water is sweet; bread eaten in secret is pleasant. So come get some.

Does it feel good to do something wrong? Yes. It kinda does. It’s like playing hide-and-seek, and no one can find you. There’s an element of fun. This is why someone might go vandalizing a house. It’s fun. It’s pleasurable. It’s exciting. But that’s only temporary.

And this is the main difference between wisdom and foolishness. Wisdom leads to life, and foolishness leads to death. That’s verse 18. Foolishness pulls people out of the straight path, promising them a good time, but it ends up in death.

He who lacks sense has no clue. Her house isn’t filled with delight and with joy. It’s filled with death. The “depths of Sheol” is a Hebrew term describing the place of the dead. It’s like saying the underworld.

And so this chapters ends with a warning. If you do not pursue the wisdom of God, it will bring death. What kind of death? Well, apart from Christ’s return, we’ll all face physical death. But foolishness might bring it just a little earlier than you expect. And foolishness will bring ruin and misery.

This is what God wants us to know. Wisdom and foolishness are the only two options. You’re either chasing one or you’re chasing the other. There is no third way. There is only the path of God and the path of foolishness. And both of them are calling out to you. Both of them promise pleasure. But only one leads to life. So let’s have a proper mindset as we embark on a journey through the Proverbs of God. Okay?

Just as we close, I want you to turn in your Bible to Matthew chapter 7. Matthew chapter 7, verse 24. We heard about two homes, two roads. And there’s the foolish one and there’s the wise one. And one leads to death, and the other leads to life.

But we also saw that true wisdom is not about obeying a list of rules, it’s about knowing and fearing God. And God wants you to know Him. That’s why He sent Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the perfect embodiment of wisdom. And He came to teach His people. To instruct. To guide.

And reading about the wise and the foolish and the lazy and the diligent, I couldn’t help but think about the story Jesus told at the end of the Sermon on the Mount. Matthew chapter 7, verse 24. This is Jesus speaking.

14Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.

Wisdom means hearing and obeying Jesus Christ. And building on the rock means you need to do some work. You need to sweat. You need to invest.

And the work of Jesus is to believe in Him. To trust in His sacrifice on the cross for the payment of your sin, and to repent on your sin, and to surrender to Him.

If you do that, when the Judgment of Christ comes, you will be victorious. As surely as Jesus resurrected, you will be resurrected into eternal and perfect joy in a new heavens and a new earth. There is no condemnation. Verse 25 continues the story.

25And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.

That’s the blessing of wisdom. That’s the blessing of surrendering your life to Jesus Christ. But if you don’t—if you reject Him, there’s a consequence. Verse 26.

26And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.

Tried to take the easy way out. Tried to do things his own way. Didn’t want to listen. Verse 27.

27And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.

That’s a life that gets attention. Not because of wisdom, but because of its destruction. It will be a great fall when the judgment of God comes and you are not united with Jesus Christ. If you want the wisdom of God, you start with knowing Jesus Christ and surrendering to Him. And He will secure you forever. And He will guide into more and more wisdom.

More in Proverbs

December 16, 2018

Wisdom for Finances Part 2

December 9, 2018

Wisdom for Finances, pt 1

December 2, 2018

The Discipline of a Fool