Proverbs 9 Sermon Two Invitations, One Choice (Rev. Erik Veerman)
Two Invitations, One Choice
We’ll be considering Proverbs chapter 9 this morning. You can find that on page 632 in the provided Bibles.
This is Solomon’s final introductory lesson on wisdom. Over these 9 chapters, Solomon has presented 12 lectures on wisdom. He’s answered the questions… What is wisdom? Where do we find wisdom? How do we pursue wisdom? These lessons have also given us contrasts and warnings, which make really clear what wisdom is and what wisdom is not.
This final lesson, Chapter 9, is the culmination of the opening chapters. And what it does is bring us to a decision point. It presents a stark contrast between two choices: the invitation of wisdom versus the invitation of Folly.
Let’s now come to God’s word.
Reading of Proverbs 9.
We make lots of choices each day. Someone estimated that the average person will make about 775,000 decisions in his or her lifetime. About 27 per day. That’s just a number because in one sense, we make hundreds of decisions each day. But if we think about judgements that affect what we do and where we go, then perhaps that is a good estimate. Do I snooze my alarm or get up? Do I have eggs or cereal for breakfast. Do I contact this person? …or apply for this job? …or make this trip across the country? All kinds of decisions. Some are morally neutral. Other decisions have a clear moral component to them.
Someone could argue that the book of Proverbs as a whole gives us practical wisdom for day-to-day decisions. There’s some validity to that on a certain level. However, in these opening chapters, we’ve seen something greater. God’s wisdom is a way of life. Wisdom’s foundation is God’s covenant promises which are fulfilled in Christ. Having wisdom IS having knowledge and discernment, BUT it begins with the knowledge of God and discernment of his revealed will. It begins with trusting God and his wisdom.
So yes, having the wisdom of God will work itself out in day-to-day decisions, but you have to begin by trusting the Lord and his wisdom.
And that’s where Proverbs 9 comes into play. We’re presented here with two invitations. Two calls that have gone forth. Two choices. On one side, wisdom is calling you dine with her… and on the other side, folly is calling you to dine with her.
In other words, this chapter is not about the day-to-day decisions in life. No, rather, this chapter is about the big decision in life above all the others. Will you accept the invitation from wisdom and feast on all that she and her servants have prepared? Or will you take the offer of Folly and dine with the dead?
As we read, the two calls, the call of wisdom and the call of Folly… they begin the chapter and end the chapter. And in between, Solomon gives an interlude. In it he describes the kind of person who follows Wisdom and the kind of person who follows Folly, and then he exhorts his son where his journey should begin.
We’ll begin by comparing the two invitations and then consider Solmon’s analysis.
And wouldn’t you agree, the powerful thing about this chapter is the comparison and contrast between these two invitations – especially verses 4 and 16.
Look at verse 4 “’Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!’ To him who lacks sense she says…” and then Wisdom continues with her invitation.
Now, jump down to 16. “’Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!’ To him who lacks sense she says…” and then Folly continues with her invitation.
In a way, it’s shocking or at least worrisome. It’s not by accident that Folly’s invitation sounds similar to Wisdom’s. Folly wants to deceive us. She is preying upon our ignorance and our sin. That word “simple” in both calls means naïve. It’s someone easily deceived or someone who lacks wisdom. Wisdom wants the simple to leave their naïve ways and learn wisdom. But Folly, on the other hand, just wants to take advantage of the simple.
The natural question is this: If the call of Wisdom is so similar to the call of Folly, how will we know the difference?“
Well, when we start to peel back the layers here, we actually find several differences – fundamental differences. And in the end, eternal differences. So, let’s consider them.
First, the differences in their houses -
Notice in verse 1: Wisdom has built her house. And it’s quite the estate! She has hewn from the rock, seven pillars. Regular homes did not have pillars. No, those were reserved for important and distinguished buildings in a kingdom. This house that Wisdom has built is grand and it’s for all who accept her invitation.
And that is a contrast with Folly’s house. Look down at the end of 18. “Her guests are in the depths of Sheol.” Sheol, by the way, is the word for the grave – or more specifically, the depths of the underworld. What a contrast! An impressive mansion verses a crypt for the dead.
And next, look up in verse 14. Folly is sitting. She’s not moving. She is not working. She’s not doing anything for you.
But Wisdom, on the other hand, is hard t work. She’s industrious. Notice up in the first three verses: She’s built her house. She’s hewn her pillars. She’s slaughtered her beasts… mixed her wine… set her table… sent out her young women to spread the word. Do you see all the labor that Wisdom has put in? Not just preparing the feast, but everything else as well for this elaborate banquet.
What a contrast between wisdom and her servants as they labor, and on the other hand, Folly’s inaction.
I think the biggest contrast is the meal itself. Notice, Folly didn’t even make her meal. Verse 17, “stolen water is sweet.” I mean, how pathetic is that? Yes, water was harder to come by back then, but it’s still just water. Folly also offers “bread eaten in secret.” Why is it eaten in secret? Because it was also stolen. Think about this: Folly’s meal is bread and water. What kind of banquet is that? But it’s the stolen and secret part that makes it enticing.
When I was in 8th grade, maybe 9th, I had a really bad case of teenage boy syndrome. Some of you teachers or parents know what I’m talking about.
You see, my family lived close to a golf course. And a couple times, my friends and I would go to the golf course at dusk. We would sneak out onto the driving range when no one was around. And we would steal the driving range balls.
Is that not the dumbest thing you’ve heard? I mean, these golf balls were in terrible shape. But what do you do with gold balls, anyway? I look back and I’m mortified by it and convicted about it. But I had zero sense of conviction at the time. I’ve often wondered what was going through my mind. But after reading these verses, I think I know what it was. It was the “stolen” and “secret” thing of verse 17. It was the exhilaration of doing something I wasn’t supposed to do.
Folly is inviting you to a pitiful meal, one that she didn’t even make, and she’s trying to entice you to eat it simply because it is not yours to eat. “Stolen water is sweet” but its sweetness quickly turns to bitter poison.
On the other hand, Wisdom’s meal is not stolen. Notice the language back up in verse 1-3, it is her house, her pillars, she’s slaughtered her beasts, mixed her wine, it’s her table. The spread is amazing, and it is Wisdom’s to give. She says in verse 5, “come, eat of my bread, and drink of the wine that I have mixed.” Now, that language should sound familiar to you with New Testament eyes. In a few minutes, we’ll come back to what this feast alludes to.
But before we get there, there’s one final contrast between these banquets. One banquet leads to life and the other “so-called” banquet leads to death.
Jump down to verse 18, again. Right after Folly entices him with stolen water, she says there, “But he [that is, the one who lacks sense and follows her] …he does not know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of Sheol.”
The guests sitting at Folly’s table are dead. They are acting alive but they are the living dead.
I was thinking of the Haunted Mansion at Disney World. I’m sure several of you have been there and seen that. One of the first things you see is a grand hall. And as you are being transported along the balcony you see a banquet table below with a birthday celebration… but as you move along, the guests vanish and they then reappear as skeletons and other ghastly creatures circling the room. And then a zombie like organist hammers the keys and the pipe organ music fills the air. A banquet of the dead.
Now kids, it’s all holograms and hidden mirrors. It’s all pretend.
But Proverbs 9 is not pretend.
The sad thing in our culture is that we minimize death and hell. We trivialize it. We make fun of it or we entertain ourselves with it. I’m not saying “we” as in those of us here, but we’re certainly influenced by the world around us.
Death in this life is real. We know that. And it’s painful. Hell is real. Jesus vividly spoke of hell as a place of eternal fire… and weeping and gnashing of teeth. To be sure, Sheol is a different concept in the Hebrew, but they’re related. Sheol, if you will, is on the path to hell.
I want you to consider something. These words in verse 18 are the very last words of Solomon’s wisdom lessons. He wants to leave his son with this grave warning. Literally grave.
But the contrast to death is found up in verse 6. “life.” “Leave your simple ways,” says Wisdom, “and live… live and walk in the way of insight.” Wisdom versus Folly… life versus death.
Quite the contrasts here. Let me summarize them:
· A mansion prepared for you versus a grave.
· A banquet fit for a king versus stolen water and bread.
· Wisdom and her attendants calling out truth inviting you to come to what is good, versus Folly calling out with lies and deceit.
· A banquet of the living versus the dead… one leading to life, the other to death and hell.
On the outside, the call may sound the same, but the invitations are vastly different.
That brings us to the middle section here, verses 7-12. Sandwiched between these two calls is Solomon’s instruction. And what it does for us… is brings into focus one of the main messages of Proverbs 1-9. Will you listen to Wisdom?
I searched through the first 9 chapters and 25 times Solomon exhorts us to listen to wisdom. He uses different words and phrases like “hear” or “listen” or “incline your ear,” or “be attentive,” or “do not lose sight” 25 times.
Verses 7-8 tell us about the one who doesn’t listen. That person is a scoffer. That’s someone who not only doesn’t listen but who mocks and ridicules… someone who is obstinate in all that. We learn that if you try to correct or reprove a scoffer, he will not only reject your correction, but he’ll hate you for it.
And the opposite is true for those with wisdom and righteousness. The second half of verse 8 and 9. If you reprove or teach or instruct the wise, he will love you, he will grow in his wisdom and increase in learning.
Do you see how these central verses tie the chapter together? Wisdom is calling. Folly is calling. Who will you listen to? Will you be a scoffer and reject the call of wisdom to your peril? …or will you receive the invitation of wisdom to a banquet of life. That encapsulates verse 12. “If you are wise, you are wise to yourself.” That expression means if you are wise, you will receive the great blessing of wisdom. On the other hand, if you scoff, you alone with bear it.
Will you listen and receive the instruction and increase in wisdom… or will you reject it? Are you wise unto life (verse 11)? …or are you a scoffer unto your peril?
In the middle of this chapter are verses 10 and 11. Let me say, these two verses don’t just happen to be in the middle of the chapter. No, they are there for a reason. This whole chapter is in a Hebrew form of parallelism called a chiasm. We’ve come across it before. The chapter forms an X. What that means is parallel ideas work their way from the outside in, working their way to the center of the X which gives us the focus of the text.
So, in chapter 9, here…
· it begins with the house of wisdom (verse 1) and ends with the house of the dead, Sheol (verse 18)
· Next, Wisdom has prepared her meal of wine and the choicest of meat, verse 2… and down in verse 17, Folly’s meal - stolen water and bread.
· As we move in one layer - the call of wisdom, verses 3-5, and the call of Folly verse 14-16.
· Another layer in, verse 6, Wisdom calls to walk in insight, contrasted with Folly’s seduction, verse 13. She doesn’t have insight. Literally, it says, she “knows nothing.”
· Next, verses 7 through 9 parallel verse 12. The contrast of the wise and the scoffer and the end result of the wise and scoffer.
And at the heart of the chapter - the center of the X is verses 10 and 11. Let me say, it’s not only the focal point of this chapter, but it’s the key to the book of Proverbs.
Here it is: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. For by me your days will be multiplied, and years will be added to your life.”
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” It’s right behind me here on our banner.
As a reminder, we fear the Lord when we trust by faith in the all-powerful God who knows all and sees all. We fear him by reverently honoring him with humility and by exalting him with all the glory due his name. We do not fear man, no instead, we fear the God of the universe. And we do not fear him by cowering in terror. Rather, we have a godly fear of the one who made us and redeems us…
This is not a general call to believe in some god out there, lowercase “g”. No, we’re to fear the LORD, all caps, the covenant Lord, Yahweh, by faith in him. And the end of verse 10 tells us exactly where to center our faith. It says by knowing the “Holy One.”
Remember, Proverbs is in the Old Testament. Jesus had not yet come… but he was promised. The “Holy One” is a reference to the promised Messiah.
And for us, he has come. What this is saying is that we’re to center our faith on Jesus, who is our Insight, as verse 10 says. He is wisdom. And look at what verse 11 says, “for by me your days will be multiplied.”
Think about this. Verse 11 is not part of the two personification sections in this chapter, Wisdom and Folly. So, this “me” here is not referring to lady wisdom or Folly. This is the Holy One speaking. Christ it the one calling us to fear him and to know him.
What God, through Solomon, is saying in verses 10 and 11, is that the decision of chapter 9 keys on fearing and knowing Jesus. Faith. And when you do, as verse 11 puts it, “your days will be multiplied, and years added to your life.” It’s not speaking of a longer life here – but rather life beyond the grave.
And that brings us full circle back to Wisdom’s feast. Solomon’s sons and the people of Israel would have had several spiritual meals in mind as they read these words. They would have been reminded of the Passover meal, which included bread and wine and the sacrificial lamb. The provision of manna in the wilderness and other ceremonial feasts would have come to mind.
Each meal testifying in different ways to the life and provision and communion that they had from God and with God…. Saving them from slavery in Egypt… preserving their lives in the wilderness… celebrating with God the provision of his first fruits.
In other words, for them, Solomon’s audience, Widom’s banquet revealed the great feast that the coming Messiah would bring. And for us, it’s the same! Widom’s banquet reveals the great feast that the coming messiah will bring.
But you say, “wait a second! The messiah has already come! Jesus walked the earth, he was the sacrificial lamb for the sins of the people. We feed on him by faith.”
Well, that’s all true, but Wisdom’s banquet in verses 1 - 6 also points to a future banquet when the Messiah returns. It’s anticipating what Scripture calls the marriage supper of the lamb. We read the description earlier in Revelation 19. It’s the eternal feast that God is preparing for his people in eternity. And at that great banquet we will celebrate Christ, we will feast with him as the host. It’s called the marriage supper because it is the consummation of the marriage between God’s people, the church, who is the bride and God the Son, Jesus, in all of his glory as the risen Savior and Lamb. He is the bridegroom. It will be an eternal celebration like none other.
I would point you to two things that clue us in to this future heavenly banquet.
Number 1 - Wisdom’s house is being built with seven pillars. The number seven is important here. Seven represents fulness and completeness in the Bible. In other words, this house foreshadows the heavenly home for God’s people - full and complete for eternity.
Jesus said, “In my Father's house are many rooms.” And then he said, “I go to prepare a place for you, And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you myself, that where I am you may be also.” God’s eternal house in heaven for us.
Number 2 - Wisdom has sent out her young women to call forth and invite. This is a picture of the Great Commission. God calls his people to be his ambassadors of the good news. We are the mouthpiece of God. We’re called to invite any and everyone to Wisdom’s banquet – to eternal life in Christ.
You see, Proverbs 9 is a beautiful picture of the future marriage supper of the Lamb… it will not be a meal of stolen bread and water, rather it will be an exquisite meal bought by the blood of the Lamb as we feed on him for eternity.
In conclusion… Proverbs 9 calls us to hear and respond to the call of God’s wisdom. That involves fearing the Lord in reverent worship of his name… it involves knowing the Holy One, Jesus, by faith… and it involves rejecting Folly’s seduction, turning your life away from her foolish ways and your scoffing, and instead to the one who will give you life.
And when you do, there will be a feast for you unlike any you can ever image. An eternal banquet hosted by the eternal king, the one and only Savior – Jesus Christ the Lord.
I invite you to receive Wisdom’s invitation. To come to Christ, the Lamb of God. And have the eternal blessing of joy in the presence of the one true God…. Feasting with the living and reigning Lord, forever.
Will you believe?