I spoke with a man in Topeka last week whose job is to absorb all the worst case, bad news scenarios he can gather and turn it into daily briefings for senior leaders…imagine if your job was to spend 12 hours a day thinking of the worst things that can happen to our nation, community, and your family.
He does it for a living…unfortunately many Americans are doing that for a hobby right now.
There are many in our community who are worried that we will not get through this…or if we do our country and many people in it will be traumatized in lasting ways.
There are others who are not so concerned.
Most, I think, understand that this is historic and believe we will get it through it…some are in doubt.
But at this point…everyone is guessing about outcomes except God.
But whether you are an optimist or pessimist in regards to this Virus and the outcomes for our nation…if you are a follower of Christ you have reason to be an optimist…but we must be Biblical optimists not a cultural optimists.
Sometimes people will say… “I’m optimistic, I think things will just work out.”
If you were to ask them… “why do you think that?” “And how exactly do you think things will work out?”
They probably couldn’t give you facts, logistics, details of specifics they know for sure that signal a positive outcome.
They would likely say… “I just feel things will work out”
If you ask…“Okay, what will that mean…work out?”
“Well, you know…I will be okay.”
Often, apart from hard facts…cultural optimism is “fairy dust”…I just think happy thoughts…I think things will work out…because I need to them to.
But then there’s the cultural pessimist…they are not usually fact driven either…or they are selective in their facts.
They just feel things will be terrible.
So “I feel things will work out” “I feel things will not work out”…feelings are important…but they aren’t good predictors of outcomes.
The Biblical optimist…looks honestly and clearly at the facts as best they can, they remain open to their own fallibility, they recognize their own feelings and the feelings of others…
But their confidence is in God…the Lord of outcomes.
They realize that terrible things can happen to cultures and people.
And that cultures and people can come out stronger from events like this.
And Cultures and people can and will end someday.
But God’s purposes in all of it will stand.
Biblical optimism doesn’t sprinkle “fairy dust” on problems and say “It will all work out…”
Biblical optimism says “To live is Christ and to die is gain.”
It does not retreat from real engagement with the world’s problems…but acts faithfully and confidently knowing that our labor in the Lord is never in vain (what we do, now…matters)…whether we live or we die.
And unless the Lord returns…we will die…it is statistically unlikely it will be from Covid 19…but we will die.
In the meantime…we are to live according to Paul’s simple and profound description of Biblical optimism
“If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.” Romans 14:8
Proverbs chapters 8,9 wrap up the first major section of the book of Proverbs.
The first 9 chapters are longer narratives and sections introducing us to wisdom and folly.
These 9 chapters set up the rest of the book.
What follows are individual proverbs and small groups of proverbs about various life issues.
In the following months we will go through some of these life issues that these Proverbs speak to topically.
Today…we finish our time in the book’s long introduction.
Chapter 8 is wisdom’s strong invitation to enter into personal relationship with her and a biographical section…giving her “credentials”
Chapter 9 again gives Lady Wisdom a voice and us a choice…but it also gives Woman Folly the chance to speak for herself…she too offers an invitation to relationship…and a not so great resume of her own.
In these two chapters wisdom and folly are poetic personifications of two realities in the world…wisdom exists, folly exists.
Wisdom is to walk in the will and ways of God
Folly is to walk outside the will and ways of God.
In the introductory chapters of Proverbs wisdom is poetically turned into a person so we can think about what it really means to be wise…
It’s not just to “know stuff”…or to be smart.
Wisdom is skillful living that flows from relationship with God.
So, in Proverbs chapters 8,9…wisdom and folly are seen as someone we can enter into relationship with…becoming wise is more like marrying wisdom than going to wisdom school.
As we will move within these two chapters, we will look at three things:
- It is not difficult to enter into a relationship with wisdom or folly
That may be surprising because we tend to think Wisdom is super hard and Folly super easy.
But actually, wisdom is quite readily available to anyone who really wants it…you don’t have to be a genius or a saint…you simply have to want relationship with wisdom.
Folly, of course…will take anyone who will have her.
- Wisdom and folly have both shown us their resumes…both are open and honest about what they offer…who they are.
This is also a bit surprising because you would think folly would not be honest with what she has to offer so more people would choose her…but she is quite honest about who she is and what she offers.
She is unashamed of herself…quite proud in fact…she is just not very honest about what happens to people who enter into relationship with her…the cost of following her.
Wisdom, of course, is always open about who she is…and what the cost is.
“But what cost? Terry, I thought you just said it wasn’t difficult…to have relationship with wisdom or folly”
It isn’t difficult…but it is costly to gain wisdom.
And of course, folly carries a great cost as well.
So, we will take a look at their biographies or resumes to see what each offers.
- It remains for us to choose…and to keep on choosing what we want to give our lives to.
In the end…we have to decide and keep on deciding…which path we will take.
We can’t just engage this with our minds…then go away and not choose.
Every single day is a series of ongoing choices…every single life is a long walk in a direction towards wisdom or folly…that walk consists of many choices.
For the Christian…the technical term for this long walk is “Sanctification”…the collaborative process of becoming like Christ over time.
The choice to not choose is a choice non the less…we cannot not choose a path.
We are all always choosing…wisdom or folly.
Okay…let’s look at those three things in a bit more dept.
- It is not difficult to enter into a relationship with wisdom or folly
8:1 Does not wisdom call out? Does not understanding raise her voice?
8:17 I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me.
Okay…that’s a pretty straightforward offer…seek and find.
That’s a better deal than toilet paper these days…there have been many who have sought but have not found it.
Wisdom…says…I will never run out of supply all who seek will find.
Same is true for folly.
9:13 The woman Folly is loud; she is undisciplined and without knowledge. She sits at the door of her house, on a seat at the highest point of the city, calling out to those who pass by, who go straight on their way. “Let all who are simple come in here!” she says to those who lack judgment
Folly says… “Come on in!”
Not hard, not complicated…just walk into her house and take her up on her offer.
But as I said…though it’s not hard, it is costly.
How can that be?
Let me give a parable of Jesus to demonstrate how this can be true.
Matt 13:44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.”
What do you see there?
If you asked the man “Was it hard to purchase that field?”
“No, it was joy”
If you asked the man “Was it costly to purchase that field?”
“Yes, it cost me everything.”
Proverbs 4:7 “Wisdom is supreme, therefore get wisdom. Though it cost you all you have get understanding.”
What is folly’s cost…well, the same as wisdom’s…both cost you everything.
Go back to chapter 9…first what does she offer? Illicit excitement…forbidden fruit.
17 “Stolen water is sweet; food eaten in secret is delicious!”
She is honest about what she offers… she offers the wrong thing or right thing at the wrong time.
And the wrong thing…often tastes sweet.
The thought of the illicit…the forbidden is exciting…heartbeat goes up
Breaks the boredom of my life…adds excitement to my normality.
I fear for our culture…that many sin patterns will rise now because of isolation and boredom.
Social isolation…is a great time of opportunity for Woman Folly.
But…here’s her hidden cost.
18 But little do they know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of the grave.
So what is the cost of wisdom…everything…she demands your very life.
What is the cost of folly…everything…she demands your very life.
This is a poetic way of saying…we are all, always, either spending our lives or wasting our lives.
We will not save our lives…no one gets out alive…but we do get to decide if we will “spend” our lives on wisdom or “waste” them on folly.
So there is a cost…your life…but back to the main point…wisdom is not too hard to obtain.
Don’t convince yourself that this life of thriving inside God’s will and ways is just too difficult, just beyond your capabilities…it is not.
On your own this is impossible.
But it is not being offered as something we must do alone…God himself is offering this along with the power to obtain it and retain it as we continue in relationship with him.
This time of isolation is an opportunity to Woman Folly…but it is also a time to get to know Lady Wisdom better as well…our choice.
- Wisdom and folly have both shown us their resumes…both are open and honest about what they offer.
Wisdom’s resume/biography is quite long…you can read it in Proverbs 8…I’ll just highlight it.
She owns counsel, sound judgment, understanding and real power.
She brings riches, honor.
Her fruit is better than gold.
Her path is righteous and just.
Then, it turns out she was there at the beginning of the cosmos…read chapter 8:23-31.
23 I was appointed from eternity, from the beginning, before the world began.
Again…remember what kind of literature this is…poetic.
It is true in what it describes…but it does so in a poetic way.
If I say to Christy “You are as lovely as a silver moon on a summer night.”
That is true…it describes the fact that she is beautiful, heartwarming to me…but it doesn’t mean I think she is a lifeless planetary object.
So, what is important about wisdom’s biography, personified as a woman…is this:
Want to know how the world works, how to navigate life with its problems and pitfalls?
Then you need to get to know wisdom intimately.
After all, who would know better how to act in the world than the one through whom the world was made?
Want to know how to thrive in the world…want to know how to see what is true and real about situations and how to act appropriately?
Want to act in the moment in ways that will be a blessing in the future?
Okay…then check out wisdom’s resume…she was there when all this was designed and built…and she is inviting you to have relationship with her.
*Has there ever been a better time, than now…to take wisdom up on her offer?
Now folly’s resume is pretty short…I’ll read it.
9:13 The woman Folly is loud; she is undisciplined and without knowledge.
Yikes! That doesn’t sound good.
Imagine this on “eHarmony”
–“Hi, my name is folly…I’m loud, undisciplined and without knowledge…let’s get together soon.”
Who would be interested in her?
Well…the simple and the foolish are.
Folly is almost always louder than wisdom…folly tends to shout…wisdom tends to speak quietly and confidently.
Final point…which is also going to be our application.
- It remains for us to choose…and to keep on choosing what we want to give our lives to.
We have seen how both wisdom and folly have issued invitations for us to join with them…dine with them, enter into relationship with them.
The words used in the Hebrew indicated intimacy…not coffee dates, not casual friends…but deep, exclusive relationship.
So, in Proverbs we are being encouraged…implored…to enter into relationship with wisdom, to walk the path of wisdom versus folly.
Which brings up an important question:
“How does this poetic picture of marriage to wisdom vs folly…or the picture of walking a path of wisdom vs folly…actually play out in real life?”
Because we all know…we sometimes walk in folly and sometimes walk in wisdom…sometimes on the same day…or hour.
I spoke with a Lady who has worked in disaster response in KS for 15 years.
*She told me “We have activated Guardsmen to Western KS for a blizzard, to Eastern KS for a flood and Central KS for a tornado.”
“The same month?” I asked.
“No, the same day.” She answered.
We can all feel like KS weather ourselves sometimes
It just doesn’t seem to be possible to be in exclusive relationship with wisdom or folly…we all feel like polygamists…married to both wisdom and folly.
Again, it is just a poetic picture of reality…but this question helps us see how we are to walk this path of wisdom, or enter into exclusive relationship with Lady Wisdom.
I will bring out one of my old favorites phrases… Our wisdom walk is about direction not perfection.
Let’s use the “marriage” and the “path” analogy and see how this might play out.
I have married to Christy for almost 37 years. I have never desired to not be married to her. We have remained faithful to each other.
Yet…I have been unkind, I have been uncaring, I have not always treated her in line with what God wants for our marriage…and she has failed in many ways as well.
But our marriage is good, life-giving, fulfilling…enduring.
When we mess up, we fess up and we move on…our is a good path in a fixed direction…it is not a marriage of perfection.
It’s possible to walk a long way in a single direction and yet…turn off onto wrong paths, sit down and want to give up, turn around and go the opposite direction…
Sometimes we walk the right way with the wrong internal attitude…yet, over the long haul…we have walked, overall, the same direction.
So…what does this look like practically…you say, “I want an exclusive relationship with Wisdom…I prefer her biography…I like what she offers…now what?”
To answer that question let’s look at a topic we discussed earlier in the year.
It has to do with the location of Lady Wisdom and Woman Folly’s houses…and that location speaks to what it means to have relationship with each of them.
9:1-3 Wisdom has built her house; she has hewn out its seven pillars. She has prepared her meat and mixed her wine; she has also set her table. She has sent out her maids, and she calls from the highest point of the city.
9:13,14 The woman Folly is loud; she is undisciplined and without knowledge. She sits at the door of her house, on a seat at the highest point of the city…
Wisdom and Folly both live at the high points of the city.
Only one building was built at the high place of a city…the temple.
Both temples to false gods and the Temple of the True God… were placed in the highest points of the City.
Jerusalem’s Temple was located on the Temple Mount.
That is why even when people were north of Jerusalem they spoke of “going up” to Jerusalem, even though technically they were traveling to south.
The high point of the community…was the place where worship was centered…this is where folly and wisdom live.
So, the practical application of living a life of wisdom…of spending our lives not wasting them has to do with worship.
All of us have a throne in our hearts…we are all like little mini-kingdoms.
Whoever or whatever is on that throne rules our kingdom.
So…again, Proverbs 4:23 so important…“Above all else, guard your hearts, it is the wellspring (source) of your life.”
Our hearts are the command post, the throne rooms of our lives…from there the courses of our lives are set.
In Topeka (and in every state) there are “SEOC”s
State emergency operations centers
In those places there a lot of people with various levels of responsibility and expertise…lots of people giving instructions and direction…but at any one time…there is only one person in charge.
In your heart there are many competing voices and desires and struggles and dreams…but there is always at any given time…one person in charge.
One voice that can overrule all the other voices…one voice that sits on the throne and directs the course of your life.
Wisdom=is when Christ sits there.
Folly=is when only thing or anyone else sits there.
So…our lives are a continually process of “re-throning Christ as king of our hearts”
This means lots of repenting and returning to the good path.
What has happened in the past few months is a massive, world-wide exposure of the impotence of our idols.
Health cannot be our king
Money cannot be our king
Freedom to move and do what we want cannot be king
Government cannot be king
Security cannot be king
Life itself cannot be king
What idols has this revealed in your life?
What does it look like to truly make Christ your king now?
This is always wisdom’s best question…it is always the question of the day…or hour.
Who will you worship at the core of your being…who or what sits on the throne, sits in command?
So wisdom…Christ himself calls out to us from the heights of the city…the Temple of our hearts and commands… “Crown me Lord of your heart.”
“Keep on crowning me Lord of your heart…”
Don’t worship idols…they will fail you when you most need them.
“Dethrone fear…and don’t worship medical, government, financial saviors…be thankful for all this…but worship me alone.”
“Now go with confidence and wisdom into your circumstances…without being tossed around by those same circumstances.”
TIME FOR PRAYER OF PERSPECTIVE:
- Repent of putting idols at the center of your heart/life…idols enslave us.
- Re-throne Christ there…Christ sets us free.
- Rejoice that you have hope as an anchor for your soul.