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What's Wisdom Worth? (Proverbs 3:13-18)

September 29, 2019 Speaker: Bryce Morgan Series: Proverbial Faith (Proverbs)

Topic: One Truth: Walk in Truth Passage: Proverbs 3:13–3:18

 

I. Lady Wisdom's Dinner Party

 

In your mind's eye, try to imagine the scene painted by these words:

 

Wisdom has built her house; she has hewn her seven pillars. [2] She has slaughtered her beasts; she has mixed her wine; she has also set her table. [3] She has sent out her young women to call from the highest places in the town, [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. [6] Leave your simple ways, and live, and walk in the way of insight.”

 

Those are the opening words of Proverbs 9. As you might have painted in your own mind, the scene is of a large home and a lavish banquet. Lady Wisdom (Solomon's personification of wisdom, kind of like we do with 'Mother Nature'... Lady Wisdom...) has made all the preparations for an incomparable meal. The table is set and the invitations have been issued. In fact, that invite is still being declared today, this very morning. Listen again to Wisdom's call in 9:5, 6...

 

Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed. [6] Leave your simple ways, and live, and walk in the way of insight.”

 

Have you responded to that invitation? Have you been to Lady Wisdom's dinner party? Are you there even now? Or... do you at least recognize how hungry you are? One thing that might make her invitation more... (pun intended) appetizing, is understanding just how delicious and just how satisfying her “bread and drink of the wine” really are.

 

This morning, consider with me what wisdom is worth by turning over to Proverbs 3.

 

 

II. The Passage: "She is a Tree of Life" (3:13-18)

 

You may remember that Proverbs chapters 1-9 represent a kind of introduction to the book, the majority of which is a collection of shorter sayings. As we've talked about in previous weeks, King Solomon's main objective in this intro was to encourage his son to prize and pursue wisdom.

 

Now, there are many places throughout this introduction that speak about the value of wisdom. But chapter 3, verses 13-18 are especially helpful. Listen as I read those verses...

 

Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, [14] for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold. [15] She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her. [16] Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. [17] Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. [18] She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called blessed.

Isn't that good stuff? Let's take a few minutes to break this passage down. In doing that, I think we'll find a helpful guide to the rest of this opening section of Proverbs. So, let's think with me about...

 

 

1. Wisdom's Value: The Metaphorical (vs. 13-15)

 

You may have noticed how verses 14 and 15 speak about the value of wisdom, but they do so by comparing wisdom to the kinds of things that most people think of when they hear the word valuables. Do you see those? We read in verse 14 about silver and gold, and in verse 15, about jewels. But why this specific comparison?

 

Well, a chapter earlier, Solomon made this same analogy when he called his son to “treasure up my commandments” (2:1) He went on to explain what he had in mind: when it comes to “wisdom” and “understanding” (2:2), when it comes “insight” (2:3) “if you [writes Solomon in 2:4] seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, [5] then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.”

 

Do you hear what Solomon, what God, is saying? People go to incredible lengths to obtain earthly wealth. All of us have been tempted to believe that if we had a bigger balance in our checking accounts, if we had more assets in our portfolio, if money simply wasn't an issue, then life would be better; we would be more comfortable; we would have less problems; we would feel happier and more secure. And so, we are regularly tempted to prize and pursue earthly wealth.

 

But wisdom is far better than any earthly treasure... the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold. She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her. Is that how you think about wisdom? Is it really that valuable? It is. And Solomon goes on to explain why. If you look back at vs. 16, 17, you'll read about...

 

 

2. Wisdom's Value: The Practical (vs. 16, 17)

 

Look at how Solomon moves from the metaphorical to the practical. Here is the actual gain, the tangible profit, a person receives from wisdom...

 

Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. [17] Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.

 

Silver, gold, and jewels can buy you a nice house, a nice car, and nice vacation, but they cannot buy you a “long life”; they cannot buy you the “honor” King Solomon mentions here; you cannot use them to purchase the “pleasantness” or “peace” of verse 17. Interestingly, though you cannot purchase wisdom, wisdom can result in “riches”. But how? What does Solomon mean when he describes wisdom's “gain” or “profit” with all these terms?

 

Well, let's take “long life” (v. 16) for example. This concept of wisdom leading to “life” or “years” or “length of days” is found all throughout the introduction that is Proverbs chapters 1-9. We find it in 3:2, 3:18, 3:22, 4:10, 4:22, 6:23, 8:35, and 9:11. So how can wisdom help you to live longer. Well, according to Solomon, wisdom is profitable for life in that it protects us from death.

 

Let me give you a couple of the examples we find in this opening section. In 2:12-15 we read about how wisdom delivers us from the deadly consequences awaiting foolish and wicked men. In general, if you run around with violent people, if you abuse your body with addicts, if you keep company with people who love to break the rules; if you stay out late with fools, then in general, statistically, you will lead a shorter life.

 

Another example, in fact, the most common example in chapters 1-9, should come as no surprise when we remember this book was originally written for a young man. 2:16-19, 5:3-23, and 6:20-7:27, all of these verses deal with adultery and “the forbidden woman”. What does sexual immorality have to do with “long life”? Well, in all these sections, Solomon makes statements like this one:

 

...for her house [i.e., the adulteress] sinks down to death, and her paths to the departed [i.e., the dead]; [19] none who go to her come back, nor do they regain the paths of life. (2:18, 19)

 

Chapter 6, verses 32-34 spell this out in dramatic, real life, situational terms:

 

He who commits adultery lacks sense; he who does it destroys himself. [33] He will get wounds and dishonor, and his disgrace will not be wiped away. [34] For jealousy makes a man furious [that's the wronged husband], and he will not spare when he takes revenge. [Deadly?]

 

And if we moved beyond “long life” and talked about the other examples of wisdom's “gain” in verses 16 and 17, things like “riches”, “honor”, “pleasantness”, and “peace”, we would find other practical examples of how wisdom works. For instance, in 6:1-5, we read how wisdom delivers us from the financially costly consequences of securing a loan for a stranger (that's like co-signing on a lease for someone you don't know). Right after that, in 6:6-11, we read how wisdom can deliver us from the very real social, relational, and financial consequences of... laziness.

 

These are just some of the common, everyday examples of how wisdom helps us avoid the costly, and sometimes deadly, consequences of foolish, reckless, and/or wicked choices. Which of us doesn't have regrets because of such choices? Maybe this morning, you are still dealing with health consequences, or a severed relationship, or a tarnished reputation, or financial shackles... all because you acted unwisely. That is the practical 'poverty' of foolishness, a poverty that leaves us longing for wisdom's profit.

 

But with all this in mind, it's important we also talk about...

 

 

3. Wisdom's Value: The Spiritual (v. 18)

 

Isn't interesting how Solomon goes on to speak about wisdom's gain in verse 18. Why is wisdom so valuable? Because... She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called blessed.

 

Now, know this: Solomon will go on to use that same “tree of life” imagery three more times in Proverbs: in 11:30, 13:12, and 15:4. What's the point of this comparison? Well, just like the tree of life in Eden, just like the tree we read about in Genesis 2 and 3, wisdom, both gained and given, results in a kind of life-enhancing transformation, by which we are (v. 18) “called blessed”. This is more than a practical, 'cause and effect' kind of benefit. Lady Wisdom explains it this way in 8:35... For whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the LORD...

Simply put, in addition to the blessing of living a wisely-ordered life in God's wisely-ordered world, there is also direct blessing from God for those who fear Him and walk in wisdom. We find one clear example of this a few verses before our main passage. Look at Proverbs 3:9–10...

 

Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; [10] then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine.

 

Fear-of-God-influenced finances are always the wisest monetary policy. Why? Because the wisdom to give back some things to the One who gave you everything always leads, in one way or another, to a fuller experience of His perfect provision. Do you believe that? Does that kind of wisdom influence your financial choices?

 

But God promises even more in terms of blessing for the wise man or women: (2:7) ...he is a shield to those who walk in integrity... (3:6) ...he will make straight your paths. (3:26) ...the LORD will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught. (3:33) ...he blesses the dwelling of the righteous. (3:34) ...to the humble he gives favor. And there are, as we will discover throughout this book, many, many, many more examples of how God blesses the one who walks in wisdom.

 

 

III. Are You Ready to Receive?

 

Brothers and sisters, friends, does that give you a better sense of what wisdom's worth? Do you understand why her invitation is so good, why her food is so delicious, why her banquet is so satisfying? In both practical and spiritual terms, there is nothing as profitable as wisdom. Why? Because wisdom leads you to God and teaches you how to live for him, in the world he made, in every area of your life.

 

Why this message, this morning? Because when we return to the book of Proverbs, when we begin to mine its treasures, ponder its sayings, consider its counsel, we need to come with eyes wide open; with humble and hungry hearts; with an eagerness and sense of expectation befitting this book. We need to come with a deep sense of neediness as those who so often follow folly. Tying together what we've talked in past lessons, if we are to ever truly ponder and practice wisdom, we must first prize and pursue her.

 

Are you ready to receive all that God has for you in this book? Are you? Amen!

 

But when we step back from this book and look at all the books of the Bible, we are reminded of this: in Proverbs 9:5 the invitation to bread and wine is an invitation to be nourished by wisdom. In this NT, the invitation to bread and wine is an invitation to be nourished by Jesus... by his life-giving death, and destiny-transforming resurrection. Wisdom first invites us to her table, so that we realize how badly we need Christ's table.

 

And when we, by faith, are fed at Christ's table, we find power, pattern, and pardon. A power to live wisely, a pattern to follow faithfully, and a pardon to restore completely, time and time again.

All of these introductory messages in Proverbs prepare us to receive the fullness of this book. But we cannot receive this wisdom unless we first receive Jesus Christ, God's perfect provision for foolish sinners like us.

 

Brothers and sisters, friends, let us seek this treasure, keeping in mind the truth of 2:6... For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. Let's pray in light of that amazing truth.

 

More in Proverbial Faith (Proverbs)

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