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Proverbs 8:1-11 by Robert Dean
Want to save yourself a lot of trouble? Then listen to this lesson in Proverbs to learn how to wise up. You won't find the answer on TV or in college classrooms or from a mystical spiritual guru. Instead discover how studying God's written word, the Bible, shows us the solution to all of life's problems. See how God makes His plan clear so no one has an excuse to say they didn't know what to do. Find out the only two choices available: one leading to happiness and success and the other to foolish and senseless blunders.
Series:Proverbs (2013)
Duration:55 mins 15 secs

Wisdom Available To All Proverbs 8:1-11


The omission of chapter seven at this point is intentional. Chapter eight begins the conclusion to the first section in Proverbs, the introduction of the first nine chapters. In the first eleven verses of this section focuses on the availability of wisdom to all. There are, as we have seen ten lessons in the first nine chapters dealing with wisdom. These are addressed to the son by the father.


Most people believe that these proverbs are written or, at least collected, by Solomon. Solomon is writing this for the training of his own son, but these were written down, many believe, to be a training manual for the education and training of the leaders within the nation. As the Davidic kingdom had expanded so greatly and had begun to solidify its organization and administration under Solomon, Solomon wrote this not only as a training manual for his son but also as a training manual for raising up wise, godly leaders who would function in all areas of the bureaucracy in Israel. It was a way of passing on the truth of God's Word from one generation to the next, and thus it also forms a manual and pattern for families to pass on the Word of God generationally. The core training unit throughout all of history is the family. Not the church, not the school, not the Sunday school, but the family. The primary responsibility for training within the family goes to the father.


Today we live in an environment in the United States when families aren't what they ought to be. In fact, the problem we have today is that we have many families that due to divorce, to criminality, to the welfare state, it is unusual to find a good family. Everybody has a problem with their family from one degree to another, because we are all sinners; but it is the role of the family to pass on the Word of God. We have to make wise decisions. We often start off in life in a deficit decision. And this is true for all of us. Because of sins and carnality we start in a position where we are far from the idea and we just have to do the best we can with whatever the circumstances are that we find ourselves and push forward to improve, to follow the Word of God, and to grow spiritually. There is always hope and there is always the blessing of God which is our support which enables us to overcome any and all negative situations and circumstances. And the key to that comes down to wisdom, and wisdom is the skillful application of God's Word. To have wisdom we have to practice obedience to God's Word. To practice obedience to God's Word means we have to know God's Word, which means that is the highest priority. This is the focal point here in this concluding section of these lessons.


We saw in chapter five, which is the eighth lesson, the problem of free sex or the problem of immorality. Then last time we focused on the different character insights in chapter six. From 6:20 through all of chapter seven form the ninth and tenth lessons, along with the issues related to the adulterous woman, and so those were all covered under the lesson for chapter five. 


Then we come to two appendices in this opening section, focusing on the value of wisdom—this cry, as it begins in chapter eight, the cry for wisdom to all mankind to respond to the cry and to listen and make wisdom part of a person's life.


We see three basic divisions in chapter eight. Verses 1-5 is about the availability of wisdom to all; verses 6-11 focuses on the attributes and the value of wisdom; 12-21 focuses on the benefits and blessings of wisdom. In verse 22 and down through verse 31 it is almost as if there is an aside. It relates to the personification of wisdom as that which the Lord used in all of creation. This fits into an interesting argument here because what the writer of Proverbs is saying is that if wisdom was necessary for God in order to create such a sophisticated, complex creation then how much more do we need wisdom in order to just deal with our own little areas of creation, innovation, work, family, etc. Then in vv. 32-26 we see the epilogue, a conclusion to this chapter. We will start there because 8:1-31 targets or focuses on this conclusion.


It is the first time we read: "Listen to me." How many times as we have gone through the previous chapters have we heard Solomon telling his son, "Listen to me; hear me"? (1:1; 2:1; 3:1, 11, 21; 4:1; 5:1) We see in each of these lessons this emphasis on listening, on paying attention, on hearing.

Proverbs 8:1 NASB "Does not wisdom call, And understanding lift up her voice?" Notice a little difference there? Up to this point each new section starts with My son, listen; My son, keep my words; My son, bind them about your heart—command to the son to do something and to listen to wisdom, to hear the words of the father who is the personification of wisdom as he is teaching that to his son. But now we have a shift and we don't see the opening "Listen" until we get down to verse 32, "Now therefore, {O} sons [my children], listen to me, For blessed are they who keep my way." The "me" here is the father expressing wisdom; it is wisdom talking to the son. It is wisdom that is crying out in verse 1, wisdom crying out in understanding, lifting up her voice. In this section wisdom and understanding are used as synonymous terms in order to have the poetic parallelism. So the final command in this chapter is to listen to wisdom. Why? Why should I take time on Sunday morning to be in Bible class? I could go fishing!  The answer is given in the second half of verse 32: "For blessed are they who keep my ways."


That takes us back to this key concept that we have all through Proverbs. There are two paths, and throughout the book we have this presentation that life is comprised of choices and we have the choice between the right way and the wrong way. There is no in between. One way leads to life and one way leads to death. The ways of wisdom is the way, the path of life in contrast to the path that leads to death. So verse 33 reads: "Heed instruction and be wise, And do not neglect {it.}" Do not disdain it; do not have disrespect; do not treat the availability of the Word of God lightly.


We live in a time of unprecedented Bible teaching. Never before in the history of the human race has so much been available to so many. We have literally hundreds of ministries that because of the Internet can put all of their Bible teaching up for people around the world to listen to and to study. We have hundreds of people and pastors in South America, in Brazil, Zambia, etc. who listen (and are live streaming) to this ministry. There are others who have taken the material and put them out as a curriculum for training pastors, and they go into Ghana, Nigeria and many other places in Africa as well as India. We have no idea of how many people have access to Bible teaching. And that is just this ministry. This is just one minor, small speck in a spectrum of ministries where pastors are teaching the Word of God. And that is not counting the number of people who get online and just listen. Not only that, but there are so many sophisticated Bible study programs that are out there. You could spend eight hours a day, seven days each week listening to somebody really good, who really knows the truth, teach the Bible from now until the day you go to be with the Lord and you wouldn't exhaust what is available right now. And yet we as evangelical believers in this country are ignoring it.


The vast number of evangelical believers in this country who claim to believe in Jesus Christ as their savior spend maybe 20 minutes a week listening to anybody do anything closely resembling the teaching of God's Word. And it is usually so short and so shallow that no baby could ever figure out how to be potty trained, as it were, listening to those lessons. They just don't do it. Because we live in an age where there is so much prosperity in terms of how much teaching that is available that it is a judgment on this generation that so few people avail themselves of the Bible teaching, much less try to apply it. And so this generation will stand in tremendous judgment before God because of the way they have treated the wisdom of God's Word with disdain; they have treated it lightly. 


Then we have a promise. Proverbs 8:34 NASB "Blessed is the man who listens to me, Watching daily at my gates, Waiting at my doorposts." This is wisdom talking. Someone is blessed because every day they are seeking to learn wisdom, learn the Word of God, and how to skillfully apply it. [35] The ultimate reason: "For he who finds me finds life And obtains favor from the LORD." Wisdom is for those who want life. We see again in this section how life is brought up as a motivation for learning wisdom. There are only two options here: to be wise and live or to be foolish and die. This is not talking about eternal life versus eternal death, although that is certainly included, it is talking about living life well, successfully, in all of the richness that God intended. We can only do that on the basis of the Word of God.


We see the contrast in verse 36, that the one who rejects wisdom is the one who sins against wisdom and wrongs his own soul. "But he who sins against me injures himself …" It is self-destructive behavior. "… All those who hate me love death." Again and again we see this choice. Moses set this choice before the Israelites before he went up on to Mount Nebo to die physically and go to be with the Lord: "I set before you this day life or death." Joshua set that same choice for his generation. That is the choice that is presented to us as we continue in Proverbs. It is a daily decision.


Let's go back to the beginning of the chapter and see how the writer sets this up. Instead of giving a challenge to the son to listen, to pay attention, to hear, to respond, he focuses on the objective availability of wisdom. And again personifying wisdom as a person.


There are those who teach that wisdom is a personification also of the Lord Jesus Christ. What is the problem with that? Talk about allegory! That is exactly where that comes from. Literal interpretation has certain guidelines and you don't just look at it and say, Oh well, this relates to the thinking of Christ, so therefore wisdom here must be the Lord Jesus Christ. Where would you get that anywhere in Scripture? The New Testament never makes that identification; neither does the Old. Wisdom is personified here but it is actually that component of God's omniscience that is seen in the skill with which He created all things. And that knowledge of the Lord, that skill, is available to us. As finite image bearers we have it freely made available to us through His Word. This is not talking about some sort of veiled reference to Jesus Christ; this is talking about the thinking of God, the thinking of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. It is that thinking which is present in their omniscience.


So wisdom here is presented as a woman crying out. What is interesting is that this differs in some ways from the previous couple of chapters. Remember the portions warning the son about not getting involved with the immoral woman, the adulterous wife. That stands in contrast to the woman he should be involved with, which is wisdom. The adulterous wife is the one calling and tempting. It is a superficial fulfillment of gratification of the flesh here and now, whereas wisdom is that which has a long tern view and reflects eternal values. It is easy to succumb to the immediate gratification of the flesh rather than focus on that which has eternal everlasting value. In fact, what we see in the structure of the seventh chapter and the eighth chapter is what is known as a diptych, where there are these two set up in an almost antithetical section but they are tied together where the unchaste wife shows the path to self destruction versus the personification of wisdom as a woman offering herself as a source of life. "And understanding lift up her voice?" That is where we get the feminine idea in this personification of wisdom. 


What we see here is a universal cry from wisdom to all mankind. Proverbs 8:2 NASB "On top of the heights beside the way, Where the paths meet, she takes her stand; [3] Beside the gates, at the opening to the city, At the entrance of the doors, she cries out." Six different places are mentioned here because different things happened in each of these places. Wisdom has presented herself to the entire human race and in every area of human endeavor. This is reflected in a previous verse which is very similar: Proverbs 1:20, 21 NASB "Wisdom shouts in the street, She lifts her voice in the square; At the head of the noisy {streets} she cries out; At the entrance of the gates in the city she utters her sayings." What goes on in the squares? This is where the market is located, where commerce is conducted, where people hear the news of the day and find out about what is affecting their world. Wisdom is located in the place where there is the greatest amount of intercourse. So wisdom is available everywhere, it is not hidden under a rock up in the Himalayas somewhere. It is freely available to one and all. This reminds us that the Word of God and the truth of God's Word is always available to everyone. 


Proverbs 8:4 NASB "To you, O men, I call, And my voice is to the sons of men." The word here for men reflects the entire human race. Wisdom is available to the entire human race and is crying out. Remember the flip side of this is that the son is challenged to listen, to hear, to respond. But what wisdom is doing is seeking, exercising that grace initiative from God toward man. God is constantly making Himself available.


We have a couple of great passages about the universal availability of God. In the Old Testament we have Psalm 19:1-4 NASB "The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands…" The heavens don't speak audibly with words and sentences and paragraphs. It is a non-verbal communication. As we observe the heavens there are things that we can learn by observing the creation. We can discern certain things about the creator by observing the works of creation—order, purpose, design, etc. All of these are present and indicate that there must be something greater that has designed and been the architect of this creation. "… Day to day pours forth speech …" This is talking about a form of revelation. It is speech but it is non-verbal speech. Yet the communication is just as clear. "… And night to night reveals knowledge." So we can learn specific things about God, we just can't learn enough to be saved. Non-verbal; communication, or what we call in theology general revelation, must always be interpreted on the basis of special revelation. "…There is no speech, nor are there words; Their voice is not heard…" This answers the question: What about the those who never heard? Verse 3 says there is not speech or language their voice is not heard. Every human being has heard, has seen, has understood, as we will see, the non-verbal; revelation from God in His creation. This is wisdom crying out and is available to all. "…Their line has gone out through all the earth, And their utterances to the end of the world. In them He has placed a tent for the sun." 


If we go on and read the second half of Psalm 19 there is a praise for the written Word of God. Psalm 19:7 NASB "The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul; The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple." Notice it is the written Word that gives information for conversion, not general revelation. [8] "The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart …" Then in verse 9 we read: "The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever …" Why do we shift from the external revelation to the fear of the Lord? When we look at Proverbs we understand that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. The fear of the Lord is a response to revelation. As we come to understand the immensity, the righteousness, the justice of God and His sovereignty we realize how great and awesome God is and that we should be under His authority. That generates in us a respect, an awe, a fear of God. It is used there as a response to the written law, the written judgments of God that are being praised here. 


Then in vv. 10, 11 we have a statement of the value of God's Word. "They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them Your servant is warned; In keeping them there is great reward."


That finds a parallel in our passage in Proverbs chapter eight. As we get into the second part of this opening introduction we will read about the value of God's  Word. The fear of the Lord is mentioned in verse 13: "The fear of the LORD is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way And the perverted mouth, I hate." Then we read how valuable wisdom is to those who rule, and concluding with a statement of the value of wisdom in vv. 18ff. 

Proverbs 8:18 NASB "Riches and honor are with me, Enduring wealth and righteousness. [19] My fruit is better than gold, even pure gold, And my yield {better} than choicest silver." And so we see these same ideas expressed, that wisdom is available to all and it is more valuable than all things.

The New Testament counterpart to Psalm 19 is in Romans 1:18-20 NASB "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness…" That sort of represents the major characteristic of the human race in that they are truth suppressors. Where do they get the truth? It is known to them internally and externally from the very beginning. "… because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them." That is everybody; nobody can say what about so and so in some pagan country who never heard. Psalm 19 says it is spoken in a language everybody can understand, a non-verbal language. Romans 1:19 says that which is known about God is evident within them, for God made it evident to them.  [20] "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse." 


 So we see that wisdom is crying out, understanding is lifting her voice to one and all. So no one has an excuse to say, I didn't know. It is not just passively available to all; it is actively seeking responders. Where does she go? Verse 2 & 3: "On top of the heights beside the way, Where the paths meet, she takes her stand; [3] Beside the gates, at the opening to the city, At the entrance of the doors, she cries out." Each of these is significant. There is a certain amount of overlap and parallelism here but each speaks of different areas of life and commerce.


"On top of the heights." If you travel in the areas of the Middle East, the ancient world, where do you find the temples set? Up on a high hill. The word here is the same as in Jeremiah 51:53 as a place of fortification. So the high point is a place that is visible, a place where if you cry out from the highest point it is heard to its furthest extent; and so the emphasis here is that wisdom takes advantageous positions to reach the most people, to be seen and heard by the most people. 


The second phrase, "beside the way" is the word derek in Hebrew, which is the basic word that is still used in modern Hebrew for the highway, the road, the path. It is used over and over again in the Psalms for making this choice between the path leading to righteousness and the path leading to evil, the path to life and the path to death. There are only these two options. "Beside the way" is talking about being out on the highways and byways of life.


The third is at the crossroads, "where the paths meet." Where the pathways intersect, that is your volition point. You have to choose. Are you going to follow the path of life, or the path of death?


So wisdom goes to the most advantageous place to reach as many as possible, it goes to the pathways where people travel—not off the beaten path but on the beaten path—and it is at the crossroads where decisions are made.


There are only two options in the Bible. We see this is Psalm 1. "How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night." The result: He is fruitful, prosperous and successful. He will be like a tree {firmly} planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers." This is in contrast to the ungodly. Notice there is not a middle place. He is either the blessed man who is meditating on the law of the Lord day and night or he is living like the ungodly. There is no middle road. Verses 5, 6: "… the wicked will not stand in the judgment, Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, But the way of the wicked will perish."


The second three areas where wisdom is available is: "Beside the gates, the entry of the city and the entry of the doors." Each of these refers to a slightly different area of entry point to the city. The gates were rather significant areas in the ancient world because it was at the city gates that the leaders of the city would gather together. This is where judgments would take place, where decisions were made that would affect everyone in the city. It was a place there they would buy and sell and it was the local court room. So wisdom is available at the places that would most significantly affect our lives. The entrances to the city were the places where the people would come in in order to do business. So this relates to the economic activity of the city. Wisdom applies to everyday economic life. At the entrance of the openings. When you went in through these gates there were little rooms off to the side where people would go to conduct business and make decisions. What we see here is that wisdom  is making herself available to everyone for every area of life. 

Proverbs 8:5 NASB "O naive ones, understand prudence; And, O fools, understand wisdom." The address on one hand is to the simple ones, and it really refers to someone who is very naïve, he doesn't know anything, and thus he is open to anything. He can be easily manipulated or deceived because in the worst case scenario he is open to any viewpoint and will do what anybody wants him to do because after all every worldview is equal, every culture is equal and so we are not going to criticize or condemn anyone. It runs the range of someone who doesn't know any better and thus is open to be deceived. "Understand prudence." Prudence is the application of wisdom. The fool is the one who has conscientiously rejected doctrine. Open your mind to the truth is the idea here.


So the challenge to us is: Are we going to respond to the revelation of God?