"For wisdom is better than jewels; and all desirable things can not compare with her.
"I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, and I find knowledge and discretion. The fear of the LORD is to hate evil; pride and arrogance and the evil way, and the perverted mouth, I hate. Counsel is mine and sound wisdom; I am understanding, power is mine. By me kings reign, and rulers decree justice. By me princes rule, and nobles, all who judge rightly. I love those who love me; and those who diligently seek me will find me. Riches and honor are with me, enduring wealth and righteousness. My fruit is better than gold, even pure gold, and my yield than choicest silver. I walk in the way of righteousness, in the midst of the paths of justice, to endow those who love me with wealth, that I may fill their treasuries.
"The LORD possessed me at the beginning of His way, Before His works of old."
Sermon for Twenty-third Sunday after Trinity 11/12/23
Gotta Get Me Some
My Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
Once again, our text is from Proverbs. Once again, the topic of the text is "Wisdom". Solomon, the wisest man of his time, and reputed to be the wisest man that ever lived, had a great deal to say about wisdom. But these words are not just Solomon's. They are the Word of God, and we believe that they are inspired for us to read and consider. When I read these words about the great value and the wonderful advantages of wisdom, the one thought that strikes me is, I want some. So our theme this morning is, "Gotta Get Me Some."
The first thing that we want to remember is the Psalm (111:10) (and Proverbs 9:10) which says "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." Job 28:28 says that the fear of the Lord IS wisdom, and Proverbs 15:33 says that the fear of the Lord is the instruction for wisdom. So, when we begin to talk about wisdom, we must understand that the entire discussion, in the Bible, is in the light of faith. There is no wisdom outside of faith, as far as the Bible is concerned.
"God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise." "The foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of men." These are truths taught to us by the Bible, so, when Solomon writes about wisdom, we must first know that he is speaking about a wisdom that is grounded in the knowledge of God and trust in Him. The exhortations to wisdom are really exhortations to faith and to life lived in the conscious exercise of faith.
What a wonderful treasure wisdom is! "For wisdom is better than jewels; and all desirable things can not compare with her." Many people would differ from Solomon on this point. Lots of people prefer wealth and jewels and good stuff! Solomon is writing from the perspective, however, of a man who possesses both. He is king. He has wealth and glory that was world-renowned. When the Queen of Sheba came to see Solomon, she said that she had come to see if all that she had heard about his wealth and glory were true, so expansive were the tales, and that she had not even heard the half of it! When Solomon said that Jewels and wealth and all desirable things did not compare to wisdom, he knew what he was talking about from personal experience. I do not seem destined to have great wealth so when it comes to something I can get, and something that is better than wealth, I gotta get me some!
""I, wisdom, dwell with prudence." Prudence is sound judgment. Prudence is caution and circumspection. It means living life with all of the realities of life around us taken into account. Prudence means careful management. These are good things to have. I want my life to make sense in the context in which I live it. I want to do the right things, and I don't want to go around creating havoc - and I am sure that most of you feel pretty much the same way. I want to be prudent. Of course to be prudent, I need to know what is going on around me, and Solomon says that with wisdom, one find(s) knowledge and discretion. I gotta get me some!
I want to know. I want to know what is real and what is not. I want to know and understand how things work. I want to know the secrets of life - how to work, how to be happy, and how to make it work for me! Wisdom does that! Wisdom – beginning with faith – opens up reality, and teaches us that what we see is not always real. Boy, isn't that important in our day and age? We can fake pictures. We can make a movie or a video of someone doing something that cannot be done, in places that they have never been. Someone recently released a Beatles recording that no Beatle participated in, and it sounded authentic. There has never been a time when you could believe what you saw, or what you heard, or what you read as little as you can today. I want to know the truth, so that I can be discreet - so that I can act carefully and do what is proper and appropriate in each circumstance and situation.
And doesn't Jesus say that if we continue faithfully in His Word, that we shall know the truth? And doesn't He say that this truth shall set us free? This is what wisdom promises to those who seek her, and who cling to her. So how do we find wisdom? How do we identify wisdom when we meet her?
Solomon tells us, by God's own inspiration, that "The fear of the LORD is to hate evil." Since the fear of the Lord is wisdom, wisdom is to hate evil! Where we see holiness and the rejection of evil, we are dealing with or facing wisdom. Where we see evil practiced, we can be clear that there is no wisdom - and therefore also no fear of the Lord. But specifically, what should we be on the lookout for?
Solomon wrote, in our text, the judgment of God: "Pride and arrogance and the evil way, and the perverted mouth, I hate." Pride and arrogance is when someone takes themselves too seriously. It is easy to do, and people around you will usually recognize it before you do. It is easy to assume that because of age and life's experience and success in past endeavors we are smarter, more capable, and have a better grasp on things than we really do. It is all too easy, and quite natural, to forget that all of our success and wealth and every good thing is from God and by His giving and choosing, not by our own native intelligence or ability.
The Evil way is whenever we speak or act in ways that God has forbidden, or in ways that deny Him and His place in our lives. It is listed in the text this way because pride and arrogance usually lead to the evil way. One of the temptations we all face daily is to be wiser than God in our own estimate and to know a better way to do things than God's own way. That is where the perverted mouth comes in so often. We say things we should not say. We say things to the wrong people. We do not bring our troubles to ones with whom we have the problem, so very often, but we tell our friends, and those we know might be sympathetic to our pains and frustrations. These things have nothing to do with wisdom, however. At least not with this godly wisdom.
Godly wisdom brings direction, clarity, and understanding. That is what Solomon is writing about when he writes, " Counsel is mine and sound wisdom; I am understanding." Knowing God, knowing His will for us, and His love for us, and trusting God helps us make sense of things, even the difficult and painful things. It gives us the authority to live our lives boldly and confidently. Solomon writes, "Power is mine."
Now Solomon did not mean simply the power of a life lived confidently in the grace of God and in faith – but that's a pretty good thing! He actually meant the sort of power that kings exercise. "By me kings reign, and rulers decree justice. By me princes rule, and nobles, all who judge rightly." But take note that it is not merely that they rule, but that they rule wisely, they decree justice, and they judge rightly. In other words, this wisdom, founded in the fear of the Lord, enables leaders to lead well. We have only to look at our world and its crazy leaders, and the violence and destruction so many of them spawn, to see that ruling without this wisdom is not just or profitable, or admirable to anyone.
Then God says something, through the pen of Solomon, that is really important: "I love those who love me; and those who diligently seek me will find me." What that tells us is that this wisdom is not hard to find, nor is it locked up somewhere for only the few. It is the wisdom of faith, after all. Already in Old Testament times, God is telling us that those who seek it will find it.
It is the word, "diligently," that should catch our eye, however. Many people take a stab at finding it, but they are content with a counterfeit. They are happy with a religion that doesn't quite trust God, nor listen to His Word with any care. They often proceed on the basis of the Law, and not the Gospel, or apply principles of the business world where the principles of faith and of the Word of God are more fitting.
But if you are diligent about your search for God's wisdom, if you aren't willing to settle for counterfeits and imitations, God will show it to you. God's promise is that if we seek Him, He will show Himself to us. He will send the Missionary. He will send the pastor. He will cause His Word to be preached in its truth and purity. If we listen, He will pour out that wisdom of which our text speaks. If we resist His Word and merely tolerate it in our churches, we will miss that wisdom.
And that wisdom is grounded in the Gospel. God says, "I walk in the way of righteousness, in the midst of the paths of justice." That righteousness is the righteousness which is by grace through faith, for the sake of Jesus Christ, and His death on the cross. The justice is that our sins have been punished, and so, when God forgives us, He doesn't simply pretend we did not sin. He forgives us because the atonement has been accomplished, the redemption price has been paid, and our sins have been covered by the death of Jesus Christ.
That is why He inspired Solomon to write, "Riches and honor are with me, enduring wealth and righteousness. My fruit is better than gold, even pure gold, and my yield than choicest silver." What is greater wealth than everlasting life?? Jesus said it, "For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's shall save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Mark 8:35-37) There is no greater wealth than salvation. But salvation is like an investment in the stock market. It doesn't necessarily look so good, or have much value day to day. It has its greatest value at maturity – it is when you need resurrection and life eternal that salvation will deliver its true worth! That is why I say, I gotta get me some! It may be the only sort of wealth I may ever know.
And this has been the plan of God from eternity. The New Testament says that God made this plan, and chose us from the foundation of the world — that is, from before He started creating. Here He reveals it in the Old Testament, and tell us here, by the pen of Solomon, that this plan, this "Wisdom" has been in His mind and in His heart from eternity. "The LORD possessed me at the beginning of His way, Before His works of old." The verse just before our text begins the thought of our text, and provides us with a good summary – "Take instruction and not silver, and knowledge rather than choicest gold, for wisdom is better than jewels." This is true wealth, true wisdom, and life eternal in Jesus Christ. Every child of God shares the goal of our sermon theme, I gotta get me some!
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
(Let the people say Amen)