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Proverbs 1:20-33 by Robert Dean
It’s never too late to understand the importance of getting God’s wisdom into our souls NOW, but NOW has a way of fading into yesterday which makes it too late to apply the wisdom we lost yesterday to the crisis we’re having today. God doesn’t make it difficult for us by hiding His wisdom under a rock. Wisdom, personified here as a woman, screams at us from every avenue of perception. The difficult choice is to continue to disregard it. But some do disregard it and become fools. Understand the different categories in the downward spiral of foolishness as we repeatedly reject obvious Truth. God’s offer of wisdom is continuous, but if you continually reschedule NOW to tomorrow, the guarantee is that foolishness gains momentum in your future.
Series:Proverbs (2013)
Duration:53 mins 14 secs

What Kind of Fool Am I. Proverbs 1:20-22

 

Proverbs 1:20-22 is probably one of the most clear and significant passages of Scripture on the importance of getting the Word of God into your soul now—not tomorrow, not next week, not something you will sort of pull off once you have stabilized your life. You had better get it now because when tomorrow comes, when calamity or crisis occurs, it is too late. One of the banes of the pastoral ministry in the modern church context is the idea of pastoral counseling. There is a place for sitting down with a pastor over a particular situation in life to gain insight and direction, but this idea of something that takes place over a long period of time is what takes place now—counseling from the pulpit three times a week: Sunday morning, Tuesday night and Thursday night. It is teaching us and training us how to think, how to have discernment and wisdom and skilled living so that when tough times come and the crisis hits and the calamity occurs we have already prepared ourselves.

 

We saw in the verses from 8 to 19 where the focal point was on preparation for disaster, that to be forewarned is to be forearmed. In that case the father is forewarning his son to watch out for these sinners, his peer group that has rejected the Word of God, who will come along and entice him and distract him from the truth—wisdom, the truth of God's Word—and by warning his son of what will take place. Hopefully when this occurs the son will reject the enticements of his sinful, arrogant peer group.

 

That peer group is characterized by a number of different words as we go through the psalms. They are characterized as those who are simple. It is applied to the fool because he is open to enticement, open to temptation, open to sin, and because of that he is one category of fool. There are other categories of fool described in Proverbs.

 

We have noted that in this section of Proverbs, the first nine chapters, there are basically ten lessons that the father is giving to the son. He is attempting to prepare his son to face the realities of life as a mature adult. That is the role of the parent. Today the influence of peers, of video and media, of television and film bring more influence to bear on children than we can possibly imagine. It is the job of the parent to counter than, and that can't be countered just by bringing them to Sunday school or Prep-school one day a week. We can't cut it in our own soul if we think we can just listen to the Word one day a week. We are all constantly under bombardment from the world system that seeks to distract us, entice us, tempt us away from the absolutes of God's Word, and to confirm to us that what we know to be true in our hearts that the Word doesn't really do it, I have to do it myself. But remember the heart is deceitful and wicked above all things, as Jeremiah said (Jeremiah 17:9). So our wicked little dark hearts are constantly being attracted to the systems and rationales to justify our own way of handling life. And when we yield to that we become a fool. The Scripture is very clear on that and not very complimentary.

 

The first lesson, 1:8-19, is a challenge to listen to the father's guidance and to reject the influence of the peers: don't be influenced by the herd, focus on the Word instead. Then there is a parenthetical section in verses 20-33 which is a comment on wisdom. Wisdom is personified as an individual, as a woman who is crying out to the public offering herself to any and to all freely and loudly, continuously inviting people to partake of her. And yet there are fools who reject the offer. But then the crisis comes. And when the crisis comes, because the fool and the scoffer has rejected wisdom, wisdom scoffs at the fool. Too late now! You need to get this into your soul before the crisis hits because once the crisis hits it is too late to build the fortifications necessary to handle the assault. Wisdom is the mature applied understanding of the Word, and just like any other field of knowledge, to have mature applied knowledge for any particular subject it takes time, it takes practice. We learn things, we apply them day after day and year after year and over time and experience it becomes the normative pattern of our thinking. That is what builds strength in us. We can't run out and get wisdom and maturity and experience over night just because some crisis has come.

 

The next lesson is in chapter two: that we are to protect ourselves from the wicked. The third section is in 3:1-12, the promise of the Lord and the son's responsibility. There is a heavy emphasis in Proverbs on individual responsibility. It is not the church's responsibility, the school's responsibility, the grandparent's responsibility, etc., it is our responsibility, each individual. When you get lazy people who have rejected wisdom they get into a habit pattern of shifting responsibility on to someone else. Once that happens, as well all know, it is easier to do it the next time and let everybody else take care of all our responsibilities for us. That is the road to personal collapse. Fourth, there is the importance of following the path of wisdom and knowledge and understanding, emphasized in 4:1-9. The fifth lesson is instruction on how to run well and seize life and to stay off the human viewpoint road, 4:10-19. There is a warning against swerving from the right road in 4:20-27. The next lesson is on the emptiness of free sex and the wisdom of marriage. Then there is an insight on three patterns or three types of people you don't want to become. The next lesson is on the high cost of a promiscuous wife, the next is on the promiscuous wife's seductive tactics, chapter seven. Then there are two closing appendices dealing with wisdom's appeal dealing to the open-minded, i.e. the naïve or the simple or the fool. Then the conflict between the wise and the fool, 9:1-18. 

Going back to the end of the last lesson there is an image brought in to drive home the point. The point in 1:10-19 is to forewarn the son of what he is going to face: the temptations, the enticements, the baiting of the traps that will be offered by his peers who have rejected wisdom. This depicted in the imagery of a hunter who goes out and spreads the net down in order to catch the bird, and doing it in full view of the bird. This is a notoriously difficult verse to both translate from the Hebrew and then interpret, but the idea here is that the reason it is vanity or emptiness when the next is spread in the sight of any bird is that the bird doesn't connect the net to the trap. That is what happens with the fool. They are not connecting their behavior to the negative consequences that come into their life. The imagery here is that the bird can be up in the tree and see the net spread out but then doesn't connect that later on when they see the food and are trapped. In the same way the fool doesn't understand the connection between his behavior and the consequences that are laid out in verse 19: "So are the ways of everyone who gains by violence; It takes away the life of its possessors." They don't connect their greed and desire for easy money with the fact that their life ends up in turmoil and collapse, because the consequences of bad decisions are often seen for many years. Negative habit patterns develop and people don't connect because of the hardness of their heart. 

As we get into the next section we see the same kind of thing being displayed in this personification of wisdom. Wisdom is offering herself ahead of time, before the crisis. People don't think there is a connection between the collapse after a crisis and the failure of not taking in the Word of God and developing wisdom for years and years to prepare for the crisis. They don't connect the dots, they just see two different things and so the fool never prepares, and when the crisis hits they run around saying, "What do I need to learn? Teach me some doctrine." We see this all the time when people have a crisis and they come back to church and are trying to cram for their exam. It is too late, they have already failed it, and then as soon as things stabilize a bit in life you don't see them anymore.

 

In verses 20-33 there are basically three divisions. The first: wisdom gives a loud ever-present or ubiquitous invitation to all (vv. 20-21). Wisdom calls aloud outside. It is not private, it is available to all. Proverbs 1:20 NASB "Wisdom shouts in the street, She lifts her voice in the square; [21] At the head of the noisy {streets} she cries out; At the entrance of the gates in the city she utters her sayings." Wisdom is offered to all and is available to all at all times. But there is a sermon from wisdom and a rebuke to those who are the three categories of fool: the simple, the scoffer and the fool. [22] "How long, O naive ones, will you love being simple-minded? And scoffers delight themselves in scoffing And fools hate knowledge?"

 

The cry is to turn at her rebuke, and if they turn—which simply means to change your mind, to reverse course, to shift from focusing on self-absorption and arrogance to humility, to the Word, then wisdom will be poured out upon them. God makes the truth available to all at no cost. The Word of God is free to all at no cost. In the picture of heaven in Revelation 21 with the river of life, it is available to all at no cost.

 

But there is this negative response, v. 24 NASB "Because I called and you refused, I stretched out my hand and no one paid attention; [25] And you neglected all my counsel And did not want my reproof." We have two verses there that describe this negative reaction and we need to understand why people have this negative response to this offer of wisdom. It is for the same reason that they have a negative response to the offer of salvation. They have a predetermined (and they determine it, not God) belief that they can do it on their own and don't need God. They don't want God. It is not an intellectual problem, it is not an educational problem, it is not a social problem;, it is not a financial problem; it is a moral problem. It is a spiritual problem because people think they don't need God and they make a choice to reject God, and it is because they have already made this decision to reject God and to do it themselves that they are committed to this course of action.

 

Wisdom rebukes the unresponsive fool in vv. 22, 23, and then denounces them in vv. 24-27 with the statements: "I will also laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your dread comes, When your dread comes like a storm And your calamity comes like a whirlwind, When distress and anguish come upon you." Wisdom will reject them at the time of their judgment, the time of crisis in their life. "Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; They will seek me diligently but they will not find me, Because they hated knowledge And did not choose [volition is the issue] the fear of the LORD. They would not accept my counsel, They spurned all my reproof. So they shall eat of the fruit of their own way And be satiated with their own devices." They will suffer the consequences of their own bad decisions.

 

Wisdom is depicted as a person, a woman who is out in the street walking up and down crying out with a loud voice, calling upon people in a fervent and emotional way. That is the connotation in the Hebrew. These are words used in other passages indicating deep distress, profound emotions, and so this isn't some sort of academic invitation. This shows the extreme ways in which wisdom is offered. People say they don't really know if God exists. Why doesn't He make Himself known? Well He couldn't make Himself known more clearly, according to the Word of God. The same is true for wisdom. Wisdom is available to all. It is in the Word of God and more than any other time in history we have the truth of God's Word available to us.

 

Scripture makes it clear that God always makes Himself known and that the knowledge of Him is available to man. The two great passages on that are Psalm 19 and in Romans 1:18ff. Psalm 19:1 NASB "The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands." In other words, this is a non-verbal declaration of the existence of God that we see in the heavens. This is something related to the intelligent design argument that has been popular in recent years from Christians who are creationists. And it goes beyond that because the intelligent design argument just leaves you with an intelligent designer; this passage says the heavens declare the glory of God. They don't speak of an intelligent designer; that is just a classification. The heavens declare the glory of the one and only God in a non-verbal way, and it does this through seeing and witnessing and understanding His handiwork. That is how everything within the universe has been made—the intricacies, the beauty. When we think about at these concepts of beauty we are reminded of the idea of wisdom in the Scriptures, that God made the universe "by wisdom," Proverbs says. And that shows skill and beauty. Wisdom isn't just knowledge applied, it is knowledge applied in a skilful and beautiful way. So this is seeing the results of God's creativity and this tells us many things about the one who has created them. 

This is not something that has happened once but it goes on continuously, just as wisdoms cries every day in the streets. Psalm 19:2 NASB "Day to day pours forth speech, And night to night reveals knowledge. [3] There is no speech, nor are there words; Their voice is not heard." The revelation of God and who He is through His creation is ubiquitous; it is with us all the time. No one can escape it. But they put their ear muffs on and their ear plugs is and say they just don't want to hear it. It is a volitional issue, it is not intellectual, educational or social; they have rejected it. This is the point of Romans 1:18ff. Romans 1:18 talks about the judgment of God in history and says that the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness. What that verse is saying is that in the process as individuals see and witness the heavens' declaration of God's glory they say, "I don't want to know it." They suppress that truth. It is not that they don't understand it, they understand it all too well. They just don't want to admit it is true because they have prior commitment to their own self-sufficiency and their own ability to make life work apart from God.

 

Romans 1:19 goes on to explain this. NASB "because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them." It is witness to them, it is confirmed in them. It is a rejection of God. Those atheists know in the core of their soul that God exists. Why? Because God has revealed it to them. 

 

Romans 1:20 tells us how. NASB "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." There the word "seen" is a metaphor for mental perception, understanding. We can extrapolate backward from the creation to the creator to understand certain things about His person. We can see that He must be personal because there are person's created. We know that He must be infinite and omniscient because of the vast extent of the knowledge that must be required in order to create everything in the universe. So there are things that can be clearly stated about this creator. He is eternal; He is transcendent; He is personal.

 

Romans 1:21 NASB "For even though they knew God …" Unbelievers know God and they know He exists. That is the undeniable testimony of Scripture. When we witness to people it is not really our job to convince them that God exists. When we talk about the existence of God we are just helping them understand something they already know and we are trying to, as it were, strategically expose or rip open the camouflage they put around their knowledge of God they don't want to see anymore. "… they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened." That is the fool. And just because we are a believer it doesn't mean we don't function like a fool at times. Every time we sin we function like a fool, we live like a fool.

 

Romans 1:22 NASB "Professing to be wise, they became fools"—in the eyes of God they have become fools, because as the psalmist says, The fool as said in his heart there is no God.

So we see the personification of wisdom in Proverbs 1:20, "Wisdom calls aloud outside." Wisdom is always knocking on your door saying, Let me in. I want to come in and strengthen your life so that when the crisis comes you are prepared. The issue is: how do you respond to that. Are we making the acquisition of wisdom a priority in our life? Now remember, wisdom isn't information. Information is just facts and data. We live in the midst of an information revolution and people are overwhelmed with bits of data and we have more information than we can possibly assimilate. Information is not knowledge. Knowledge comes from being able to comprehend, organize and utilize those bits of information. Knowledge, even though it is much to be desired, is not wisdom. First we have to have information, then we have knowledge, but only when we apply that knowledge and practice the application of that knowledge are we able to be able to develop skill, which is wisdom. It is like learning how to play a musical instrument.  If we don't practice the application of God's Word continually we can never develop wisdom. Wisdom is that which only comes through the practice of application.

 

Wisdom brings a rebuke to those who reject wisdom, and we are al rejecters of wisdom at some point or another in our lives. 

So wisdom is constantly available, crying out, calling out, inviting us to make her a part of our thinking and a part of our life. Proverbs 1:22 NASB  "How long, O naive ones, will you love being simple-minded? And scoffers delight themselves in scoffing And fools hate knowledge?"

 

There are three words that tell us the three different types of fools. They are not all the different words for fools in the Old Testament but these are three used consistently within Proverbs. And there is not an order or progression here.

 

The first is the "simple" [pethi]. It is translated by some "gullible," by some "naïve." It is used 14 times in Proverbs to describe this one classification of the fool. The basic literal meaning of the verb from which it comes (to be open) has to idea of those who are open to temptation. They are easily enticed, easily attracted to that which is wrong. This is the simplest of the fools, so to speak, the mildest; they are the ones who are still at a place where they can change, where they can shift their volition and respond to the invitation of wisdom. They are the young, the naive. They are intellectually flawed, yet they are changeable. They haven't really locked things down into the stubborn arrogance of negative volition. They are immature. They will believe anything, so they need to be taught and they need to understand wisdom. This person who is naïve or gullible is pictured in Proverbs as a youth (Proverbs 1:4; 7:7). He is also depicted in 7:7 as one who is empty or devoid of understanding; he lacks sense. Also Proverbs 9:4 NASB "Whoever is naive, let him turn in here!" To him who lacks understanding …" He doesn't have any sense; he doesn't have a comprehension of the truth of God's Word. Also in 9:16, "Whoever is naive, let him turn in here," And to him who lacks understanding …"

 

Proverbs 14:15 NASB "The naive believes everything, But the sensible man considers his steps." The open-minded, gullible one is not shrewd, he believes every word. He is easily tricked; he tends to believe everything and has no sense of discernment. [18] The naive inherit foolishness…" The opposite to that is: "But the sensible [prudent] are crowned with knowledge." So the simple receives folly, he is not insightful at all as to what is going on in his life. He is seen in other verses as being weak-willed and easily seduced. In Proverbs 19:25 he is one who needs to be rebuked.

 

Proverbs 21:11 NASB "When the scoffer is punished, the naive becomes wise; But when the wise is instructed, he receives knowledge." So there is the opportunity for the scoffer to turn and to change his way. But often the simple is not willing to respond. Proverbs 22:3 NASB "The prudent sees the evil and hides himself, But the naive go on, and are punished for it."

Proverbs 22:15 NASB "Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of discipline will remove it far from him." Correction from parents in terms of discipline is very much a part of training the young, the naïve so that they do not fall prey to the enticements of sinners.

The next word group is really a couple of words that are used as synonyms. The first is the word kesil which is used in Proverbs 1:22 NASB "… And fools hate knowledge?" It is used in parallelism many times with ewil which is also translated "fool." In the English you can't tell the difference in what is stated in the Hebrew, but what we see is that ewil is obtuse. He is dense, he just doesn't get it or want to get it. He is dense because of his moral perversion. He is already perverted morally and because he is committed to that moral perversion he has become dense toward spiritual truth. The word kesil is almost the exact opposite. He is morally perverse by reason of his obtuseness. So he starts being obtuse and then the result for him is moral perversion. These two words are used numerous times going through the Scripture. They are both characterized by folly in numerous passages, they both despise discipline and correction, they both lack wisdom, they both have poor speech, lack self-control and are hot-tempered, and they are both morally incorrigible. These are the things that they have in common.

 

There are also other aspects to their life. They hate knowledge, as we see in Proverbs 1:22. They have rejected the knowledge of truth. One of the things we also see with the fool is that the fool is not responsive to truth because of this prior commitment. Proverbs 10:8 NASB  "The wise of heart will receive commands, But a babbling fool will be ruined." He is not responsive. You can talk until you are blue in the face. He is more set in his ways than the gullible. 

 

Proverbs 10:14 NASB "Wise men store up knowledge, But with the mouth of the foolish, ruin is at hand." They are closer to the end of judgment or divine discipline.

 

Proverbs 12:15 NASB "The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But a wise man is he who listens to counsel." The fool is not open to correction or receiving counsel.

 

Proverbs 15:5 NASB "A fool rejects his father's discipline, But he who regards reproof is sensible." He is not responsive to God's direction. All of these relate to the word ewil.

 

Proverbs 16:22 NASB "Understanding is a fountain of life to one who has it, But the discipline of fools is folly." There is just this preset rejection of God and they become so hardened in their way of rejection that they are not going to be responsive to correction.

 

The third word used in Proverbs 1:22 is for the scoffers. "And scoffers delight themselves in scoffing." Notice that the simple ones love their simplicity and the scoffers delight in their scoffing. They have made that something of value in their life. The word for "scoffer" in the Hebrew is letz, and it simply means someone who is just looks back, ridicules, scoffs and makes light of someone else. It is a word that occurs 14 times in Proverbs and only twice outside of Proverbs. It is used in Proverbs 3:34 NASB "Though He scoffs at the scoffers.." This is God's response to the one who scorns God. "…Yet He gives grace to the afflicted [humble]." This is a sort of corrective to people who think that God is friendly to everybody, but for the person who has been hostile to God in their arrogance God is scornful of them. But in contrast, for the one who is humble God gives grace and more grace.

 

Proverbs 9:7 NASB "He who corrects a scoffer gets dishonor for himself …" Because the scoffer doesn't want to hear. It is tantamount to what Jesus said about casting pearls before swine. "… And he who reproves a wicked man {gets} insults for himself." There are some people you try to correct and all you are going to get is pain and misery and suffering for your efforts. [8] "Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you, Reprove a wise man and he will love you."

 

Proverbs 13:1 NASB "A wise son {accepts his} father's discipline, But a scoffer does not listen to rebuke." They have gone beyond the point of no return.

 

Proverbs 15:12 NASB "A scoffer does not love one who reproves him, He will not go to the wise." This explains why sometimes we get into such polarized arguments with some people. They are so committed to a pagan view of life and God that no matter what you say and do all you are going to do is increase the antagonism and intensify the argument and the hostility. They are never going to listen no matter what you say.

 

Proverbs 19:25 NASB "Strike a scoffer and the naive may become shrewd [wary], But reprove one who has understanding and he will gain knowledge."

 

Proverbs 24:9 NASB "The devising of folly is sin, And the scoffer is an abomination to men."

So these are the categories of fools. There is an intensification that occurs. First the one who is open to temptation, then the fool in either category of the one who is morally obtuse and then becomes a fool, or he is a fool and becomes a moral reprobate, one or the other. When that continues he ends up being a scoffer. But the rebuke that the lady wisdom gives in Proverbs 1:23 is that she is offering herself. And that comes through the teaching of the Word of God. Again and again and again she is pictured as one who offers herself continuously to people. This happens with folk who just ignore going to church and many times people who go to church. They learn and they learn and they keep their notebooks but they never quite figure out how to put it into practice until one day the crisis hits.

 

The response of lady wisdom in verse 25: "And you neglected all my counsel And did not want my reproof." You wouldn't respond when you had the opportunity. [26] "I will also laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your dread comes, [27] When your dread comes like a storm And your calamity comes like a whirlwind, When distress and anguish come upon you." When you can't sleep at night and start crying out God to understand things wisdom just laughs and says: Too late, there's nothing can be done about it now; now you have to go through the turmoil. [28] "Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; They will seek me diligently but they will not find me, [29] Because they hated knowledge And did not choose the fear of the LORD." The issue in life is volition.

 

Why is it that people reject the gospel? Why is it that they reject truth? It is because of arrogance, because they have set their heart against God at the beginning and against the truth. They don't want to know what God has to say, they don't want to learn the truth; they believe they are sufficient unto themselves. And that is true for many of us as well. And we can easily fall into that same trap, even as Christians, where we think we have arrived and we think we have all the answers. We have to continuously be taught the Word and respond and apply the Word in our life.

 

The negative is depicted in verse 30: "They would not accept my counsel, They spurned all my reproof." The results are described in verses 31and 32. This is the same principle we find in Galatians. We reap what we sow. We will visit the consequences of our bad decisions and our foolish choices will be visited on our own lives. Proverbs 1:32 NASB "For the waywardness of the naive will kill them, And the complacency of fools will destroy them." But there is hope: [33] "But he who listens to me shall live securely And will be at ease from the dread of evil."

 

The only way to get through all of the traps and enticements of life, and to avoid making bad decisions based on the arrogance of our sin nature, is to get the Word of God into our soul. And that only comes on a day to day basis and a commitment to make that a priority. The Word of God needs to overhaul our life so that we can be transformed and learn to practice that walking by the Spirit, and practice claiming promises, practice putting that into effect in all of the minor details of life, and all the minor challenges and minor testings, so that when the big tests come we have the ability to handle that because we have wisdom fortifying our soul.