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Wisdom Calls Out to Us!


Passage: Proverbs 1:20-33

Speaker: Rev. Dr. Stephen Graham

Sue, a friend since grade school, stood beside me as we all stood to affirm the choir and full orchestra and her, the accompanist,  after the presentation of The Messiah. The choir was a combined choir of over a hundred voices from three congregations. Sue was glowing when later she said to me, “I have always dreamed of playing with a full-orchestra. Tonight, my dream has come true.”

I found myself recalling the evenings  long before when all of us kids would be playing somewhere in the neighborhood. It never seemed to fail that when we were just beginning to have a really fun, Sue’s mother would yell out for her from the front door, “Madonna Sue!” When a parent calls you by your first and middle name, you know it’s serious. It was no different for Mrs. Richey, and we knew exactly what it meant! It was time for Sue to go home to practice the piano. 

Her journey to that night’s presentation had been graced by light and warmth at so many points along the way. Her mother had the wisdom to interrupt her play and to call out to her, reminding her of dreams yet to be fulfilled. 

In the Proverbs, we learn that wisdom is gained from knowledge of God’s creation, from our experience, and from our observations. Everywhere you look you are reminded of the creator God. It’s prudent to learn from your experiences.

However, Wisdom is not only the product of one’s own knowledge and experience and observation but also an active voice, a dynamic interaction. Parker Palmer contends that a key characteristic of scholarship is the sense that we are being discovered and plumbed by the subject of our research itself, that truth is alive and active in the subject, seeking us out even as we seek it.[1] In Proverbs, Wisdom is personified as a magnificent woman; describing the valor and extolling the virtues of this Lady Wisdom. The texts portray this woman positively, yet also caricatures women as temptresses who lead us astray---though innocence left us all a long time ago. Given that these texts arise from a society where women’s voices could only be derivative of men’s, it is not surprising that women are portrayed stereotypically: either placed on a pedestal, on the one hand, or run down and debased on the other.[2]

Lady Wisdom offers a speech valuable for us to hear.  She shares light and warmth in our pursuit of wisdom. When our powers of observation fail to enable us to learn from our natural surroundings and when we cannot learn from even our most painful experiences, Wisdom--the scriptures tell us--calls out to us. Like the prophets who cried out in the marketplace, Wisdom also speaks in the public arena of commerce. On the street corner or at the square or in the courthouse, Wisdom has a voice.

No one is left out of her offerings, not the elite or the common. To acquire wisdom all you must do is seek it. Or perhaps stated with more theological accuracy, all you must do is let it seek you. The search for Wisdom is aided by Wisdom itself.  “Lady Wisdom goes out in the street and shouts.  At the town center she makes her speech. In the middle of traffic she takes her stand. At the busiest corner she calls out!” (Proverbs 1:20-21). We are given light and warmth for the journey somewhat like our granddaughter encouraging her mother when they were shopping for her first ballerina outfit. Three-year-old Madeline had told her mother she wanted a purple outfit, but there were no purple outfits, So, when Debbie, her mother, reached to a pink one, only to check the size she would need, Madeline reproved her mother’s effort saying, “Purple, purple, purple.”

When our lives head in directions that miss the mark, like quibbling over vaccinations, Wisdom expresses itself. The incorrigibly foolish will self-destruct, 1:32 “killed by their turning away.” Fools become self-righteous and reject as life-threatening the medicine that would heal. The foolish are described as predators contending for a young one’s life (1:10). The discerning person recognizes this and responds. Wisdom calls out to us. When we do not heed its call, Wisdom turns up the light, increases the warmth. Why should it surprise us that the fire that warms also burns? 

Wisdom cries in alarm, “Give heed to my reproof.” (Vv. 22-23a). Reprove means to encourage with love. “Listen, listen, and listen! I can revise your life. I’m ready to pour out my spirit on you. I’m ready to tell you all that I know” (vv. 23b-24). Most generally, Wisdom calls us beyond either/or thinking to improvise our lives by accommodating both/and kind of maturity in thinking.

We learn in Proverbs 8 Wisdom’s pedigree. God made Wisdom even before God created anything else. Wisdom is first. It is basic. Not only are the tangible things created by God, but so too are wisdom and knowledge, God’s “daring and delight” (8:30). 

All things bright and beautiful,
All things great and small,
All things wise and wonderful.
Our God made them all.[3] 

Let all things in creation and in your experience lead to God, the true source of all things bright and beautiful and great and small and wise and wonderful. Everything was made by God, and God was in Christ reconciling all things!! (II Corinthians 5:19).

Wisdom is attained little by little. It is acquired in a simple curve and flow moving the naïve to maturity, (2).  A foolish person looks at a huge hill and says, "I could never move that.” But a wise person looks at the same hill and says; “I could move one basket load of dirt today and another basket load tomorrow.”

“Revolution,” said Igor Stravinsky, “means turning the wheel.”  So, Jim Collins noticed this principle in companies that had evolved from good companies to great companies. His research discovered that companies never become great in one fell swoop. There was no single defining action, no grand program, no solitary innovation, no lone lucky break, no miracle moment. Rather, the process resembled relentlessly pushing a giant heavy flywheel in one direction, turn upon turn, building momentum until a point of breakthrough, and beyond.[4]

So, too, we can think that the ways of God are too difficult to know. We can conclude prematurely that we can never discern the will of God for our lives.  But when Wisdom is assisting you on the journey you know that if you study and pray day by day, that with the help of Wisdom’s voice, you can reach what may now seem unreachable. 

While the way of God is too lofty for some, others climb step by step to reach its heights and to embrace its depth. As Wisdom was God’s companion before creation began, let it guide you into and through each new day. 

Wisdom call you to practice, act,

[1] Parker Palmer, To Know as We Are Known (San Francisco, Harper & Row, 1983) p. 62.

[2] Old Testament Women

[3] Cecil Alexander, 1818-1895, All Things Bright and Beautiful.

[4] Jim Collins, Good to Great (New York: Harper Business, 2001), p.14.