“Wisdom shouts in the street, she lifts her voice in the square; at the head of the gates in the city she utters her sayings: How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple-minded? And scoffers delight themselves in scoffing and fools hate knowledge? Turn to my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words know to you,” Proverbs 1:20 – 23.
Verses 8 – 19, and 20 – 33, are repeated trajectories, double images, of two ways, two paths, two directions – one upward into light, the other downward into darkness; one of righteousness, and one of lawlessness; one of wisdom, and one of foolishness; one of the humble, and one of the rebellious; one of the reverent, and one of the scoffer. These two passages, just as Psalms 1 and 2, are stories of individuals and of peoples. Within groups of people are individuals, and all individuals (whether they see themselves so or not) are joined to a people.
Verse 8 gives the counsel of the father, incorporating the teaching of the mother; verse 20 introduces us to the personification of wisdom, lifting her voice, crying out in the streets, in the square, and at the entrances to the city. The longsuffering of God is seen in her cry, “How long, O simple ones…?” The answer is until it is too late; too late to repent, too late to hear, too late to learn.
The simple-minded and scoffers and fools treat life as a joke, tearing down what is beautiful and desecrating the image of God, taking what is holy and trampling it into pieces. Fools seek to destroy righteous thinking and living by first undermining it and then directly attacking it. Scoffers seek to obtain a critical mass of influence and power, and then call upon all to bow down and worship their humanistic image.
The Biblical writers exhort the people of God to be sober-minded, for we live in a world of drunken thinking. If we make light of drunken thinking, if we laugh with or at drunken thinking, if we accommodate ourselves to the humor of the world we will find ourselves alongside Saul of Tarsus, holding the coats of those throwing stones on the testimony of Jesus Christ; and who knows….maybe we will unwittingly pick up stone ourselves.
When Paul warns against foolish talking and coarse language (Ephesians 4:29; 5:4) he is doing so because we are called to walk in the Way of life in the new man, in the image of God; we are to be renewed in the spirit of our mind (Ephesians 4:20 – 24), speaking words of grace and thanksgiving.
When we laugh at sin we accept sin; when we laugh at coarseness we become coarse – when life becomes a perpetual joke then the joke is on us – while we may laugh now we will not laugh later.
There are those who “hate knowledge” (Proverbs 1:22, 29) and do not choose the fear of Yahweh (1:7, 29). They are called to turn to the reproof of wisdom (1:23), but they do not want it (verse 25) and so they spurn it (verse 30). Then comes the terrible judgment of God, the terrible consequences of those who hate knowledge: “So they shall eat of the fruit of their own way and be satiated with their own devices” (1:31). We hear this echoed in Romans Chapter One, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness…Therefore God gave them over in the lust of their hearts…for they exchanged the truth of God for a lie.” As C.S. Lewis observed, there are two kinds of people, those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, “Thy will be done.”
The promise to those who listen to the wisdom of God is that they will live securely and will not fear evil (Proverbs 1:33). This is a peace that is beyond our comprehension, it is a peace that comes from heaven and returns to heaven, drawing us into heaven. As we see the world for what it is, a place of rebellion, of lies, and violence, we see the stark contrast between the Way of life and the way of death; we see that the fear of Yahweh is a homing beacon, a rock, a shelter – a place where our minds find right thinking and our hearts find peace, where our souls find wholeness, where our spirits find life, and where our bodies learn obedience.
The wisdom of Proverbs is found in Jesus Christ, for He is our wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:30; Colossians 2:3). When Jesus says to His disciples that He is the Way He is saying that He is the wisdom they have read about and heard about from infancy, He is the source of all right thinking, of all true truth, of all righteousness and obedience to God.
Do we see the contrast presented in Proverbs between the wise and foolish? It is the contrast between God and Satan.