130908 Proverbs 9:8-12

Last Updated on Monday, 09 September 2013 Written by Pastor Pagels

Text: Proverbs 9:8-12
Theme: What It Takes To Be Truly Wise

Last weekend's Labor Day holiday gave many Americans a chance to relax, and it gave me the opportunity to do something I enjoy, something I don't get to do much anymore. I watched Jeopardy. Even though the game show first aired almost fifty years ago in 1964, the basic put-your-answer-in-the-form-of-a-question format hasn't changed.

Here are a few questions (or answers) from Monday's show: Two million kilowatts can be generated by the power plant at this dam on Lake Mead (What is Hoover Dam?); This alphabetically first of the six noble gases is used in light bulbs and vacuum tubes (What is argon?); Common four-letter term for an ordinary hexahedron (What is a cube?).

Some game shows require more luck than skill. Jeopardy is not one of them. In order to be successful, you need to be able to process information quickly. In order to do well, you have to perform under pressure. And in order to win, you have to know a lot about a lot of things.

The text before us today was written by a man who knew a lot about a lot of things. Listen to what the Bible has to say about him: "God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore. Solomon's wisdom was greater than the wisdom of all the men of the East, and greater than all the wisdom of Egypt" (I Kings 4:29, 30).

Solomon was perhaps the wisest man who ever lived. But as smart as he was, as much as he knew, he didn't let it go to his head. Solomon recognized that his wisdom was a gift from God, a gift to be shared with others. In the book of Proverbs King Solomon shares some of his insights with us. And as we sit at his feet and listen to his words, we will learn...

WHAT IT TAKES TO BE TRULY WISE

I. A humble attitude
II. A healthy appetite
III. A holy awe

Solomon makes reference to the "mocker" a number of times in Proverbs. The mocker "resents correction" (15:12). The mocker "does not listen to rebuke" (13:1). And at the beginning of our text for today Solomon gives this advice: "Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you" (8a).

The New Testament equivalent of this would be Jesus' command not to "throw pearls to pigs" (Matthew 7:6). Why not? Why shouldn't we cast pearls before swine? Why shouldn't we rebuke the person who defies God's Word and God's will? Because the Lord will not allow his name to be dishonored. Because the mocker has made it clear that he won't change. Because no matter what you do, it simply won't do any good.

In contrast, the wise person possesses a humble attitude: "Rebuke a wise man and he will love you" (8b). The wise man accepts correction. The wise man respects the person who rebukes him. In fact, the wise man loves the person who cares about him enough to show him the error of his ways.

If a humble attitude is one of the marks of godly wisdom, how wise are you? If you aren't sure, I invite you to take this H.Q. (humility quotient) test. Think of the last time someone corrected you. Maybe it was a teacher. Maybe it was a family member. Maybe it was a good friend. Out of love, this person came to you and told you some things you didn't want to (but probably needed to) hear.

How did you respond? Were you respectful? Were you grateful? Would you go so far as to say that the rebuke made you love that person even more? Or did you get defensive? Did you become angry? Even if you didn't let your emotions show on the outside, were you thinking to yourself: "What gives this person the right to lecture me?"

Maybe we're not so wise. Maybe we're not as smart as we think we are. We need to recognize that all too often we fit the description of the mocker. We need to acknowledge that our sinful arrogance has potentially deadly consequences. That isn't a very pleasant thought. That isn't something we like to think about, but it's something that we need to hear.

King David wasn't looking for someone to dredge up his sinful past. David didn't want to admit that he was an adulterer and a murderer. David went to great lengths to keep the truth hidden. But God sent the prophet Nathan to rebuke him. And when he did, David confessed: "I have sinned against the Lord" (II Samuel 12:13). David was a great king. David was a gifted writer. But his honest confession may have been the wisest thing he ever said.

God's law humbles the proud. God's law convicts the guilty. When we realize that we are guilty, when we recognize that we deserve nothing but death, when the damning truth forces us to get down on our knees and confess with David: "I have sinned against the Lord," God lifts us up and says: "I know, but I still love you. That's why I sent my Son to save you. It's all right here in this book. This is my gift to you."

Because God reveals himself to us in the Bible, he wants us to study it. Because God's plan of salvation is played out on the pages of Scripture, the Lord wants us to develop a hunger for it. A healthy appetite for God's Word is another mark of godly wisdom.

The world measures intelligence in a number of different ways: test scores, advanced degrees, the kind of job you have, the amount of money you make. I'm not saying that these criteria are inherently evil, but it's interesting to note that they don't match up very well with Solomon's description of a wise person:

"Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning" (9). The wise man doesn't know everything. The wise man is wise because he knows that he doesn't know everything. There is always more to learn. There is always room to grow. And the lesson for us is this: God wants us to be lifelong students of his Word.

This concept reminds me of a conversation I had with a student when I was an emergency high school instructor in Michigan. Amy was in my junior religion class. She had attended a Christian grade school and was beginning her third year at a Lutheran high school.  After class one day she came up to me and said: "I know that Jesus died for my sins. I know that I will go to heaven when I die. I've been studying the same Bible stories since I was little. So why do we need to study them again? Why do we have to go to religion class?"

I can't remember exactly what I said to her, but if I am ever asked this question again, and if you are ever asked a similar question, the words of Solomon would be an excellent place to start: "Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning" (9).

Amy did have one thing right. She did know enough. The three year-old who sings "Jesus Loves Me" in Sunday School knows enough. But God doesn't want us to stop there. He wants us to grow. He wants us to "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (II Peter 3:18).

You don't have to be able to name the kings of Israel in order in order to be saved. You don't have to commit entire chapters of Romans to memory (like one of my high school religion teachers did) to get into heaven.

But because the Holy Spirit works through the Word, because God promises to create and strengthen faith through the Word, because God's Word is the channel through which he pours out his blessings on us, we can never get enough.

As we spend more time in the Word, the Lord fortifies our faith. As we study the mysteries of God revealed in his Word, he equips us to defend our faith. As we apply the Word to our own lives, God gives us the confidence to share our faith.

That is why we go to church. That is why our church operates a school. That is why we encourage personal study and daily devotion. That is why our congregation offers so many different spiritual growth opportunities.

And since today is the first day of our fall schedule, since this is the time of year when we kick off a new round of Bible classes, allow me to personally encourage you to partake of the feast that God sets before you in his Word. I promise you that it will be a wise investment.

So far we have considered two elements of godly wisdom. The wise person possesses a humble attitude. The wise person has a healthy appetite for God's Word. In the next verse Solomon adds a third and final component to godly wisdom: a holy awe.

At some point most people ask themselves the big questions in life, questions like: "Who am I?," "Why am I here?," "What is the meaning of life?" The reason why every generation asks the same questions is because the world can't provide adequate answers. The wisest scholars have tried. The brightest minds have tried. But their best explanations don't satisfy.

Solomon knew the answers to those big questions, not because he came up with them on his own, not because he was so intelligent (even though he was), but because he knew where to look: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding" (10).

Wisdom begins with the fear of God. True wisdom springs from faith in God. The Lord has the answers to life's most important questions. Who am I? I am a special creation of God. Who am I? I am a sinner. Who am I? I am a forgiven sinner through the blood of Jesus Christ.

And why am I here? I exist to praise the God who created me. I exist to serve the God who saved me. I am here to live for him and to tell others about him. And every day I live on this earth brings me one day closer to the time when I will live with him forever.

God gives life real purpose. God gives life true meaning. God gives our lives clear direction. Knowing him is understanding. Knowing him gives us the peace that transcends all human understanding. Knowing what our Savior God has done for us and what he continues to do for us causes us to stand before him in holy awe.

Some of you were probably the type of students who got upset if there was a "B" on your report card. For others, an "A" at the top of the paper was a pleasant surprise. No matter what who you ware, no matter what your I.Q. is, no matter how many diplomas are hanging on your wall, the words of Solomon remind us that every believer is wise in the eyes of God. In fact, you could say that the Lord has given us "As" across the board: a humble attitude, a healthy appetite, and a holy awe. Amen.

 

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