When I was growing up, I never quite understood the Bible and decided it was archaic and boring. As a young person, when I did try to read the Scriptures — out of duty, mostly, and some curiosity — I pretty much stuck to Psalms and Proverbs. If I was feeling really adventurous, I might open a chapter from the New Testament, but even then I read on a surface level and stayed away from any passages that might be confusing or challenging.
As I grew in my faith, I began to study the Word of God more diligently by looking up commentaries and notes on the passages. I developed a love for the Word; however, as much as I have grown to love reading the Bible, this love is tempered at times by the reality that God’s Word doesn’t always feel like a loving embrace. The Word is truly active and pierces uncomfortably into places I don’t always want God to go (Hebrews 4:12).
It’s those moments of discipline — whether through His Word or some other means — where God corrects me or points out a way I need to change that make me want to avoid reading his Word or opening up myself to His counsel.
However, the Bible tells us that people are “destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6). However much we may not want to hear what God might say to us at times, we need the wisdom God provides to do life. Proverbs 1:20-28, 33 urges us to learn from and submit to God’s wisdom. Let’s take a look at the passage:
Out in the open wisdom calls aloud, she raises her voice in the public square; on top of the wall she cries out, at the city gate she makes her speech: ‘How long will you who are simple love your simple ways? How long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge? Repent at my rebuke! Then I will pour out my thoughts to you, I will make known to you my teachings. But since you refused to listen when I call and no one pays attention when I stretch out my hand, since you disregard all my advice and do not accept my rebuke, I in turn will laugh when disaster strikes you; I will mock when calamity overtakes you … . Then you will call to me but I will not answer; they will look for me but will not find me, since they hated knowledge and did not choose to fear the Lord … But whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm.’
A few things that we note about these lines:
1. Wisdom is ours for the taking.
In the original Hebrew, the word “wisdom” is plural. God’s wisdom (or wisdoms) reaches out to us in many ways: through His Word, as I mentioned, but also though prayer, our experiences, conversations with friends, sermons, His creation — to name a few. And interestingly, in the lines, wisdom addresses three types of people: the simple who don’t know the ways of God or what it says in the Bible, mockers who laugh at the wisdom of Scripture and God, and fools who hate learning and refuse to learn from it.
In addition, wisdom’s voice is loud enough to be heard (she “raises” her voice) and is above the other voices and influences in our lives (“on top of the wall”) (vv. 20, 21). Clearly God is eager to make Himself and His counsel known. In the passage, the voice of wisdom goes out in public places where people are sure to gather and be found (in other words, it’s available). However, the people in the passage rush by in busy throngs and don’t pay attention. Though wisdom calls to us, we have a responsibility to pause and listen.
2. Wisdom warns us to turn from the way we are living.
Not only do we need to pause and listen, we must turn from our wrong ways when we hear God’s warning. Verse 23 says, “Repent at my rebuke!” The King James Version says it like this: “Turn you at my reproof.” Again, we see that God makes great efforts to give us His instruction and direct us in the way we should go, but it is our choice as to whether or not we will accept His words and respond to His correction.
As Mike Riches points out in Living Free, most of have a negative view of repentance. We associate repentance with feeling bad over a wrong or God being angry with us. However, Riches emphasizes that it is because of God’s kindness that we can repent. The Bible tells us that God “disciplines those He loves” (Hebrews 12:6). It is because of His love for us that He seeks to warn us before we make poor choices and give us wisdom that will help us live in a way where we can avoid bringing harm upon ourselves.
3. There is a point where we will be left to our own devices.
The passage encourages us to listen and turn when we hear God, or there is a point where wisdom stops calling. In fact, the lines tell us that when we ignore wisdom, she will “laugh” because we “hated knowledge and did not choose to fear the Lord” (v. 29).
Wisdom is personified in these lines and is not suggesting that God will mock us unmercifully when we stray. But it is giving a caution as to our ways. Not only is this admonition for those who refuse God’s call to salvation, there is also a message for believers. God will warn us of certain actions or attempt to show us the right way to go, but if we stubbornly resist Him long enough, He will leave us to our own devices. And our choices made independently of Him will have consequences.
As I was meditating on these lines, attempting to better understand them, I was reminded of the times in my life when God told me to do a particular task or initiate a conversation, and I was reluctant because I was afraid or it was uncomfortable for me to obey. God’s voice usually came to me more than once in a few different ways, so that it became clear to me what course I was to take. Often, if I was resisting, I became so miserable that there was a point I just went ahead and did what God asked of me — however hard it was — so I could feel a sense of peace again.
However, there were other instances where I said no to God. I told Him I wouldn’t do what He wanted of me. I didn’t like the way He was pointing because the path didn’t look as attractive as another, or I didn’t want to do whatever hard thing that He was asking. And, those times I rebelled never ended well. Though the disaster wasn’t always immediate, I could trace back years later and see how the decision to go my own way brought harm rather than good.
Clearly, God is a God of restoration and redemption. We can make poor choices and return back to Him for forgiveness. The Bible is clear that He pursues us when we stray. But as the proverb warns, there is a point where our own refusal to yield to God will result in God allowing us to do what we want. That could mean an eternity separated from Him if we don’t ever accept salvation, or it could simply mean a period of stagnancy as a believer because we ignored His voice.
The key here, as commentator Alexander McLaren points out, is to note that wisdom’s charge is not against the deeds of the persons addressed, but the dispositions: the simple, the scoffer, the fool. Those described in the passage aren’t people who make a few bad choices and desire to repent. The individuals described are those opposed to God — consistently over time — either because they don’t try to learn His wisdom and walk with Him or are vehemently opposed to Him or simply don’t want to do what He says.
Certainly, though, the proverb ends on an encouraging note for those who choose to hear God’s voice. In verse 33, it tells us that those who listen to God will “live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm.” While that doesn’t mean that we will never have trouble as Christians, we will have the assurance that God is with those who obey Him and remain in Him (John 15:4, 5). Later in Proverbs 2, we are further encouraged that when we accept God’s wisdom and seek to learn His instruction, His wisdom will guard and protect us.
Why We Should Listen to Wisdom’s Call and Heed the Word of God
God’s instruction is all around us and available to us in His Word for us to learn — but it is up to us to accept what He says to us and seek out His knowledge. When we study what His Word says and seek to hear from Him, we know what direction to go and what actions to take.
Even if we have made choices in our past that were harmful to us, or we are making harmful choices now, we can listen and turn. God has provided a way for us in His Son Jesus Christ for us to turn to Him in repentance.
If we have never accepted Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we can do that now. And, as believers, if we have received salvation but have areas of our lives where we aren’t listening, we can take steps to do a U-turn. The Bible says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
God’s heart is for us to not fall into unrepentance or bad choices — but we have to heed wisdom’s call.
Let’s pray: Dear Lord, we have fallen short of your laws and precepts. But you knew this would happen, and that is why you provided a way for us to be forgiven of our sins and be in right relationship with you through Jesus Christ. Forgive us for [name any specific sins]. Help us walk in your ways and receive your forgiveness. We love you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Is there ever a point where God gives up on us when we repeat the same sins or run away from Him? Billy Graham explores this question in more detail with this answer.
Are you a person who has not yet put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ and have an interest in learning more about salvation? Check out our Know God page for more information on inviting Jesus into your life.