Text: Proverbs 1-9
Rooted in Wisdom: Proverbs
Last week we began our look at the Wisdom books of the Bible, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Proverbs and Job. We started our search of wisdom in the book of Ecclesiastes, looking for “what lasts”? The conclusion of the book is that nothing lasts, nothing at all, except our relationship with God so we should gratefully receive everything from his hand. In other words, our search for wisdom would be meaningless if we tried to disconnect it from God who alone is eternal and brings joy and meaning into our lives. The book of proverbs begins exactly where Ecclesiastes leaves of, declaring in 1:7: The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. This is the difference between Biblical wisdom and worldly philosophy. Where the philosopher seeks to start with reason and reason up to knowledge of the Absolute, the Bible starts with God and all wisdom is derived from that first position.
The book of Proverbs is compilation of wisdom passed on from father to son. Solomon starts by capturing his sons interest by introducing the wisdom he is going to teach his son through what is probably the most captivating topic of interest to a young man – girls. Solomon is a pretty wise teacher – he knows how to get his son’s attention. Much of Proverbs 1-9 is spent instructing us about two women, the lady and the tramp. Every single chapter refers either to the Lady called wisdom or the Tramp or both. If your interested in reading all of these passages later, they are 1:20-33 (Lady Wisdom); 2:16-19 (the Tramp); 3:13-20 (Lady Wisdom); 4:5-13 (Lady Wisdom); 5:1-23 (the Tramp); 6:20-35 (the Tramp); 7:4-5 (Lady Wisdom); 7:6-27 (the Tramp); 8:1-35 (Lady Wisdom); 9:1-12 (the Lady); 9:13-18 (the Tramp).
Sketch of a Tramp
Proverbs 2:16-19 So you will be delivered from the forbidden woman, from the adulteress with her smooth words, who forsakes the companion of her youth and forgets the covenant of her God; for her house sinks down to death, and her paths to the departed; none who go to her come back, nor do they regain the paths of life.
The tramp is called “the forbidden woman” and an adulteress. Literally, the words mean “strange” and “alien”. Both words were used at times to refer to people who were ethnically foreign to Israel, but the force of both words often refer to people morally estranged from God and thus made up the seedy underbelly of Hebrew culture. When used of women, the words suggest harlotry, adultery and prostitution, and loose moral standards. We find that this woman is not (merely) loose, she’s also an adulterous who has left the companion (her husband) of her youth and forsaken the marriage covenant she made before God. She does not hold marriage in high esteem or understand the solemnity of the covenant she entered into. Solomon tells his son this chilling story in great detail:
Proverbs 7:6-27 For at the window of my house I have looked out through my lattice, and I have seen among the simple, I have perceived among the youths, a young man lacking sense, passing along the street near her corner, taking the road to her house in the twilight, in the evening, at the time of night and darkness.
What are you doing there! Here’s a young man trying to keep his way pure going to the club where everyone’s grinding and bumping and you think he’s going to make it out ok? Here’s a guy late at night all by himself, telling himself that he’ll just get on the computer to check his mail and then get off. – well, he gets off alright. Here’s a young lady compromising her standards for a guy because she believes he’ll change for her. Fools!
And behold, the woman meets him, dressed as a prostitute, wily of heart. She is loud and wayward; her feet do not stay at home; now in the street, now in the market, and at every corner she lies in wait. She seizes him and kisses him, and with bold face . . .
First thing the guy notices, the way she’s dressed. Second thing he notices her aggressive manner. She’s a free spirit. She knows who she is sexually. She walks up to him and plants one right on him and she boldly states to him what she wants and how she wants it.
Now most guys today, that’s the girl they are looking for! Jackpot! I didn’t even have to take her out or buy her dinner. And young girls in our culture are being trained to be that girl, that the only way a woman can express power is through her sexuality.
She says to him, "I had to offer sacrifices, and today I have paid my vows; so now I have come out to meet you, to seek you eagerly, and I have found you.
Blasphemously, she puts on a spiritual face. I just got back from church she says. Christian young man and Christan young woman beware! Just because someone your interested in goes to prayer group every once in a while doesn’t mean she’s a virtuous woman available to you. You might say, well he says he’s a Christian so he’s alright right? He’s no more saved than a dead dog. She appeals to his ego – I came out looking for you big boy. Guys and girls - beware of the flirt who builds up your ego for his own gain. He said he’d say he’d love me if I just did x-y-z. In truth, Madam Folly was seeking any man foolish enough to give in to her advances. But she gave this young man the impression that of all the men she might have, it was him she really wanted. Like C.S. Lewis said about the man who went out on the town looking for a woman – a woman real flesh and blood, mind and emotions was precisely what he didn’t want – he wanted an act and would do anything to get it at the expense of any woman.
I have spread my couch with coverings, colored linens from Egyptian linen; I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. Come, let us take our fill of love till morning; let us delight ourselves with love.
She says, I got back from church early so I could make up my bedroom nice and we can get it on all night. She’s got nice sheets on the candles out good smells in the room, every sense meant to tempt.
For my husband is not at home; he has gone on a long journey; he took a bag of money with him; at full moon he will come home."
Ahh, secret sin. We figure if no one finds out, then no one gets hurt. So we start rationalizing, and covering up and protecting ourselves.
With much seductive speech she persuades him; with her smooth talk she compels him. All at once he follows her, as an ox goes to the slaughter or as a stag is caught fast till an arrow pierces its liver as a bird rushes into a snare; he does not know that it will cost him his life.
And now, O sons, listen to me, and be attentive to the words of my mouth. Let not your heart turn aside to her ways; do not stray into her paths for many a victim has she laid low, and all her slain are a mighty throng. Her house is the way to Sheol, going down to the chambers of death.
Portrait of a Lady
Wisdom, on the other hand, is personified as a virgin, whom the wise son should pursue, and with whom he should seek a wholesome, yet intimate relationship. While a young man should avoid Madam Folly, he should pursue wisdom as he would the woman who would be his bride. Proverbs 3:13-18
Blessed is the one who finds wisdom and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold. She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called blessed.
Proverbs 4:6-9: Do not forsake her, and she will keep you; love her, and she will guard you. The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight. Prize her highly, and she will exalt you: she will honor you if you embrace her. She will place on your head a graceful garland; she will bestow on you a beautiful crown."
Proverbs 5:15-19 : Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well. Should your springs be scattered abroad, streams of water in the streets? Let them be for yourself alone, and not for strangers with you. Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love.
Lady Wisdom is the type of woman that will make you feel like a real man. She will also thrill you, but in a protects your heart and honours you and God.
While Lady Wisdom and the Tramp Folly may both pursue the same men, their message and their methods differ greatly. The tramp tells men what they want to hear. Lady Wisdom warns men of the destruction and death into which all who continue on the path of folly will fall. She tells men what they need to hear if they are to be delivered from death. This is love and sometimes love is brutally honest. The tramp seeks out men to seduce like a roaring lion. The Lady has to be courted, “seek me, love me”.
While Lady Wisdom speaks only passion guided by truth, the Tramp brazenly proclaims lust blinded by folly. She does not apologize for sin or seek to excuse it. As a matter of fact, she flaunts sin, for it is because a relationship with her is illicit that makes it so appealing. Stolen water, she suggests, is sweeter than “drinking from your own well” (cf. 5:15). It is sinning that is exciting to the fool, and she does not hesitate to capitalize on this.
If we take these two women at face value, there is one lesson we should learn: The priority of sexual purity. Proverbs 6:27-28 Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned? Or can one walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched? Solomon knew well that there were few dangers greater than that of sexual impurity.
Proverbs reminds parents that we should not be prudish about teaching our children candidly the dangers of sexual sin. Sex is spoken of openly, yet discreetly. If we have reservations about our children learning about sex on the street or in the school, let us be sure that we do as this wise father did, who taught his son about the kind of women who should be sought, as well as those who should be shunned.
The Book of Proverbs is required reading for men who desire to be godly and free from immorality. Proverbs exalts wisdom, and it reminds us not only of the danger of the Tramp, but of the value of a godly wife. This is what Proverbs 31 is all about – the type of wife you should seek. Notice that this is after 30 chapters of how to be a godly man.
The Two Women are Two Ways
The Lady and the Tramp teach us valuable lessons in the area of sex and marriage, but I believe they teach us much more than this. In addition to providing us with instruction about two kinds of women, they personify the two ways of life--the way of wisdom and the way of folly. I take these from The Way of the Wise: Studies in the Book of Proverbs By: Bob Deffinbaugh
1. Identified As “Ways” In Proverbs. Read 2:9-22. The word “way” or “path” is found nine times, stressing the fact that the evil way is the way of wicked women and violent men. Repeatedly in the first nine chapters of Proverbs both wisdom and folly are described as “ways”. The conclusion must be that the Lady and the Tramp are not just women; they are the personification of two ways, the way of wisdom and the way of folly.
2. Matter of Life and Death. While the Lady is the kind of women a young man should seek to marry and the tramp is the kind of woman with whom a young man should avoid, the major thrust of the contrast between the two women is not sex or marriage. The outcome of choosing the one and rejecting the other is not a good or bad marriage, but life or death. Lady Wisdom calls out Proverbs 9:4-6 "Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!" To him who lacks sense she says, "Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed. Leave your simple ways, and live, and walk in the way of insight." The tramp calls out as well but Proverbs 9:18 But he does not know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of Sheol. This is further evidence that while we can learn much here about the right kind of wife, that is not the primary lesson to be learned. We are learning about the right kind of life.
3. Satan and Christ. If Solomon wanted to teach us about women, he would have to describe many more kinds of women than just two. I do not think Solomon intended for us to conclude that it is most often the woman that seduces the man. Rather, I believe Proverbs pictures the Tramp as the aggressor because she personifies the evil way. It is not that it is evil for a woman to be sexually aggressive, indeed, as we will see in the Song of Solomon, the woman is very direct – in her committed marriage relationship. The point of the tramps aggressiveness is that it demonstrates how aggressively Satan is seeking to draw men away from God and into the evil way. In other words, it is a woman who is the seducer in Proverbs because she, the tramp, personifies sin. Thus, the two women represent the entire spiritual battle we all find ourselves in as we are drawn between to competing systems – the world and the way of God.
What this means is that the Tramp best portrays the message and the method which Satan uses to deceive and destroy the majority of those who do not choose to follow the way of wisdom. Satan, like the tramp, will appeal to sensual desires, urging them to fill to the brim the cup of passion and desire. He will seek to show the appeal of momentary pleasure, while minimizing the consequences which inevitably follow. He will stimulate our desire to disobey God and to reject wisdom by stressing that sin is stimulating and exciting. But in the end, Satan will lead men along the same path of destruction which he himself is following. Those who follow him, like those who follow the Tramp Folly, will suffer the consequences of their leader.
So the Tramp is not just a seductive woman, nor immoral women in general--she personifies a system which leads men and women along a path of destruction. Those who are on the way of folly do not necessarily rob innocent victims or willfully cause injury to others, but they do choose to reject the way of wisdom. They choose to follow a way which seems to offer them pleasure for the present, while ignoring the future.
Satan does not really care which lane you are in on the freeway to destruction. Some may choose the lane of violence and greed, while others may choose that of self-denial and asceticism. The distinguishing characteristic of the way of folly is that it begins with a rejection of God, with a refusal to “fear the Lord”. Satan allows men to be very creative in the way they go to hell. He does not care how you live, so long as you live trusting in yourself, rather than God, following your own way, rather than the narrow way of wisdom.
There is no decision in life more important than the choice as to whom you will follow. Will you follow the Lady or the Tramp? Will you choose to submit to Jesus Christ, or will you follow Satan? The way of wisdom is the way of faith. It involves trusting God to keep His word, to save you eternally and to bless you. The way of wisdom requires that you cease trusting in yourself and trust only in Jesus Christ for eternal life. The way of wisdom requires discipline and self-denial. But it will bring peace, security and everlasting life.