Proverbs 7:24-8:21

Proverbs 7:24‑8:21  •  10 min. read  •  grade level: 6
The close of the 7th chapter is a short, touching, and solemn appeal.
Youth is prone to impulse and self-confidence, as we have seen the danger not for the depraved only, but for the idle, because of the corruption in the world through lust. Hence the earnestly affectionate summing up of what has gone before with a fresh warning of uncommon grace. “And now, sons, hearken to me, and attend to the words of my mouth.” A father’s call to heed his words in the face of inward propensity and outward seduction is entitled to the gravest attention. There is but one such friend in the nearest degree who has passed through like snares. His wise love no son can slight with impunity.
What then are the words of his mouth on that head? “Let not thy heart decline to her ways; go not astray in her path.” Joseph had no father near to counsel him when the temptation arose, and persistently, through his master’s wife. But he refused utterly her shameless blandishments as one seeing the Unseen. The ten words were not yet spoken; but he feared God, and he was jealous for his master’s honor. “How shall I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” Good reason had a father to counsel sons to steer clear. If the whole world lies in wickedness, or in the wicked one, one needs dependence to pass through the streets safely, and obedience with the worthy object in view. Emptiness exposes the soul for evil to enter and take possession. “Abide in Me, and I in you.” “If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall come to pass to you”; so spoke the Holy, the True. Nor is there any other way of fruit agreeable to the Father. In this is He glorified that we bear much fruit, and not merely that we be kept from sin and shame and ruin. Evil begins not with the steps, but the heart declining to such ways; to follow them is to stray.
And who has lived a while here below without the saddest memories and most humbling sights in confirmation? “For she hath cast down many wounded, and all slain by her are strong.” Such seems the force of the latter clause, which is illegitimately rendered in the A.V., for “all” in such a sentence at least cannot be reduced to “many,” as in the former clause. But it is difficult to understand that “all” her slain should be strong. The R.V. suggests that “all her slain are a mighty host.” This, whether or not accepted, is assuredly true, and an advance on the words which preceded, according to the Hebrew style. No wonder that the words recall not only Samson, but even David, who if not slain himself, brought the sword on his house, and caused the enemies of Jehovah to blaspheme.
And how energetic the words that follow! “Her house is the way to Sheol, going down to the chambers of death.” They are words of truth and sobriety, so they exaggerate in nothing.
In full contrast with evil, which is folly to the utmost, is the description of wisdom’s ways as here brought before us.
Here is no courting of the dark, no flattery of the heedless, no fair speech to seduce into foul deeds and illicit indulgence. The wisdom which has its root in the fear of Jehovah is aboveboard and earnest with man. “Doth not wisdom cry, and understanding put forth her voice? On the top of high places, where paths meet, she standeth; beside the gates, at the entry of the city, at the coming in at the doors, she crieth aloud.” John the Baptist not only bore witness to Jesus, but “cried” (John 1:1515John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me. (John 1:15)). So did our Lord in the temple as He taught (John 7:2828Then cried Jesus in the temple as he taught, saying, Ye both know me, and ye know whence I am: and I am not come of myself, but he that sent me is true, whom ye know not. (John 7:28)), and notably at the close of His rejected testimony (John 12:4444Jesus cried and said, He that believeth on me, believeth not on me, but on him that sent me. (John 12:44)) in importunate love.
How often in the Old Testament as in the New we are reminded of divine favor to mankind! Not with angels but with the human race does God plead, that they may hear and live. “The life was the light of men.” So it is here when wisdom cries aloud: “To you, O men, I call, and my voice is to the sons of men”; nay more, it beseeches the weak and the unwise. “O ye simple, understand wisdom, and ye fools, be of understanding heart.”
There are objects of desire in men’s eager eyes. Oh the ardor, when they learn that there is here a mine of silver, and a place for gold which they refine! Seas are crossed, deserts are penetrated, swamps and mountains drear are crossed, and heat or cold or famine is defied. And man puts an end to the darkness, and the utmost limit is explored. A shaft is opened far from human haunts; they are forgotten of the traveler, they hang afar from men, they swing to and fro. Out of the earth cometh bread, and underneath it is turned up as by fire. The stones of it are the place of sapphires; and it hath dust of gold; a path no bird of prey knows, nor vulture’s eye hath seen, nor sons of pride have trodden it, nor the fierce lion passed over it. The engineer puts forth his hands on the flints; he overturns mountains by the roots; he cuts out channels in the rocks; and his eye sees every precious thing. He binds the streams that they drip not, and the hidden things he brings forth to light. But wisdom, where shall it be found? And where is the place of understanding? Man knows not its value; neither is it found in the land of the living. The deep says, It is not with me; and the sea says, It is not with me. Neither gold nor silver, nor precious stones as onyx, sapphire, ruby, topaz, with gold most fine, nor jewels can procure or equal it. Whence then comes it? And where is its place? For it is hidden from the eyes of all living and concealed from the birds of the heavens. Destruction and death say," We have heard its report with our ears." God understands its way, and He knows its place. And to man He said, “Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding” (Job 28). Christ alone is its fullness.
Our exhortation encourages souls. “Hear, for I will speak excellent things, and the opening of My lips shall be right things. For My palate shall meditate truth, and wickedness is an abomination to My lips.” Where else can this be found? Outside the inspired Word, religion makes men worse than if they had none, and substitutes demons for the true God. Here the writer can say with assurance, All the words of my mouth are in righteousness; there is nothing crooked or perverse in them. Man’s uncertainty and fallen nature expose him to both if he sets up to be an oracle. Whereas God’s words are all plain to him that understandeth, and right to him that findeth knowledge. Hence is the call, Receive my instruction, and not silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold; for wisdom is better than rubies; and all the things that may be desired are not comparable to her. We can go no farther, now that the Son of God is come and given to us to know Him that is true. For He Himself is the true God, no less than the Father; and He is eternal life. Compare John 17:33And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. (John 17:3).
We are in a world dominated for the present by a subtle spirit of evil that has access to every heart. There is therefore constant need of a wisdom above man’s. For the Christian it descends from above; it is Christ, God’s wisdom no less than His power. Here, as being for Israel, the Holy Spirit presents wisdom for the earth. For the heaven and the earth belong to God, who in due time will expel the usurper and put all things under Him in fact and manifestation, as they are now in principle to faith. Meanwhile we have God occupying Himself with what is heavenly for His children, in the New Testament before the day arrives, as for His ancient people renewed to profit ere long by the Old Testament as here.
The Christian, though a heavenly man, walks on earth; and both needs to, and can, avail himself of such words as these, coming under the moral government of God as his Father (1 Pet. 1:1717And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear: (1 Peter 1:17)). Wisdom makes prudence its dwelling place, and there finds knowledge, if not of witty inventions, assuredly of reflections, a better thing. Thus are subtle adversaries met by a wisdom and its resources deeper than every snare. Its base is that fear of Jehovah which hates evil, for which intellectual sharpness and craft are no match. For divine wisdom in the Word forms the godly in obedience, not in the cleverness that outwits craft by profounder craft; for this would only dishonor God and sully the soul. Hence pride and arrogance on the one hand, and on the other the evil way and the perverse mouth, are hateful to God and His people. They are the ways and the words of self, far from Him who leads in the path of obedience, and gives counsel and sound wisdom to those who wait on Him and keep His Word; and with Him is not only intelligence but strength — all we need in this tangled and shifty scene.
None need wisdom so much as those in authority, the monarch in particular. “By Me kings reign, and rulers make just decrees; by Me princes rule and nobles, all the judges of the earth.” But this very language aptly discriminates the difference between the Old Testament, and the New Testament, that is the entirely new state of things under the gospel as compared with the law. For there is instruction in the New Testament only for subjection to authority, in the Old Testament for those who wield it also. The Christian waits to reign with Christ, content meanwhile to suffer with Him and for Him. No exhortation, no principle, no fact supposes Him exercising worldly power where Christ was rejected, till He appears to judge the world. It was quite another condition before the princes of this age crucified the Lord of glory. But it is now a time of great and growing unbelief, and it is a hard trial for most believers to forego present power and honor. Indeed, since the apostles passed away, the true heavenly glory of the Christian and the church has been well nigh forgotten and ignored.
But wisdom goes out far beyond rulers and the great, even to all that seek and prize it. “I love those that love Me; and those that seek me earnestly shall find me.” So it ever is in divine pursuits. Those that are of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham. God has no blanks for the real. Wisdom from Him secures riches and honor — not for the Christian of a material sort, but better far, durable wealth, truly, and righteousness. Its fruit is indeed superior to pure gold or choice silver. Wisdom walks in the way of righteousness. Not “leading” but “walking” is the point here. To reason, to common sense, it may seem utterly foolish; for it often entails loss, and sacrifice, and suffering. But “he that doeth the will of God abideth forever.” Christ to us is the way; and Him we follow, whatever the case. Wisdom walks therefore in the midst of the paths of judgment, not outside them. And there only is blessing enjoyed, though it is not for the Christian in the basket and the store, in the bank or in stocks, but higher and unchanging.