I love this poem!
While Proverbs might have a popular following for some of the pithier, more digestible verses, the book also has a great personification of Wisdom in the early chapters. We get a great glimpse of how storytelling and poetry combine to give a great admonition: Don’t be stupid or you’re going to regret it!
There’s another voice in town.
It belongs to Lady Wisdom, who calls out in the street.
She cries out in the town square,
At the city gates, in the noisy city streets,
you can hear her speaking over the racket.
Lady Wisdom: You simple, naive people, how long will you love your feeble ways?
You simpletons, how long will you enjoy making fun of what you don’t understand?
You fools, how long will you hate learning what truly matters?
Turn to me and receive my gentle correction;
Watch and I will pour out my spirit on you;
I will share with you my wise words in order to redirect your lives.
You hear, but you have refused to answer my call.
My hands reached out, but no one noticed.
All my advice, all my correction, all have been neglected—
you wanted nothing of them.
So I will be the laughter you hear when misfortune comes, and it will come.
I will be the mocking sound when panic grips you—
When panic comes like a stormy blast,
when misfortune sweeps in like a whirlwind,
when sorrow and anguish weigh you down.
Proverbs 1:20-33 (The VOICE translation)
This is when they will call on me, but I will not respond;
they will be frantic to find me, but they won’t be able.
Because they despised knowledge of my ways,
and they also refused to respect and honor the Eternal,
Because they rejected my advice
and turned down my correction,
They will surely get what’s coming to them:
they’ll be forced to eat the fruit of their wicked ways;
they’ll gorge themselves on the consequences of their choices.
You see, it’s turning away from me that brings death to the simple,
and it’s self-satisfaction that destroys the fools.
But those who listen to me now will live under divine protection;
they can rest knowing they are out of harm’s way.
The fact that Wisdom isn’t hiding but is instead shouting from the street corner is excellent! Too often, I think we view wisdom as some secret society thing. Only a select few have access to it and they have to seek it out. But here, we get a view of wisdom that says that she is seeking us out….kind of like God. And, like with God so often, we reject wisdom when it is staring us in the face.
One of the other fun aspects of this personification of wisdom is her attitude. Her words are dripping with snark. Wisdom is my kind of woman. This view of wisdom adds some great context for the “be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” passage in Matthew (10:16). Wisdom is having none of your bullshit.
Don’t be stupid. I’m not sure I can say it more plainly. Wisdom is out there just waiting for you to listen. You’ll hear her voice coming from all kinds of places. Her true voice will not lead you astray. Her words will not cause you to hurt yourself or others. She will redirect your footsteps when they are going off course. If you don’t listen, you’ll be sorry.
When you finally do listen to her, you’ll suffer deep regret. That regret might be about the actions themselves. More likely, you’ll simply regret knowing you were smart enough to know better but you didn’t act upon that knowledge.
You’re going to mess up. We all do. God knows I certainly mess up more than my fair share. The great thing about wisdom is that, even though it may come in mocking tones, it will always give you a second chance. Yeah. I know that she seems a little irritated in the poem. I don’t know any woman that likes being ignored. Give her a chance to cool off and then listen. Don’t just listen – do what she says. Wisdom and knowledge are nothing if they just sit as actionless thoughts in your head.