The Perfect Storm
Scripture: Proverbs 1:20–33
The Perfect StormProverbs 1:20-33
Sunday, October 21, 2017
Pastor Randy Smith
Why do we do it so often to ourselves? Why do we get lost in the weeds of life and too frequently miss the big picture?
For the Christian, the big picture is rather simple: Die to self, slay self-will to be filled with God's Spirit. Humble ourselves to receive His grace. Live each day for His glory, grateful for our salvation in Christ.
Yet we lose our focus. We are too often given over to comparing ourselves with others, using others to fill our selfish needs, pitying ourselves because of the unfairness of life, boating in our own vain-glory and trying to find joy in the sinful and trivial things of life. That's one of the many reasons we are faithfully gathering this morning. We need the body of Christ to help us continually keep the big picture in focus.
As we conclude our study in Proverbs this morning, I would like to bring you back to the big picture from this marvelous book. It's very easy as we study these short nuggets of wisdom to think that they are simply good suggestions for a more fulfilling and successful life. In other words, pursuing wisdom is good, but it's not really necessary.
In Luke 24, Jesus gives us the big picture of Himself in relation to the entire Bible. "Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures" (Lk. 24:27).
When we read our Bibles, we have to see Christ. When we read about the wisdom in Proverbs, we have to see Christ's wisdom. When we read about Christ's wisdom, we have to see Christ Himself. Therefore to reject this wisdom is spiritual suicide. The stakes are raised. To reject this wisdom is the same as rejecting Christ!
Now in our passage this morning, Christ's wisdom personified as a woman. She shouts and pleads and scolds and reasons and warns and threatens and even laughs. She shares the blessing of receiving her and the tragic consequences of rejected her.
Today we'll conclude this series with the big picture. A perfect storm is coming. Therefore run for shelter. For in running to wisdom is running to Christ.
1. Wisdom Calls (1:20-23)
The first point, "Wisdom Calls."
Permit me to read verses 20-21. "Wisdom shouts in the street, she lifts her voice in the square; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the gates in the city she utters her sayings."
Some questions for you based on these verses. Does wisdom seek to hide herself? Are there certain codes to unlock her mysteries? Are you required to journey the world to find her? No, according to the text she is where you are. She's not hidden away in some dusty monetary. She's in the public square. She's among the businesses and arts and athletics and government and educational institutions. She's there among all the secular "noise," crying out the passages says louder than all the other voices. She's easily discovered and easily heard by those who refuse to devote their lives to suppressing the truth.
Nature makes the most beautiful noise. And when I consider all the incredible National Parks that I have visited you come to understand the uniqueness of each location. The sounds of the desert are different than the sounds of the everglades. The sounds of the north woods are different than the sounds of the Rocky Mountains. But if we visit these places, too often we don't hear the sweet tunes of God's creation. We drown them out thought the noises blasting through our earbuds or the rhythmic beat of a hiker's step or the ringing of our trekking poles or ever non-stop conversation with our traveling partner. But when you stop and simply listen, the various instruments of creation conduct an amazing concert. Their musical performance is almost deafening.
How often do we stop to hear the words of Lady Wisdom? How often do we really stop to hear the sweet words of Christ?
Wisdom knows that too often we don't. As a matter of fact, wisdom defines the very people that reject her and places them in certain categories. This is what we become when we refuse to hear the voice of wisdom.
Listen to see if you can her three of those categories mentioned in verse 22. "How long, O naive ones, will you love being simple-minded? And scoffers delight themselves in scoffing and fools hate knowledge?"
What did you hear?
"Naive ones" - People that don't consider the meaning of life. Little concern for how their actions and words have consequences. Easily blind-sighted by sin. Following others instead of developing their own convictions. Ignorant, gullible and as the text says, "Simple-minded." Simpletons.
"Scoffers" - One of the most developed stages of foolishness. No fear, shame, regret or concern for others. Self-opinionated and rude. Delight in aggressively mocking others. Absolutely no fear of God anywhere on the radar.
And "fools" - Thick-headed, unreasonable and unteachable. Always an excuse and never at fault.
And to them wisdom's response is simply, "How long?"
Is this not the same cry we experience when we see an unbeliever steeped in misery and they chose more misery rather than turning to Christ for hope and salvation? "How long?"
Or how about a professing believer living in unrepentant sin? Every Christian counselor knows the feeling. "I have presented the pathway to joy and freedom, but you refuse to travel down that road. And in the meantime, I am watching you destroy your health and your marriage and your children and your testimony. You'd rather live in pain and continue to shame the name of your Savior than humble yourself and do what is right and be blessed." "How long?"
Yet how about our own lives? Allured by the deceitfulness of sin. Holding out hope that joy will be realized when we feed the flesh and follow the world. And we keep rejecting the living fountain of Christ to drink out of the dirty cisterns of the world. And we get poisoned, but we keep searching for another contaminated source to slake our thirst? "How long?"
In the words of wisdom, "How long?" What will it take? How much more unneeded misery will you have to experience? True life awaits, but in the words of verse 22, you "love" being simple-minded. You "delight" in scoffing. And you "hate" knowledge. "How long?"
Wisdom persistently cries out again. Verse 23, "Turn to my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you."
Has wisdom not stripped away all of our excuses? We already learned it screams. We can hear it! We already learned it goes to where we are. We can find it! And what else does wisdom do? According to verse 23 it brings "reproof." That's pointing out wrong and instructing to proper behavior. This is the "turning" spoken of in the verse. Turning from wrong to right. Repentance!
So some more excuses: "I can't do it." "It's too hard to turn." Yet wisdom promises in verse 23 that she will "pour out [her] spirit on you." She'll provide the strength you need. Why do you think God provides the Holy Spirit? Next excuse: "I can't figure out what to do." "It's too confusing." Back to the verse. "I will make my words known to you." Yes, turning from your folly and pursuing the wisdom of Christ is not something you can do on your own, but it is something promised by God that He will do for you if you are in Christ Jesus. Didn't He say, "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you?" (Mat. 7:7). Will you trust the words of Christ and by faith step into His arms of grace that are prepared to carry you and transform you to His wise image? As the verse declares, you can if you trust His strength and trust His revelation.
2. Wisdom Warns (1:24-31)
You see, as we go to the second point, if wisdom were an impersonal force, we can do with her as we please and it would not care. The wind does not get disappointed with me if I ignore it and choose not to build a windmill or fly a kite. Wisdom, since it is Christ, is deeply offended when we reject her.
Look at the clear warning in verse 24-27. "Because I called and you refused, I stretched out my hand and no one paid attention; and you neglected all my counsel and did not want my reproof; I will also laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your dread comes, when your dread comes like a storm and your calamity comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you."
So wisdom knocks on the door. But we refuse to let her in. We delight in our folly and hate knowledge. We trust in our own understanding and prefer to make our own decisions. We refuse to turn from our sin. All of this is tantamount to rejecting Christ.
It's clearly a perspective, regardless of one's profession, that refuses to acknowledge Jesus as Lord of our lives. It's clearly a conscience decision that hates who He is and what He has to offer. It's clearly a love for self that dominates a love for Him.
So what is Christ to do when we, according to these verses, "refuse" and do not "pay attention" and "neglect" His voice and do "not want [His] reproof" and "hate [His] knowledge"? After repeated cries and His voice is not heard. His wise Word is rejected and repentance is not demonstrated. When His grace, so rich and free, is ignored we have to ask, "What is the Lord to do?" There comes a point when He leaves us to our own foolishness.
Listen to how Paul put it in Romans 1. "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures" (Rom. 1:18-23).
It is hard hearts only getting harder.
When God says He will "laugh at [their] calamity," it's not a giggly type of laughing. It's not even a trite vindictive laugh at one's misery. It's a divine justice that is only giving people what they really wanted. It's giving them up to their own devices and permitting them to choose their own destination. God is not to blame. Their own pride in thinking they knew better is at fault. Their rejection of God's wisdom was their life-long pursuit of laughing at God. Now God will laugh at them for their utter foolishness. As C.S. Lewis once said, "There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, 'Thy will be done,' and those to who God says, 'Thy will be done.'"
Listen to one woman's lament.
"I pity [celebrities]. No. I do. The minute a person becomes a celebrity is the same minute he/she becomes a monster. [Many] were once perfectly pleasant human beings with whom you might lunch on a slow Tuesday afternoon. But now they have become supreme beings, and their wrath is awful. It's not what they had in mind, the night each of them became famous they wanted to shriek with relief. Finally! Now they were adored! Invincible! Magic! The morning after the night each of them became famous, they wanted to take an overdose of barbiturates.
All their fantasies had been realized, yet the reality was still the same. If they were miserable before, they were twice as miserable now, because that giant thing they were striving for, that fame thing that was going to make everything okay, that was going to make their lives bearable, that was going to provide them with personal fulfillment and happiness, had happened. And nothing changed. They were still them. The disillusionment turned them howling and insufferable" (Cynthia Heimel, If You Can't Live Without Me, Why Aren't You Dead Yet? 1991, p. 13-14).
Verse 28-31, "Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently but they will not find me, because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the LORD. They would not accept my counsel, they spurned all my reproof. So they shall eat of the fruit of their own way and be [gratified] with their own devices."
Consider the concept. Not only God's face turned away from them, but His anger turned toward them. Why? Because they refused to leave the pain of the shadowlands. They deliberately rejected, verse 29, the "fear of the Lord." That is what it ultimately comes down to.
Wisdom calls the onlookers of this tragic play on the stage called life to make an evaluation. The only possible response is to join her in calling them fools.
3. Wisdom Divides (1:32-33)
The last point, verse 32, "For the waywardness of the naive will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them."
That's the bad news. We see that in the people that never heed wisdom's voice. And we sadly see it at times from those who claim to hear wisdom's voice and then begin to reject it for the slime of this world. No need to do personal ministry in the church. No need to really attend church. No need to daily read the Bible. No accountability. No Christian community. No God. And the fruit of such folly begins to appear. Over-indulgence in personal appearance. Promotion of worldly philosophy. Distain for God's people. Personal excuses. Pointing the finger at everyone else. Glorification of worldly pleasures , the very ones they once condemned. This is the very departure we are warned of in this chapter.
But we end with the good news. On the contrary, verse 33, "But he who listens to me shall live securely and will be at ease from the dread of evil."
Is it scary to forsake the idolatrous mindset that we so often depended upon? Yes, it will cost you. It is hard to let go, and when you do there feels like this brief moment of freefalling. But we know from experience that God is there to catch you and prove once again that doing it His way is (verse 33) true security. It's scary, but not listening to Him and heeding His wisdom is even scarier.
If I can make a few adjustments in the lyrics: Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full into His wonderful face. And the things of this world will grow strangely dim in the light of His wisdom and grace.