I remember vividly a warm childhood day with my family at a park on Lake Michigan. My youngest sister and I had each been given a granola bar to snack on as we wandered about the grassy park. Most likely I ate mine quickly, with the hope that someone would give me another. My little sister, on the other hand, who has always walked through life with an unhurried way about her, was savoring each crumb as she walked along, charmed by the ducks who were marching along with her. In a manner of minutes, however, her charming procession shifted parade leaders. The next thing I remember was the angry cry of a four year-old who found herself backed up against a wall by a flock of granola bar-stealing ducks.
The book of Proverbs depicts a similarly inescapable scene throughout its pages. One gets the clear sense that we are to live watchfully, that wisdom is something to be guarded carefully, lest it be snatched out of our hands before we have time to object. “The one who guards their way guards their life,” reads one verse. “Do not forsake wisdom,” advises another. Like an animal stalking its prey, folly and wickedness are personified as luring and lurking enemies, often disguised, always vying for our attention, meeting with anyone who will hear, ready to seize all that is not guarded. “Folly is loud,” notes the writer of Proverbs, “she is seductiveand knows nothing. She sits at the door of her house; she takes a seat on the highest places of the town, calling to those who pass by, who are going straight on their way, “‘Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!’” (9:13-16).
In a world where we are saturated with information and ideas, overwhelmed by voices vying for our attention, and bombarded with distractions contending for our allegiance, it is not hard to see why folly and wickedness are voices the writer chooses to personify. It is not a truth preached abstractly, but a reality we know all too well. Foolishness is like a person we can befriend.
But the book of Proverbs also personifies wisdom. Chapter eight asks, “Does not Wisdom call? Does not understanding raise her voice? On the heights beside the way, at the crossroads she takes her stand; beside the gates in front of the town, at the entrance of the portals she cries aloud: ‘To you, I call’” (8:1-4). In a sea of well-marketed persuasion, it is a comforting truth that is easily forgotten. Just as voices that tempt and fool cry aloud for our attention, so wisdom calls out to us and understanding raises its voice. But who is the voice of wisdom? And do we find it as tangibly as we seem to find the tempting voices of folly?
Scripture makes it clear that God not only speaks and moves the world with words, but that all wisdom and understanding come from the mouth of God. Sadly, however, the voice of God is one voice many are uninterested in hearing. “The tragedy,” writes A.W. Tozer “is that we have trained our ears not to hear.” Through many voices, God has communicated this truth. “For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes.”(1)
As the writer of Proverbs admonishes, we can be as those who make our ears attentive to wisdom, inclining our hearts to understanding. Let us cry out for insight and raise our voices for understanding, guarding our minds lest they be snatched away like the treat in a young child’s hand. Let us seek the source of wisdom as we would hidden treasure. It is God after all, at whose word chaos became order and darkness became light, and who cries out repeatedly for our complete attention: The one who has ears to hear, let them hear!(2)
Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.
(1) Matthew 13:15, Isaiah 6:9,10.
(2) Matthew 11:15, Mark 4:9, Luke 8:8.