Proverbs 9 – The End of the Beginning
We are almost at the end of the beginning. Proverbs 1-9 is the beginning of education in wisdom, and chapter 9 is the conclusion of that beginning, the conclusion of the preparatory training. This can now be followed by the real digging, pencil in hand, ready to conquer each proverb. Once more Madam Wisdom approaches us, this time with an invitation for dinner. The proverbs of the next chapters are, as it were, the dishes she has prepared for us.
We consider her invitation and her dinner, and we discover the contrast with Miss Foolishness who has also sent an invitation. What a difference between these two ladies, differences in style, class, and quality.
Miss Foolishness tries to attract passersby by making a lot of noise. She tries to lure them with the attractiveness of what is forbidden: stolen water, bread eaten in secret. This imagery describes a harsh reality; it is indeed true, the natural heart goes out to that which is strange, mysterious, and forbidden. But anyone who accept this invitation, orders his or her own final meal. Miss Foolishness has to make the things she has to offer a little nicer than they really are, after all, the meal she offers should look like a meal. Loudly, she advertises her wares. She offers water and bread, but of a particular quality and with a peculiar aroma.
Compare this with Madam Wisdom. She offers a menu without mysterious additions, a simple but healthy meal. Her invitation is straightforward, without any nonsense.
Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed.
In the Middle Eastern countries wine is still mixed with water, a common practice. Yet, this scene is rather remarkable. The menu shows the daily staples of bread and wine, while she has apparently prepared a full course dinner. She has slaughtered her beasts, and prepared her table as for a feast. Notice her house which seems more like a palace with halls and pillars. What she offers is rather different from what others might expect. She does not join in snobbish discussion of dinners and restaurants, where the one speaker might make even greater boasts than another. Yet Madam Wisdom does not feel embarrassed to offer her simple menu of bread and wine. Her dinner is ready to be enjoyed by those who accept her invitation to a simple everyday meal.
Indeed, a telling scene. Wisdom is of concern to the elite, it concerns life of everyday. That everyday life needs to be nurtured, and in this she shows the way. This results in changing those everyday things into things of the highest quality. Ordinary, daily life becomes an art and a skill. When wisdom exerts her influence, such a life gains substance and importance. That is what Proverbs 9 speaks of: the substance and importance of wisdom.
Notice the manner in which she sends her invitations. She has sent her maidens to the important, the highest places in town to call the people. That sounds like a royal invitation. Indeed, wisdom is uplifting. We find here the character of the kingdom of the Son of God’s love. Listen, all you people, here come the proverbs, starting with the next chapter. Sit down and enjoy your meal; eat and drink.
Notice also, that these verses describe a meal. Eating together means belonging together, living together. Neglecting the widows of the Greeks during the daily meals was not a merely organizational blunder in the early Christian church of Jerusalem. This neglect damaged the communion of saints which the Holy Spirit had brought about. Wisdom wants to see people around the table; wisdom seeks the communion. Wisdom does not hand out food packages, but sets the table. Wisdom does not nurture individualism; she nurtures a community, the people of God, the congregation of Jesus Christ – the congregation of the new life.
Proverbs 9 tells us that those who want to hold on to the old life do not belong here. One must choose, either the one or the other – wisdom or foolishness.
There are two invitations.
There are two roads.
There are two destinations – life or death.
...For he who finds me finds life and obtains favour from the LORD; BUT HE WHO MISSES ME INJURES HIMSELF; ALL WHO HATE ME LOVE DEATH.
Proverbs 9, Acts 7, Proverbs 8:35-36