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Wisdom and Folly
Two women make their appeal in this chapter. One is Wisdom, the other is the foolish woman. So the broad distinction between wisdom and folly is consistently sustained. There are no half-wise people, no half-foolish people; the virgins are wise or foolish, bad or good, angels from heaven or spectres from hell.
Wisdom has a festival prepared. We have seen in Exodus 24:0 that when the elders of Israel were favoured with the vision of the Almighty "they did eat and drink." To the animal man these are but bodily exercises; to the spiritual man they are sacramental acts. When the Saviour would represent the glory and abundance of his house he spreads a banquet, sets forth the marriage of the king's son, prepares a supper, and sends forth messengers to say that all things are ready. If our interpretation of the latter part of the eighth chapter is correct, Christ may be regarded as Creator, and in this chapter he is the Sustainer of mankind. Men are to eat his flesh and drink his blood. He is the bread of life sent down from heaven. He is the answer to the world's hunger. All the details as to the feast of Wisdom would seem to be but so many anticipations of the parables and appeals of Jesus Christ. The idea of "building her house" runs through the Christian writings. "Upon this rock I will build my church;" "Built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets;" "Built up a spiritual house." We may speak of the house of Wisdom as we speak of the house of God. It is a sanctuary, a home, a centre of union, a bond and symbol of friendship. The invitation of Wisdom is the invitation of Christ: "Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage." All we have to do is to go; we take with us nothing but our hunger; the feast is Christ's, the invitation is Christ's, the house is Christ's; the hunger alone is ours, and a blessed hunger it is if we feel that only Christ can satisfy it. Wisdom mingles the wine and flavours it with choice spices, and sends forth invitations rich with the music of hospitality: "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price," come and do what otherwise would be impossible; claim as a right what is given as a grace, and treat as a purchase what is bestowed as a gift.
But to do all this there must be an abandonment of past preferences and associations "Forsake the foolish and live." No man can live in both houses. "Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God." "Ye cannot serve God and mammon." To leave folly is the first step towards wisdom. But there must be progress, the soul cannot live on negatives. Hence the sixth verse continues: "Go in the way of understanding." Emancipation must be followed by education. When God calls souls away from the house of bondage he does not leave them houseless and homeless wanderers, to do the best they can for themselves. Observe how the divine commandment runs: "Come out from among them," that is the first thing to be done; but does the text end there? Far from it; it goes on to say, "and I will receive you and be a Father unto you:" thus the commandment ends in a gospel; the sacrifice is followed with benediction, rest, and heaven itself.
"Madam Folly" is introduced in Exodus 24:13 . "She is simple, and knoweth nothing." She affects simplicity. She can simper well. See, how winsome she is; how guileless, how gentle is her voice; how benignant her countenance. Take care, young unsuspecting soul. In her breast she hides the fire of hell! She is intent on working the ruin of thy life. "She hath cast down many wounded: yea, many strong men have been slain by her." Her look is blasphemy. Her sigh is a desire for blood. "As the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare; so are the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them." Alas! the best exhortations are often lost when the heart wanders after things forbidden. Nothing but the grace of God can quench the flames of lust. "Whoredom and wine and new wine take away the heart." The world does not go wrong for want of bitter experience and pungent testimony. "I find more bitter than death the woman, whose heart is snares and nets, and her hands as bands: whoso pleaseth God shall escape from her; but the sinner shall be taken by her." So said the wise man. Who will sell his soul for momentary gratification? Who will leap after a bubble and fall into hell? Alas! we see the right, and yet the wrong pursue. This is the tragedy of human life! This, too, is an aspect of its divinity, for it is that man is so Godlike that he can be lost. Mystery of mysteries is it that man should tempt man! Here it is the woman who tempts. Eve never dies, nor can she die as a tempter until the seducing serpent dies. But if it is woman who tempts, it is also woman who represents the beauty and nobleness of wisdom. Remember both aspects of the woman-life, nor fail to do the mother of the world justice, whether in censure or in eulogy.
Between Wisdom and Wanton there is another person, curiously, but perhaps not illogically, introduced. That other person is the Scorner. "He that reproveth a scorner getteth to himself shame;" "Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee;" "If thou scornest, thou alone shalt bear it." Is the scorner one who is travelling from Wisdom's house to the house of the foolish woman? Is he affecting contempt, or really feeling it? Does not scorn sometimes conceal fear? Young souls should beware of a flippant tone, for flippancy opens the heart-door to many intruders. Veneration gives steadiness to character, and is in very deed the seal of dignity. He who jests with things divine will soon trifle with things human. Account for it as we may, the scoffer never wins the confidence even of those who laugh at his sneers. The buffoon has no friends. When they want to be amused they may make use of him; but when they come face to face with the realities of life they shut him out of their regard and trust. He who scorns the poor shall come to penury that no man will pity. He who scorns wisdom shall "be buried with the burial of an ass." "Judgments are prepared for scorners." Blessed is the man that sitteth not in the seat of the scornful. Thus Wisdom speaks to the sons of men. Would to God they would hear and fear and turn unto the Lord!
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Parker, Joseph. "Commentary on Proverbs 9". Parker's The People's Bible. https://studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany