Proverbs 1-9 • The Three Calls of Wisdom


In the course of this study we are going to specifically consider Wisdom and Folly, the two “women” who are out to seduce and win the hearts of every person. Scattered across the opening chapters are three calls from Wisdom and three from Folly. Whereas Wisdom calls one to God and life, Folly calls people to sin and judgment. We want to study these contrasts and comparisons of the two “women” and the three callings, but we also want to keep in mind that there is probably a deeper meaning where these two are concerned. In the New Testament we are provided with this definition of Wisdom:

But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption,

— 1 Corinthians 1:30

In other words, the biblical definition of “Wisdom” and “Christ” is one and the same.

Read 1:20-33

Q: How do things begin? Is this speaking of some kind of secretive or difficult to understand process?

A: It begins with an open call in the streets where everyone can see and hear.

Point: God’s calling is not a secret matter but everyone through the Spirit is invited to openly come to Christ.

Q: According to v.22, what are the three classes of people to whom Wisdom extends an invitation?

A: The “simple-minded”, “scoffers”, and “fools”.

Note: Discuss how these three groups differ from each other. What are the characteristics of each?

Q: What is Wisdom’s initial promise to anyone who responds according to v.23?

A: “I will pour out my spirit on you” and “I will make my words known to you”. It’s the promise of the implanting of the Word through the Holy Spirit.

Q: What is the result of NOT responding to Wisdom’s reproof?

A: “Calamity”, “dread”, “distress” , and “anguish” (v.27).

Q: How will Wisdom respond to those who find themselves in these situations?

A: “I will not answer” and “they will not find me”. (v.28)

Q: Is God simply being cruel, choosing to reject people when they need Him most?

A: It’s important to follow the sequence of events provided in these verses. First they dismissed God’s call, then they actually made light of it. In the end it’s a situation wherein such people reap what they sow: “So they shall eat of the fruit of their own way”. (v.31)

Q: Why do such people not merely refuse God’s offer but actually make light of it in the course of rejecting it?

A: According to v.32 they develop a false assurance that is based on other things.

Application: This isn’t describing something like the happenstance missing of an opportunity, but the end result of willfully and consistently rejecting God’s Word and ways.

Read 2:8, 3:5-6 & 4:18

Observation: The next three chapters following Wisdom’s initial call present a detailed picture of the path to Wisdom. The words “path” and “way are used more than a dozen times in these chapters.

Q: Based on 2:18, what is the theme of chapter 2?

A: Wisdom protects our path.

Q: Based on 3:5-6, what is the theme of chapter 3?

A: Wisdom directs our path.

Q: Based on 4:18, what is the theme of chapter 4?

A: Wisdom perfects our path.

Application: Wisdom is supremely concerned with our keeping to God’s path in order that we might be delivered to heaven in eternity, whereas those adhering to an alternate path find that it leads to nowhere beyond what is received in the course of this life.

Read 5:1-23

Q: Whereas Wisdom in the chapters leading up to this offers people salvation, what is it that Folly offers them?

A: Condemnation.

Point: Wherever God gives His gracious invitation, Satan is there with an alluring offer of his own. Do you see how this might parallel the Parable of the Sower?

Q: What does Satan try to do with the wicked woman from an earthly perspective?

A: Satan tries to make Folly appear attractive.

Q: But in spite of her external appearance, where does she ultimately lead that is diametrically opposite of Wisdom?

A: “Her feet go down to death, her steps take hold of Sheol”. (v.5)

Q: What is God’s personal warning to us in v.7-8?

A: That we should keep far away from her and not even come near her door.

Q: What are the consequences of not heeding God’s warning?

A: We will lose our best opportunities (v.9), our possessions (v.10), our health (v.11) and in the end, our very life (v.22-23)

Application: The “cords of sin” bind slowly but surely until one day the sinner discovers – too late – that it is no longer possible to escape.

Read Chapter 8

Q: Who was called during Wisdom’s first call in chapter 1?

A: The “simple-minded”, “scoffers”, and “fools”.

Q: Who is called now at Wisdom’s second call?

A: According to v.5 the call is to simple and fools, but there is no mention of “scoffers”. Point: When hearts become so hardened that they no longer listen, God passes them by, as in the case of the scoffers who laughed and mocked (Prov. 1:25-26), making an outward show of their rejection of God’s Word and ways.

Q: According to v.10-11, how would you characterize the nature of this invitation by Wisdom?

A: It’s a calling to true wealth, something far more valuable than silver, gold, and precious jewels.

Q: According to v.15-16, what is it like to know God’s Wisdom?

A: It is to reign as a king, an allusion to being in spiritual control of everything around you.

Q: What kind of riches is specifically mentioned in v.18-19 as being a result of Wisdom?

A: Righteousness. It’s further confirmation of how spiritual riches are much more important than physical riches.

Application: The very definition of someone who is “simple” or a “fool” is someone who does not know the true value of things nor what is truly important. The difference between the wise and the foolish is often self-evident by the value they place on material things versus spiritual.

Q: What is the greater teaching in v.22-31?

A: This is an Old Testament picture of Jesus Christ, the Wisdom of God.

Q: How is this section summarized in the New Testament?

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.

— John 1:1-3

Application: To have Wisdom is to have Christ, which is to have the One who brought all of creation into being. In other words, it’s a picture of how absurd it is to pursue earthly wealth when everything in the universe belongs to Christ to begin with.

Read Chapter 9

Q: How does this third calling of Wisdom differ from the first two?

A: The first one was extended to the simple, foolish and scoffers, the second to just the simple and foolish, and this final one to only the simple.

Point: The scoffer was the first to fall by the wayside because of his outward rejection and open derision of God’s Word and ways; the fool made the choice to follow Folly, so the only one now left is the simple.

Q: What is the inevitable end awaiting each of these three types of people?

  1. The scoffer rejects Wisdom and meets destruction. (Prov. 1:24-27); he listens to Folly and receives destruction. (Prov. 6:32)
  2. The fool rejects Wisdom and is led by Folly to death (Prov. 8:36); he listens to Folly and receives death. (Prov. 5:22-23)
  3. The simple rejects Wisdom and winds up in hell (Prov. 9:18); he listens to Folly and ends in in hell. (Prov. 7:27)

Q: What is the obvious lesson where the choice of Wisdom or Folly is concerned?

A: There is no middle ground. To reject Wisdom is to accept Folly.

“He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters. Matthew 12:30 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.

— Matthew 6:24

Point: It’s a choice to either follow Wisdom or Folly, either Christ or sin.

Q: What is Wisdom doing in v.1-6?

A: Preparing a wonderful banquet.

Point: This alludes to the many “banquet” parables of Christ (Luke 14:15-24) which portray salvation as a feast, not a funeral.

Q: How does this contrast to Folly?

A: Chapter 7 is actually about Folly inviting people to her banquet, but to accept her invitation is to go like an ox to the slaughter. (Prov. 7:22) It’s the difference between pleasures for a season and righteousness for eternity.

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.

— James 1:13-15

Overall Application

We can listen to Wisdom and enjoy salvation, true wealth, and life or we can listen to Folly (aka temptation and sin) and experience condemnation, poverty, and death. There are several practical lessons which can be gleaned from this study:

  1. We cannot avoid decisions. Either we choose the path of Wisdom or the path of Folly – the decision cannot be postponed or avoided. To choose one is to reject the other. Which decision have you made?
  2. Sin is always alluring. Folly does everything possible to make sin attractive. Never revealing her true nature, she hides the fact that the way to her house is actually the way to hell. Those who walk with Wisdom – those obedient to God’s Word and ways – will not easily be tricked by Folly. (Prov. 2:10-22)
  3. It takes time for judgment to fall. When the simple, the fool, and the coffer each rejected Wisdom they thought they had it made because nothing immediately befell them. But bear in mind Galatians 6:7, “Do not be deceived; God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap”.
  4. Satan appeals to the flesh. Proverbs makes it abundantly clear that the wicked woman is appealing to one’s appetites, but to allow her to provide temporary pleasure is to allow permanent, tragic results. This is why it matters when we make choices about things that appeal to the flesh not only in terms of sexual relationships, but even the kinds of television, books, and movies we allow into our life
  5. God continues to call. God continues every attempt as long as people will hear, but when they refuse to obey and become deaf to God’s Word, it is time to beware. Hebrews 3:7-8, “Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says, ‘Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts…”