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Competing Voices

Proverbs  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Discerning wisdom from folly.

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Competing Voices

Our society is full of competing voices. Voices from all sides are calling to us to buy their things, participate in their activities, invite their services. Sometimes the voices are appealing, other times they are easy to dismiss.
Switchfoot - released a song a few years ago. Let’s take a listen. (play song from the Beautiful Letdown album

Adding To The Noise

“What's it gonna take
to slow us down
to let the silence spin us around?
What's it gonna take
to drop this town?
We've been spinning at the speed of sound.
Stepping out of those convenience stores
what could we want but more more more?
From the third world to the corporate core
to the corporate core
we are a symphony of modern humanity
If we're adding to the noise
turn off this song
If we're adding to the noise
turn off your stereo, radio, video
what they're gonna think of next
I don’t know what they're gonna think of next
genetic engineers of the most high tech
A couple new ways to fall into debt
to fall into debt
I'm a nervous wreck but I'll bet
that that T.V. set
tells us what we've wanted to hear
But none of these sound bites
are coming in clear
From the third world to the corporate ear
we are the symphony of modern humanity.
If we're adding to the noise
turn off this song
If we're adding to the noise
turn off your stereo, radio, video
Stepping out of those convenience stores what could we want but more more more? From the third world to the corporate core we are a symphony of modern humanity
If we're adding to the noise turn off this song If we're adding to the noise turn off your stereo, radio, video
I don’t know what they're gonna think of next genetic engineers of the most high tech A couple new ways to fall into debt I'm a nervous wreck but I'll bet that that T.V. set tells us what we've wanted to hear But none of these sound bites are coming in clear From the third world to the corporate ear we are the symphony of modern humanity.”
There certainly is a lot of noise around us.
What noise or voices are calling to you? (tech, entertainment, morality, )
Tonight, we’re going to wrap up our series of discussions on the first few chapters in the book of Proverbs. This chapter is a sort of summary of the thinking behind the voices that we hear. Wisdom and Folly - personified as women - are the characters in this mini-narrative. As we look at this, rather than taking it sequentially, verse by verse, we’re going to take a more comparative look at their Incubation - how they are preparing for their guests; their Invitation, and their Ideas.

Incubation

Wisdom’s Work

Let’s look first at what Wisdom does to prepare for her guests.

Wisdom has built her house;

she has hewn her seven pillars.

2  She has slaughtered her beasts; she has mixed her wine;

she has also set her table.

3  She has sent out her young women to call

from the highest places in the town,

Let’s consider what it would take if this was a literal person doing these things.
What does it take to build a house?
When I was a teenager, my parents built a custom home. They...

Constructing a home

Looked for land (a few months)
Purchased the land (a month or so)
Established ideas for their home - (several years - even before the actual construction project began.)
Interviewed architects
Reviews architectural plans and finalized a design
Signed contracts with
Interviewed builders
Construction (8 months)
Moved in
Even after all of this, there was still the landscaping and other loose ends that needed to be tied up. The point is that
Building a home takes time! (months or even years)

Preparing a Feast

Not only does wisdom get ready by establishing her home and getting it ready, she takes time to prepare a feast. She slaughters (and prepares) the animals, prepares the drink and sets the table.
Next week, we’ll all celebrate Thanksgiving. It has always amazed me how much goes into these feasts. The hours of planning, preparing, cooking, and more. If we just look at the time it takes to eat - we may only sit down for a few minutes (30-40 minutes). One of the things that is important to remember is that hospitality in that culture is very important. It is a huge sign of friendship and family to invite someone for a meal. It’s not a short event - it’s something that is drawn out over a great deal of time.
Leonard Sweet, in his book From Tablet to Table talks about the value of a meal and sitting around the table. He says...
“The table is necessarily communal. And for Christians, there is a Trinitarian component to the table. Even when only two are gathered, three are always present.” (Sweet, p. 17-18).
In his book, Sweet goes on to talk about the fact that the table is a great place to exchange ideas, unveil truth and mystery, tell stories. Wisdom seems to be preparing a table for us to do just that - eat, drink, talk, listen, laugh, cry, and more.
The third thing that Wisdom is doing in preparation for her guests is to...

Send Out Invitations (3)

She is not only sending out invitations, but she is sending out ambassadors, people who will go and invite people. To some degree - this sounds a bit like what the Holy Spirit does in our lives. It also sounds like what Jesus called us to do as we go into all the world....
As we consider the things that wisdom is inviting us to, we need to recognize that wisdom’s work is not random acts that are slapped together. She is carefully preparing an environment so that she can spend a great deal of time with her guests.
In contrast to wisdom’s work, let’s turn to...

Folly’s Flavor

The woman Folly is loud; she is seductive and knows nothing.
she is seductive and knows nothing.
She sits at the door of her house; she takes a seat on the highest places of the town,
she takes a seat on the highest places of the town,
calling to those who pass by, who are going straight on their way,
who are going straight on their way,
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), .
What do you notice that is different between Wisdom’s approach and Folly’s approach?
Her flavor or style is that she is not putting forth very much effort. She is simply being loud and obnoxious. She’s using smooth words and empty phrases to entice people to listen.
Rather than making any sort of preparation, she is going to the most convenient places - her door, the highest place in town.
If Folly was a real person - what do you imagine her to be like?
There is some thought that she is like a prostitute or an adulteress - someone who is unfaithful and lacking good sense.
While these two “women” are very different, their invitation is identical.

Invitation (vs. 4, 16)

“Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!”

To him who lacks sense she says,

“Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!”

And to him who lacks sense she says,

Their opening line is identical. Their audience is the same. They are both calling out to people who are inexperienced in life and lack wisdom or knowledge. These individuals might also be considered “naive.”
The drastic difference is in their ideas.

Ideas

Wisdom and folly have completely different ideas that they are trying to get across.

Come, eat of my bread

and drink of the wine I have mixed.

6  Leave your simple ways, and live,

and walk in the way of insight.”

7  Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse,

and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury.

8  Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you;

reprove a wise man, and he will love you.

9  Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser;

teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.

10  The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,

and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.

11  For by me your days will be multiplied,

and years will be added to your life.

12  If you are wise, you are wise for yourself;

if you scoff, you alone will bear it.

Wisdom is inviting people to sit down and dine - to digest (which takes time) the food (or ideas) that she is presenting. She is inviting people to leave their simple ways. She is enlightening them.
While my translation does not include verses 7-12 in quotes, this seems to be a taste of what she is inviting people to digest. It’s almost as though she is sharing a bit of her menu with the listeners.
Folly, on the other hand, has a very simple message.

“Stolen water is sweet,

and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.”

Some might say that these refer to forbidden sexual encounters. Whether or not that is the case, the appeal that folly makes is that the things you shouldn’t have are enjoyable.
Is that true?
In many ways, yes - things that we should not have are enjoyable, for a time. but as the writer of Proverbs says at the end of Folly’s invitation:

But he does not know that the dead are there,

that her guests are in the depths of Sheol.

Discerning Wisdom from Folly

As we’ve looked at these to voices - wisdom and folly - what do you see as the biggest differences?
What are they really calling people to do?
One of the things that seems apparent to me is that Folly wants to keep people in their simplicity and wants to lead people to destruction.
Wisdom wants to inform or teach, to build people up.
Here are some questions we may want to ask when we are trying to discern wisdom from the competing voices:
If I do this, will I learn more?
If I do ______, will I have regrets?
Is this leading me toward or away from God?
Is this voice lifting me up or keeping me down?
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