Proverbs 9:1-6, 13-18
Invitations From Wisdom And Folly

Authored By Rev. Takao Kiyohiro, Tokyo, Japan

The Voices Calling Out To The Inexperienced And Young

1. In today's passage of scripture we have the words of the exact same call out to someone appearing twice in the text. It is in verses four and sixteen. "Hey simple [souls], any of you, drop on by!" When we read Proverbs, we will encounter over and over the cognate word for "folly" or "simple, [with the nuances of naive, foolish, shallow, wicked]." This particular word for "folly" occurs nineteen times in the whole Bible and fifteen of them occur in Proverbs. We come to see that it is a major word for understanding Proverbs.

2. When we say [this particular word for] "fool" in Japanese, it has the meaning of lacking in judgment and understanding, but the biblical word has the meaning of "simplicity, simple" in it at the root. This simplicity is tied to one's inexperience and immaturity. For instance, in chapter one and verse four the same word can be found, and it is translated there as "the immature." Then, in that same verse it is put another way as "the young" [and so it helps define the meaning of this word by repetition of ideas and terms, which is the Jewish way of doing poetry, that is, the rhyming of ideas]. In short, it is about how that [a person] stands in need of maturity. But, since it is about being in need of maturity, it is not necessarily limited to the young by age. - Because no matter how old we are, becoming a mature person in its truest sense is a topic [that applies] to us. In that sense then, what is written in the text should have something to do with every single one of us.

3. Now, what today's passage is talking about is that there are voices calling out to "the simple" and "the immature." They are not from the same direction. [These voices] are heard from two directions. Going by the expression from our biblical passage, we hear the voices of two women calling out. One woman is called "Wisdom." (This is the wisdom of God that created the universe as we've seen in chapter eight.) The other woman is called "Folly." The calls of these two persons are both calls for our maturity in whatever way we may be immature. They call, "Hey simple [souls], any of you, drop on by!" But, though the words of the calls are the same, the way they are, their truth, and the contents of what they say are entirely different. In these two passages I have read to you, the two calls of these two females are given for contrast and comparison. We must take a close look at the differences between them.

Different Ways Of Inviting

4. First, there are differences in the way these two invite out to others.

5. Let's look from the side of the woman named Folly. She is described as "a noisy woman." With the expression "noisy woman" we might envision her as a middle-aged woman loudly chattering away on a train. But, in Proverbs, the term of "the noisy woman" comes with a particular imagery. We find that imagery in chapter seven. She's the kind of woman who "loud and selfishly, never plants her own feet at her own house," (Proverbs 7:11). In other words, as depicted in that passage, the imagery is given of a woman who tempts some youth as would a harlot, as would an immoral and promiscuous woman.

6. It is definitely a harlot type person who is "seated down at the doorway to her house, sitting on a seat at a high place in the city, and calling out to those on the road." She reveals her body directly to them and calls them with her own voice. The call of folly is direct like that of the tempting of some prostitute or loose woman. She does not appeal to the person's logical thought processes, but to the person's immediate physical senses. She works directly upon the person's cravings. Folly's call to a person is most often simple to understand and bewitchingly attractive. That's why so many people are captivated by her voice.

7. On the other side, Wisdom does not meet with the people directly. She builds a home, prepares the meal, and waits. Upon preparing something really rich, she waits at home. She does not proceed forward herself, but sends her maid to the people and calls out through her. The sent person tells wisdom's words in Wisdom's place.

8. The people have their eyes on the maid. They hear her message. They do not directly see the good meal that has been prepared. Neither is the imagery of the maid necessarily that of a bewitching and attractive one. Thus then, the call of wisdom is not a direct appeal to the senses. It appears that the call of wisdom is not to be felt as something immediately attractive as much as that of the call of folly. Therefore, those who have heard it think about it carefully, seek her out on their own will power, and don't necessarily have to proceed to the house of wisdom. That's how they may potentially take their first part in her wisdom and in all the riches that she has prepared.

Different Messages

9. Second, the calls of the two are different in their contents.

10. The woman named Folly says to those with weak will power, "Stolen waters are sweet, bread eaten in secret is delicious," (verse seventeen). The expression of "those with weak will power" is not just weak wills, but means they lack power to understand. Being moved then by only sensations, we cannot accurately think out a situation. That is also an obvious pointer to immaturity. To immature persons like that the woman named Folly speaks her evil charms. Many times in this world it is that evil looks so overpoweringly good. It [can be] so sweet to our lips and feel so delicious.

11. The call, that the way to maturity is to experience this sweetness of evil and the delight of sin, has been heard through all time periods. It has. The voice is ever audible, that "to experience the pleasures of evil is to become an adult." For one thing, there are children who feel that they would be grown-ups by smoking cigarettes in secret and drinking sake, having a physical relationship with the opposite sex, or to top it off worse, even going into prostitution. For another thing, there are adults who brag about the evil things they've done and who make their opinion known that it is part of being human to taste a little of the bad and the good in life. There are novelists depicting this "World Of Adults" in so captivating a manner. There are serials and soaps on TV like that. In our day and age as well, the calling voice of the woman named Folly resounds all around us. What a captivating call she has!

12. On another hand, the messenger that was sent from Wisdom calls out like this, "You should eat my bread and drink the drink I have made." But in saying that, the messenger has no bread in her hands. Nor does she have any wine. She is not able to show them to the people directly. But, she does point them to Wisdom's house where the true abundance and a really great dinner is already set. It is a true banquet of life that is opened there, which anyone, no matter who or how immature can become part of. I repeat. The person who goes there will take part in its abundance after they hear Wisdom's words that the messenger tells and then they think carefully, and seek for it themselves.

Different Results

13. Then third, there are differences in the results which the calls of these two bring.

14. Folly's invitation is enchanting. The taste of wickedness is sweet. It seems to give one a maturity that removes one's innocence and immaturity. But, the Bible has this to add on to that. "The people don't understand that dead spirits are there. Those invited by her will fall deep into hell," (verse eighteen). Dead spirits or ghosts are beings from the world of death. But, when tempted by Folly's invitation and a person is intoxicated by the deliciousness of sin, ghosts swarm right next door to him or her. In other words, though alive he or she is already in the world of death. In such a place you wouldn't expect there to be life's joy and strength. One is already dead even while alive! Thus, the final destination will be the depths of the world of death. The deep darkness of death where the light of life never reaches is the place where the person will arrive as he or she follows Folly's invitation, and it is the fate which he or she will reap.

15. On the other hand, the invitation of Wisdom's messenger as raised before continues into verse six. This verse in the original text is from three imperative statements. "Give up your simpleness (immaturity)! Live! Follow the way of good judgment!" A person does not mature by experiencing the sweetness of wickedness or the deliciousness of sin but by Wisdom's bread and wine, by the nourishment of God's wisdom. By this means, one can "live" in the real sense. One can live abounding in life's joy and strength. He or she will advance straight on down "the way of good judgment," that is, the way of the person who discerns wisdom and folly.

Christ's Invitation

16. Well, as I mentioned earlier, wisdom, which has been described personified is nothing other than God's wisdom, which attended at the world's creation. This wisdom did not stay depicted in the Bible as some character, but actually appeared as a specific character. In the person of Jesus Christ, humanity has seen the complete manifestation of God's wisdom. He, indeed, is truly the living Word of God. He, indeed, has abundantly prepared the bread of life, and invites us to his table. In coming to Him, we take part in true life.

17. With that said, just as it has been depicted here, wisdom certainly does not show itself to humans directly. It calls out through a messenger, and the messenger is not the same as Wisdom, it is no more than Wisdom's maid servant. Likewise, the apostles whom Christ has sent are not Christ himself. They are no more than humans full of faults. The Bible we have in our hands also is something that tells us of Christ, but it itself is not the Christ. The Bible did not fall straight out of heaven, but with its own history on this earth it has a side to it that was written by the hands of people. In the same way, neither the church, nor pastors, nor sermons given during worship services, nor the bread and the wine of the Lord's Supper are in and of themselves the Christ, they are no more than maid servants pointing to the Christ. These are all in the world, exist within history, and are really no more than humble fault-laden things.

18. However, through these messengers, Wisdom - Christ - are calling out. The calling out of the woman named Folly is not alone in sounding out her voice, another voice surely is sounding out. The words that Folly gives are often attractive. But, we must not obey the voice of Folly and head for destruction. We must listen to the voice of Christ; for, Christ is inviting us even now, "You should eat my bread and drink the wine I have prepared, to obtain life and to advance in the way of good judgment, give up your simple shallow souls."

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