The word of the day is “reject.” Many think that the ways of God are hidden and only known to a select few who have the time and resources to probe into them. However, in our reading of Proverbs 1:20-33, we hear wisdom herself speaking in urgent cries in every public place. Thus, we read, “Wisdom sings in the streets. She moves boldly in the squares. She preaches on high city walls. And sits at the gates of lords. At the gates of a city, she boldly says…” (vs. 20-21). Wisdom is not hiding herself but loudly proclaiming her counsel in the street. But do we hear her when she calls to us? Today’s reading describes several ways of closing our ears to the teaching of wisdom and the corresponding ways of opening them. We also learn the consequences of refusing to listen to the instruction on how to live sensibly.
Three Ways of Closing Our Ears
As Proverbs begins, the book attributes its axioms to Solomon (vs. 1). But today’s reading starts when wisdom speaks in her own voice. In this passage, she addresses those who neglect or refuse to follow her teachings. They are the simple, the scorners, and the hardened fools who hate Wisdom (OAB vs. 22-23).
The simple are those who are untrained and unfamiliar with wisdom. These are beginners in the way of discernment and perception. And they are at a tipping point. If they cling to their simplicity and do not give heed to the words of the wise, they align themselves with those who reject Wisdom (OAB vs. 23). But if they love “righteousness,” they will not “be ashamed” (OSB vs. 22-23). The love of righteousness, that is, the concern to live an upright and just life, is the first step in following the way of insight. Wisdom will protect from shame these trainees as they grow in understanding and discernment.
The scoffers are those who delight in mocking the way of prudence (OAB vs. 22). These scorners mistake their derision for discernment (OSB vs. 22). Because they are haughty and arrogant, they reject any sound teaching (OSB vs. 23). And their cynicism and skepticism prevent them from any growth in understanding. Therefore, Solomon says, “A scoffer seeks Wisdom in vain” (OAB 14:6). Those who ridicule wise understanding believe that they are free in their thinking. However, pride controls their thoughts and their actions (OAB 21:24).
The Hardened Fools
According to The New King James Version, the most intransigent group consists of the hardened fools who “hate knowledge” (OAB vs. 23). In contrast, the Septuagint (LXX) refers to these foolish persons as those who “hate perception.” Thus, the LXX clarifies that these antagonists loath discernment and astute judgment (Strong’s #144, 9). For both Greek and Hebrew texts, those who harbor animosity to wisdom are familiar with its teaching, but they vigorously oppose it. These fools hear the reproofs of the wise but despise them (OAB vs. 30), and they consider reproaches “invalid,” that is, worthless to them (OSB vs. 26).
The Consequences of Closed Ears
This catalog of attitudes that close our ears to wisdom should serve as a warning to us. If we do not pay attention to Wisdom (OSB and OAB vs. 25-26), wisdom will laugh at our “annihilation” (OSB vs. 27). In other words, when we ignore the pleas of wisdom as she cries to us, calamity will overtake us like a whirlwind (OAB vs. 27).
Note, therefore, that wisdom does not actively punish those who refuse her. But understand that wisdom teaches the ways of virtue, truth, justice, and righteousness. Those who reject her instruction, reject her ways and rejecting her ways wander from the path of her goodness.
To express this insight, The Oxford Annotated Bible translates, “Because they would have none of my counsel and despised all my reproof, therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way and be sated with their own devices” (OAB vs. 30-31). Likewise, The New King James Version reads, “Therefore they shall eat the fruits of their own way and be filled with their own ungodliness.” Indeed, the paths of waywardness are ways of death. And fools perish in their complacency (OAB vs. 32).
In contrast to the plight of those who dismiss the counsel of Wisdom, The Orthodox Study Bible says that those who follow the teaching of the wise will live in hope. They will be free from fear of evil and be “at rest” (OSB 1:35). Likewise, in The New King James Version, Wisdom promises, “Those who listen to me will be secure and will live at ease, without dread of disaster” (OAB 1:35).
It follows that to obtain these promises, we must open the ears of our hearts and minds to the teaching of wisdom. Instead of clinging to simplicity, we should earnestly study and learn the ways of wisdom. Instead of scoffing at understanding and discernment, we should set aside our pride and arrogance and sit down at the feet of wisdom to learn from her. And, God forbid that we should hate the ways of godly wisdom. But we should love to hear its teachings as a way to love the Lord.