Handfuls on Purpose
by James Smith, 1943
WISDOM'S CALL. Proverbs 1:20-29
The book of Proverbs is said to "Represent the very science of practical philosophy." It is divided into two sections; Chapters I.—IX., Wisdom's Ways, and chapters 10—31. Wisdom's Words. These words "The fear of the Lord, which is the beginning of knowledge" (v. 7) may be taken as the keynote of the book. They occur thirteen times. These Proverbs are literally "Comparisons" in practical "parables." The Wisdom personified here (8:12) stands for the highest intellectual sagacity, and the purest moral character, and finds its perfect fulfillment in the Person and Character of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is "The Wisdom of God," and who is "made of God unto us, Wisdom, Righteousness, Sanctification and Redemption." In this cry of Wisdom, let us hear the cry of Christ. We can hear in it the voice of—
I.—COMPASSION. "Wisdom cries without.... in the streets, in the openings of the gates" (v. 20). The message is for the "man in the street," as well as the ruler at the gates. It is the compassionate cry of infinite mercy and fullness (John 7:37). This voice seeks to ring in every street, city, and county. It is the cry of God's Evangel to a perishing world. Three classes are addressed—the "Simple," the "Scorner," and the "Fool." The weak, the wayward, and the worthless: He came, not to call the righteous, but sinners.
II.—REPROOF. "He cries.....how long, you simple ones... Turn you at my reproof" (vv. 22-23). These three classes are typical. (1). The Simple are rebuked for being easily led; yielding themselves thoughtlessly to the influence of others, and not taking time to "Stand still, and ask for the good old paths." They are the willing dupes, in mind and heart, to unprincipled or ungodly men. (2). The Scorner is reproved for his delight in scorning! Taking pleasure in ungodliness is about the climax of human guilt. Such glory in their shame, for the sake of a fetid applause, they receive from a corrupt humanity. (3). The Fool is charged with "hating knowledge!" At enmity with Wisdom. He loves the darkness rather than the light, which is abundant proof of his madness. He hates Wisdom, because it is opposed to his supreme folly. Such are the attitudes of many toward Christ.
III.—ENTREATY. "Turn you at my reproof" (v. 23). Wisdom, like Christ, calls, and entreats, but will not compel. "Turn you." The responsibility is with the hearer. He appeals to the will: to the reason. "Come now, and let us reason together says the Lord." Regeneration is the work of the Spirit, but conversion— turning about—is the work of man. "Repent, and be converted," is His command. "Turn you! turn you, for Why will you die?" You will not come to Me that you might have life. Your face is away from Him who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life; turn you at My reproof.
IV.—PROMISE. "Behold, I will pour out my Spirit unto you, and I will make known my words unto you" (v. 23). He will meet the real need of the Simple, the Scorner, and the Fool, by imparting to them His own regenerating Spirit, and making them to receive and understand His precious, soul-satisfying words. He promises, not to change their circumstances, but to transform their character. God's law is perfect, and so is His remedy for the silly, sneering, sinful souls of men. Salvation is of the Lord.
V.—LAMENTATION. "I have called, and you refused..... and would none of my reproof" (vv. 24-25). This is the language of wounded love, like that in Matthew 23:37. His "call" was refused, His "stretched out hand" was disregarded, His "counsel" was set at naught. His "reproof" they would have none of. His "Call," His "Counsel," His "Entreaty," and His "Reproof" had been alike fruitless, because of the stupidity and hardness of their heart. He wills not the death of any, but how sad that many should prefer death to life.
VI.—JUDGMENT. "Because.... you refused....I also will laugh at your calamity." "I will mock when your fear comes," etc. (vv. 26-29). There is nothing more certain than this, that fear comes upon all the ungodly sooner or later. Those who have willfully rejected His call of Mercy, will find their Call of Fear rejected. Christ had His Calamity on the Cross, the Christ-despiser will have his when He sees Him on His Throne. The depths of the horrors of perdition may partly explain the depths of the horrors of the Crucifixion. Here deep calls unto deep. Man's crowning crime is: that he hates the knowledge of God, and chooses not His fear (v. 29). Behold now is the day of Salvation; now is the seed-time of eternal life. In vain shall we call upon Him in the winter of Judgment, if we neglect the summer of His Grace and Mercy.
WISDOM'S PRECIOUSNESS. Proverbs 3:13-20
Christ is the Wisdom of God, and to them that believe He is precious. Those who have put on Christ have such an adorning that all the material glories of earth are not to be compared with it. "She is more precious than rubies." From these verses we may learn something of her, or His—
I.—GREATNESS. The Lord by wisdom has founded the earth" (v. 19). "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God,... All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made" (John 1:1-4). "O Lord, how manifold are Your works, in wisdom have You made them all." God, by Jesus Christ, created (Ephesians 3:9). God, by Jesus Christ, Redeemed.
II.—RICHES. "Length of days is in her right hand, and in her left riches and honor" (v. 16). The treasures of true Wisdom are the treasures which belong to Jesus Christ. "Length of days," "Riches," "Honor." Everlasting life, unsearchable riches, and the Right Hand of God. In Him is Life, and the treasures of Wisdom and knowledge, and all the fullness of God; He is crowned with glory and honor. With long life does He satisfy those to whom He has shown His Salvation (Psalm 91:16).
III.—INFLUENCE. Wisdom has a mighty influence.
1. On the HEART. "Happy is the man that finds Wisdom" (v. 13). The yoke of Wisdom is easy, her burden is light. To find the Wisdom of God is to find rest to the soul, light to the eyes, and joy to the heart. To find Wisdom (Christ) is to find the holy, blissful, all-conquering will, and mercy of God. A man cannot make such a find without being renewed in the whole inner man.
2. On the LIFE. "The merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver" (v. 14). Those who find Wisdom, find a new object in life, and a new sphere of action. To trade with Christ, and work for Him, is more profitable than the best investment on earth. "The gain thereof is better than fine gold."
III.—DESIRABILITY. "All the things you can desire are hot to be compared unto her" (v. 15). It is not possible for you to desire anything better than this. Paul knew this when he said:"What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ." You may desire great and many things, but the affections of the heart can never be set on a more worthy and needful-object than the Wisdom of God, as revealed in His Well-beloved Son. Wisdom's "ways" are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace" (v. 17). By faith Moses desired the better part, when he esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt. Christ is the gift of God, covet earnestly this best gift. Those who have Him, though poor, yet can make many rich, as having nothing, yet possessing all things. "Wisdom is the principal thing, therefore get Wisdom. Exalt her, and she shall promote you" (4:7-8)
IV.—ACCESSIBILITY. "She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her" (v. 18). How can I, so weak and foolish, get possession of this Wisdom? It is not for scholars, but for sinners. Lay hold on eternal life. She is not only life to those who lay hold upon her, but "a tree of life," a well of water springing up; not only a stream of blessing, but a fountain within; Accessible! Yes. Whoever will may come. Him that comes unto Me I will in no wise cast out. Incline your ear unto Wisdom, and apply your heart; for with the heart man believes unto righteousness (see chapter 2:1-6). Now then, "take fast hold of Wisdom, let her not go; keep her, for she is your life" (4:13). "Unto you, O men, I call; and my voice is to the sons of men" (8:4).
WISDOM'S CHARACTER. Proverbs 8:12-36
Here again, as in chapter 2:20-22, we have in the opening verses of this chapter a revelation of Wisdom's agonizing attitude towards men. The voice of Wisdom, like the light of the sun, is unto all men. This voice, like the voice of the sun, may be silent, but it is withal the Voice of God, because it is the voice of Character. The world may close its ears to the cry of the Christ, but it cannot stifle that pleading voice. "Unto you O men, I call; and my voice is to the sons of men."
How Christ-like are the characteristics of Wisdom. Observe—
1. Wisdom's Personality. "I wisdom dwell with prudence" (v. 12). Here the Personality is divine; qualities are claimed which belong properly to the Eternal Son. God is Love, God is Light, and God is Wisdom.
2. Wisdom's Powers. "I have strength. By me kings reign, and princes decree judgment" (vv. 14-16). His name shall be called Wonderful, the Mighty God. The Everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of earth, never is weary; and He gives power to the faint, and increases the strength of the helpless (Isaiah 40:28-29). There is no power but of God. All power is given unto Me.
3. Wisdom's Offer. "Those that seek me diligently shall find me" (v. 17, R.V.) If any man love Me, he shall be loved of My Father, and I will love him and will manifest Myself unto him. Heavenly Wisdom is imparted to the open, diligent heart. Christ reveals Himself as a reward to the diligent seeker. You shall find Him when you shall search for Him with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:13). Seek you first the Kingdom of God. Behold, now is the accepted time.
4. Wisdom's Wealth. "Riches and honor are with me; yes, durable riches and righteousness. My fruit is better than gold" (vv. 18-19). Her riches can only be given with honor; her durable riches with righteousness. Christ's unsearchable and eternal riches are connected with His holy and eternal righteousness. To be eternally rich we must be eternally right. In Him all fullness dwells. "Wherefore do you spend money (wealth) for that which is not bread? and labor for that which satisfies not. Hearken diligently unto Me," etc. "counsel you to buy of Me, gold tried in the fire, that you may be rich" (Rev. 3:18).
5. Wisdom's Grace. "I lead in the way of righteousness....That I may cause those that love me to inherit substance. And I will fill their treasures" (vv. 20-21). Not only are her hands full of riches, but her heart is full of love and mercy, seeking to lead others into the joyful possessions of her treasures. It is not difficult for the anointed eye to see Jesus here. He leads into Righteousness, that He might lead into an incorruptible inheritance. Oh! the riches of that Grace which "causes us to love Him" that we might be made partakers of His infinite riches, and so have the treasury of the heart filled out of His fullness (Romans 5:17).
6. Wisdom's Testimony. The wonderful language used in this passage (vv. 22-31) could only come truthfully from the lips of one who was, and is, co-equal with God.
He was possessed by Jehovah in the beginning (v. 22). He was exalted from everlasting, or ever the earth was (v. 23).
He was brought forth, before the fountains, the mountains, or the hills (vv. 24-25).
He was present when God prepared the heavens, etc. (vv. 26-29).
He was with God as a Master Workman, and was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him (v. 30, R.V.).
His delight was with the Sons of Men (v. 31).
This was the Word that was made flesh, and dwelt among us. This is the One, who being in the form of God, took upon Him the form of a servant, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross.
7. Wisdom's Counsel. "Now, therefore, my sons, hearken unto me; for blessed are they that keep my ways" (v. 32, R.V.) "This is My Beloved Son, Hear you Him." What a privilege to hear His words, and to receive His invitation. Oh, the madness of turning a deaf ear to Him. The blessing that makes rich is to be found in Him, His ways are ways of pleasantness, as well as safety.
8. Wisdom's Promise. "For whoever finds me finds life, and shall obtain favor of the Lord" (v. 35). Life and divine favor are alone to be found in Him who is the Wisdom of God, and the Power of God. "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, no man comes unto the Father but by Me. I am come that you might have life. He who has the Son has life."
9. Wisdom's Warning. "He who sins against me wrongs his own soul. All they that hate me love death" (v. 36). To sin against God is to make for self-destruction. To kick against His goadings is to wound our own feet and prefer death to life. We sin against Him when we refuse to believe His Word and submit ourselves to Him. In so sinning against Him, against His love and merciful pleadings, we wrong our own soul by compelling it to abide in a condition of spiritual darkness, guilt, and condemnation. Your sin of unbelief and rebellion may not wrong God, but is a terrible wrong to your own soul.
WISDOM'S PROVISION AND INVITATION. Proverbs 9:1-6
In this chapter we have not only the pressing call of Wisdom, but also the clamorous invitation of Folly (v. 13). The foolish woman seeks to imitate her who is the expression of the Wisdom of God. The wonder-workings of God will always have their counterfeits in the workings of the devil. The one leads to the heights of Heaven, the other to the "depths of Hell" (v. 18).
Wisdom's Provision. The provision indicated here is sevenfold. There is—
1. The House. "Wisdom has built her house" (v. 1). It is a house of Refuge, and a place of holy and heavenly fellowship. It is large, and in every way fitted for its great purpose, and perfectly becoming the character of the builder. See Ephesians 2:20-22; 1 Peter 2:5.
2. The Pillars. "Wisdom has hewn out her seven pillars." The pillars indicate strength and stability. Seven is the perfect number. This building is supported by that which is perfect in character. Here are seven pillars which belong to this spiritual Temple, The Lord God: (1), "Merciful"; (2), "Gracious"; (3), "Long-suffering"; (4), "Abundant in goodness and truth"; (5), "Keeping mercy for thousands"; (6), "Forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin"; and. (7), "Will by no means clear the guilty" (Justice). Exodus 34:6. The doctrines of Jesus Christ are pillars of truth, and are as stable as the attributes of God.
3. The Sacrifices. "Wisdom has killed her beasts." Wisdom has made her sacrifices. Ample provision could only be made through the shedding of blood, the forfeiture of innocent life. God so loved the world that He gave His Son. It pleased the Lord to braise Him. He has put Him to grief. In this sacrifice there was the pouring-out of divine love, and life. Wisdom has done it, although man in his ignorance and pride of intellect would protest against it.
4. The Wine. "Wisdom has mingled her wine." The wine mixed by the wisdom of the world can only bring "woe, sorrow, contention, babbling, wounds, and redness of eye" (23-30). This is neither worldly wine, nor a worldly mixture. It is Wisdom's own wine, and Wisdom's own mixture. The wine is pure, and the spices are pure, the blend is the richest that thirsty, languid souls can ever drink. Christ's wine of joy is mingled to suit each individual case. It is always a wholesome mixture. The Lord has another mixture for a different class of people (Psalm 75:8).
5 The Table. "Wisdom has furnished her table" (v. 2). The wisdom of God has put upon the table of His grace every needful blessing. His table is well furnished. My God shall supply all your need. Many don't realize their manifold need, and so cannot appreciate the value of Wisdom's provision.
6. The Servants. "Wisdom has sent forth her maidens" (v. 3). The feast being ready the heralds of His grace are sent forth with free invitations. Wisdom has her own servants, as well as her own house, and a table. Salvation is of the Lord.
7. The Call. "Wisdom cries upon the highest places of the city." It may be the servant's voice, but the call is that of "Wisdom." We are ambassadors for Christ. It is God that beseeches by us (2 Corinthians 5:20). The call is urgent, it is from the highest places of the city that all may hear. It is a Call. 1. To Turn. "Turn in hither." It implies conversion from the broken cisterns of the world to the well-furnished table of the Lord. 2, To Come. "Come, eat of My bread, and drink of the wine which I have mingled" (v. 5). Come and eat of that which the Wisdom of God has so abundantly provided, the bread of strength, and the wine of gladness and inspiration. 3, To Forsake. "Forsake the foolish and live" (v. 6). Folly says: "Stolen waters are sweet" (v. 17). The wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. Come out from among them, and be you separate, says the Lord. 4, To go. "Go in the way of understanding" (v. 6). Having turned to the Lord and received of His gifts, we now go in His way, learning of Him. He shall guide you with all truth when you follow Him, leaning not on your own understanding (3:4-7). Come and take, then go and work.