Opening The Old Testament
The Eternal Search for Wisdom: Reflections on Proverbs 1:20-33
Now that we understand at least in part the most basic claims and demands of the teachers of Wisdom, we now can hear another important feature of this Wisdom, as it is found in the text for today, Proverbs 1:20-33. We see that Wisdom is not merely an inert thing lying quietly in the center of things waiting to be discovered by earnest seekers. In fact, Wisdom is always on the lookout for us!
Wisdom cries out in the street; in the squares she raises her voice. At the busiest corner she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks, "How long, you simpletons, will you love being simple?" (Prov. 2:20-22a).
Wherever we turn in our everyday lives, Wisdom is looking for us, urging us to abandon our desire for simple human answers to our problems, and longing for us to embrace her "reproof," her "thoughts," her tried and true "words."
But we have avoided Wisdom's call (Prov. 1:24-25), and the result has been calamity and disaster. Even if we finally see the foolishness of our ways, it may be too late: "Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me earnestly, but will not find me, because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of YHWH" (Prov. 1:28-29).
When I read these ancient words, I cannot help but think of the environmental calamity we all face. Temperatures are rising worldwide, bringing with them more catastrophic floods and devastating droughts. The science is now settled on this matter; we humans are the primary cause of it all, led by our insatiable demands for fossil fuels and the resulting massive CO2 emissions that are literally changing our atmosphere to a heat-trapping envelope that threatens us all. Despite the certainties of all this, leaders in our country, along with leaders in emerging economies, refuse to face the reality head-on. Like the ancient proverbial writer, when we finally turn to "seek Wisdom" at last, it may be too late.
Yet, the author of the ancient words holds out hope for us still; we Christians, too, cannot finally descend into cynical despair. So, let us hear these final lines of Proverbs 2 with genuine hope for our futures, knowing that if we seek Wisdom we may find at last that world God wants us to find. "Waywardness kills the simple; the complacency of fools destroys them, but those who listen to me will be secure and will live at ease, without dread of disaster" (Prov. 1:32-33). May it be so, O God!
John C. Holbert is the Lois Craddock Perkins Professor of Homiletics at Perkins School of Theology in Dallas, TX.