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Wisdom Says, “Follow Me!” | Proverbs 8

As preached by Timothy O'Day.

Here is what we see in Proverbs 8: The call of wisdom is the summons to discipleship that imparts life by divine authority.

Wisdom Says, “Follow Me!” 

Proverbs 8

June 23, 2024

In his book The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer penned this now well known phrase,

“When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” 

Those are striking words that may cause you and many others to ask, “What? I thought Christ died for me. Why would he call me to die?” Here is what Bonhoeffer is getting at: when Christ calls you to himself, the old you dies. Faith in Christ is an end to the old way of life because faith in Christ is invariably partnered with repentance—a changing in your thinking that leads you to turn from old ways of living. 

Yet, he does not merely bid him come and die. When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die so that he may truly live. For when you turn to Christ, you certainly die, but he certainly raises you to new life. As Paul proclaims in Galatians 2:20,

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith I the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Christianity is death to self and to sin, but life in Christ and to God. Jesus, who in himself contains all of the wisdom of God, calls everyone today to discipleship. That is, he bids all men come and die so that they may have true and eternal life. Jesus says in Luke 9:23-25,

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” 

In Proverbs 8, this same call to discipleship is proclaimed. If you recall, Proverbs 1-9 is a series of lectures on wisdom punctuated by sermons given by wisdom personified. That is, Woman Wisdom is a personification of the wisdom contained in the book of Proverbs. To hear her is first and foremost done by listening to Proverbs in particular and God’s word as a whole in general. In Proverbs 8, wisdom gives her second sermon, which follows this pattern:

  • An exhortation to take up wisdom and walk in her ways (1-10)

  • A description of her benefits and rewards (11-21)

  • A rehearsal of her authoritative credentials (22-31)

  • And a call to action for all those who hear her call (32-36)

Coming on the heels of the warnings of listening to the seductive voice of sin in this present age in Proverbs 5-7, Lady Wisdom makes herself known and calls us to choose her ways, telling us why she is superior. But this is not some sales pitch. As you hear wisdom cry out, hear the voice of Christ cry out with the love of God for you. Like Christ, Wisdom calls out offering discipline that leads to life while calling you to refrain from sin that will lead to death.

While sin offers (and momentarily gives!) pleasure but leads to bitterness, wisdom offers discipline and leads to wholeness and life. So here is what I want us to see in Proverbs 8: 

The call of wisdom is the summons to discipleship that imparts life by divine authority.

Let’s look at each aspect of this in turn.

The Call of Wisdom is the Summons to Discipleship (8:1-9)

Once again, the call of wisdom is not quiet or private. She speaks plainly and publicly. As verse 1 asks us rhetorically, “Does not wisdom call? Does not understanding raise her voice?” It is asked in such a way that “Yes” is the obvious answer. 

Wisdom is Obvious and Public

In fact, she makes herself obvious. Verse 2 tells us that she stands beside the way of travel, at the crossroads so that no one misses her. Verse 3 tells us that she stands at the city gates, meaning that if you want to get in or go out, you have to deal with her. 

The city gate was not just a place of travel, however. At the gate, business was conducted and judgments laid out. The most important stuff happened at the city gate, so she is there in order to make herself obvious and plain. 

While in the open and public arena, the end of verse 3 says that “she cries aloud” and verses 4-5 tell us what she cries and to whom:

“To you, O men, I call, and my cry is to the children of man. O simple ones, learn prudence; O fools, learn sense.”

She is crying out to all of humanity, the untrained simple people or fools who have already rejected her (that’s what it means to be a fool). But notice that she doesn’t just speak to the simple and the fool. She actually is calling out to all of humanity, which certainly includes you and me. 

Wisdom Gives a Personal Invitation

This is indeed a general call, but a general call does not make it any less personal for you and me. She calls you. Yes, you. And she has action steps for you that you have to either act on or reject. 

Here are the action steps: “hear” as it says in verse 6, and “learn” in verse 5. The combination of hearing and learning reveals that this is not merely letting her words enter into your head. Rather, hearing and learning require taking her words and acting on them. If a master is with an apprentice telling him to hand him tools, but then the apprentice is never able to copy what the master does with the tools, then the master can say that the apprentice heard him well enough to hand him the tools, but he didn’t learn from him. 

Merely hearing Scripture, God’s wisdom, is not enough. As James writes, “be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22). 

Wisdom Is Reliable

And why should we be doers of what wisdom gives us? Verses 6-9 lay that out perfectly. She speaks noble, lifted-up things (6) that align with righteousness (6); she speaks truth without wickedness mixed in (7 and 8); she speaks words that are straight so as to make your way straight and right before God. 

In other words, everything she says is reliable and you can count on it. 

You Are Without Excuse

Since wisdom is obvious, personally calling you, and offering you reliable words upon which you can build your life, you are really without a legitimate excuse to disregard her. At the end of the day, there are only two possible responses to the call of wisdom: you will follow or you will not. You will, as she commands in verse 10, take up her words and her ways or you will turn to the ways and words of others. And this world is full of options. 

A popular option in today’s culture is to be the eclectic collector of wisdom. You want to grab a little bit from this religion and then a little bit from another. You feel sophisticated when you say that all religions really have a little bit of the truth; you sound humble when you say that you just want to learn from them all. 

But that is actually saying no to Jesus Christ, who says that he is the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through him. 

Having an open-minded approach to religion has the appearance of wisdom, but it is really folly dressed up. GK Chesterton was right in what he said about an open mind. He wrote,

“The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.” 

God’s wisdom, as it is offered to us in the Bible, is the only solid substance that your mind should close on. 

Counting the Cost

But hearing wisdom and learning from her will cost you. The call of wisdom is the call of Christ. He calls you to leave behind the things of this world and to build on the sure foundation of his word. He calls you to personally come to him. While your faith is personal, it is not private. Christ is public and calls for us to stand with him in public. The call of Christ is to abandon the ways of the fallen world and instead to invest in his Kingdom. It is to build your life on his sure words, which will often put you at odds with others who do not call him Lord. 

Does that sound hard? It sure can be. But hard is relative. When something is worth it, it always seems easier. What we see in 8:10-21 is that taking up wisdom is most certainly worth it. 

The Call of Wisdom is the Summons to Discipleship That Imparts Life (8:11-21)

Look with me at the command of verse 10,

“Take my instruction instead of silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold…”

This is the command of discipleship. What’s noteworthy is that this command is followed by a list of motivations to obey this command in verses 11-21. Isn’t that incredible? One command followed by a litany of reasons as to why you should hop on obeying it with gusto and joy.

We’ve said in our church before that sin doesn’t travel alone, but neither does God’s wisdom. As you embrace his wisdom, he imparts other gifts that enrich and even give you life.  What are the gifts and rewards that come with lapping up God’s wisdom that he offers to you through his word? Let’s summarize them as competence, freedom, and provision. 

Competence to Serve and Love Others

Wisdom makes you competent to serve and love others. She brings a company with her. Look down at verse 12,

“I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, and I find knowledge and discretion.” 

Wisdom has roommates: prudence is shrewdness and sensibility in practical matters. You simply know what to do in difficult situations. Similarly, Discretion is carefulness of thought. You don’t jump to conclusions but are sober in your thinking and judgment. 

Again, look at verses 14-16,

“I have counsel and sound wisdom; I have insight; I have strength. By me kings reign, and rulers decree what is just; by me princes rule, and nobles, all who govern justly.”

Wisdom brings her friends. Those who embrace her will find that they are able to advise others in ways that accord with God’s wisdom; they will have insight, seeing what others miss. When those in authority make good decisions, it is because of wisdom. Wisdom also gives strength, meaning that you are able to stand bravely by what is right even when it is hard. 

Doesn’t this sound good? Do you desire to be a help to others when they say to you, “I am going through a hard time. Can you help me?” Or they say, “I just had a fight with my spouse and I don’t know what to do.” Or, “I fell into sin again and I just feel like fighting is hopeless.” Or, “I don’t know how to budget money to the glory of God!” Taking up the instruction of Proverbs will make you competent to counsel others through such issues. 

And the promises keep coming.

Freedom From Sin

Wisdom offers freedom from sin. Look at verse 13,

“The fear of the LORD is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.” 

Have you ever wondered why you sin? There are lots of little reasons, but you could boil the matter down to this: you sin because you love sin more than God and trust yourself more than God. You want to be satisfied and believe the lie that sin and its attending promises, not God and his attending promises, will satisfy more. It’s a faith problem and a desire problem. 

But as you hear God’s word, his wisdom, he begins to change what you love. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, meaning that as you fear him, you hear his word and believe it. As you believe it, you start to see what is real and your heart is changed to think in line with what is real. 

God’s word, his wisdom, is his means of changing your heart. 

As you receive wisdom from God, you see him more accurately in his glory and majesty. As you behold his beauty, you grow to hate what he hates: evil. Evil is a privation of what is good; it is destruction of what God created and how he made things to be. So as we are preoccupied and have our attention set on God, who is good, it leads us all the more to despise what is evil, what is contrary to him and his ways. Included in this list of what we grow to hate is pride and arrogance—thinking too highly of ourselves and seeking to build ourselves up in the estimation of others by our speech. 

Do you want to be free of sin? Then you are going to have to wait for the new creation! But you can start being free now. You must first trust in Christ to be forgiven. Once you are forgiven in Christ by his work on the cross alone, God’s law and wisdom move from being indictments against you that weigh you down to directions for you in how to love and what to love. And as his Spirit applies the word to you, you will find increasing freedom from sin because what you love will change. 

Enduring Provision

Lastly, verses 18-21 list out the gift of enduring provision:

“Riches and honor are with me, enduring wealth and righteousness. My fruit is better than gold, even fine gold, and my yield than choice silver. I walk in the way of righteousness, in the paths of justice, granting an inheritance to those who love me, and filling their treasuries.”

Riches and honor come with wisdom, but these are riches that are better than gold and silver, meaning the primary reward is not material treasure. The enduring wealth that is offered is tied to the fact that wisdom leads those who take her up on the path of righteousness and justice, filling their treasuries with the rewards of righteousness and justice. This is the wealth that you cannot lose because it is guarded for you by God himself in heaven. 

Who May Receive These Gifts?

All of this is meant to get our attention and perk our desire. To whom will God give these gifts through the offer of wisdom? Look at verse 17,

“I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me.”

If you seek God’s wisdom in Proverbs, he will rejoice to give it to you. If you diligently seek God’s wisdom, he will not hide it but give it to you freely and joyfully. In short, this wisdom and the gifts of wisdom are yours to have, church, if you would seek them. 

Wisdom, and the life it provides, is imparted not by your cleverness or even by your determination. It comes by God’s Spirit. Only Christ possesses the fullness of wisdom, but in Christ he offers all of this to you. 

Have you not loved wisdom? Have you walked in foolish ways? Don’t despair, turn and seek wisdom by turning and seeking Christ. Repent of your sinful folly. You will be loved and wisdom will be given you. 

Do you want to love wisdom all the more? Then seek her by taking up God’s word and investing your life and time into it. God’s words are a primary means he uses to change hearts. 

Let’s Be Clear

For sinners far from God, the commands and exhortations of wisdom are a burden because the sinner's heart is defined by a hatred and rejection of God. But the call of wisdom is an offer for a changed heart. Remember Proverbs 1:23?

“If you turn at my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit to you; I will make my words known to you.”

If you turn to Christ at his call, he will give his Spirit to you and change you. A changed heart leads to a changed view of what these commands are. No longer do they rest over us to condemn; now they offer light to guide what loving God and loving others actually looks like. 

This change of heart comes by justification in Christ. Wisdom promises to give and reward those who come to her. Christ gives to all who seek him and come to him. Christ is the only one who ever lived in perfect wisdom, loving God and man perfectly. But he doesn’t just give us an example. He gives himself for us on the cross, taking the punishment we deserve for our sin, rising again from the grave to show it is finished, and crying out now for all to come to him in order to receive justification and newness of life. 

With Christ, the word of God moves from being a dry burden to being a light that makes you wise and competent, humble and rich.

But how could Christ give this to us? That’s what we see next. 

The Call of Wisdom is the Summons to Discipleship That Imparts Life by Divine Authority (8:22-31)

Verses 22-31 have stirred hearts and confused some in the history of the church. The point of this section is to show the credibility of wisdom by poetically saying that she has existed from the beginning and participated in the creation itself, therefore you can trust that she will not mislead you. If you want to say to wisdom, “Why should I follow you?” Her response is convincing. She says, “Because I am from the beginning; creation and God are no mystery to me.” 

She witnessed, celebrated, and even participated in creation. So if you want to understand God’s creation—how it works, how to live in it rightly and in accord with its purpose—then listen to and follow the voice of wisdom. 

But how can wisdom claim such things? How could she have witnessed, participated in, and also celebrated with God in the creation? Wisdom creates like God and is uncreated like God, yet distinct from God. 

Yet, wisdom is not God. You might want to quickly jump and say that wisdom here is a stand-in for God the Son, but that doesn’t quite work either. While wisdom is not 

Christ, here is a type of Christ. A type is a figure, institution, or event in the OT that points forward to Jesus Christ. Just as a picture is not the thing itself, a type is not Christ himself but shows us what he is like. Christ is the type in fullness, just like my wife is the fullness of any picture I have of her. 

How is wisdom a type of Christ? Two big ideas are conveyed in these verses:

Wisdom is Preexistent and Present at Creation

First, wisdom is preexistent and was present at creation (22-29). Look down at verses 22-23,

“The LORD possessed me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of old. Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth.”

Upon the first read, this sounds like God-made wisdom. After all, wisdom is “the first of his acts of old” and set her up “ages ago” and “at the first. But what is being said is that wisdom was there at the beginning of creation itself. This is what verses 24-29 communicate with all of the “when” statements that are stacked up. Before the creation of water and mountains, before the establishment of the heavens, before he made the skies above and the fountains below before he set the limits of the oceans and the foundations of the earth, wisdom was there. 

In other words, wisdom comes from God but isn’t a creation like everything else. It is better to say that wisdom was begotten, not made. She comes from God, but it is also impossible to imagine God without her. How could there be a time that God did not have wisdom? 

In speaking of the preexistence of wisdom, we see that hearing her is not hearing merely cultural advice. She is the only just, right, and reliable source of counsel because she is from the beginning and from God in a way that nothing else is. 

Wisdom Participates and Rejoices in Creation

Second, wisdom participates and rejoices in all creation (30-31). Not only is wisdom before all things, but you see in verse 30 that she participates in creation itself. Look there with me. In speaking of how she was there before the creation of all things and at the creation, she states,

“Then I was beside him, like a master workman, and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always.” 

She does not just have knowledge of God’s order and ways; she has set up and rejoices in God’s order and ways. Being from the beginning and a master craftsman in creation, you can trust her authority. 

And you can trust her because of her love. Look at verse 31 and see the highlight of her joy in creation,

“Rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the children of man.” 

Why does wisdom make herself known at the city gate and at the crossroads? Why does she cry out and offer gifts? It isn’t because she has some secret plan to deprive you. It is because from the beginning she has loved mankind. 

Christ, the Greater Wisdom of God

You can hear wisdom by taking up her words in Proverbs, but ultimately she wants you to look to the Greater Wisdom of God, Christ himself. As we read in the New Testament, Jesus is the agent of creation, begotten, not made, from all eternity by the Father, and was present with him at the creation of all things. 

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:1-3).

“In these last days, he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:2-3a)

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him, all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:15-17).

Jesus makes known all the wisdom of God and we are fools if we do not listen to him. In love, Christ calls us. He cries out in Matthew 11:28-30, 

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” 

Does not that sound like wisdom calling out to you? He pleads with you to come, take up his words and ways, and learn from him. And this call is not so that you would be robbed of joy. It is so you would have fullness of life.

Watch and Listen to Christ 

8:32-36 closes out this section with a summary and plea. In Proverbs 8 wisdom makes herself known, displays the gifts she will bestow, and makes clear that her offer is credible because she is preeminent. In hearing her, you should hear Christ. 

He offers blessing to all who come to him and proclaims that all who find him find life.

It is out of love that Christ pleads with you, “Come and listen to me; have life!”As we read in John 10, Jesus cries out. Do you hear his voice? Then enter into life by faith in him. 

What must you do? Watch Christ and listen to Christ, which is the exhortation we have in verse 34,

“Blessed is the one who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my door.” 

If you are in Christ, then joyfully continue to watch him plead for you and stand as your advocate and mediator. Listen to his word that directs you and comforts you.

If you aren’t a Christian, watch Christ by hearing him publicly portrayed as crucified for sin and listen to his call to repent and believe in him for life. Jesus does not set out laws for you to follow in order to earn life. He died on the cross to free you from the guilt and power of sin. He lived a life of perfect wisdom, bore the wrath that your sin deserves on the cross, and rose again from the grave, showing that he really has made perfect and complete atonement for sin. He gave his life so that you may gain eternal life by faith in him. Look to him and believe.

Then continue to listen to his words, which call you to publicly display your faith in him through baptism and then walk with his people in the church. This is the beginning of wisdom. This is Christ bidding you come and die so that you may have true and full life. 


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