The Call of Wisdom

June 2, 2024 ()

Bible Text: Proverbs 1 |


The Call of Wisdom | Proverbs 1
Brian Hedges | June 2, 2024

Let me invite you to turn this morning in the Scriptures to the book of Proverbs. This is in the Old Testament right after Psalms, the book of Proverbs.

While you’re turning there, let me just share some information that I’ve recently been learning in a book I’m reading right now called iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy, and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood; and What That Means for the Rest of Us. The book was written by Jean Twenge, who is professor of psychology at San Diego State University, and it’s a study of this generation, the iGen generation.

You should be able to see on the screen here the different generations. We’ve heard of Boomers and Gen X and Millennials. iGen, named after the iPhone, is the generation that comes after, born from 1995-2012.

Unlike older generations, iGen doesn’t know a world without the Internet, without social media, without smartphones, without being connected virtually all of the time. This book says that the average teen checks her phone more than eighty times a day. They are at the forefront of enormous cultural changes that are happening in our world, changes that really affect all of us.

Here’s a key quote from the book.

“iGen is distinct from every previous generation in how its members spend their time, how they behave, and their attitudes toward religion, sexuality, and politics. They socialize in completely new ways, reject once-sacred social taboos, and want different things from their lives and careers. They are obsessed with safety and fearful of their economic futures, and they have no patience with inequality based on gender, race, or sexual orientation. They are at the forefront of the worst mental-health crisis in decades, with rates of teen suicide and depression skyrocketing since 2011. Contrary to the prevalent idea that children are growing up faster than previous generations did, iGen-ers are growing up more slowly—eighteen-year-olds now act like fifteen-year-olds used to and thirteen-year-olds like ten-year-olds. Teens are physically safer than ever, but they are more mentally vulnerable.”

Now, many of us are raising children in this world that fit within the iGen generation. Many of you are perhaps grandparents or aunts or uncles who have children or young adults that are in your family who are somehow in this generation. So the needs of this coming generation affect all of us.

This book is showing us that many young adults are entering adulthood lacking the necessary skills for successfully navigating life and dealing with relationships, dealing with jobs, dealing with money, dealing with the onslaught of technology, and dealing with the many competing worldviews that are vying for their attention and for their allegiance.

Now, of course, these are generalizations. I know there are exceptions—there are probably wonderful exceptions within our own church and our families. But this is generally the state of the current generation. Of course, there are many good qualities about them as well.

I bring this up because we live in this hyper-connected world that’s shaping young adults and emerging adults, and it’s shaping all of us as well. All of us are needing to learn how to cope with this new environment. This environment affects our emotions, our relationships, our mental health, our finances, our vocational lives, our parenting, and it affects the church. And we need what the Bible calls wisdom. We need wisdom for navigating the complexities of this world in which we live. So today we’re beginning a new summer series that’s going to be called “How to Make Life Work: Wisdom from Proverbs.”

As you know, Proverbs is one of several wisdom books in the Old Testament, along with Job and Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon. This wisdom literature is unique in Scripture because it’s intended to equip us with street-level skill for living life in the world, in view of who God is and the world which he has created. So for the next ten or twelve weeks, that’s what we’re going to do this summer, is just look at this book of Proverbs and how it addresses many different aspects of life. Proverbs addresses how we manage our emotions, how we’re to manage wealth and money, how we are to deal with sexuality in marriage, how we should form friendships, how we should parent. I mean, there are all kinds of practical things—the way we use our words, the way we communicate with one another. All of these are things that are dealt with in the book of Proverbs.

Today I want to introduce the series by looking at Proverbs 1:1-7, which really forms the prologue to this book. I want to begin by reading these seven verses, and by the end of the sermon we’ll look at some other proverbs as well as the end of Proverbs 1. But let’s begin here with Proverbs 1:1, as this book is introduced to us. It says,

“The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel:

for gaining wisdom and instruction;
for understanding words of insight;
for receiving instruction in prudent behavior,
doing what is right and just and fair;
for giving prudence to those who are simple,
knowledge and discretion to the young—
let the wise listen and add to their learning,
and let the discerning get guidance—
for understanding proverbs and parables,
the sayings and riddles of the wise.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

This is God’s word.

I want us to do three things this morning. I want us to:

1. Consider the Need for Wisdom
2. Experience the Beginning of Wisdom
3. Listen to the Call of Wisdom

Really, these three parts of the message address us in the totality of our human nature. We are to consider something. This is where I want you to mentally engage for a few minutes, as we try to understand what wisdom is in Scripture. What is wisdom, and why do we need it? What is the purpose of this book of Proverbs? So we consider the need for wisdom.

But there’s also something for us to experience as we think about the fear of the Lord and the beginning of wisdom. This isn’t something that’s just theoretical, but it’s something that really should seep down into our very hearts and our affections.

Then at the end, listening to the call of wisdom is something that we do not just with our minds and our hearts, but something we actually do with our bodies, we do with our ears, and we respond with action in our lives.

1. Consider the Need for Wisdom

Let’s begin. Consider the need for wisdom, and it’s really the focus of verses 1-6. Maybe you noticed how the author here just piles word upon word, synonym upon synonym, in talking about wisdom. There are lots of different words used here—wisdom, instruction, understanding, insight, prudence, knowledge, discretion, and so on.

Of course, these words maybe have different shades of meaning and nuance, but together they’re really presenting us with this whole body of information and knowledge that has to do with biblical wisdom.

You might have noticed here the targets of this book. The book is addressed to the simple; that means the naive, it means the inexperienced person, the person who maybe is going merrily along his way and making mistakes because he hasn’t stopped and considered and thought through life and decisions and the consequences of his choices. This book is meant to equip the simple, the naive, with wisdom. And it’s addressed, of course, to the young, to those who are young adults. Originally this was a collection of proverbs from a father to his son, but it really addresses all youth. It addresses young men, young women; and it addresses us as well, those of us who are older, seeking to mentor and to help disciple the youth among us.

I want us to begin as we consider the need for wisdom by getting a clear definition of what wisdom is. What is it that we’re talking about when we talk about wisdom in Scripture? Let me give you a couple of definitions.

Here’s a simple one; I like this. It’s from Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart in their book How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth. They say wisdom is “the ability to make godly choices in life.” Now, that’s short, simple, and sweet. It’s a very simple definition. You could memorize this, put this one in your back pocket, take it with you. Wisdom is the ability to make godly choices in life.

It’s helpful because it emphasizes this practical, street-level nature of biblical wisdom. It’s not just about having a head full of theology. You know me; I care about theology a lot. But you can have a lot of theology in your head and not be a wise person. Wisdom has to do with the decisions you make, it has to do with the choices you make, it has to do with how you actually live your life. Wisdom is the ability to make godly choices in life.

One of the themes that runs through Proverbs is that choices have consequences. The things you decide in your life will lead to certain outcomes in your life—either blessing, or if you make bad decisions, bad choices, it can lead to a life of ruin and wreak havoc in your life and in your relationships. So wisdom is the ability to make godly choices in life.

Here’s another one. This is from Old Testament scholar Tremper Longman. He says that biblical wisdom contains three essential levels: the skill of living (that’s the practical level), becoming a good person (that’s the ethical or the moral level), and fearing God (that’s the theological level). That’s a little more complicated, a little more comprehensive of a definition, but I think that’s helpful, because it’s bringing all of those things together. So biblical wisdom has to do both with our relationship with God and also with learning how to live rightly in the world. We need wisdom because we live in a world with all of its complexities, and we need to be equipped with the discernment and wisdom and insight to make good decisions.

So, here’s how we might define this as we think about the goals for this portion of Hebrew wisdom literature, the goals of Proverbs.

(1) One goal is to impart skill for right living, or prudent behavior. Let me read again verses 2-3, and notice the focus here. Solomo is saying here that these proverbs are

“for gaining wisdom and instruction;
for understanding words of insight;
for receiving instruction in prudent behavior,
doing what is right and just and fair . . .”

Again, it’s describing the kind of life we want to live. We want to live a life that’s characterized by what is right—that is, by righteousness rather than wickedness—a life that is characterized by that which is just, so justice as opposed to injustice; and by fairness, by equity in our dealings with others.

This kind of prudent behavior is the outgrowth of biblical wisdom. It’s the very purpose for which this book is written.

(2) Here’s the second purpose for the book, a second goal for the book: it’s to help us develop discernment. Look at Proverbs 1:4-5: “. . . for giving prudence to those who are simple [or the naive], knowledge and discretion to the young.” Then verse 5 gives this exhortation: “Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance.”

Here’s one of the purposes of the book: it’s to equip us with discernment so that we can make good decisions, good choices.

This is an important part of wisdom, because our choices have consequences. We just need to know how the world works and how life works in the world, and whether certain decisions will lead us to blessing and to peace and to healthy relationships, the good life, or whether those decisions will lead us to spiritual and emotional and moral ruin in our lives.

We need wisdom, because we live in a world where there are moral absolutes. Again, it’s a thread that runs through Proverbs. There’s a constant contrast between the wise and the foolish, the righteous and the wicked, the just and the unjust, the prudent and the naive, the simple. There’s a contrast: two kinds of ways of living.

You might think of it like this. We all know that there are natural laws that govern the physical world in which we live. You might think of the law of gravity. You have to live according to natural laws if you want to be safe, if you want to be healthy. So if I jump off this stage to the floor, that’s not going to do any damage. I can handle that. But if I jump off the top of this building, I’m going to break something. And if I jump off of a skyscraper, that’s it. Game over, because I violated the law of gravity.

Or you might think about diet, food. We all know that there are healthy foods and there are unhealthy foods. The healthy foods are the leafy green things—vegetables, things that are high in protein content and low-fat and complex carbs and all of that. We know that we should eat those things. But there’s something in us that wants to eat the salty stuff and the sugary stuff and the fatty stuff and red meat and all of that. Wisdom just tells us that if we eat more of the healthy stuff than the unhealthy stuff we are likely to be more healthy people, but if we eat all the junk food, and that’s the main part of our diet, then we’re going to gain weight and we’re going to risk higher cholesterol, we’re going to risk heart disease, cancer, and all the rest. We know these things, and we make choices. Are we going to live according to the way the world works, our bodies work, the physical laws of the universe, and so on?

In the same way, there are moral and spiritual laws that govern the world in which we live. There’s right and there’s wrong, and there are ways of living that accord with the reality of the moral fabric of the universe. If you live in accord with those laws, your life is more likely to work. You violate those laws, and you are sure to bring harm to yourself and to others.

Now, let me just make one more comment about wisdom literature. In the same way that we know that you can eat all the healthy foods, you can exercise and sleep well and all that, but that’s not a guarantee for good health. We know that in the course of life that’s more likely to lead to good health, but you might still get cancer, you might still have a heart attack. There are things that can happen that you can’t predict, but you’re more likely to be healthy if you eat well and diet and exercise and all the rest.

In the same way, when you look at the book of Proverbs, Proverbs is not giving you a fail-proof guide for how to avoid trials and suffering. That’s not the way the world works. We live in a world that is fallen, where even the righteous suffer. That’s why wisdom literature includes not just Proverbs, it also includes Job. The book of Job gives us the portrait of a man who’s righteous, he fears God, he turns away from evil, and yet he suffers. He experiences suffering. So Proverbs is speaking to us in generalizations, and it’s showing us that if you live this way you are more likely to avoid ruin and destruction; but it doesn’t mean our lives will be free from all trials.

2. Experience the Beginning of Wisdom

We consider the need for wisdom in our lives, and the second thing I want us to do now is experience the beginning of wisdom. Here I want us to look at Proverbs 1:7. In verse 7 we’re moving away from not only thinking about the theoretical—not just engaging your mind here—but also thinking about something that has to do with the experience of your heart in relationship to God. So the first part of verse 7 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” This is the starting point. This is the first thing out of the gate. It is this relationship with God that is described as the fear of the Lord.

If you know Proverbs at all, you know that this is a phrase that runs through this book over and over again. Here are a few of the other verses.

Proverbs 9:10: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the holy one is understanding.” Again, he’s not talking about knowing things about God, he’s talking about knowing the true and the living God himself. This is something that has to do not just with what we think but with the experience and the affections of our hearts.

It’s not a negative thing. Proverbs 14:27 says, “The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, turning a person from the snares of death.” So this shows us the inviting nature of the fear of the Lord. This is a fountain. This is something that brings deep satisfaction to our hearts and to our lives.

Proverbs 19:23: “The fear of the Lord leads to life; then one rests content, untouched by trouble.” It’s a deep contentment that comes to those who fear the Lord.

How do we get at what we mean by the fear of the Lord? This deserves a whole message, which we did, actually, a little over a year ago when we were in Exodus. You can go back and find that if you want. But let me just try to illustrate for a minute something of what this fear of the Lord, this experience of fearing God, is like. I want to do this by using one of C.S. Lewis’s novels. Now, we’re all familiar with Narnia and the Aslan stories, but I’m not going to Narnia this time. I want to go to one of the other worlds that C.S. Lewis created. This is from his science fiction trilogy and his book Perelandra.

In this novel, there’s a character who is about to encounter an alien presence that actually turns out to be an angelic presence. It’s an angelic, spiritual, supernatural being. He describes what this experience is like and what it provokes in his heart. Here’s what he says.

“All those doubts which I had felt before I entered the cottage as to whether these creatures were friend or foe had for the moment vanished. My fear was now of another kind. I felt sure that the creature was what we call ‘good,’ but I wasn’t sure whether I liked goodness so much as I had supposed. This is a very terrible experience. As long as what you are afraid of is something evil, you may still hope that the good may come to your rescue. But suppose you struggle through to the good and find that it is also dreadful? How if food itself turns out to be the very thing you can’t eat, and home the very place you can’t live, and your very comforter the person who makes you uncomfortable? Then indeed there is no rescue possible; the last card has been played. For a second or two, I was nearly in that condition. Here, at last, was a bit of that world from beyond the world which I’d always supposed that I’d loved and desired, breaking through and appearing to my senses; and I didn’t like it. I wanted it to go away.”

Get what he’s saying here. He’s describing here the experience of deep dread in confronting goodness and purity, and it provokes something in his heart. It provokes a sense of awe and dread because he knows that he’s not good.

That’s something like what the fear of the Lord is in Scripture. Just think about the saints in Scripture who actually encountered God—there was a theophany, a vision of God. Think about Isaiah, when he sees the Lord high and lifted up in the temple. What does he say? He hears the seraphim crying out, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory,” and Isaiah says, “Woe is me! For I am undone. I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips.” He encounters holiness, and his impulse is to shrink back.

Or think about Job, when he hears God speak out of the storm, and it humbles to the dust. Think about Moses at the burning bush, when he takes the shoes off his feet because he’s on holy ground. Every time someone encounters the Holy One in Scripture, it provokes something like a deep sense of awe before this God.

This even happened in the life of Jesus. Do you remember when Peter encountered Christ on the shores of Galilee—this is in Luke 5—and there’s this miraculous catch of fish, and Peter falls to his knees and says, “Depart from me, O Lord, for I am a sinful man!” What is that? That is an experience, an encounter of the holiness of Christ, who is the living God.

Proverbs is saying that this experience, this kind of real encounter with the true and living God that provokes a sense of holy dread at his holiness, is the very beginning of wisdom.

Here are some of the characteristics of those who fear the Lord in Proverbs. You can see why these are characteristics if this is the experience.

First of all, they’re humble. In fact, Proverbs 22:4 says, “Humility is the fear of the Lord.” You can’t fear God, you can’t have a real encounter with God, and not be humbled, because you recognize, “He’s God and I’m not, and I’m accountable to him.”

So those who fear the Lord turn from evil. Proverbs 8:13: “To fear the Lord is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech.” Proverbs 14:16: “The wise fear the Lord and shun evil, but a fool is hot-headed and yet feels secure.”

Therefore they begin to walk uprightly. There’s an experience of repentance when people come to know the true and the living God. Proverbs 14:2 says, “Whoever fears the Lord walks uprightly, but those who despise him are devious in their ways.”

This isn’t all negative. There’s also a deep satisfaction. This is another characteristic. Those who fear the Lord are satisfied, because “the fear of the Lord is a fountain of life. It leads to life, so that one who fears God rests content and is untouched by trouble,” Proverbs 19:23.

Here’s what I want us to get. The fear of the Lord isn’t contrary to a deep love for God and a deep joy in God, but it rather conveys this sense of awe that accompanies an experiential knowledge of this God.

I love the poetic words of F.W. Faber. He said,
“But fear is love, and love is fear,
And in and out they move;
But fear is an intenser joy
Than mere unfrightened love.

“They love Thee little, if at all,
Who do not fear Thee much;
If love is Thine attraction, Lord,
Fear is Thy very touch.”

I just want to ask you this morning, have you experienced the true and the living God like this? Have you come to recognize that God is God and you are not; that he is your creatore, that he is your Lord, he is your sovereign, he is the judge of all things? He is holy, and yet he is a God of such deep grace and mercy and compassion that he rescues us from the snares of sin and death, and he will implant his fear in our hearts, and he will cause us to delight to fear his name, and bring us into relationship with him, so that there is a joyful awe of God.

This fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and this is what grounds us in the grace of the gospel in the book of Proverbs. What this is describing is what we would call a genuine new-birth experience, being born again by the Spirit, of coming to know God in a deep way that changes our lives. It’s what the Puritans called “gospel fear.”

So I just want us to ask ourselves the question this morning, “Have I experienced this holy, joyful fear? Have I encountered this God through his word and his Spirit?”

This is the first step, because if there is a God in the world, who created the world, a God who reigns over all things, and you are accountable to that God, and you live as if that God doesn’t matter and his word doesn’t matter and his laws don’t matter, you live as you can just make all the decisions for yourself and there be no consequences, the Scriptures say you’re a fool, because you’re ignoring the most fundamental reality in the universe, and that is the God who created you, who made you, the God who redeems you through his grace, through Jesus Christ.

We need to experience the beginning of wisdom.

3. Listen to the Call of Wisdom

That leads, number three, to listening to the call of wisdom. You see it in Proverbs 1:8, the first three words: “Listen, my son.” Proverbs calls us to wisdom. You see it also in verse 5: “Let the wise listen and add to their learning.”

What follows in the rest of Proverbs 1 is something of a contrast. In verses 8-19 you have this young simpleton, this naive, inexperienced youth, listening to the call of sinners. He’s seduced by the siren song of sinners, and it pulls him into a life of crime that leads to his inevitable destruction. That’s Proverbs 1:8-19.

Then, in Proverbs 1:20-33, wisdom is personified. Wisdom is now the one speaking, crying aloud in the streets, and trying to get the attention of this simple youth. I want to read verses 20-33, because I want us to hear for a minute the call of wisdom. Imagine hearing this voice, hearing this call, because in a very real way God is calling us to wisdom through his word.

“Out in the open wisdom calls aloud,
she raises her voice in the public square;
on top of the wall she cries out,
at the city gate she makes her speech:

“‘How long will you who are simple love your simple ways?
How long will mockers delight in mockery
and fools hate knowledge?
Repent at my rebuke!
Then I will pour out my thoughts to you,
I will make known to you my teachings.’”

Friends, that’s an invitation. It’s a call to repent, but with a promise that if you repent you can receive wisdom. There can be restoration, and it’s a call to those who are already on this path of foolishness. They can be recovered.

“‘Repent at my rebuke!
Then I will pour out my thoughts to you,
I will make known to you my teachings.
But since you refuse to listen when I call
and no one pays attention when I stretch out my hand,
since you disregard all my advice
and do not accept my rebuke,
I in turn will laugh when disaster strikes you;
I will mock when calamity overtakes you—
when calamity overtakes you like a storm,
when disaster sweeps over you like a whirlwind,
when distress and trouble overwhelm you.

“‘Then they will call to me but I will not answer;
they will look for me but will not find me,
since they hated knowledge
and did not choose to fear the Lord.
Since they would not accept my advice
and spurned my rebuke,
they will eat the fruit of their ways
and be filled with the fruit of their schemes.
For the waywardness of the simple will kill them,
and the complacency of fools will destroy them;
but whoever listens to me will live in safety
and be at ease, without fear of harm.’”

Those are pretty strong words, aren’t they? A call to repent, a call to listen; but also an invitation. Those who listen will find safety. So we might say it’s a call to salvation, a call to wisdom and to find the safety and the rescue that God offers to us. And God does call us. He calls us through his word, he calls us through godly influences in our lives. If you’re a young person, a teenager, a college student, and you’ve been raised in a Christian home, the call of wisdom will come through godly parents. It comes through wise mentors and friends and relationships within the body of Christ. These are all the different ways in which we can hear the voice of wisdom.

I want us to do a little self-examination here. Ask yourself some questions. Ask yourself, What are you paying attention to? Who are you listening to? What consumes most of your time and attention? How do you respond when you receive critical feedback? Think of when a supervisor or a fellow employee tries to help you better navigate a relational conflict. Are you quick to listen or do you defend yourself?

Again, teens, college students, young adults: when your parents provide some guidelines for your schedule or gently challenge your opinion on some issue or correct you regarding a negative attitude or unhealthy relationship or concerning pattern of behavior, what is your response? Ask yourself, are you easy to admonish? Are you the kind of person who takes feedback well? Do you make it easy for people to talk to you about problems?

Think about your relationship with God. How do you respond when God convicts your conscience of sin? Are you quick to confess, quick to repent, maybe even to reach out to a friend and ask for prayer?

Think about your relationship to God’s word. Do you connect with God’s word regularly in your daily life? The whole Bible is a book of wisdom, but especially we have this wisdom literature in Proverbs and in other places. We all have access to this. How long has it been since you’ve read Proverbs or another portion of wisdom literature? How long has it been since you’ve taken some specific aspect of wisdom from God’s word and applied it to your life in managing your emotions or making a decision or dealing with money or dealing with conflict with others?

I think if we’re honest, all of us have a lot of room to grow in this. Why is it so hard? Why is it so hard for us to listen to the call of wisdom? What are some of the hindrances to listening to wisdom’s call?

One hindrance is that we’ve been listening to wrong influences, and that’s the problem with the simpleton in Proverbs 1. He’s been listening to the seductive voice of sinners, he’s fallen in with the wrong crowd, he’s been influenced by bad friends, and that leads him down a wrong path. Perhaps that’s true for some of us this morning.

Here’s another reason: we’re too distracted with technology. Circle back to iGen. I mean, we’re all affected by technology now. Almost every person in this room has a smartphone. How long has it been since you’ve actually spent an entire hour with the phone off, the screen off, no notifications, no music, no noise, but you just spent time in silence—you, your soul, and God?

Jim Elliot, that great missionary, said, “The devil has made it his business to monopolize on three elements: noise, hurry, crowds. If he can keep us hearing radios, gossip, conversation, or even sermons, he is happy.” I can’t even imagine what he would think—that was in the 1950s. What would he think about the world we live in now, this hyperconnectivity? Satan’s happy if we can be distracted. “He will not allow quietness. Satan is quite aware of the power of silence.

Here’s an application for you: turn off your phone for a period of time, maybe go on a social media, maybe give up TV for a week. Do something to get your soul quiet for a period of time so that you can hear the voice of the Spirit through the word of God.

Here’s another hindrance to listening: talking too much. You can’t listen if you’re talking. Maybe you have this experience; you go to lunch with someone or you have a conversation with someone, and there are a few things you want to talk about. You kind of want to visit with them; you’re expecting an equal exchange of ideas. And the person you meet with spends 80 percent, 90 percent of the time talking. They just dominate the conversation. Even if you try to talk, they’re talking over you, they just keep going, keep going, keep going; and you kind of walk away, “Oh well.” It was a one-sided deal. This is a problem for some of us; we talk too much. We don’t listen well.

Proverbs addresses this. We’ll do a whole message in this series on words, but here are just a couple of tidbits.

Proverbs 18:13 says, “To answer before listening, that is folly and shame.”

Proverbs 10:19 says, “Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues.”

Someone sent me this meme this week: “‘Listen’ and ‘silent’ are spelled with the same letters.” You can’t listen unless you’re quiet enough to let something else in.

Here’s one more reason it can be hard for us to listen. It can be hard because we don’t believe that God’s way is best. Instead, we have our hearts set on what we want. We think we know what we need, we think we know what we want, we think we know what we desire, and we’re going to go for that no matter what God says, no matter what his word says.

Someone that’s helped me with this is C.S. Lewis. I want to end with one more quotation from Lewis, then we’re almost done. This is from one of Lewis’s letters where he likens us to a dog on a leash going on a walk with its master, and the dog gets tangled up, the leash gets tangled up on a pole. The dog’s wanting to go some way, but it’s not the right way, and it’s not the way the master’s trying to lead it.

Lewis says we’re like this: we’re trying to get somewhere, but we can’t get there the way we’re trying to get there, and only God knows the actual way to get us where we want to go. Then he says,

“The desire which is at the root of all my evil is the desire for complete and ecstatic happiness. This is exactly what God has made us for, but he knows and I do not how it can be really and permanently attained. He knows that most of my personal attempts to reach it are actually putting it further and further out of my reach. We can be quite rid of the old haunting suspicion which raises its head in every temptation that there is something else than God, some kind of delight which he doesn’t appreciate or just chooses to forbid but which would be real delight if only we were allowed to get it. The thing just isn’t there. Whatever we desire is either what God is trying to give us as quickly he can or else a false picture of what he’s trying to give us, a false picture which would not attract us for a moment if we saw the real thing. He knows what we want even in our vilest acts; he is longing to give it to us. Only because he has laid up real goods for us to desire are we able to go wrong by snatching at them in greedy, misdirected ways.”

That brings us back to the fear of the Lord and a deep trust in God, a deep embrace of the gospel. If we really believe that there is a God, that his way is best, and that this God is for us and not against us, then we’ll stop, slow down, and listen to what he says, knowing that God’s way will lead us to the life that we want deep in our hearts.

So, brothers and sisters, consider the need for wisdom, to engage your mind thinking about the purpose of this book, to equip us with skill for right living and discernment for making good choices. Experience the beginning of wisdom as you come to know the Holy One, God himself, and live in the fear of the Lord, this holy awe and joy that characterizes those who know God. And listen to the call of wisdom. That requires slowing down, shutting your mouth, shutting off your devices, opening up the Bible, getting on your knees, and actually hearing from the word.

I want to challenge us in this way. James 1:5 says if anyone lacks wisdom he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. I want to challenge us as a church—I don’t do something like this very often, but I think this would be good for us. Can I ask us, every one of us, to commit to pray for wisdom every day throughout this summer? Maybe set an alarm on your phone that just says James 1:5. Pick a time—one o’ clock every day or seven in the morning or 10:30, right before you go to bed. When that alarm goes off, stop for thirty seconds or a minute or maybe a couple of minutes. Stop and ask the Lord for wisdom.

Friends, we live in a complicated world that is getting more crazy all the time. We love our families, we love our kids, we love one another. We want to do well. We want to make good decisions, and we need wisdom for it. So can we join together in praying for ourselves, praying for our families, praying for one another, that God will equip us with wisdom from this word? Let’s pray together.

Father, this morning we confess our great need for your wisdom, your grace, your guidance in our lives. I think all of us, if we were honest, we would reflect on at least one, maybe more than aspects of our lives and have to confess that we’ve made a mess of things. We’ve tried living life on our own, and the result has brought us trouble. So maybe some today are dealing with addictions, some are dealing with the heartache of broken relationships, some are dealing with financial woes. There are all kinds of ways in which we make a mess of things, and Lord, we need to instead listen to you, we need to hear and respond to the word. We need to humble ourselves and live once again in the fear of the Lord and trust you to give guidance to our lives.

Lord, thank you that this passage holds out for us hope that even those who are simple can be recovered and can return and can be put back on a path of wisdom. So we ask for that, Lord, in our lives, that you would give us the grace of repentance and that you would help us to seek you and to know you and to discover the deep joy and satisfaction that comes from walking in accord with who you are and the way you made the world.

Lord, as we come to the Lord’s table this morning, we pray that the table would serve as a deep reminder in our minds and in our hearts of the cost of our redemption, of what Jesus Christ has done to rescue us from our foolishness, to redeem us from our sins, and to bring us into relationship with you. May we come to the table this morning with a sense of awe and with grateful joy as we think of what Jesus has done. We ask you, Lord, to draw near to us in these moments and to be honored in our continuing worship together. We pray this in and through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.