In Proverbs, “Wisdom” is speaking. Christians hear this as the voice of Christ, the second person of the eternal Trinity, the very Word and Wisdom of God.
God’s Wisdom is standing on the heights, and beside the way, and at the crossroads, and beside the town gates, and at the entrance to buildings. God’s Wisdom is all around us, out there in the world as well as among us where we live.
Standing there, in all those places, Wisdom calls out. Wisdom calls to “all who live.”
And, in verses that our reading omits, Wisdom says, “O Simple ones, learn prudence; acquire intelligence, you who lack it. Hear, for I will speak noble things, and from my lips will come what is right” (8:5-6).
As we go about our day, wandering from place to place, doing whatever it is that we do, God’s Wisdom is all around us, calling out to us, offering to teach us, inviting us to grow in real wisdom, which is the knowledge and love of God.
And that would be great, except that I so routinely fail to heed Wisdom’s invitation. And when I look at the world around me, it seems a lot of people are not much heeding Wisdom’s invitation.
Although the folly of the world is particularly visible these days, folly is not new. People have always been more foolish than wise. In our gospel reading, we can see that folly—our folly—in Jesus’ disciples. And we can also see reason for hope.
It is the night before Jesus’ arrest. This is Jesus’ last chance to teach his disciples. Wisdom incarnate is speaking to them, offering them instruction, saying, in effect, “O simple ones, Peter, James, John, and all of you who live, hear, for I want to speak noble things, and from my lips will come what is right.”
But, like us, the disciples cannot hear Wisdom’s invitation. The disciples cannot handle what Jesus wants to tell them. Jesus says it. “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.” You are not yet ready for the fullness of God’s wisdom. You are too simple. You are too foolish.
Without help, they could never learn true wisdom.
Thankfully, Jesus promises to help. Jesus promises to send the Spirit of truth. And “when the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” That is a promise to Jesus’ disciples, and that is a promise to us. The Spirit will lead us into all truth. Despite our simpleness, despite our folly, the Spirit of God helps us learn God’s wisdom.
The question is, how? How does the Spirit speak to us so that we can hear?
For a few of us, it just happens. The Apostle Paul was riding his donkey when, wham! The resurrected Lord knocks Paul down, strikes him blind, and commands him to become the apostle to the nations. Christ forced Paul to become wise in the ways of God.
The Spirit still strikes like that sometimes. Sometimes people are changed, suddenly and profoundly. Sometimes people are filled with God’s wisdom and forcibly set on God’s way of life. I would love God to do that to me. Maybe God will someday.
In the meantime, I have to work at listening for God’s still, small voice.
And, in case we need it, our readings for this morning remind us that we are not naturally good listeners, that we need God’s help if we are to go deeper and deeper into God’s truth.
And that means we need to do the things that God tells us will help us to hear.
Lots of things can help us to hear God better. But two of them are the specialties of the Church. Prayer and worship help. And studying the Bible helps. We can hear God speaking to us in our worship and through Holy Scripture.
In our baptismal covenant, we make a solemn vow to God that we will “continue in the apostle’s teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of the bread, and in the prayers.” That is to say, we promise God that we will come together regularly to worship, to pray, and to share Holy Communion.
We do not worship because God needs it. We worship because we need to learn to hear God better. Hopefully our worship services are interesting and engaging and fun. But we do not worship God for fun. We do not worship God because we happen to be in the mood. We come together to worship God because we need to be here. We come to worship because we know that on our own we are simple and foolish, unable to hear Wisdom’s invitation, and closed to the Spirit of truth.
We come to worship because we need God’s help, and God has promised to help us when we gather in Christ’s name, and when we share in Christ’s body and blood. We may not always feel like worshiping. But as we worship, we get a little better at hearing Wisdom’s invitation. We get a little better at learning from Wisdom’s instruction. We get a little better at opening our hearts to the Spirit of Truth. We get a little better at walking in the way of God. We get a little wiser in God’s ways.
We study the Bible for exactly the same reasons. As in worship, so in Bible study, God talks to us, God’s Wisdom instructs us, God’s Spirit of truth leads us.
Just coming to Church is a start. In Church we read passages from the Bible, and we hear sermons on our readings, and the Bible shapes our prayers and our music. Anyone who comes to Church regularly already knows the Bible pretty well.
But if we want to become wiser in God’s ways, if we want to take advantage of the instruction that God offers, we need to do some personal Bible study as well. The Bible is not always easy and not always fun. But it is worth a little effort.
I try to read a couple of chapters each morning, and that has been a wonderful discipline. Sometimes I am not in the mood. Sometimes I am unfocused. I dread reading some books. The hardest for me last year was Ezekiel, which is long and which is coming up.
And, despite my sometimes poor attitude and my sometimes poor focus, I keep reading. And, with God’s help, I grow a little bit in the knowledge and the love and the wisdom of God.
If you are not somehow immersing yourself in the Bible, I encourage you to give it a try for the next couple of weeks. Read a chapter or two each day, maybe with a devotional. Try one of our weekly Bible studies, or to our next Bible Challenge conversation, or to our upcoming session on the prophets.
The point of all this is simple. God is calling to us. Our job is to do our best to hear what God is saying. And this is God’s promise. If we continue in the breaking of bread and in the prayers, and if we read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest the Holy Scriptures, we will grow in the knowledge and love of God.
For that promise, for the gift of the Holy Spirit, and for the grace that leads us into God’s truth, I give thanks. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.