The Fall of Wisdom

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Bible Studies on Wisdom and Folly

The Fall of Wisdom

by I Gordon


I don't know about you, but it seems to me that things are getting quite crazy in this world of ours. The western world, once founded upon the general beliefs and morality outlined in the Bible, is in the process of abandoning (probably should have said demolishing!) this foundation and the effects are staggering. Wisdom, it seems, has been one of the first casualties. As I thought about the state of things recently, I started thinking about what the Bible says concerning wisdom and folly. Questions like 'what is wisdom?', 'where is it found?', 'Is it important?' and most importantly 'why is it so lacking in our world?' Now fortunately, the Bible has a lot to say on this topic as we shall see!

Help from an ancient book

My study on wisdom took me to a fantastic chapter in what is reputedly the oldest written book in the Bible - The book of Job. Now I'm sure you know his story so I won't go into that, but it is fair to say that in Job and his dreadful situation, we have a man in desperate need of wisdom! Here was a man in great need of wise words and wise counsel. And yet, from most of his so-called 'friends' he received the total opposite of that which he sought! As the saying goes, with friends like that, who needs enemies! But Job longed for wise counsel and we see this in his last speech to his 'friends' in Job 28 - a beautiful chapter from a man desperate to find wisdom!

O Wisdom - Where art thou [1] ?

Job 28:1-12 'There is a mine for silver and a place where gold is refined. Iron is taken from the earth, and copper is smelted from ore. Man puts an end to the darkness; he searches the farthest recesses for ore in the blackest darkness. Far from where people dwell he cuts a shaft, in places forgotten by the foot of man; far from men he dangles and sways. The earth, from which food comes, is transformed below as by fire; sapphires come from its rocks, and its dust contains nuggets of gold. No bird of prey knows that hidden path, no falcon's eye has seen it. Proud beasts do not set foot on it, and no lion prowls there. Man's hand assaults the flinty rock and lays bare the roots of the mountains. He tunnels through the rock; his eyes see all its treasures. He searches the sources of the rivers and brings hidden things to light.'

Job starts his speech by thinking about the knowledge that man had acquired. They knew how to mine for silver and they knew how to refine gold... For that age, they certainly had acquired a great understanding for that which they saw as precious. Obviously, today, our knowledge is far greater. We not only search the depths of our earth, but we send out probes to other planets to gather information about our solar system. Not only that, but we also explore the depths of the human body, delving down into the cellular level to understand and manipulate the DNA. And with the Internet we have an explosion of knowledge that is almost mind boggling. And yet, more than ever, Job's next question is telling:

'But where can wisdom be found? Where does understanding dwell?'

But where is wisdom to be found??? That is the important question... then and now! You see, mankind can explore the depths of the earth, they can explore the depths of the universe, they can even explore the depths of the human body, but they will not find wisdom! And there lies the problem. With the great knowledge that mankind has obtained [2] , they do not have the wisdom to know how to apply it... And that is a scary situation!

That which is worth more than rubies...

Job 28:13-22 Man does not comprehend its worth; it cannot be found in the land of the living. The deep says, 'It is not in me'; the sea says, 'It is not with me.' It cannot be bought with the finest gold, nor can its price be weighed in silver. It cannot be bought with the gold of Ophir, with precious onyx or sapphires. Neither gold nor crystal can compare with it, nor can it be had for jewels of gold. Coral and jasper are not worthy of mention; the price of wisdom is beyond rubies. The topaz of Cush cannot compare with it; it cannot be bought with pure gold. 'Where then does wisdom come from? Where does understanding dwell? It is hidden from the eyes of every living thing, concealed even from the birds of the air. Destruction and Death say, 'Only a rumor of it has reached our ears.'

So mankind has a problem in that it cannot find wisdom... in fact it doesn't even know where to look! Where would you look to find wisdom? The deep and the sea say 'it's not in me'. The birds of the air cannot see where it lies. As a general rule, it can be honestly said that mankind doesn't even know where to look to find wisdom though some do search in vain in many wrong places! But another problem is introduced in this passage - mankind doesn't even comprehend wisdom's worth! Mankind concerns itself with all things that can bring it wealth, yet wisdom is of far greater wealth than gold or rubies! But mankind is not interested! Only death and destruction have heard a rumor concerning wisdom. Oh the folly of man! He ignores wisdom most of his life, searching after wealth and pleasure and he usually only starts looking for it in the face of death or destruction! Folly...

But there is one that knows where it lies...

Job 28:23-28 ' God understands the way to it and he alone knows where it dwells , for he views the ends of the earth and sees everything under the heavens. When he established the force of the wind and measured out the waters, when he made a decree for the rain and a path for the thunderstorm, then he looked at wisdom and appraised it; he confirmed it and tested it. And he said to man, 'The fear of the Lord - that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.''

There is only one who knows where wisdom dwells. Only one. If you don't know this 'one' then you will miss true wisdom, for this one is God Himself. And He has revealed to mankind where the fountain of wisdom springs forth from. It is right here in our text - 'the fear of the Lord - that is wisdom!' That is the source... that is the starting line...that is the key for finding and obtaining wisdom. And that, does it not, explains why there is such a lack of wisdom in our world! Even amongst our leaders - for without a fear of God [3] , you will not find wisdom.

Let's have a look at what the wisest man in the Old Testament had to say concerning wisdom. And, as King Solomon shall show us, we've got a bit of an issue!

Wisdom & Folly

Prov 9:1-6 'Wisdom has built her house; she has hewn out its seven pillars. She has prepared her meat and mixed her wine; she has also set her table. She has sent out her maids, and she calls from the highest point of the city. 'Let all who are simple come in here!' she says to those who lack judgment. 'Come, eat my food and drink the wine I have mixed. Leave your simple ways and you will live; walk in the way of understanding.'

In the New Testament, two types of wisdom are seen - the wisdom of God and the wisdom of this world. And both consider the other to be absolute foolishness! In Proverbs, these two are pictured as two women - one called Wisdom and one called Folly. Now, in the passage above, we see that Wisdom has built her home around seven pillars [4] , and has prepared a great feast for all that would like to come and dine with her. Not only that but she has sent out her maids to find those that see their need for her help. On top of that, Wisdom herself has gone to the highest point in the city and cries out so that everyone who has ears to hear will receive her invitation and find the joy, fellowship and satisfaction that come from dining at her table.

If it was simply Wisdom's voice that could be heard, things would probably be well with the world. But, unfortunately, there is another woman who yells out even louder!

Introducing the loud, boisterous, Miss Folly

Proverbs 9:13-18 'The woman Folly is loud; she is undisciplined and without knowledge. She sits at the door of her house, on a seat at the highest point of the city, calling out to those who pass by, who go straight on their way. 'Let all who are simple come in here!' she says to those who lack judgment. 'Stolen water is sweet; food eaten in secret is delicious!' But little do they know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of the grave.'

Oh yes... good old folly. She, the Bible says, is without knowledge. Yet her ignorance doesn't stop her being loud, outspoken and brash! She calls out and entices all to come and dwell in her house... but little do they know that it is a place of death! God's wisdom cries out all around us, yet most have been turned aside by folly. [5]

Folly is all around us and cries out louder and louder in this crazy age...

- She is in our kindergartens when they wanted to ban hot cross buns so that little kids from other faiths wouldn't be offended!
- She is in our schools when they teach that we evolved from monkeys, there is no absolute truth, and then wonder why our youth start acting like animals.
- She is in our parliament when they say it is child abuse for parents to smack their children, but declare it is a woman's right to kill and abort a baby in the womb.
- And folly has made her home in our churches when they think we can win the world, by being like the world [6] .

Notice also who folly's main target is... the ones that she would most like to entice are those that are making their paths straight. It is those that normally listen to wisdom and forsake the prevailing thoughts of the world that folly is especially after. Think about that, for the wisdom of this age, or better still, the folly of this age is flooding in and if Christians aren't careful, they will slowly find themselves listening and believing the lies of folly more and more.

Conclusion - So what is the answer?

You will notice something if you look closely at Proverbs 9. You will notice, I'm sure, that it has a pivot point. It starts, as we have seen, with Wisdom crying out desiring all to listen and turn to her for help. It ends, as we have also seen, with Folly crying out trying to entice people from the true path. The chapter sits like a pair of scales with wisdom on one side and folly on the other, and the pivot point upon which this chapter rests is verses 9 and 10 in the middle of the chapter -

' Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning. 'The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.'

So there we have it again! The fear of the Lord is again seen to be the deciding factor as to whether Wisdom or Folly is exalted. But it is not going to be easy to walk in the fear of the Lord in the coming days. The voices of folly increase [7] and surround us in this age and it is going to get a lot harder to swim against the tide. But that is what the Christian is called to do. So turn your ears, eyes and hearts towards the Lord once more, and apply your heart to wisdom. I'll leave you with the following sound wisdom and truth - God's word for you!

'My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. He holds victory in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones. Then you will understand what is right and just and fair - every good path. For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you.'

[1]  As to where wisdom can be found, sometimes it is in the mouth of babes! Consider the following answers given by young children asked to pass on some words of wisdom that they had learned... (and yeah, they only made it into this study 'cos they cracked me up!)

When your dad is mad and asks you 'Do I look stupid?' don't answer him
Never tell your mum her diet's not working
Never ask your 3-year old brother to hold your tomato
If your sister hits you, don't hit her back. They always catch the second person
You can't trust dogs to watch your food
When your mum is mad at your dad, don't let her brush your hair
Never hold a dust buster and a cat at the same time
You can't hide a piece of broccoli in a glass of milk
If you want a kitten, start out by asking for a horse
No matter how hard you try, you can't baptize a cat.

[2]  Bible prophecy foretold that there would be an explosion in knowledge in the last days. The book of Daniel states: 'But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.' (Dan 12:4) And yet, you will search in vain to find the Bible saying that wisdom shall increase! Unfortunately, as knowledge has increased, true wisdom has decreased!

[3]  The fear of the Lord is a reverential fear that puts God and His ways first. And God honours the man that honours Him. He 'gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning' as it says in Daniel 2:21. It's not that we have to have great wisdom to begin with though. We only have to be wise enough to put Him first and look to Him to receive more wisdom! This is the fear of God. If you fear man, you are overly concerned what he thinks about you so that it governs your actions - you act taking into account what others are thinking and saying about you. The fear of God is the same - you are concerned about what God thinks and it governs your actions so you act in accordance to what God would have you do.

[4]  Mmmm... you're probably going to ask what the seven pillars are aren't you? I know I certainly thought about that question when I read the passage. In William MacDonald's commentary he states that the seven pillars that form the basis of Wisdom's house could be interpreted as the seven spirits of God mentioned in Isaiah 11. Or possibly, it could be the seven fold description of wisdom described in James 3:17 'But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure (1). It is also peace loving (2), gentle at all times (3), and willing to yield to others (4). It is full of mercy and good deeds (5). It shows no partiality (6) and is always sincere. (7)'

[5]  You really do have to ask yourself why don't you? Why is there so much folly around? Why is folly having her way when wisdom also cries out? I will address this in the 2nd study - The Rise of Folly. But in the mean time, have a nosey at Romans chapter 1:18-31. You would do well to really read and think about these verses. They are really important in this age in which we live. You see, even in creation itself, wisdom cries out that there is a God. Anyone who is not listening to folly can see and understand that this wonderful creation demands a creator! But those that would rather choose to listen to folly suppress the truth and incur the wrath of God - The wrath of abandonment!

There is also another reason why Folly has taken over. For wisdom has been placed in a certain location where the majority in this world will not humble themselves enough to look. That place, is actually a person. 'My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge .'

[6]  You hear so much about having to 'be relevant' to today's society like with the latest 'emergent church' stuff. But invariably, all this boils down to is watering down the Word of God, the claims of Christ, and the importance of truth. To this watered down recipe for disaster, they add plenty of sugar in the form of 'entertainment' to keep people coming back. Can you really imagine Jesus or the Apostles trying to entertain people to keep them happy? Folly, folly, folly. She's dumb, but she's loud and she's everywhere.

[7]  The latest piece of folly that I have heard as I wrote this study comes from 'Arnie the Governator'. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a new "anti-discrimination" bill into law, effectively making terms like "mom" and dad" obsolete. According to World Congress of Families Global Coordinator Allan Carlson, "It will prohibit anything that suggests that the natural family - a man and a woman, married, with children - is normal or typical," said Carlson. "Thus, under this latest advance toward a Brave New World of polymorphous perversion, California textbooks will no longer be able to use words like 'mother and father' and 'husband and wife,' because they suggest that heterosexuality is the norm - even though that is manifestly the case, even in California."

The organization's statement called it "unbelievable" that teachers and students who oppose same-sex marriage and suggest homosexuality isn't innate, or disapprove of cross-dressing and sex-change operations, could be disciplined as "harassers," and students may use the restrooms
designated for the gender with which they identify.

Karen England, chief of CRI, [said] that the law is not a list of banned words, including "mom" and "dad." But she said the requirement is that the law bans discriminatory bias and the effect will be to ban such terminology. "Having 'mom' and 'dad' promotes a discriminatory bias. You have to either get rid of 'mom' and 'dad' or include everything when talking about [parental issues]," she said. "They [promoters of sexual alternative lifestyles] do consider that discriminatory."

Can you not hear Folly calling out? 'Let all who are simple come in here!' she says to those who lack judgment. But little do they know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of the grave.'