Wisdom and folly.
Most of us are familiar with King Solomon, the son of King David and Bathsheba. He is known to us from this three writings included in our Bible---Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon. His legend is preserved for us in the historical books of
2 Samuel, 1 Chronicles, and 1 Kings. In Jewish history Solomon was the wisest and richest man who ever lived. He is remembered as the king who built the temple in Jerusalem and his lavish palace and places of worship.. I always give a giggle when a child noted that Solomon had 700 wives and 300 porcupines, his recollection of Solomon's concubines. Besides his wealth and wisdom, Solomon spoke an additional 3,000 proverbs and 1,005 songs (1 Kings 4:32). The strength of his legend is based on his request of God when he assumed the kingship of Israel, thought to be around age fifteen. During a dream recorded in 1 Kings 3 Solomon asked God for wisdom. That he didn't request fame, power, or riches impressed God. The historian reminds us of our Heavenly Father's response---
Behold I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you
and none like you shall rise after you. I give you also what you have not asked , both
riches and honor, so that no other king shall compare with you, all of your days. 1 Kings 3: 12-13, ESV
The historical texts are quite clear that Solomon wasn't without fault or grievous sin. He was human to the core and his sinful behavior is substantiated by numerous passages in the Old Testament. I mean, don't forget his dalliance with the Queen of Sheba, among many others. My purpose here is not to catalog his sins or raise questions about his legend. That his spiritual disobedience were factors in the division of Israel certainly lends credibility to the darker elements of his life. Still, the wise and discerning mind God gave Solomon produced the 31 chapters and 915 verses of our Old Testament wisdom literature Proverbs. Solomon's Proverbs are spiritual instruction about living a life that pleases God and relating peacefully with other sinful humans.
Wisdom and folly are significant concepts in Solomon's Proverbs, especially chapters 1-9. In these chapters they are portrayed as women of significant contrast:
1. Wisdom is Godly and noble, the source of understanding and upright living. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9: 10). Wisdom gives humans access to all blessing (Proverbs 3:13); is portrayed as more precious than jewels (Proverbs 3: 15); provides the ways of pleasantness and peace (Proverbs 3: 17); promises security in life (Proverbs 3: 23); and many other strong biblical attributes of spiritual favor. She is depicted In Proverbs 9:6 with an invitation to follow her: "Leave your simple ways and live, and walk in the way of insight".
2. Folly is godless and immoral. She "forgets the covenant with her God (Proverbs 2:17); is senseless and simple (Proverbs 9:13); is shameless about her sin (Proverbs 4:6); is "loud, seductive, and knows nothing" (Proverbs 9: 13). She is portrayed as the adulterous woman with no moral or ethical standards. Folly is "calling to those who pass by and are going straight on their way" (Proverbs 9: 15), appealing to the "simple and to him who lacks sense" (Proverbs 9: 16). Folly is the way of the world apart from God. She attracts, lures, deceives, and gives empty promises. She is summarized in Proverbs 30: 20: 'This is the way of an adulteress: she eats and wipes her mouth and says, 'I have done no wrong'."
Get the picture? Of course the entire book of Proverbs contrasts wisdom and folly as choices of our human species. And even the briefest survey of life around us indicates that folly is alive and well in our increasingly Godless culture. Underneath these comparisons is perhaps the most flagrant temptation to the human species, that of sexual immorality and the lures of temporal pleasures. They are portrayed as momentary and short lived as compared to the eternal truth about spiritual wisdom. Pursuing wisdom should be our goal in this life. Yes, folly brings temporary fun, perhaps some laughter, and rollicking good times. Wisdom, however, brings eternal joy, hope, peace, and assurance.
Once again, leave it to practical James to teach us about pursuing wisdom. In the Epistle which bears his name, James wrote--- If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without
reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one
who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that
person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord: for he is a double-
minded man, unstable in all his ways. James 1: 5-8, ESV
In these complex and fast times, asking God for wisdom, without doubting, enables us to reject the folly that is so prevalent today and seek instead wisdom for life.
Wisdom and folly? Let's choose wisdom.