“Leave simpleness, and live, and walk in the way of insight.” Dear friends in Christ, the call has gone out, and God is placing a task before you: “Leave simpleness, and live, and walk in the way of insight.” And it is a task that we can all relate too. After all, who here really wants to be called “simple”? Who here wants to be thought of as vacant, or gullible, or naive – the kind of person who is likely to be taken in or duped? (hands?)
Nobody wants that. From the day we are born until the day we die, each of us is on a search to be wiser, to walk in the ways of insight. At least we like to think we are. The ways we are told to find wisdom are as varied as the people who tell us. Some say wisdom can only be found in age. Others say it is in our pursuit of knowledge. Others yet try to find wisdom in a multitude of experiences. Some will even look for it by eventually going back to the basics. No matter where you look, there is a promise of greater wisdom for those who seek it out. But how many of you know older people who are still plenty gullible? How many of you know smart people who are also vacant? A person who knows the basics but is incredibly naive? There is a reason for this. Worldly wisdom, (in whatever form it is pursued) is not, in the end real wisdom. True wisdom has nothing to do with knowledge or skill or accomplishment.
Anyone who says otherwise is a fool. They are selling a lie and trading in false goods. It is much like the counterpoint we see to the personification of Wisdom in our text for this morning. If we go ahead by just a few verses in Pr. 9, we see the house and the wares of Folly. “A foolish woman is noisy; she is wanton and knows no shame. She sits at the door of her house, she takes a seat on the high places of the town, calling to those who pass by, who are going straight on their way, “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!” And to him who is without sense she says, “Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.” But he does not know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of Sheol.” (13-18)
How well do we know what this is all about … living life for the cheap thrill – the lure of modern advertising! It’s all promises but no follow through. Flash in the pan, all show no substance, buyer beware. It is the way of the world, the way of folly.
Compare, then the description of true wisdom in our text: “Wisdom has built her house, she has set up her seven pillars. She has slaughtered her beasts, she has mixed her wine, she has also set her table. She has sent out her maids to call from the highest places in the town, “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!” To him who is without sense she says, “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed.” (1-6)
Here we are given the glimpse of a spacious and comfortable house. Not a run down shack in the slums of town, but a solid and well built home in a good neighbourhood. Here we are given the picture not of stuff slopped out of a can and tossed on a card table, but the richest of fare, lovingly and painstakingly prepared from the finest ingredients. Here we see, not the uncouth hag shouting at those who just happen to pass by, but a distinguished and elaborate invitation being made to any and to all. Guest are not cajoled, and harassed by chance, but are actively, and personally, sought out. And what they will receive is not the empty promises, the disappointments, and folly of wasted time and effort. What they will receive will not harm them but help them. “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed. Leave simpleness, and live, and walk in the way of insight.” What is offered is not disappointment and death, but celebration and life! What they will receive will be truly satisfying, life-changing, for what they will receive at this banquet is the Wisdom of God himself.
True wisdom is not found in any of the empty promises of this world. It is found only in the promise of the Gospel. “Those who have the Gospel have the wisdom of God and are wise in and from God. Where you do not find the Word, there God is not present, nor wisdom, but mere folly … Wisdom is in Holy Scripture; it is the Gospel, and it teaches you to know God and the counsel of God in the Son of God, made flesh for you. This wisdom is hidden from the world; faith alone perceives it.” (Martin Luther)
“Real wisdom is truly to know oneself and God, that is, that we are miserable and lost sinners and that God is merciful, not desirous of casting us away but eager to save us by grace for Christ’s sake.” (Martin Luther)
And this is where the text becomes really interesting. For the Wisdom that God wishes to give us is not only better than anything this world can come up with, it is God Himself. “but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” (1 Co.1:23-25)
Jesus is that wisdom personified. It is Jesus who has built a spacious and comfortable house for each and everyone of us to live in, to be safe in. It’s called the church. ” So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, (Eph. 2:19-20)
And in this house He provides us with the richest of fare … His very own flesh and blood. He is the Lamb offered up for us. “As a sheep led to the slaughter or a lamb before its shearer is dumb, so he opens not his mouth.” (Acts 8:32) He is the cup from which we drink. “And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. (Mt. 26:27-28) As he even stated in the Gospel Reading: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.” (Jo. 6:53-55)
And everyone is extended an invitation. And not just on the off chance that you might happen to wander in off the streets. God is always seeking us out. It has been part of his plan and purpose from the beginning. He actively seeks out and personally invites those whom he would feed and make wise. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,” (Mt. 28:19) “And men will come from east and west, and from north and south, and sit at table in the kingdom of God.” (Lk. 13:29)
If then, true wisdom cannot be found in the world but only in Jesus, the Word made flesh, the 3rd commandment becomes so very important. “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” Meaning: We should fear and love God, and so we should not despise his Word and the preaching of the same, but deem it holy and gladly hear and learn it. 1 Or, as we read in the Large Catechism:
How does this sanctifying [keeping holy] take place? Not when we sit behind the stove and refrain from external work, or deck ourselves with garlands and dress up in our best clothes, but, as has been said, when we occupy ourselves with God’s Word and exercise ourselves in it. Indeed, we Christians should make every day a holy day and give ourselves only to holy activities — that is, occupy ourselves daily with God’s Word and carry it in our hearts and on our lips. 2
This is the one thing every one of us simpletons should be doing if we are to ever move beyond our limitations and truly become wise. Making each day, a day for being in Christ, for living in the Gospel, for being fed at God’s Table. Letting the Word of God turn from something that merely has an impact on our life every now and then, to actually becoming part of our life. In our hearts and on our lips.
Think about those people in this congregation who are wise. The ones who display great faith, and depth of character. The people who are leaders and examples both in the church and in their personal lives. We’ve got a few of them. Young or old, man or woman, they all share one thing in common. They are all regularly gathered around the table of their Lord. They are the ones who have heeded the invitation to “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed.” They are the ones who eagerly eat and drink up all the goodness God pours out on his people. They are the people who are worshiping regularly, they are the people in Bible Study, and they are the people reading the Word and living a life of prayer. They are the ones who have “left simpleness, and live, and walk in the way of insight.” And the wisdom God has granted them could also be yours, if you make meeting with your Lord, a priority.
Let me tell you this. Even though you know the Word perfectly and have already mastered everything, still you are daily under the dominion of the devil, who neither day nor night relaxes his effort to steal upon you unawares and to kindle in your heart unbelief and wicked thoughts against all these commandments. Therefore you must continually keep God’s Word in your heart, on your lips, and in your ears. For where the heart stands idle and the Word is not heard, the devil breaks in and does his damage before we realize it. On the other hand, when we seriously ponder the Word, hear it, and put it to use, such is its power that it never departs without fruit. It always awakens new understanding, new pleasure, and a new spirit of devotion, and it constantly cleanses the heart and its meditations. For these words are not idle or dead, but effective and living. 3
As Charles Swindoll once said: “What comes from the Lord because it is impossible for humans to manufacture? WISDOM. What comes from humans because it is impossible for God to experience? WORRY. What is it that brings Wisdom and dispels Worry? WORSHIP!” Be always in prayer and in the Word. Gather around the Lord’s Table and receive all the Wisdom in Christ that He has prepared . “Leave simpleness, and live, and walk in the way of insight.”
1Tappert, T. G. (2000, c1959). The Book of Concord (Small Cat: I, 4-6). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.
2 Ibid. (Large Cat: 1, 88-89).
3 Ibid. (Large Cat: 1, 100-101).