‘By Wisdom Our Days Will Become Many’
WHO would deny that wisdom is indispensable when it comes to dealing with life’s problems? True wisdom is the ability to put knowledge and understanding to proper use. It is the very opposite of foolishness, stupidity, and madness. So the Scriptures exhort us to acquire wisdom. (Proverbs 4:7) In fact, the Bible book of Proverbs was primarily written to impart wisdom and discipline. Its opening words read: “The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, the king of Israel, for one to know wisdom and discipline.”—Proverbs 1:1, 2.
Just consider the solid teachings of the first few chapters of Proverbs. Like a loving father urging his son, Solomon entreats his readers to accept discipline and pay attention to wisdom. (Chapters 1 and 2) He shows us how to cultivate intimacy with Jehovah and how to safeguard our heart. (Chapters 3 and 4) We are admonished to remain morally chaste. (Chapters 5 and 6) Yes, invaluable to us is the exposé of the method of operation of an immoral person. (Chapter 7) And how attractive to everyone is the appeal of personified wisdom! (Chapter 8) Before moving on to the concise individual proverbs in later chapters, King Solomon presents a stimulating summary of what he has discussed so far.—Chapter 9.
‘Come, Eat My Bread and Drink My Wine’
The conclusion of the first portion of Proverbs is not a dry summary that merely outlines the previously mentioned advice. Rather, it is presented as an exciting and beautiful illustration, motivating the reader to pursue wisdom.
The 9th chapter of the Bible book of Proverbs opens with the words: “True wisdom has built its house; it has hewn out its seven pillars.” (Proverbs 9:1) The term “seven pillars,” suggests one scholar, is “indicative of a mansion built around a court-yard, the structure being supported by three pillars on each side and one in the centre on the third side facing the open space which was the entrance.” In any case, true wisdom has built a sturdy house for the reception of many guests.
Everything is ready for a feast. The meat is there, as is the wine. Wisdom has given personal attention to the preparation of the meal and to the setting of the table. “It has organized its meat slaughtering; it has mixed its wine; more than that, it has set in order its table.” (Proverbs 9:2) Spiritually enlightening food for thought is evidently available on this figurative table.—Isaiah 55:1, 2.
Who are invited to the feast prepared by true wisdom? “It has sent forth its lady attendants, that it may call out on top of the heights of the town: ‘Whoever is inexperienced, let him turn aside here.’ Whoever is in want of heart—she has said to him: ‘Come, feed yourselves with my bread and share in drinking the wine that I have mixed. Leave the inexperienced ones and keep living, and walk straight in the way of understanding.’”—Proverbs 9:3-6.
Wisdom has sent out its maidens to issue an invitation. They have gone to public places from where they can call out to the largest number of people. All are invited —those “in want of heart,” or those lacking understanding, as well as those lacking experience. (Proverbs 9:4) And a promise of life is held out to them. Wisdom contained in God’s Word, including that in the book of Proverbs, is certainly available to nearly everyone. Today, as the messengers of true wisdom, Jehovah’s Witnesses are busy inviting people, wherever they are found, to study the Bible. Taking in this knowledge, indeed, can lead to everlasting life.—John 17:3.
Christians must humbly accept wisdom’s discipline. This is particularly true of young ones and those who have recently started to learn about Jehovah. Because of limited experience in God’s ways, they may be “in want of heart.” It is not that all of their motives are bad, but it takes time and effort to bring the heart into a condition that really pleases Jehovah God. This calls for bringing thoughts, desires, affections, and goals into harmony with what God approves. How vital that they “form a longing for the unadulterated milk belonging to the word.”—1 Peter 2:2.
In fact, should not all of us go beyond “the primary doctrine”? Surely we need to develop an interest in “the deep things of God” and draw nourishment from the solid food that belongs to mature people. (Hebrews 5:12–6:1; 1 Corinthians 2:10) “The faithful and discreet slave,” whom Jesus Christ directly supervises, diligently provides timely spiritual food for all. (Matthew 24:45-47) May we feast at wisdom’s table by diligently studying God’s Word and the Bible-based publications provided by the slave class.
“Do Not Reprove a Ridiculer”
The teachings of wisdom also include correction and reproof. This feature of wisdom is not welcomed by all. Hence, the closing of the first section of the book of Proverbs contains a warning: “He that is correcting the ridiculer is taking to himself dishonor, and he that is giving a reproof to someone wicked—a defect in him. Do not reprove a ridiculer, that he may not hate you.”—Proverbs 9:7, 8a.
A ridiculer builds up resentment and hatred for the one trying to help make his path straight. A wicked person lacks appreciation for the value of reproof. How unwise to try to teach the beautiful truth of God’s Word to someone who hates the truth or is simply seeking to ridicule it! When the apostle Paul was preaching in Antioch, he encountered a group of Jews who had no love for the truth. They tried to embroil him in an argument by blasphemously contradicting him, but Paul simply stated: “Since you are thrusting [the word of God] away from you and do not judge yourselves worthy of everlasting life, look! we turn to the nations.”—Acts 13:45, 46.
In our endeavor to reach honesthearted ones with the Kingdom good news, may we be careful not to get involved in debates and arguments with ridiculers. Christ Jesus instructed his disciples: “When you are entering into the house, greet the household; and if the house is deserving, let the peace you wish it come upon it; but if it is not deserving, let the peace from you return upon you. Wherever anyone does not take you in or listen to your words, on going out of that house or that city shake the dust off your feet.”—Matthew 10:12-14.
A wise person’s response to reproof is opposite to that of a ridiculer. Solomon states: “Give a reproof to a wise person and he will love you. Give to a wise person and he will become still wiser.” (Proverbs 9:8b, 9a) A wise person knows that “no discipline seems for the present to be joyous, but grievous; yet afterward to those who have been trained by it it yields peaceable fruit, namely, righteousness.” (Hebrews 12:11) Although the counsel may seem painful, why should we retaliate or be defensive if accepting it is going to make us wiser?
“Impart knowledge to someone righteous and he will increase in learning,” continues the wise king. (Proverbs 9:9b) No one is too wise or too old to keep learning. What a delight it is to see even those in their twilight years accept the truth and make a dedication to Jehovah! May we also endeavor to retain the will to learn and keep the mind active.
“To You Years of Life Will Be Added”
Underscoring the main point of the subject under consideration, Solomon includes the essential prerequisite for wisdom. He writes: “The fear of Jehovah is the start of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Most Holy One is what understanding is.” (Proverbs 9:10) There can be no godly wisdom without profound, reverential awe for the true God. A person may have a mind well stocked with knowledge, but if he lacks the fear of Jehovah, he will fail to use that knowledge in a way that honors the Creator. He may even draw wrong conclusions from known facts, making himself look foolish. Moreover, the knowledge of Jehovah, the Most Holy One, is essential for gaining understanding, a notable characteristic of wisdom.
What fruitage does wisdom bear? (Proverbs 8:12-21, 35) The king of Israel says: “By me your days will become many, and to you years of life will be added.” (Proverbs 9:11) Length of days and years of life are the result of keeping company with wisdom. Yes, “wisdom itself preserves alive its owners.”—Ecclesiastes 7:12.
Putting forth effort to gain wisdom is our personal responsibility. Emphasizing this fact, Solomon states: “If you have become wise, you have become wise in your own behalf; and if you have ridiculed, you will bear it, just you alone.” (Proverbs 9:12) The wise one is wise to his own benefit, and the ridiculer alone is to blame for his own suffering. Indeed, we reap what we sow. May we, then, “pay attention to wisdom.”—Proverbs 2:2.
“A Woman of Stupidity Is Boisterous”
By way of contrast, Solomon next says: “A woman of stupidity is boisterous. She is simplemindedness itself and has come to know nothing whatever. And she has seated herself at the entrance of her house, upon a seat, in the high places of the town, to call out to those passing along the way, those who are going straight ahead on their paths: ‘Whoever is inexperienced, let him turn aside here.’”—Proverbs 9:13-16a.
Stupidity is portrayed as a loud, undisciplined, and ignorant woman. She too has built a house. And she has taken upon herself the task of calling out to whoever is inexperienced. So the passersby have a choice. Will they accept wisdom’s invitation or that of stupidity?
“Stolen Waters Themselves Are Sweet”
Both wisdom and stupidity invite listeners to “turn aside here.” The appeal, however, is different. Wisdom invites people to a feast of wine, meat, and bread. The attraction that stupidity holds out reminds us of the ways of a loose woman. Solomon says: “Whoever is in want of heart—she has also said to him: ‘Stolen waters themselves are sweet, and bread eaten in secrecy—it is pleasant.’”—Proverbs 9:16b, 17.
Rather than mixed wine, “the woman Folly” offers stolen waters. (Proverbs 9:13, New International Version) In the Scriptures, experiencing sexual enjoyment with a beloved wife is likened to drinking refreshing water. (Proverbs 5:15-17) Stolen waters, then, represent immoral sexual relations carried out in secret. Such waters are made to appear sweet—better than wine—because they are stolen and carry the idea of getting away with something. The clandestine bread is given the appearance of being more delicious than the bread and meat of wisdom strictly because it is gained by unjust means. To view what is forbidden and secret as attractive is a mark of stupidity.
While wisdom’s invitation includes the promise of life, a woman of stupidity makes no reference to the consequences of following her ways. But Solomon warns: “He has not come to know that those impotent in death are there, that those called in by her are in the low places of Sheol.” (Proverbs 9:18) “Lady Folly’s house is not a home but a mausoleum,” writes one scholar. “If you enter it you will not leave it alive.” Following an immoral life-style is not wise; it is death dealing.
Jesus Christ said: “Go in through the narrow gate; because broad and spacious is the road leading off into destruction, and many are the ones going in through it; whereas narrow is the gate and cramped the road leading off into life, and few are the ones finding it.” (Matthew 7:13, 14) May we always feed at wisdom’s table and be among those who are on the road leading off into life.
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Acquiring wisdom is a personal responsibility
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A wise person welcomes correction