Wisdom Personified, and Love Incarnate
Proverbs 1:24-28
Because I have called, and you refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded;…

Wisdom is one of the Divine attributes; and Christ "is of God made unto us wisdom," as well as "righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption." We may surely expect, then, that up to a certain point the utterances of Wisdom and of Christ would coincide; so that in these passages in the Book of Proverbs we should be able to find, as we find throughout the whole of the Old Testament, some portion of "the testimony of Jesus." But does it follow that because some, or even many, of Wisdom's utterances may be correctly spoken of as the words of Christ Himself, therefore all of them may be so regarded? To see how utterly foolish is this way of reasoning, we have only to remember how many of David's words not only coincide with those of Christ, but are actually quoted in the New Testament as if Christ Himself had uttered them; and yet no one is so foolish as to insist that all the words of David can be safely put into the mouth of Christ. As we said at the beginning, wisdom is one of the attributes of God; and therefore the words of Wisdom must be, up to a certain point, the expression of the Divine mind. We may say that Wisdom expresses the mind of God in creation, in providence, in the whole realm of law. And in this realm, as well as in the realm of grace, the Son of God has His place as the Revealer. We may regard Christ and Wisdom as identical throughout the realm of natural law; so that no error would result from the substitution of the one for the other within that range of truth; but when we leave the realm of law and enter that of grace, it is entirely different; then it may not only be injurious but fatal to take the utterances of mere wisdom and put them into the mouth of Christ. If Christ had been only wisdom, He could not have heard the sinner's prayer. But He is also "righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption"; and that makes all the difference, for now that He has made an atonement for our sins and opened up the way of life, He can speak, not only in the name of wisdom, but of pardoning mercy and redeeming grace; and, accordingly, far from laughing at calamity and scorning the penitent's prayer, which wisdom if it were alone might do, He can, and will, and does "save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him." Having thus considered the extent to which we may expect to find "the testimony of Jesus" in the words of Wisdom, let us now test the principle we have laid down by an examination of the passage. The paragraph begins with this bold and striking personification: "Wisdom crieth without; she uttereth her voice in the streets: she crieth in the chief place of concourse, in the openings of the gates: in the city she uttereth her words, saying" — and then follows the passage with which we have mainly to do. Let us, then, listen to Wisdom's cry, and observe how truthfully and powerfully it is translated into the language of men. We shall see its truth to nature better if we first look back a little. She begins, not with a cry, but with tender words of counsel and of promise (vers. 8, 9), "My son, hear the instruction of thy father," etc. These are the tender and kindly words of counsel in which she addresses the young man setting out in life. Following this are tender and yet solemn words of warning against the tempter whom every one must meet (ver. 19): "My, son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not," etc. But now time passes on, and Wisdom's protege begins to go astray, to forget the instruction of the father and the loving law of the mother; and so now she lifts up her voice and cries, entreating the wanderer to turn before it is too late (vers. 22, 23). Time passes on, and the warning cry has been as little heeded as had been the tender voice of Wisdom at the first. The son, instead of being prudent, has been rash; he has been, not economical, but extravagant; not temperate, but dissipated; and so he has gone on till his last opportunity has been thrown away, his patrimony squandered, his health gone, his last friend lost. Then once more his early monitor appears. The prodigal remembers the tender words of counsel and of promise. He remembers how, when he was just beginning to go astray, before he had become hopelessly entangled in evil, Wisdom lifted up her voice and cried. For a long time his old counsellor has not been present to his mind at all. He has been hurrying on in courses of evil, but now his very wretchedness forces him to stop and think. And, again, there stands Wisdom before him. How does she address him now? Does she speak to him in soothing tones? Does she promise to restore him his money, or his health, or his friends? Alas, no: she cannot. All she can say is, "I told you it would be so. I warned you what would be the end; and now the end has come. You must eat the fruit of your own ways, and be filled with your own devices." That is positively all that Wisdom can say; and there is no tenderness in her tone. She seems to mock him rather, she seems to laugh at his calamity. Such is the voice of Wisdom in the end to those who have despised her counsel in the beginning. And is not the whole representation true to nature? Yes, it is perfectly true that "Wisdom crieth without, she uttereth her voice in the streets," and says these things so loudly that no listening ear can fail to hear them. It is no matter of deep philosophy. It is no ecclesiastical or theological dogma. It belongs to the Proverbs, the proverbs of the streets. The merit of Solomon, in this chapter, is not in telling us something we should not otherwise have known; but in putting what everybody knows in a very striking form. I question whether in all literature there can be found any more vivid and alarming description of the terror and despair of a remorseful conscience, as it looks back and recalls, when too late, the neglected counsels alike of earthly and of heavenly wisdom. So far Wisdom; and if it were only with her that sinners had to do, it would go hard, not only with the profligate and openly vicious, but with the most respectable. But He with whom we have to do is not known as wisdom. He is wise indeed; and all wisdom is from Him. But there is that in Him which is higher than wisdom. "God is love." Wisdom is the expression of His will in the realm of law; but love is the expression of Himself. The love of God is not a lawless love. It is not at variance with wisdom. The law which ordains that the sinner must eat of the fruit of his own way and be filled with his own devices cannot be set aside by the mere emotion of compassion. Hence it was necessary, in order to redeem man from the condemnation of sin, that the Holy One of God should suffer. Hence, too, it is that, though by the suffering and death of Christ believers in Him are set free from the condemnation of sin, yet the natural consequences of the transgressions of wisdom's laws are not abolished. If health has been wasted, it will not be miraculously restored. If money has been squandered, there must be suffering from the want of it. If character has been forfeited by dishonesty and impurity, it may never be redeemed on this side the grave. The laws of wisdom are not repealed or set at naught; they remain in force. But such has been the ingenuity, so to speak, of the Divine love, that without infringing on the proper domain of wisdom expressing itself in law, the way has been opened up for the full pardon and ultimate restoration even of those who have wandered farthest and sinned most. And accordingly, a passage like this awful one in the first chapter of the Book of Proverbs, instead of obscuring the Divine love in the smallest degree, or interposing so much as a thread between the sinner and his Saviour, rather serves as a background on which to set forth the radiant form of the Saviour of mankind,

"Whose love appears more orient and more bright,

Having a foil whereon to show its light."

(J. M. Gibson, D.D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded;

WEB: Because I have called, and you have refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no one has paid attention;

The Rejected Call of Wisdom
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