When I was in junior high school, my parents had never heard of home-schooling. It was even long before there was such a thing as middle school – it was junior high, grades 7-9. My family had two basic choices or if they did– Public School or Catholic School. They chose public. By the time I finished my education there were a few Christian schools popping up, but my parents probably didn’t know they existed, and if they did, they didn’t care. There was, however, another kind of school, but no ordinary parent considered it as an option. This third variety of school no longer exists – at least not under the name by which we knew it at the time.
So at about the age of thirteen, off went a hundred kids into junior high. Ostensibly, we were there for an education. Our teachers were supposed to be “wisdom” and ‘knowledge.” They weren’t out crying in the streets, but rather in the chief place of youthful concourse – Northglenn Junior High. Our teachers politely asked, “How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? and you scorners delight in your scorning, and you fools hate knowledge?” “How can you be satisfied with D’s and F’s; how can you be pleased with mere C’s?” This was in the early 1960s when there were grades and standards. In my school even grading on a curve was somewhat new and most of my friends didn’t like it.
Out of those hundred kids in junior high, by the time we reached10th grade, there weren’t quite as many. Of course there were our friends whose families moved away. We had explanations for their absence. But then there were those OTHER kids; the ones our parents told us to avoid; the trouble-makers. They cursed; they spat; they slouched in their desks; they sassed the teachers; they joked and disrupted. They dressed rebelliously; they fought; they smoked; we thought they took drugs. Those were the kids who were sent to see the Vice-Principle; they were in detention rather than gym class. Their parents were summoned; sometimes the police were called to “counsel” with them. They were a part of the Saturday morning “Breakfast Club” at the school. Every once in a while, some of those kids disappeared from class. Some of them dropped out, and we’d see them in bunches hanging out behind the liquor store. But for some of them, there were rumors that they had gone to the third kind of school. They had been sent to “reform school” for a semester, a year or even longer. We knew that to be a euphemism for “Juvie” or “Juvenile Detention” – jail for youthful offenders.
Out of those first hundred kids in junior high, we could see a downward progression in some of them. We could see them on one level in grade 7, and by grade 9 even we could see they were trouble. If they made it to high school, perhaps we’d see them in grade 10, but some were gone by graduation. Looking back on that period of time, I think we can also see a downward steps in the efforts of “wisdom” and ‘knowledge.” Our teachers would initially try very hard with those kids, but over time they would loose patience. And I think we see that illustrated in our text here in Proverbs.
Wisdom begins her ministry with her CALL.
When Judy and I are at the table eating lunch together and I have a subject of interest for discussion, I don’t “call” her. I don’t pull the phone from my pocket and “call” her phone; and I don’t yell across the table “calling” her name. When the previous conversation runs its course, I simply speak, introducing the new subject. The word “call” suggests accosting someone – boldly, aggressively addressing them. In other words they are not nearby; they are not already in conversation; their backs are to the caller.
This is one of the problems with public education, I’ve seen it as a problem in Christian education as well. Our little darlings are not angels; they are not saints in the making, needing only a little education. They are rebels from the day of their births; they are walking away from God and His righteousness. They must be “called” – they must be accosted with the truth. And most people, whether young or old, are more apt to ignore that call than to obey it – it is a part of human nature. Thankfully – praise God – He graciously invokes His sovereign privilege and sometimes makes His call undeniable. “Wisdom” is continually in the calling business, but it is the sinner’s nature to refuse (verse 24). There is also an effectual call, empowered by the Omnipotent God, which is willingly embraced. But that is not the subject of this scripture.
I remember teachers trying hard to make me excited about their particular subject. It might have been algebra, or grammar, or botany. You might say that they were “calling” me, while I was more focused on zoology, or music or history. Sometimes they were somewhat successful in catching my attention, but sometimes they were not. And among the pre-reform school kids, they were not in the least bit successful. It was easy to see that those kids hated school, and they hated our teachers – “wisdom” and ‘knowledge.” And when “wisdom” and mounts the pulpit and “calls” for sinners to repent and trust Christ, it is much the same sort of thing. By God’s grace a few respond with favor. Some listen and nod, some listen and reject but many just keep walking without even turning to hear. Only once in a while will one of those unsaved, foolish souls turn to glance back toward the teacher.
At that point wisdom might STRETCH OUT HER HAND or her arms.
Perhaps Judy might tell you otherwise, but I cannot remember a single instance in our 47 years of marriage when she has ever opened her arms and I have not stepped into them to accept a hug. And I don’t believe I have ever stretched out my hand toward her as we were walking down the street, when she has not reached out and grabbed it. She might have had to switch arms because of her purse or something, but she accepted my hand. That hug and our hand-holding are as natural to us as breathing. Saturday, Judy and I were at a memorial service, where we saw people whom we haven’t seen in months. Some of those people opened their arms and something in my heart compelled me into them. My wife didn’t even object – she was doing the same thing.
But listen to poor “wisdom” … “I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded.”
Do you suppose there has ever been a first year junior high school teacher who after calling to her students metaphorically stretched out her hand to them? Or there is the minister of God. It is one thing to preach sin, righteousness and judgment to a crowd of strangers. It is another for that preacher to reach out with arms outstretched towards them. I have known men who were far and away better preachers and orators than I am, but who were cold, mechanical, robotic and sometimes even mean in their declaration of the gospel. They were far more interested in slaying their hearers than in drawing them to the Saviour. “Wisdom” not only cares about the truth, but she cares about the delinquent she is trying to instruct. But once again, he turns his back on her calls and her invitations.
So she is obligated to sit down and TRY TO COUNSEL him.
“I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof.” This Hebrew word “counsel” is also translated “advice” – “to give advice.” What is the purpose of this counsel? It is to share wisdom and advice. Of course, this “wisdom” is rooted in the fear of the Lord, and it has grown in that relationship through time and experience. When “wisdom” takes the trouble to sit down with the rebel, it is because she can see what is lurking down the road. There are lions, and tigers and bears down there. She is filled with good advice, but will those simple kids listen? The same Hebrew word translated “counsel” and “advice” is also rendered “purpose,” because there is good reason to speak with this potential prodigal. “Wisdom” still has hope that this person can be turned around – saved.
And what is the next step when counsel fails? Reproof. Our faithful junior high school teacher has called, has entreated and has suggested a parent/ teacher/student conference. She has pleaded with both the prodigal and his parents, sharing with them her advice, pointing down the broad road which leadeth to destruction. But coupled to the inability of the parents, there remains the stubborn nature of the unredeemed child. Finally, with no where else to turn, “wisdom” turns the matter over to the administration of the school, who may pass it on to the police.
This word “reproof” is sometimes translated “argument” – as in – “Here are my arguments that you should quit smoking.” Job uses the word in a special way, “Hear now my reasoning, and hearken to the pleadings of my lips.” But the Psalmist Asaph uses it differently, “For all the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning.” The word speaks of God’s arguments and reasonings in the sense of punishment or chastisement. Solomon says in chapter 3 – “My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary of his correction. For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.” Paul repeated that phrase in Greek saying, “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.”
What happens when this four-fold ministry of Wisdom ultimately fails?
I can tell you as one of the students in school when some of those trouble-makers disappeared, and the rumors spread that they were sent to reform school, those of us who remained – we who were semi-obedient and thoroughly self-righteous rejoiced, and in some cases we laughed at the foolish prodigals. We laughed at their calamities and mocked at their fear.
What does Solomon say? “When your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you. Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me: For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the LORD.”
“Wisdom” might have done all she could in a natural sort of way. And when that incorrigible soul was carried away to his reform school, “wisdom” could only shake her head saying to herself… “They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof. Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices. For the turning away of the simple shall SLAY them, and the prosperity of fools shall DESTROY them. But whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil.”