Our text is today’s reading from Proverbs (Proverbs 9:1–10): 1 Wisdom has built her house; she has hewn her seven pillars. 2 She has slaughtered her beasts; she has mixed her wine; she has also set her table. 3 She has sent out her young women to call from the highest places in the town, 4 “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!” To him who lacks sense she says, 5 “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed. 6 Leave your simple ways, and live, and walk in the way of insight.” 7 Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse, and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury. 8 Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you. 9 Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning. 10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. (ESV)
A good father wants to help his children to not grow up to be fools. In the first few chapters of Proverbs, King Solomon is addressing his son, hoping to train him up to be a wise man. And so, Solomon personifies Wisdom as a woman in order to present an image that is attractive to his son. Furthermore, Solomon makes a sharp contrast between two women—Wisdom and Foolishness. Foolishness personified as a woman tempts men to go astray into the ways of adultery and death. Wisdom personified as woman invites those who are simple-minded to come to her feast and to walk in the way in insight.
Wisdom is valuable, but not just because it helps us avoid the ways of foolishness. Wisdom is valuable, most of all, because Wisdom is God, who offers His gracious blessings to the son listening to the father’s word. From the perspective of the New Testament, we realize that the real contrast here is between the foolishness of unbelief and the wisdom of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
In fact, you could say that Wisdom is the unique Person of God the Son, who shares the same divine essence as the Father and the Spirit, and who, with the Father and the Spirit, creates all things and gives the good gifts of the Gospel. In Proverbs 3, Wisdom is explicitly connected to God’s creation: The Lord by wisdom founded the earth; by understanding he established the heavens (3:19). Here, Solomon is portraying Wisdom as the eternal second person of the Trinity—Jesus—, through whom all things were made. As St. Paul says in Colossians: For by [our Lord Jesus Christ] all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through Him and for Him (1:16).
In short, Wisdom is Jesus, and the way of wisdom we are to follow is none other than the life to which we all have been called in Holy Baptism—the life of leaving our simple ways through repenting of our sins; the life of living and walking in the way of insight, of faith, as we feast on Wisdom’s Holy Word and Holy Supper.
The Wisdom of Jesus—the Gospel—is so powerful that it breaks down the dividing wall of hostility. Through His death on the cross, Jesus has killed the hostility that had previously existed between Jew and Gentile. The Gentiles did not do anything on their own to approach God. They were brought near. It was all God’s doing—and it cost Him a tremendous price. That change could come about only by the blood of Christ. In Christ, the Gentiles, who were formerly outsiders, now have been brought into God’s church. Hence, a whole new age has dawned.
Jesus’ death worked another marvelous change: it abolished the law of commandments and ordinances. When Paul here speaks of the “law,” we must be clear about what he is referring to. God gave Israel a threefold law: civil, ceremonial, and moral. The moral law, summarized in the Ten Commandments, expresses God’s holy and unchangeable will for all people of all time. However, the civil law (dealing with God’s governance of Israel) and the ceremonial laws (such as dietary prescriptions for clean and unclean food) were restrictions binding only on Israel. For example, Gentiles were not forbidden to eat pork.
The purpose of these civil and ceremonial laws, unique to Israel, was to keep Israel a separate nation. The many carefully spelled out regulations were to hedge and protect Israel from heathen influence until the promised Messiah was born.
These rules and regulations, so useful for keeping Jews and Gentiles apart, also bred a great deal of ill will and hatred between the two groups. Thus the civil and ceremonial laws became a dividing wall of hostility.
The need to keep Israel a separate nation ended when Jesus was born in Bethlehem. The civil and ceremonial laws had fulfilled their purpose. When Jesus on the cross declared, It is finished, He was speaking of the completion of our salvation, but His words also marked the end of the Old Testament and its rules and regulations. In his flesh, Christ on the cross abolished the law of commandments and ordinances.
Christ’s cross put an end to the binding force of the Old Testament civil and ceremonial laws, thus removing the dividing wall of hostility between Jew and Gentile. The removal of this dividing wall between these two groups of people was only part of Christ’s work. The real problem was not between Jew and Gentile but between both groups of people and God. Consequently, the far greater accomplishment of Christ’s cross was that His blood paid for the sins of the whole world. Christ’s perfect life and innocent death earned the merit that avails before God. Christ’s life and death secured your release from the guilt of your sins.
The blood of Jesus has brought about the reconciliation of sinners not only to each other but also to God. Jesus came and preached peace to us sinners, and now, through him we … have access in one Spirit to the Father. Once we were strangers and aliens estranged from God and from each other, but now we are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
Here, we see the Wisdom of Jesus at work, reconciling sinners to God and creating in Himself a new man in the place of sinners divided by hostility, so making peace. Through the shed blood of Jesus, you have access to God the Father, who now claims you as His own dear children in Holy Baptism. And you are all members of the household of God, so that now you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
Jesus, Wisdom, has done everything necessary to bring you near to God and to join you together with other baptized sinners into a precious structure—the Church—that is growing into the holy temple of the Lord.
All this that Wisdom Jesus has done for you and given you—it is possible to throw it all away through the foolishness of unbelief and of making excuses. In today’s Gospel, those who had been invited to the banquet all alike began to make excuses. In the end, the master said to the servant: none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet. And so it can happen to us, that we persist in making excuses for not following the way of insight, of faith; that we persist in rejecting the gracious invitation of Wisdom Jesus to feast on His Word and Supper and instead follow the way of foolishness.
Have you ever followed the way of foolishness? Yes, you have. And so have I. We are all guilty of making excuses for following our sinful desires rather than Jesus. The Wisdom of Jesus is the wisdom of God pouring out upon us His blessings of forgiveness, life, and salvation through His Word and Supper. But how easy it is for us to neglect the Lord’s Word, the Lord’s Supper! Of course, we should allow no trivial matter to excuse us from the Lord’s Supper each Lord’s Day. And meditating on God’s Word should be a feast of which we partake daily. But the excuses are there, more often than we would like to admit. And the real danger is that our persisting in making excuses will eventually separate us from all that God would give us in the Wisdom of Jesus.
And often, at the root of our excuses is a disappointment, a bitterness, a resentment at how God seems to not be answering our prayers and providing for our needs. In short, at the root of our excuses lies the foolishness of sin and unbelief. And so, let us repent, trusting God to restore us in His peace and to make us anew in Christ. And thus refreshed in the Spirit, we can pray with psalmist the words of today’s introit: I love you, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer.
In today’s bulletin, I have included a new feature—a communion psalm, which I would invite you to quietly pray during the distribution, after the singing of “Just as I Am, without One Plea”. This communion psalm has a deep connection to today’s readings, for it shows us how to walk in the Wisdom of Jesus.
Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord [, which is the beginning of wisdom]. The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and His ears toward their cry. And so, O children of God, cry out to the Lord for His forgiveness. Confess your sins. Repent of the times you have given up praying because you thought what’s the use. Repent of the times you have thought in bitterness that your troubles were greater than the Lord’s love. Repent of the times you have made excuses and followed the way of unbelief, foolishly neglecting and forsaking all that Wisdom Jesus has done to give you access to God your Father and to make you members of the household of God. And in your repenting, also rejoice; rejoice in the certainty that the Lord loves you and forgives you. For as the psalmist proclaims: when the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. The Lord redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned (adapted from Psalm 34).
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. In Christ Jesus, we so fear God that we repent of all our excuses and of following the way of foolishness. And in Christ, we understand, not with the brain but with the heart, that Jesus is Wisdom, who offers His gracious blessings to God’s children, so that we remain faithful to Christ all the days of our lives. And once again, this morning, we rejoice in hearing Wisdom Jesus calling us to come, eat of His Body and drink of His blood and feast on His Word and live, walking in the way of insight, of faith in our Saviour, who came preaching peace to us, that we may have access to the Father and be joined together as the Lord’s holy temple forever. Amen.