The Feast of Wisdom

Text: Proverbs 9:1-10
Date: Pentecost XII (Proper 15) + 8/19/12

When we read and speak of “wisdom” in the Book of Proverbs we are not talking about merely a concept, an attitude or a philosophy. The New Testament says we are talking about Christ. St. Paul writing to the Colossians describes “the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col 2:1-3). And more than merely containing or possessing wisdom the Apostle wrote to the Corinthians of Christ that He is “the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor 1:24).

Now, for three Sundays now we’ve been hearing from the sixth chapter of St. John’s Gospel, which, you will recall, he begins by calling Christ “the Word,” saying, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God” (John 1:1-2). Likewise Proverbs says of Wisdom, “the Lord possessed me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of old.” Wisdom is Christ. Christ is Wisdom. Even as we confess Christ to be God, the only-begotten Son, through whom all things were made, so Proverbs says of Wisdom,

      Ages ago I was set up,
at the first, before the beginning of the earth.
When there were no depths I was brought forth,
when there were no springs abounding with water.
Before the mountains had been shaped,
before the hills, I was brought forth,
before he had made the earth with its fields,
or the first of the dust of the world.
When he established the heavens, I was there;
when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,
when he made firm the skies above,
when he established the fountains of the deep,
when he assigned to the sea its limit,
so that the waters might not transgress his command,
when he marked out the foundations of the earth,
then I was beside him, like a master workman.”
(Prov 8:22-30)

     Wisdom is Christ. Christ is Wisdom. Wisdom gives abundant life. Christ says, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). Wisdom is therefore also to receive Christ whereas Folly is to reject Him.

Christ comes to you. Wisdom invites you. Wisdom, says our text, has built a house, prepared a banquet and sent out the invitation. The ancients were right when they linked the “seven pillars” of this house to the Spiritus septiformis, the seven-fold gifts of the Holy Spirit. We sing of these in the ancient Pentecost hymn, “Come, Holy Ghost, Creator Blest,”
In You, with graces sevenfold,
We God’s almighty hand behold (LSB 498:3).
And in the hymn, “Creator Spirit, by Whose Aid,”
Giver of grace, descend from high;
Your sev’nfold gifts to us supply (LSB 500:3).

What are those gifts? Remember the rite of confirmation where these gifts were invoked upon each confirmand? The pastor lays his hands upon the head and says to each the words of Isaiah 11:2, “God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, give you his Holy Spirit, the Spirit of wisdom and knowledge, of grace and prayer, of power and strength, of sanctification and the fear of God” (LW Agenda, 112). That blessing, by the way, has been removed from the Lutheran Service Book rite, probably because those words speak more specifically of Christ, the “shoot from the stump of Jesse and a branch from his roots,” more so than of those who follow Him. Regardless, Wisdom’s house is the salvation prepared for all by God. The banquet meal and wine and table is reiterated by Jesus when He speaks of eternal life as a wedding banquet (Matthew 22).

The invitation is to all,
“Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!”
To him who lacks sense she says,
“Come, eat of my bread
and drink of the wine I have mixed.
Leave your simple ways, and live,
and walk in the way of insight.”

They are called “simple” and lacking of sense who have not yet rejected Christ. They are those who may not even be seeking Wisdom at the moment. The invitation, nevertheless, is to “Come, eat of my bread.” So we heard Jesus say of Himself, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.” And so we ask, “Have you eaten of this bread?” To eat of the bread is to believe in Christ, to receive Him and not reject Him. To eat of this bread is to “leave your simple ways,” that is lack of knowing God’s love and gift of salvation. To eat of this bread is “to live.” And this life is more than merely your physical living and moving. Jesus says, “Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever” (Jn 6:58).

The invitation of salvation through Christ is received by the simple whom we could call the faithful. On the other hand are the scoffer and the wicked man. “Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse…. Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you.” The scoffer is the freethinker who mocks religion. And are we not increasingly surrounded by those who publicly ridicule and even condemn Christian faith and morals? And now even the government has stumbled into criticizing, even objecting to the Church’s opposition to abortion and various forms of birth control as being but a left-over lie of an out-dated morality of former dark ages, all the while forgetting that religious belief in the United States of America as founded is never to be subject to political sanction.

One Internet “Youtube” “contributor,” thinking he came up with some clever, modern, advanced way of thinking, mocked all Christians saying, “I have a surprise for you who are waiting for Christ’s return. He ain’t coming back!”

What does the New Testament say? St. Peter wrote then already that, “you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, ‘Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation’” (2 Peter 3:2-4)!

Finally is the highest principle of the Book of Proverbs with which it begins, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” We fear God, first, because He is thrice and absolutely Holy. On the other hand we are, like the prophet Isaiah, men of unclean lips, living in the midst of a people of unclean lips, that is, rank sinners, separated, exiled and condemned by God’s Holy Law. But such is Wisdom (such is Christ!) that only those who thus cringe and admit their sinfulness, weakness and need, that is, only those who repent, are prepared to receive Christ who is our substitute—His death for our life, His holiness for our wickedness, His flesh for the life of the world.

“Come, eat” of the bread of wisdom. Come, eat this bread, drink this cup says Wisdom, says Christ: “come to me and never be hungry. Eat this bread, drink this cup, Trust in Me and you will not thirst.”

Today, though we have said John chapter six is not speaking directly about the Lord’s Supper but about faith in Christ, today Wisdom sends out her invitation—Wisdom, who is Christ, who gave His flesh and blood for the life of the world, who now gives his body and blood to dwell in us, to give us the forgiveness of sins, to give us eternal life and salvation. Wisdom says, trust in Christ and you will not thirst.