If you'd like to take your bibles and turn to page 6 4 2, you know, our reading from Proverbs chapter 9. Proverbs chapter 9 verse 1. Wisdom has built her house. She has set up its 7 pillars. She has prepared her meat and mixed her wine.
She has also set her table She has sent out her servants, and she calls from the highest point of the city, let all who are simple come to my house. To those who have no sense, she says, come, eat my food and drink the wine I have mixed. Leave your simple ways and you will live. Walk in the way of insight. Whoever corrects a mocha invites insults Whoever rebukes the wicked incurs abuse.
Do not rebuke mockers or they will hate you. Rebuke the wise and they will love you. Instruct the wise and they will be wiser still. Teach the righteous and they will add to their learning. The fear of the lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the holy 1 is understanding.
For through wisdom, your days will be many, and years will be added to your life. If you are wise, your wisdom will reward you. If you are a mocha, you alone will suffer. Folly is an unruly woman. She is simple and knows nothing.
She sits at the door of her house on a seat at the highest point of the city calling out to those who pass by, who go straight on their way, let all who are simple come to my house To those who have no sense, she says, stolen water is sweet. Food, eaten in secret is delicious. But little do they know that the dead are there and that her guests are deep in the realm of the dead Let's pray. Father god, once again, as we come, and as we think about the the year that's gone, the the the decade that's gone by, lord, as we as we think about this passage, lord, we pray that he would help us give us, give us minds to, to understand and to, to think. And lord, please help us to worship you tonight.
To to see the lord Jesus and his grace and his kindness, in your word. We pray in Jesus name, amen. Now you you you may have heard older people especially use the phrase, well, that's it's an end of an era. You know, and and that is definitely going around at this time of the year, isn't it? You might you might hear it when, when's a football team, changes man manager, like, you know, Austin Winger, who's been there for decades, and he goes, it's the end of an era.
Well, you literally could say that tonight, couldn't you? We come to the end of 2019, and it literally is the end of an era. Now, this is the last sermon of the decade. I get to preach it. I don't know if that's a a short straw, but it is a privilege to to open god's words though.
It's the last term of the of the decade let alone a year, and and it's normal to to to look back and look forward to to sort of review. We did this this morning, didn't we, at at Tiffin's. But we're gonna do that tonight again. It's good it's good to I think it's it's the lord's kindness that he gives us, cycles. He gives us, 365 days.
So we can we can we can start afresh. We can think about what's gone by, and and what's what's coming up, what's what's ahead of us. So so we're gonna do that through this tonight through through, through Proverbs chapter 9. And I I would ask you just to begin with, has your has your decade as you were talking on your tables and thinking about the things that that have happened to you, has it been marked by wisdom or folly? What would you say?
Whose call have you listened to? Whose invite have you accepted? Where were you 10 years ago? Was it was interesting hearing Rich say he was just finishing university just to look at him now. He looks like an old man, but You know, you know, he was just finishing university 10 years ago and and I was saying myself 10 years ago, I I sent in the last 10 years, I've I've I've I've moved churches 3 times and I've had 4 jobs.
That sounds sounds crazy. When you think about it like that, there's a lot a lot's gone on. But what what has marked that decade? Wisdom more fully? What what were you doing on the 20 ninth of December 2009?
Think about that. It would have been a Tuesday. By the way. So, but, you know, it's it's amazing thing because 10 years have gone. And when you think about when you think about the last 10 years, would you say you've become wiser?
Would you say you've grown in wisdom Now I'm not just I'm not just on about, you know, life experience, you know, a few more gray hairs. I'm talking about biblical wisdom. Biblical wisdom is that you've grown, you you you know how to live in god's world. You know how to, you know, how to figure out what, you know, the order he set in in this creation. And you and you're you're you're living successfully because, because you're applying biblical wisdom.
That's a principle in the proverbs. It's not it's not a hard and fast rule that applies every single, you know, in every single circumstance. But there is a there is an order that god has put into the world that if, you know, if you are wise, you will you will, you will be rewarded. And we would that's what we'd we were just reading. Have you grown in wisdom, would you say?
Do you know do you know god better? And do you know his world better? Now, think about like this. Another way of of thinking about this question is is is have the choices you've made reflected someone who is growing in wisdom. So some of the choices we've made, we've made over the last 10 years.
Some of us have got married. Alright? And you think, yep, that was definitely a good choice. That was a wise move. Some of you maybe have had children and you're thinking, the jury's out on that loan jacket.
Some of you may have remained single. Now this is this may may have been a choice. It may may not have been a choice. It's something you you you maybe didn't want, but this is the situation you find yourself in. But but in in all kinds of areas of life, and I've just named 1 relationships, we we are presented with a ton of choices.
Choices every single day. And have the choices you've made in the past decade been choices that are that are made in the light of god on of who he is, or has has it been, has god been an afterthought? Do you make decisions in light of of of god being your heavenly father? And of Jesus being your lord. Is biblical I'm asking, is biblical wisdom a worldview for you?
Or is it just an add on? Does does the Christian faith color every decision you make? And you might think, I don't know if the Bible does asks us to do that. Does it? Well, an example, in the new testament, 1 Corinthians 10 31 says, So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
That is that's what it means to live under god's, you know, in god's world, under his rule, for his glory and making every decision in light of of him. Even down to how you eat food. Think about here's something that's gonna that's gonna, maybe set the cat among the pigeons here. Guess how many decisions the average human being makes every day. Have a guess.
Let's let's get some audience participation here. Give me give me a figure. Shout out how many decisions on average does a does a human being make every day? 4000 higher, tenth, higher than 10. 30.
Did you just Google that? You said 35000. You're spot on. How I'm how I'm not no. And thank you because I don't I didn't wanna carry that on all night, but yeah.
30 the average human being makes 35000 choices every day. 226.7 of those choices according to 1 way right, our decisions that we make about food alone. Alright? You know, so think about that. Every single day, we're making on average.
Now I don't know. I don't know where these websites get this stuff from. How do you figure out? I made 35000 decisions. Well, let let me read the the stats It says it's an estimated that an average adult makes 35000 remotely conscious decisions every day.
And so and he he says as your level of responsibility increases, so does the multiple the multitude of choices that you have to make. Now I don't know if about you, but I was slightly paralyzed when I heard that, that statistic. I I don't know how any of us get a bed in the morning. When we when we know that kind of number. And and and if if ever we needed wisdom, it is now, isn't it?
In light of that? And the the wonderful thing is from Proverbs chapter chapter 9, we find that wisdom wants us. Wisdom is calling to us. Here's the thing. Not only wisdom is calling us.
There's something else calling us as well, and that's folly. And so in in Proverbs chapter 9, you you get this contrast. It's a brit it's some brilliant picture you get you get these these 2 these 2 girls. You have woman wisdom and female folly. Okay?
They bookend the chapter, and they make their appeals. They they call out. So to live in god's world under his rule, to grow in wisdom, to think about, you know, how we do this, We're gonna think about these 2 these 2 women. So first of all, my first point is know who is calling you. Know who is calling you.
Let's meet woman wisdom and female folly, shall we? Just a look down. We're gonna we're gonna we're gonna look at Woman Wisdom first. Verse 1, we find out that she is a skilled builder. Wisdom has built her house.
She has set up its 7 pillars. She's built her own house with her own hands. She is skillful. She is, in in in the the bottom of your of your bible there, you you might have a little footnote that says she is hewn out its 7 pillars. That that word is is a lot better than than set up.
I find because Hune is when you, you know, that's that's that's hard work. That's graft. That's swinging a hammer. That's that's carving out, you know, a piece of rock. She has hewn out its 7 pillars This woman is strong, and her designs are perfect.
And they they are award winning architecture. That's what we're looking at here. This this this palace that she's building is definitely worthy of a spot on grand designs. Now, have have that in your mind, but also woman wisdom is not she's not just a designer and a builder of houses. She's a world class chef.
Just look at verse 2. She has she has prepared her meat and mixed her wine. She has also set her table. It doesn't get any better than this, does it? Alright?
This is you know, just think think construction and food. Right? That that basically sums up every dad's Christmas in the UK. You know, Lego, turkey, you know, brilliant, sprouts if you're on my side, by the way. She hasn't just prepared food though.
She it's not it's not a ready meal. It's not a microwave oven meal. She slaughtered her beasts and mixed her own wine. This is the kind of menu you might you might find at a king's table It's a banquet of the finest foods and the finest wines. This is woman wisdom.
The picture we get of her, and she's calling us. All the way through these these verses, we're bombarded with images of stuff that anyone with eyes in their head and we we've, you know, that their mind in the right place would would definitely want. Sites flavors and smells that are designed to show that woman wisdom is desirable and attractive and life giving. And then we hear the contrast, female folly, It's the end of the chapter in it starts in verse 13. Just look at it.
Female female, female foley. The only grand thing about her is her gob. Look at look at verse 15. Of course she does. Cooling out to those who pass by, who go straight on their way.
Let all who are simple come to my house, she says. Verse 14. She sits at the door of her house on a seat at the highest point of the city, presuming that she deserves a place of honor. That's where that's where the the leaders would sit. She's prepared nothing though.
Has she? She is the blind wanting to lead the blind, and she knows even less than she sees. Look at verse 13 again. Follies an unruly woman. She is simple and knows nothing.
There's no feast at this woman's house. Just just dodgy water and bland food, you know, water that's fallen off the back of a lorry. Look at look at her look at her, you know, her message to people. Verse 17, stolen water is sweet. Food, eaten in secret is delicious.
Why would anyone wanna go go with her? But it's the very that's the point. It's there's an air of there is an air of excitement about stolen water isn't there. We're not to think that that she's, she's ugly. She is desirable.
These both these women are. This this her message is slick. And her lips are smooth. The whole the whole that there's a mystique about her, and there's an unknownness about her, and it's attractive to to the simple to us. There's a story in in Greek mythology called, well, it's it's a story of Adysseus and and a lady called a god, actually, goddess called calypso than if you've ever heard the story of of calypso, She lived on an island called Ogygia and, and Odysseus was was was sailing past and she sang a song to him and attracted him, and he and he and he fell he fell under her spell, and he was a prisoner on this island for 7 years, and he was he was he was captivated by her.
And he he was powerless to do anything about it. This is this is woman, this is female folly, and he and Odysseus fell under her spell. And at the end of at the end of, the decade before this 1, and it was ironically called the Northeast. There was a a young a singer songwriter that penned these words. And and these words could have been they could have been the the the words that Odysseus himself heard from Klipso's lips.
Neo says this. He says, I can feel her on my skin. I can taste her on my tongue. She's the sweetest taste of sin. The more I get, the more I want.
She wants to own me. Come closer. She says, come closer. This is the message that that female foley is is is shouting out to the simple. But but what she feeds though will turn to ash in in our mouths.
The only skill this woman has is the ability to lie and get young, dumb, and broke men to fall for her. And follow her. And that's for the house that she leads them to. Well, just look at verse 18. Says, but little do they know that the dead are there, that her guests are deep in the realm of the dead?
It's a death trap, isn't it? You know, health and safety would condemn it if they if they went around it. So you have these 2 women 2 women. Both women have a message for the simple. Both women have something about them that appears desirable.
But only 1 has substance. Only 1 has sustenance and lasting true satisfaction. So do you know who is calling you, wisdom, and folly? But wisdom is life and folly is death. So know who is calling you.
Secondly, know where you stand. How can you know where you stand? Like, when you think about the last 10 years, and you think, okay, I've, you know, I've definitely made, bad decisions. I've definitely, you know, I've I've I can see where I, you know, where I I was I was very close to to losing it. But thank, you know, but thank thank god.
He he rescued me But but you might be thinking, well, you know, I'm I feel like, actually, I'm I'm in I'm in I'm in the house. Where where are you going towards? It was just like Phil was saying today. You know, some some some people who who are in churches their regular their regular tenders, they're they're there, in body, but not in heart, and not in spirit. They're there in church, but they're they're they're going towards female foley.
Where have your choices taken you? And how do you know? Well, I think this passage has something to to to help us. That is it has something to help us to know, what what direction we're going in. And that's, you know, just look look at verse versus 7 to 9.
I think we could we could we can know what direction we're going in. Depending on how we respond to correction. So just look at verse 7, whoever corrects a mocker invites insults. When you are corrected, do you insult? If so, You're a mocha.
But 7 again, do you abuse those who rebuke you? If if that's you, you're called in this passage, the wicked. Look at verse 8. Verse 8 says do not rebuke mockers or they will hate you. Review the wise and they will love you.
Do you respond with hate to those who are brave enough to come alongside you to give you a clip around the ear or to to have a word with you anyway? Or are you, I mean, you know, the kids, the kids say don't be a hater, don't they? You know? Are you a hater? I think, you know, these words are are are there to help us think.
Okay. What what direction am I traveling in? Am I going towards have I fallen for for female folly or am I walking with with woman wisdom? Are you open to having these kinds of people in your life? Someone who will come alongside you or get in your face, you know, like forget the arm around the shoulder.
They just come directly at you. So look, we need to talk, you know. Now, not everyone has the right to be that person. Right? We're not to we're not to go around fixing everyone else's problems.
But but let's, as Christians, as as brothers and sisters, let's let's allow people into our lives. Let's, you know, that there there should be 1 or 2 people that you trust that you can tell you could say anything to, that when when they see you going astray, when they see you running after female foley, they'll they'll they'll grab you and and and, you know, say, what are you? What's what's going on? Look at verse 8 again. This is this is what the kind of this is the kind of people we wanna be.
The people that list that listen to a rebuke You are called the wise if you listen to a rebuke. You are called a lover if you're 1 who who listens and loves the person because of it. Verse 9, you are a listener and a learner if you're open to instruction instruct the wise and they will be wiser still. Teach the righteous and they will add to their learning. Again, over the last 10 years, have you added do you feel like you've added to your learning?
Do you do you feel like, you know, you you're you're walking in that in that road of wisdom. Are you righteous first 9? That's quite a that's quite a quite a thing to to be called, isn't Are you are you teachable? Are you faithful? When I was growing up, I was, I was, I was like, mentored by lots of older men, and and it was it's it's, you know, 1 of the 1 of the best things you can do is get an older man who's who's who's got this wisdom, who's followed her, and eaten within her house and, you know, seen her architecture.
Someone who's done that, to get someone like that to to to train you to to mentor you. And 1 of the 1 of these guys he he he got he gathered a few of us together and, he said, look, you know, what what we're going after, we wanna be fat. Alright? We wanna be fat Christians. Right?
And, that's really long ago before you gain it. It's 1 of those, you know, acronyms, but it stands for faithful, available, and teachable. You know? And I think that's kind of that's that's a a good description of what it is, to be to be a listening learning righteous person according to to to Proverbs 9, be are you faithful? Are you are you available for people?
And are you teachable? We we we listen to instruction? This is a it's a good litmus test, I think, to run through those those few verses and ask yourself those questions. Am I am I this? Am I those, am I someone who who, you know, may maybe it's hard.
No one's saying it's easy to get. You know, a harsh word or, you know, you know, a rebuke. It's it's not a it's not a nice word. Is it? It's not a it's not a positive word, is it?
But to to, you know, if we're gonna if we're gonna be people that are going after woman wisdom, then we won't run away from rebuke and instruction and correction We will accept it and, we will respond to it in a in a godly way. In a wise way. That's what it means to be wise. So know and know know those who know those who are calling you, know know where you stand. And we're gonna get to, the third point where which is know where to begin and where to end.
Know where to begin and when to end. This is a very simple message for simple people, isn't it? You know? And I don't know, again, I I don't know how you how you feel, being called simple, you know? That's, I think that's, again, that's another another litmus test as to as to kind of where where you are, you know.
But in this passage, it it tells us that, that wisdom can if you get wisdom, you will be rewarded And so where does wisdom begin? Well, verse 10, says the fear of the lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the holy 1 is understanding. The the fear of the lord is the beginning of of wisdom. Now, when we hear that that further, what you what you think when you hear that phrase, the fear of the lord. Right?
I think sometimes we we think, really fear? Are we supposed to fear god? What does that what does that word mean fear? And and sometimes we we try and do sort of, dictionary gymnastics to sort of like say, it says fear, but it doesn't really mean fear. You know, doesn't mean you're supposed to be scared.
But, you know, I I have it on good authority that the the Hebrew word where, you know, when you when you look at it, you know, it has a it has a a specific meaning and a and a wider meaning but 1 of the specific meanings is fear means fear. It's, you know, god is a is is a is a is a holy god. And and, you know, you just think of the stories in the in the in the Bible. Moses and the Old Testament Isaiah in the temple. When they meet god, they they they don't sing a happy tune.
You might have you might have heard stories where people said they've they've met Jesus when they were brushing their teeth, you know? I I've heard stories that out before. I think what are you talking about. If if I met Jesus, why would I meet Jesus brushing my teeth for a start? But but if I did, I would not be I would not be carrying on doing this, you know.
Most most people in the Bible when they when they come into the presence of God, they they hit the deck. So, you know, the wisdom begins with the fear of the lord. And and this word, it does it does, it does encompass, you know, how we're to treat god. It's it's a relationship word. It's it's a it's a fear that isn't cowering and, and phobic.
It is, it is a respect and a reverence and an awe. And in a relationship, it's needed. And we're told here that it's it's the beginning of of godly wisdom. An an example is this. So, I have a a a boy, a little boy who, who who got a brilliant Christmas present and birthday present.
He got nerf tracksuit trousers for Christmas and a nerf shirt for for his birthday. So he's got the whole set now. And he can put bullets in his legs and it's brilliant. Yeah? Last night, he wanted to go to sleep in it.
So he wore it all day yesterday, and It was lucky it didn't go in the wash because it was getting that way. But he said, Nana, I'm gonna go to he never sleeps in pajamas. You know, you put pajamas on him by the morning, he's stripped off. And he never wears pajamas, hates them. But last night, he insisted Nope.
I'm wearing my nerve outfit to bed. So I was like, okay. I'm tired. You know, it's been a long day. I really, really don't need this.
Okay? But I I just thought, no, I I can't let you. I said, I can't let you I can't let you wear that to bed and wear it tomorrow to church. It's it's not a good thing, you know, you're sweat, and he and he just didn't understand. He thought it was a meanie, you know.
And I said, look, I, I, no, I'm drawing the line. You need to take it off and we'll we'll hang it up and you can put it on in the morning. You know, the the 1 time I never have to tell him to get dressed was this morning, you know, because of this amazing track suit he's got. But but I was I was thinking about it was a great example because I was thinking about this this concept of fear as well. It was a great example of of, the fact that, you know, if I, if I, if there was no fear there, if there was no fear of me in Lucas, he would have just said, clear off what you, you know, what you're talking about.
And and he would have got away with it and You know? But the fact that there is there is that relationship and there is there is, there is that respect and and reverence and, you know, a fear of the authority. He you know, he did what I asked him and it didn't, you know, thankfully, it didn't come to, you know, it didn't it didn't carry on and it didn't you know, it didn't escalate. And I was very glad of that. But it did it did make me think.
Yeah. That that that's a really important thing. That fear It's it's needed in a, it's needed to, it's needed in a in a relationship, and it's there in a relationship. So when we're thinking about wisdom, being, you know, the the fear of the lord being the beginning of wisdom, it we we should think about it as it's it's a relationship term. It's it's someone who who, you know, looks looks up to an authority, and that authority is, you know, is good and he's wise and he's loving and he's powerful.
And, you know, the relationship between us is 1 of is 1 of of lord and and servant or sons. So that's where you know, nowhere to begin, nowhere to begin, begin with the fear of the lord. And la and lastly, know where to end. And I think, you know, know where to end, we we have to come to the cross, don't we? We have to come to the cross.
Begin with the fear of the lord and end at the foot of the cross. I mentioned Odysseus earlier on, and calypso, and he was a prisoner for 7 years on this island. And he was in misery and he was and he was powerless to do anything about it. But the 2 things, if you if you read the story, 2 things that, that led to his being set free. 1 was a more powerful love, and and the second was a more powerful god.
So what happened was, the story goes that Odysseus, he pined for his wife. He had something somewhere else, some another relationship somewhere else that he wanted more, that he had more love for. He longed for his wife. And and and, he had he had a god, you know, he he he went to his his patron patron god who was Athena and Athena went to Zeus and and Zeus ordered calypso to to free, to free Odysseus because it he it wasn't his destiny to be you know, the husband of calypso. And so he he he got that free.
But it it took it took that it took that more powerful love and that more powerful god, otherwise he would have been lost. And that's a Greek myth isn't it? And yet and and we have we have a true word. We have Christ who is, you know, he is the 1 who loves us more powerfully, and he is the god who is more who is, you know, powerful overall Just look at verse 12 of our passage. It says if you are wise, your wisdom will reward you.
If you are a mocha, you alone will suffer. Now the we know I think the thing about verse 12 is that we all know that there is a limit to our own ability to choose wisdom, don't we? But but knowing that we have no power within ourselves to sustain, a a a wise life and a changed heart. I think that is that is the key, isn't it? It's it's knowing when it the power doesn't lie in us.
Knowing and admitting we are foolish is the path to wisdom. Coming to the cross is foolishness to the world, but This is the lord's way. This is his upside down way. And I couldn't help but see, an echo of of our savior Jesus in the in those words. He was mocked, wasn't he?
He was mocked and he was left alone to suffer. And he did it to pay for our foolishness, our mockery. So that we might be rewarded with the the rewards of wisdom. Turn to 1 Corinthians again as we close. This is the this is the lord we we submit to.
This is the lord we follow. This is this is the lord who is the wise 1, who woman wisdom points to. And 1 Corinthians chapter 1 verse 30 says it's because of him the lord that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from god. That is our righteousness, holiness, and redemption. Therefore, as it is written, let the let the 1 who boasts boast in the lord.
So as as we as we think back over over the last decade as we think about what's to come and as we as we think, like, where what direction what direction am I heading headed in? Let's let's remember. Let's remember our savior. Let's remember the 1 who who came for us and, paid for our sin died for our foolishness. So that we might be wise and let us walk in his way.
Let's pray. Heavenly father, we we thank you for this time together tonight. We thank you for the reminder from this passage of, of what it is to, to to to respond to the call of wisdom. And please, lord help us to to do that. Help us to to, to see what what happens to those who go after help us to know that the way to life is is to is to know, know god know the lord.
We pray lord that that we would be, that we would hear his call that we would see the the the the reward that we would know his grace. And lord, please, would you would you help us, as people who have spent, a while tonight, thinking about the last 10 years. We pray that in as we as we consider the next 10 years to come lord, that that you would help us. You would sustain us. You would you would help us to grow in wisdom.
You would you would enable us to to walk after the lord. Lord, please help us to, to know that the wisdom begins with the fear of the lord and help us lord father. We pray that you would you would keep us coming back to the cross. We ask all these things in Jesus' name, amen.