Does not wisdom call, and does not understanding raise her voice? On the heights, beside the way, at the crossroads she takes her stand; beside the gates in front of the town, at the entrance of the portals she cries out: ‘To you, O people, I call, and my cry is to all that live. O simple ones, learn prudence; acquire intelligence, you who lack it. Hear, for I will speak noble things, and from my lips will come what is right; for my mouth will utter truth; wickedness is an abomination to my lips. All the words of my mouth are righteous; there is nothing twisted or crooked in them. They are all straight to one who understands and right to those who find knowledge. Take my instruction instead of silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold; for wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you may desire cannot compare with her. I, wisdom, live with prudence, and I attain knowledge and discretion. The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil.
Once again “Lady Wisdom” calls and commands our attention. Here, as in chapter 1:20-21 (last Tuesday’s Devotion), she’s chosen to take her stand right in the prominent places where people are most likely to pass or pause. There’s nothing shrouded or secretive about what’s on offer: this is “Speaker’s Corner” Wisdom, and she’s brought her megaphone.
Do prudence and good judgment always seem quite so readily available and easy to discern? If we were to pay heed to all the pundits dispensing free advice, we’d soon find ourselves being pulled in entirely opposite directions! Meanwhile within the wider Biblical collection of “Wisdom Literature” there’s a tension between passages like today’s, and others which speak of the hiddenness and inaccessibility of Wisdom (e.g. Job chapter 28).
Nevertheless, there are two particular circumstances cited here in which I find it especially helpful to remember that God’s Wisdom is close-at-hand and calling to us.
The first is the “crossroads”. All of us face moments when our lives could go in radically different directions, depending upon what choice we make. The enormity of it might overwhelm and leave us feeling isolated; at such times we need to pray, and listen for Wisdom’s prompting!
And the second circumstance is the “gate” or doorway – because this affirms that it’s not just about ourselves, it’s about our public life. In the Ancient Near East the city gate became a place where deals were struck and justice was administered. Because doors and gates are places for deciding and enforcing who’s “in” and who’s “out”.
Perhaps, then, this is a word for churches which profess to be welcoming but still bristle if newcomers challenge the accepted order. Perhaps it’s a word for those who monitor our borders, navigating their way through the politics of dinghies and deportations. Perhaps it’s a word for communities and nations grappling with hard questions about social boundaries and belonging.
Perhaps it’s a word for all of us. Pray, and listen for Wisdom’s prompting!
Sovereign God: at the crossroads of our lives, and at the places where doors may open or be slammed shut, your Wisdom calls to us. Therefore we pray: give us discernment to recognise your Spirit’s prompting; give us courage to walk the way of Jesus; give us grace to welcome others as you have welcomed us. Amen.
The Rev’d Dominic Grant, Minister, Barnet URC and St Andrew’s Chesterfield Road URC