This is the house where I grew up in south-eastern PA. It was surrounded by 100 acres of farmland, where I helped my grandpa make hay every summer that he would sell in his farm store. So many hours were spent on a tractor, or stacking hay in the barn; and when I wasn’t doing that, I was playing baseball or football in the yard. It was in that house where we had a hitch-hiker from Montana live with us for a couple weeks, had a truck-driver from North Carolina live with us for probably a year or two, and guests from NYC, China, and France staying for a week or two at a time.
It was in that house where God protected my family in a house fire that we were less than a minute from escaping. It was in that house where I spent hours and hours practicing playing instruments and learning to sing. In that house, we did not have a television – except in October during the World Series, when we would borrow a small black and white from my aunt and uncle to watch the games. It was on that property where I learned to ride a bike, drive a car, and where I broke my brother’s arm playing football.
And then one day, we moved.
If any of you have ever moved, you know how this works. In order to move to a new house, you have to leave the old one behind. You have to pack your stuff, put it in a truck or whatever, get in, and drive away… and you don’t get to come back. When I go back to PA to visit my parents, I can’t drive back to this house, walk in and start practicing piano again.
When we moved, we left the old house behind.
This whole series so far, we’ve seen Proverbs talk about this exact same concept, but to this point using the metaphor of two paths.
- Prov 4:14 - “keep off the path of the wicked…” vs 19 “The way of the wicked is like the darkest gloom; they don’t know what makes them stumble.”
- Prov 4:18 - “the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn.” vs 12 “When you walk, your steps will not be hindered; when you run you will not stumble.”
And although the dad speaking to his son here in Proverbs is illustrating with the picture of two paths here in Proverbs, the reality is that there is one path. What the Holy Spirit consistently inspired the authors of scripture to teach all across the 66 books of the Bible, is that there is one road leading in two different directions. To walk North is to turn your back to the South and walk away from it. You’re either going toward the mountains or away from them.
In about 30 minutes, we get the privilege of celebrating the ordinance of believer’s baptism, and this whole discussion of turning your back to the things of the world, and publicly committing to be obedient to Jesus is exactly what baptism is all about!
So today in Proverbs 9, the analogy changes from two paths and becomes two houses. So I want to pray and invite the Lord to speak through his word to us today.
Proverbs 9:1-18 CSB
 Wisdom has built her house; she has carved out her seven pillars.  She has prepared her meat; she has mixed her wine; she has also set her table.  She has sent out her female servants; she calls out from the highest points of the city:  "Whoever is inexperienced, enter here!" To the one who lacks sense, she says,  "Come, eat my bread, and drink the wine I have mixed.  Leave inexperience behind, and you will live; pursue the way of understanding.
So here is the first house, and this is the house of Lady Wisdom. The author of Proverbs is bringing this whole speech of the father to a close, and so as author and biblical expert Bruce Waltke points out, this is another metaphor - but this time for the book of Proverbs itself.
- Wisdom has built the house with it’s seven pillars (large, plenty of room, perfect) - this is that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” That’s the perfect foundation of the house.
- Wisdom has prepared the food, the wine, and set the table - the food and wine, the feast prepared for the fool and the uncommitted is the whole set of proverbs written from chapter 10-31.
- In other words, the invitation of Lady Wisdom is to sit down with the book of proverbs and feast on them; pursue the way of understanding.
- That’s what we are trying to do as a church throughout the month of July as we read the book of Proverbs together - we are sitting down together to a feast of the very wisdom of God!
- But it’s not just proverbs — God didn’t just leave us alone to figure out how to learn who he is; he didn’t leave us on our own to know what he expects of us; he didn’t leave us on our own to figure out this life: he has spoken, and his words are a feast as it were, where we can eat our fill and the meal never runs out! Every culture, every race, every language, every socio-economic status, every age — all are invited to pick up this never-ending feast and eat.
- But a never-ending feast is only good news if you are hungry.
Back in chapter 1, we met three kinds of people who need wisdom: The inexperienced/uncommitted, the fool, and the mocker. Here in verse 4, Lady wisdom has invited the uncommitted and fools to this banquet, but there is one kind of person not invited.
 The one who corrects a mocker will bring abuse on himself; the one who rebukes the wicked will get hurt.  Don't rebuke a mocker, or he will hate you; rebuke the wise, and he will love you.  Instruct the wise, and he will be wiser still; teach the righteous, and he will learn more.  "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.  For by me your days will be many, and years will be added to your life.  If you are wise, you are wise for your own benefit; if you mock, you alone will bear the consequences."
The mocker is the one who sets out to make sin look normal, and the things of God look strange. The mocker makes fun of God and his ways; They laugh at God; ridicule him. They are calculated. Aggressive. They are not ignorant or uncommitted. They are intentional about their opposition to the things of God, and they are committed to making a mockery of him.
How do you know if you’re a mocker? Vs 8 - Mockers hate being corrected. They will verbally or physically beat you if you question them. A wise person, on the other hand, will be eager for instruction. They fear the Lord. They are hungry to know God and do what’s right in HIS eyes. For them, vs 11, the outcome is eternal life!
But Galatians 6:7 is very clear: Make no mistake, the apostle Paul writes, “God will not be mocked. What a person sows he will also reap.” The outcome for the mocker, in verse 12, is they alone carry the weight of their rebellion against Almighty God, and when Jesus returns with his angels to judge the world for sin they will not be able to stand up under the burden of his right and perfect justice. They will bear the full weight of the wrath of God, and in a horrific and terrifying ending, “anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15).”
But until that day, the mocker continues mocking:
 Folly is a rowdy woman; she is gullible and knows nothing.  She sits by the doorway of her house, on a seat at the highest point of the city,  calling to those who pass by, who go straight ahead on their paths:  "Whoever is inexperienced, enter here!" To the one who lacks sense, she says,  "Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten secretly is tasty!"  But he doesn't know that the departed spirits are there, that her guests are in the depths of Sheol.
The mocker’s name is Folly. She herself is gullible and knows nothing, and she is inviting you to a feast she hasn’t even prepared. She’s just sitting in the doorway. She hopes that those who are uncommitted and can’t make up their minds will hear her voice over the voice of wisdom. She is hoping the fools who have hardened their heads will also harden their hearts. So she mimics wisdom, saying the same words. She offers sugar water, a cheap alternative to the mixed wine of wisdom. Folly comes up with plausible arguments that sound good, and she is persuasive. If wisdom offers a feast of righteousness, folly offers a buffet of sin that comes at the expense of others (The food here is stolen), and comes at the expense of your life. Sin comes with shame. Guilt. You have to eat in under the cover of darkness, keeping it secret so no one finds out the real you. The woman who lives here named Folly is a mocker, and everyone who has come here to eat finds that the sweetness you were promised was poison. Everyone at the table is dead.
Both righteousness and sin make promises about your life, that it’ll be better if you turn to them. Both righteousness and sin offer a feast to hungry souls; Both righteousness and sin promise freedom. But verse 10 makes it clear that there is one key that makes all the difference… the fear of the Lord.
I know I’m only 41 years old, and I haven’t been paying attention to cultural movements my whole life, but in these days there is a new level of mockery in our country that I have never seen before. It is pervasive in all of politics and entertainment, and in the so-called “progressive” movement. I’m not talking about the presence of sin - until the Lord returns, there will be sinners in politics, entertainment, and in the church.
I am talking about an active presence of darkness and evil that is doing everything it can to make the things of God look foolish and to make sin look normal. Christians are no longer being asked to tolerate the presence of sin as a normal part of living in a fallen world, it is now demanded that we celebrate it, especially in the area of sexuality.
- Just as a heads up before we continue - Next week, we are going to come back to this discussion about sexuality and gender and look at how the dad here in Proverbs 5-7 talks about sexuality with his sons. So I want to give you parents a heads up for two reasons – #1) We only have classes for ages 5 and under, so there are some 6-10 year olds who will be listening that may have some questions about some of the words Proverbs uses. I realize some of you may not be ready to have some of these conversations with your kids.
- But here’s point #2 - The church historically has done a poor job of equipping in this area, and while I’m not pretending we will get it done perfectly here at River City, we are going to make an attempt. So instead of suggesting that you leave your young children out of the gathering next week, I want you to bring them. All you have to say is, “Pastor Rodney is going to talk about something very special to the heart of God today, and you might hear some words we don’t talk about very often at home. If you hear something that doesn’t make sense, or a word you don’t know, don’t be afraid to ask us about it.” Then take their hands and pray that Pastor Rodney chooses wisdom in the words he uses.
You may not be ready to have a conversation about sex and gender with your 6 year old, but Disney is. Pixar is. Nickelodeon is. Your kids’ friends don’t care if you’re ready or not. The government most definitely is eager to teach your children about their sexuality before you are. They are not waiting for you to be ready.
Because if a mocker can get to your children before you do they are more than happy to educate them in the ways of the world. If a mocker can dictate the way you are entertained on a daily basis, they can manipulate what you believe.
Here’s a quick example: Almost every movie produced in Hollywood has some element of romance in it. We are drawn to it as humans by God’s perfect design, so a nice love story makes for a good movie. But in the course of pursuing stories of romance in movies, in almost every movie or show you watch, the lead couple ends up sleeping together. And after you’ve seen it in enough movies enough times, you start to not only expect it, you almost end up hoping they hook up.
But this hook up kind of romance is an alternative view of God’s design for sex and marriage, twisted by mockers intentionally so that you the viewer begin to long for things that are opposed to God’s design. The result is that when we are entertained by that kind of romance, it becomes very difficult for us to call sex outside of marriage what it really is - a sin against a holy God that demands repentance!
And before you say, “ah, I don’t watch movies,” here’s the death blow for all of us: Jesus’ very words in John 3:19: “this is the judgment: The light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil.”
Remember our two paths? One dark, one light? Jesus is saying here in John 3 that the reason he came to earth at all is because we actually prefer the things opposed to God’s design. Everyone in this room, everyone in Riverside, everyone in Hills, everyone in Lone Tree, Kalona, and Ainsworth was born with a desire to see sin be normal and the things of God as strange. It began in the garden of Eden with Adam and Eve, who were presented with two trees: one was to choose their own wisdom for living, which God said would result in death, and the other was the tree of life, the wisdom of God.
They turned their backs on the wisdom of God and willingly ate the tree of their own understanding and in an instant, spiritually collapsed on the floor, dead in sin from the poison of their choice to reject God. And all of us were born right there on the floor, in the same spiritual condition.
In baptism we ask the question “Are you a sinner from birth and by choice separated from God by your sin?” In other words, are you born dead in your sin? Ephesians 2:1 says, absolutely, yes you are. “You were dead in your trespasses and sins in which you previously lived (that’s the old house) according to the ways of this world, according to the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit now working in the disobedient.”
And Ephesians 2:3 leaves no one out: We all have followed our own desires. We’ve all chosen our own ways. We’ve all eaten the forbidden fruit. We’ve hated people for their skin color or their beliefs or their politics or their nationality, or the fact that the neighbor mows the yard on our side of the property line. We’ve refused to forgive people and held them accountable for sins they committed years and years ago while demanding grace for ourselves.
Every single one of us was born into and chose to stay in the house of Woman Folly. We all drank the poison of Self and stood under the wrath of God for our choice, and what is true of the mocker in verse 12 should be true of us, that we alone will bear the consequences of our mockery, which is eternal separation from God in a place called hell where there is darkness and anger and fire.
That’s how it should end for all of us. But that is not where the story has to end.
The greatest words in all of scripture are in Ephesians 2, verse 4: “BUT GOD...”
Notice that those great words are not, “but then a friend…” “But then a preacher…” “But then a school…” “but then I heard a sermon…” “But then I… then I… then I…” or “But then we got a President who…” “But then a mentor or counselor said to me…”
Maybe those things happened, but as we learned in the Esther series, the primary actor in all of human history is God.
The greatest words in scripture are that the God whose wrath we stood under, saw our condition and in compassion and love, sent his only Son to leave behind the feast of heaven to come to earth to perform spiritual CPR on some of the dead fools in the house of Folly. “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of his great love that he had for us, made us together with Christ, even though we were dead in trespasses.” And right on it’s heels is what should be the most obvious sentence in all of scripture - YOU ARE SAVED BY GRACE!
Jesus, operating faithfully and obediently to his Father’s will, took the venom of that ancient serpent into his own veins, and put himself under the wrath of God taking the eternal separation from God that we deserved so that we could have life in his name! That’s the grace of God!
But God wasn’t about to let his Son, who was perfectly faithful to him in every single way stay dead over in the house of sin, so God raised Jesus from the dead, cancelling my record of sin that stood against me as well as all the guilt and the shame that you and I carried for failing to choose wisdom and follow God! And when he raised Jesus, he raised us with him (Eph 2:5)!
And now anyone who recognizes the absolute stupidity of choosing the sugar water and stolen bread of our own preferences over the fine wine and prime rib of living by God’s wisdom and design, and repents of their sin, stands fully made alive together with Christ, joined arm in arm with other believers in this church and others, with our backs to that old house we used to live in, positioned here in Riverside by the eternal plan of God the Father, to be the servants of Woman wisdom calling out to those in this city and the surrounding communities. And the message we’ve been given to say to anyone who will listen is simply our own story: “We’ve been in that house! You don’t want to go there! There's poison in there! Everyone around that table is dead! Choose wisdom! Choose Jesus! He is the way, he is the truth, he is the life!”
And as if that’s not marvelous enough, Ephesians 2 continues, that when Jesus returns one glorious day, verse 7, “in the coming ages he will continue to put on display the immeasurable riches of his grace (the banquet never runs out) through his kindness to us,” and Paul can’t help but say it again: “we are saved by grace not ourselves.”
How could we ever be!? It’s not possible!
Believer’s Baptism is then where we publicly announce “I’m not keeping a key to that old house. We’re not sneaking back in to help ourselves to whatever’s in the fridge. Oh I might be tempted from time to time. I might peek back in the windows and wonder if anything’s changed since I died there. And I’ll need my brothers and sisters in Christ to take me by the arm and pull me away from the window to remind me that I don’t live there anymore. But that house of sin is dead to me, and I’m locked in by the mercy of God and the help of the Holy Spirit on the house of wisdom.”
If that is not you - I invite you as the band comes to lead us in a song, to go to the Lord right now, confess your sins and repent! Turn around! Create in me a clean heart; renew a right spirit; my sin is first and foremost against you, Lord. Forgive me. Wash me, and I will be clean. Help me remember the joy I had when you first saved me - and give me the courage to leave the old house in the rearview.
I owe a lot of insight to multiple lectures on Proverbs by Bruce Waltke at www.biblicaltraining.org