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WISDOM’S WARNING OF PRESENT DANGER
II. QUAR., LESSON V., APR. 30, PROV. 1:20-33
Golden Text—”See that ye refuse not him that speaketh.”—Heb. 12:25
„The reverence of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy is understanding.”
„The reverence of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”—Prov. 9:10; 1:7; Job 28:28; Psa. 111:10.
The Book of Proverbs is a poem, the first nine chapters of which are a discourse on wisdom, which is personified. (The major part of the Book consists of the proverbs of Solomon, some of which—chapters 25-29—were collected and added later by King Hezekiah. Chapters 30 and 31, however, do not claim Solomon for their author.)
It has been inferred that the personification of wisdom in this Book was meant to represent Christ; but when we consider that wisdom is one of the divine attributes, it is evident that wisdom existed even before our Lord Jesus, although he was the beginning of the creation of God, the first born of every creature. But so perfectly did our Lord Jesus exemplify the divine wisdom that it is not at all strange that some have inferred that wisdom, here, personified Christ, instead of recognizing Christ as the personification of that wisdom which from eternity was an attribute of Jehovah. It is described by the Apostle James (3:17) as coming „from above,” and as being „first pure, then peaceable, gentle and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.”
In contrast with this heavenly wisdom he places what the Apostle Paul (1 Cor. 3:19) calls „the wisdom of this world,” which James says „descendeth not from above, but is earthly;” and, worse than that, it is „sensual;” and, worse still, it is „devilish.” It is the kind of wisdom which delights in envying and strife and confusion and every evil work. (Jas. 3:14-16.) It is the wisdom of selfishness which, regardless of the rights and interests of others, seeks to grasp and hold every thing for self. This kind of wisdom, Paul says, „is foolishness with God; for it is written [Job 5:13], ‚He taketh the wise in their own craftiness.'”—1 Cor. 3:19.
All of the fallen human nature have more or less of the earthly wisdom of selfishness, which disposition continually gravitates lower and lower unless it is resisted and displaced by the heavenly wisdom whose fruits are love, mercy and truth. This heavenly wisdom, we are told, has its beginning in the reverence of the Lord. That is, we must look away from our own narrow thoughts, plans and schemes and allow our minds to dwell upon the grandeur of God’s benevolent, loving and glorious character until a gleam of his glory awakens in us a feeling of admiration, veneration and love, and then of longing to be conformed to his image. And while we, as God’s faithful children, thus look and hold ourselves in position to receive the impressions from above, the divine likeness is traced upon our hearts, as we study God’s revelation; and the heavenly wisdom begins to manifest itself in the peaceable fruits of righteousness.
Those who thus reverence him, the Lord is pleased to recognize as his sons, and to acquaint them with his plans for their salvation through the great redemption which his
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wisdom provided; and to such the counsels of these Proverbs are addressed, while warnings are given to others. Thus we read—
CHAPTER 1:8,9—”My son, hear the instruction of thy Father [God], and forsake not the law of thy mother [God’s covenant of justification and regeneration in which we are begotten to newness of life]: for they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck.” Those only are accounted sons, who are thus begotten of the truth and in covenant with God.
VERSES 10-19. „My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not,” etc. The counsel here, while it has reference to all enticements of sinners, has special reference to a condition of things which was prophetically foreseen—not necessarily by Solomon, but by the Lord who indited the matter, merely using Solomon as his mouthpiece. The picture drawn corresponds exactly with that condition of things predicted by other prophets, and by the apostles, which was to come to pass in the end or harvest-period of the Gospel age, when great Corporations, Trusts and Monopolies, on the one hand, and Unions and Labor Federations on the other, would offer their enticements to the iniquitous business of shedding innocent blood and fattening on the spoils of the slain.—See Jas. 5:1-6; Mal. 3:5.
These two parties are now addressing everyone: the Capitalistic party addresses its temptations only to those who have money and influence of which they desire to make use; the Labor-Union party addresses all others. But the voice of the Lord, the voice of true Wisdom, says to all God’s people: „My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not.” Both of these parties present worldly-wise arguments based on selfishness—opposed to justice as well as to love.
Capitalism says, and truly, We have the brains, but are in the minority: we are prosperous, but less contented than ever. Let us enlarge our ambitions; let us unify our interests so that our rule and prosperity may be prolonged, even though the masses are awaking and may attempt resistance, in this dawn of a new era.
Laborism says, and truly, If we were ignorant and asleep in the past, we are awake now; if we were contented in the past with less, we are discontented now with more. Let us unite our muscle and skill and squeeze Capitalism into subjection to us; let us appropriate the fruit of their brains.
Both are saying, „Come with us [join our Union or Trust], let us lay wait for blood” [for opportunities to squeeze the life out of those under our power: let us make, for instance, a „corner” in wheat; let us buy up all the wheat in the market, fix our own prices and so control the market that we can financially kill the small dealers and wring the revenue out of the public—the masses, both rich and poor. Or let us play this game in oil or corn or any other commodity. Or let us make a corner in the skilled-labor market, by getting up a strong Union and ordering a strike; by „boycotting”
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all who oppose us, and by financially killing fellow workmen who will not join with us. Let us look out for Number One,—ourselves. Thus both combinations seek to prey upon each other for selfish ends, and generally to the disregard of justice]. „Let us lurk privily for the innocent without cause.” [Let us watch for our opportunity to take advantage of their ignorance of our movements, etc. And generally it is the innocent who suffer most from such conspiracies.] „Let us swallow them up alive as the grave, and whole as those that go down into the pit.” [Present efforts are not for existence merely (for all are prosperous as never before), but for control. Capitalism wants full control, and Laborism wants no less. Each would swallow up the smaller of his own kind, and then effectually crush the other. Thus, say they], „We shall find all precious substance, we shall fill our houses with spoil.” Thus, like ocean wreckers, they would grow rich upon the losses and injuries of others.
„Union” is the watchword of both these great opposing parties. Both sides cry (Verse 14):—”Cast in thy lot with us; let us all have one purse”[—let us put our money and skill together; thus only we can succeed, and control the markets, and reap the harvest]. But what saith the Lord?—
„My son, walk not thou in the way with them; refrain thy foot from their path; for their feet run to evil, and make haste to shed blood. Surely in vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird. [Each party can see the devices of the other, and each „snare” and device will be check-mated by the other side; and ultimately each party will become entangled in the snare set for the other. As we read,—
„But they [these conspirators] lay wait for their [own] blood; they lurk privily for
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their [own] lives. So are the ways of every one that is greedy of gain, who taketh away the life [or living] of the owners thereof”—for the time is coming when the overwhelming numbers of those oppressed by these systems will arise in their fury like the raging waves of the sea, and anarchy will prevail—the predicted „time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation.” (Dan. 12:1.) And who but the blind cannot see this very trend of events to-day? But who but „the wise” will heed these instructions of the Lord—the instructions of Wisdom?—Dan. 12:10.
„Wisdom [the voice of righteousness and of prudence—the voice of God] crieth without; she uttereth her voice in the streets; she crieth in the chief place of concourse, in the openings of the gates, in the city she uttereth her words.” This is truer to-day than at any other time in the world’s history. Never before were the obligations of human brotherhood forced upon the attention of all men as they are to-day; and men are coming to see, though they be not free to admit it, that the only solution of the great social problem now before the world is found in the „golden rule.”
„We will have to act on that new rule we hear so much talk of in the papers nowadays,” said a business man recently to a perplexed associate. „What’s that?” said his friend. „The golden rule,” he replied, and his friend assented. Yes, the „golden rule” is coming to the front, even in the newspapers, and men are obliged to consider it, whether they are ready to act upon it or not. Thus wisdom crieth in the streets in the city—everywhere—saying,
VERSE 22. „How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity [—will you prefer to remain in ignorance of the just and right ways of the Lord]? and the [proud] scorners delight in their scorning [of justice and truth], and fools hate [that real] knowledge [which cometh from above, preferring the ways of selfishness]?”
VERSE 23. „Turn you at my reproof.” But they will not turn, because, as the Psalmist says (Psa. 2:1-3), they „imagine a vain thing„—they „take counsel together against the Lord and against his Anointed [King, who has come to rule in righteousness, and whose presence and power is now forcing upon the minds and consciences of men the perplexing questions of this eventful hour, and their only right solution].” However, they will not be permitted to plead the excuse of ignorance of the right ways of the Lord; for the Lord says,—
„Behold, I will pour out [make manifest] my spirit [my disposition] unto you: I will make known my words unto you;”—notwithstanding the fact that they „hate” such knowledge.
VERSES 24-27 are in exact agreement with the prophecy of Psalm 2:4,5 showing not only that men will not heed the reproofs and counsels of this hour, but also predicting the disastrous results that will ensue. When the Lord has clearly set before men the momentous issues of this „day of preparation,” and they have disregarded them, and scorned the reproofs which the occasional outbreaks of dissatisfaction and discord shall have brought, then he will begin to speak to them in more positive and commanding tones, saying—”Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; but ye have set at naught all my counsel, and would none of my reproof: I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh—when your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you.”
The thoughtful observer of the present social and political aspect of the world can easily see that if the voice of Wisdom and Prudence be not heeded among men the culmination of the present unrest will be a terrific whirlwind. (See also Jer. 25:31,32.) „He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them IN HIS WRATH, and vex them in his sore displeasure.”
VERSES 28-32. It will not avert the trouble for men to call upon the Lord then. If they despise his counsel and reproofs to such an extent as to make necessary the exhibition of his wrath and righteous indignation for their correction, the Lord will not cease to scourge them because of their crying, but the penalty of their evil courses shall be given in such measures as to make a lasting impression. It will therefore be „a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation;” „no, nor ever shall be” (Dan. 12:1; Matt. 24:21), because so thorough will be the correction that it will never again need to be repeated. „Therefore shall they eat the fruit of their own way [for the „whirlwind” of trouble will be the natural
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result of their selfishness], and be filled [to satisfaction] with their own devices. For the turning away of the simple [from their ignorance will be to the earthly wisdom of selfishness and not to the heavenly wisdom with its fruit of love and peace, and will work their injury. It] shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them.” Their own feet will be caught in the snares they had set for others. The very fact that, by their selfish, oppressive and unrighteous course, they were able to amass great fortunes will, by inciting the jealousy and hatred of the masses, make them a prey in the time of trouble—special targets for the venomous arrows of hatred.—Jas. 5:1-6.
VERSE 33 is a promise in which the few, who are wise enough to heed the instructions of Wisdom, may take comfort, even in the midst of the calamities that shall overwhelm the world. „The Lord knoweth them that are his,” and „The angel of the Lord encampeth around about them that are his, and delivereth them.—Psa. 34:7.
The voice of heavenly Wisdom found clear and forcible expression through the lips of our Savior, who was the personification of God’s wisdom as well as of his love. His message was that Love, not Selfishness, should be the rule of life, if true happiness would be obtained. „Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them” states this law in practical form. It has sounded down the centuries since, awakening thought and civilization wherever heard. It is the greatest leveller and equalizer; for it ignores class and caste.
But alas! many respect it merely because it lifts them up; and, when getting up from the slough of despond themselves, they forget to practice this precept toward others who are lower down than they. Thus many have used and are using the precept of Love in a selfish spirit. They desire that those more favored shall exercise this principle of Love toward them, but they will not exercise it themselves toward those above or those below their own social plane.
Only the „little flock” are to any appreciable extent even seeking to obey in spirit this voice of God—this voice of heavenly Wisdom: and these are often misjudged and misunderstood, as was their Lord and Redeemer, by the world in general, whose motive power is Selfishness.
The civilized world stands to-day in a false position: professing to be Christ’s Kingdom and to be ruled by his law of Love, it is really the kingdom of the Prince of this world—Satan—and operates in general under his law of Selfishness. God will demonstrate this as soon as he has finished the selection of the „Bride,” the „Body” of Christ. He will show the difference between the holding of a truth in unrighteousness and the practice of a truth in its real spirit or intent. The result will be the breaking into pieces of these false kingdoms of Christ (Rev. 19:15), the establishment of the true, spiritual Kingdom of Christ, the full enlightenment of all the people and the full establishment of the law of Love, in fact as well as in name.
It is as a means toward this end that God is now permitting the world to run riot in the spirit of this world (Selfishness) that the counsel of heavenly Wisdom may be justified when those moved by earthly wisdom (Selfishness) shall be snared in their own devices.
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To his people God saith: „Wait ye upon me [Be patient, Brethren]; for my determination is to gather the nations, that I may assemble the kingdoms, to pour upon them my fierce anger; for all the earth [society] shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy; and then will I turn unto the people a language of sincerity [love will then mean love], and they shall all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve him with one consent.”—Zeph. 3:8,9.
— April 15, 1893 —