Wisdom is a common word in the Scriptures, but its definition is frequently misunderstood. Simply put, wisdom is the practical application of knowledge. It is one thing to know what you ought to do; it is an entirely different thing to do it. Knowing what to do will only get someone so far. The wise man will actually apply his learning.
Where does this definition of wisdom come from? In the book of Matthew, chapter 7, Jesus brings His Sermon on the Mount to a close. As we approach verse 24, He sums up all of what He has said in this way: “Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock” (Matt. 7:24). Jesus brings up two points in this verse that give the Christian a definition of wisdom. First, Jesus mentions the one who hears His word (His sayings). Second, He also mentions that the wise man is the one who actually does what Jesus says.
As Jesus continues on in this portion of Scripture, He speaks of another man. Scripture says, “And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand” (Matt. 7:26). This man also heard what Jesus said. Therefore, this man also knew what ought to do. The problem is that he did not go out and do what he had heard.
In the book of Proverbs, the wise man is the one who applies right knowledge to his life. The fool is the one who knows what he ought to do but does not do it. “Wisdom cries out,” the Bible declares. God longs for the people of the earth to walk in wisdom, and He has made His knowledge and wisdom known.
Proverbs 1:20-23 is a great reminder of the cries of God toward the people of the earth. It is also a reminder of the wonderful promises that will come for those who heed the cry.
Wisdom cries out in the streets
Scripture says, “Wisdom crieth without; she uttereth her voice in the streets” (Prov. 1:20). If one is not careful, he may miss what is being said here and therefore the magnitude of it. All throughout the Scriptures, you will see the people of the earth “crying out” to God. Exodus 2:23 tells of the day when the Israelites cried out to the Lord because of their bondage. In Psalm 30:2, David is said to have cried to the Lord, and God healed him. In Hosea 7:14, God condemns His people Israel for not crying to Him from the heart. In all of these Scriptures, there is one defining point. The point is that the people of the earth cry out to God.
However, as the Christian approaches Proverbs 1:20-23, what he will see is what appears to be the opposite. God is seemingly crying out the people. “Wisdom cries out in the streets,” the proverb says. God is seeking to get the attention of His creation. But He is not crying out in a desolate place, nor is God’s cry muffled. It is loud and for all to hear; it is in the streets.
Wisdom cries out in the markets
But what does it mean to say that God (or wisdom) is crying out? The word used for “crieth” is “ranan” in Hebrew. This word denotes shouting or singing. Interestingly enough, it is joyful singing. It is as though this cry or shout could not be accompanied by anything but joy. It is not a cry of anger or judgment. Nor is it a cry of hatred or animosity. It is an inviting cry – one that beckons the people to come to a joy-filled life as they learn to walk in the way of wisdom.
Wisdom is depicted again, not as hiding, but rather as crying out in the populated marketplaces of the city.
Wisdom cries out at the city gates
During the time of Solomon, cities were much different than they are today. To enter any city in America today, you will not encounter a large wall surrounding it with a gate that you need to enter through. However, during Solomon’s day, cities were surrounded by walls. If there was no wall, the city would not have lasted for long as it would have been prone to attack. At various places in the city walls, there were also gates. These gates were the only way for people to enter a city.
Jerusalem, for instance, was surrounded by a wall during the time of Jesus. This wall contained the Gate of Essenes, the Gennath (Garden) Gate, the North Gate, a gate whose name is not known, and the Fountain Gate. That is five gates for a relatively large city. What this means is that there were large amounts of people traveling through these gates.
Wisdom is said to be at gates such as these, in front of the faces of all who passed through them. Yet again, we see that wisdom makes itself known.
Wisdom cries out to the simple
So who does wisdom cry out to? First, it cries out to the simple. Scripture says, “…in the city she uttereth her words, saying, How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity…?” (Prov. 1:21-22).
When the Bible speaks of the simple one, it is talking about the person who lacks knowledge. Unlike the fool, he does not know what he ought to do. Therefore, he does not do what is right and good.
Wisdom seeks to get the attention of the ignorant.
Wisdom cries out to the scorners
Wisdom continues her cry. Scripture says, “…in the city she uttereth her words, saying, How long… will… the scorners delight in their scorning…?” (Prov. 1:22). The Hebrew word used for “scorners” is “luwts,” which denotes someone who mocks or scorns. In the Scripture, it speaks of one who directly scoffs at the God of the Bible, His teaching, His teachers, His warnings, His judgments, and His people.
Wisdom cries out to the fools
Finally, Scripture says, ““…in the city she uttereth her words, saying, How long… will fools hate knowledge?” (Prov. 1:22). Here yet again, the Christian can see a definition of a fool. The fool knows what he ought to do. He has knowledge. Nevertheless, the fool hates knowledge. He does not apply what he knows.
Wisdom cries out to the fool with a loud song, sung with a joyful noise. Fools are not happy. Rather, they are empty inside and depressed with the weight of their sin. The way of happiness for the fool is to be even more selfish and to find new ways to have his desires met. This chasing after sin (or the breeze, as Solomon called it) never satisfies.
The fool must hear the joyful noise of wisdom and turn from his foolish ways to learn to live for another.
Wisdom cries out to repent
God makes some life-changing promises to those who would turn from simplicity, scorning, and foolishness. Scripture says, “Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you” (Prov. 1:23). God promises that for those who repent and turn to the Lord, God will bless them with His Spirit. As the Spirit enters into the life and heart of a believer, change will come. The Spirit will also bring clarity to the Word of God in the believer’s life.
So what must you do? Heed the cry of God. Wisdom is crying out with a loud and joyful song. It is beckoning you to come and learn from the Lord.
Father, I thank You for Your Word. Please teach me wisdom and help me to be a better person than I am today. Help me to walk in Your Ways and learn to love You more. You are worthy of my life and my devotion. Thank You for the grace that You have shown me along the way. In Jesus’ name, Amen.