Proverbs 1:23 "Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you."
Drawn as a strong woman, Solomon placed wisdom in the midst of man. Drawn as a fully accessible woman, Solomon painted wisdom appealing to men. In this passage, wisdom is appealing to a specific group of people – she is appealing to simple ones, to scorners and to fools. Wisdom doesn’t reserve herself for the intellectually elite. She doesn’t hide herself in the thick books and in the quiet halls of monasteries. Wisdom is not content to reside only in the minds of the wise. She is forever seeking new minds to enlighten; new lives to transform; new souls to advise. The virtue at the center of the Book of Proverbs is always looking to enable the simple, convert the fool and redirect the scorner. And so, she stands calling in the midst of these souls…
In an effort to expand her influence in the lives of men, wisdom’s first step is to create dissatisfaction for the vice that occupies the soul. Wisdom knows that she will not be welcomed into the heart of the simple as long as the simple loves simplicity. She knows she will not be welcomed in the heart of the scorner as long as the scorner delights in scorning. She knows she will not be welcomed in the heart of the fool as long as the fool fancies in foolishness.
Her second step is to offer an alternative to the vice of man. Wisdom isn’t drawn as a naïve woman oblivious to that which prevents her from being received nor is she drawn as a nagging woman constantly pointing out the problems of men. She doesn’t spend all of her time on that which prevents her reception nor does she spend all of her time on that which she has to offer. Wisdom points out the vices of men and then offers to replace them with her virtues. Her two-fold approach offers more than reproof – it offers a replacement. If men “turn” at her “reproof,” then she will “pour out” her spirit unto them.
Wisdom offers more than criticism; she offers a resolution. She does more than point out problems; she offers solutions. Portrayed as this type of woman, wisdom would appeal to the young man reading this passage. Where vices exist, reproof is necessary but it is not the only thing necessary. Where vices exist, Reproof AND Remedy are necessary; Reproof AND Replacement are necessary; Reproof AND Resolution are necessary. The reason wisdom seeks dissatisfaction for vice is for the sole purpose of replacing that vice with her virtue. Wisdom is not in the business of bothering men, she is in the business of building men. Wisdom is not in the business of reproving women as much as she is the business of restoring women. Wisdom is not in the business of scolding people, she is the business of sculpting people.
Criticism is hard to swallow when it isn’t constructive. Criticism is hard to consider seriously when an alternative isn’t sincerely suggested. When husbands fail to offer sincere solutions alongside their criticism, they breed marital contention. When wives fail to attach sincerely-suggested solutions to their criticism, they will fail to be of any assistance to their husbands. When parents fail to offer sound counsel after reproof, they will fail to motivate their children to do right. Without sincerely-proposed solutions to problems, critics are viewed as unwanted complainers and whiners. Wisdom offers criticism in the streets but it also offers a solution in the same streets. Wisdom utters rebuke in the city but it also utters an invitation in the same city. Wisdom speaks reproof in the chief gathering places but it also suggests a solution in the same gathering places.
In wisdom’s case, her suggested alternative to vice is meant to be an appealing option. If the simple would turn from his simplicity, wisdom offered to “pour out” her spirit unto him. If the scorner would turn from his scorning, wisdom offered to “pour out” her spirit unto him. If the fool would turn from his foolishness, wisdom would “pour out” her spirit unto him. She didn’t offer to give a little sample of her spirit. She didn’t offer to give a few of her words. She didn’t offer to give a free trial of her virtue. She was willing to give abundantly and liberally. She wasn’t going to hold the past vice of the simple against him. She wasn’t going to hold the past vice of the scorner against him. She wasn’t going to hold the past vice of the fool against him. She was willing to leave their vices in the past and commit herself wholly to them. She was willing to forgive, forget and freely give. Wisdom is all in on helping the souls of men and women.
No one should be surprised to learn that Solomon’s wisdom follows the same pattern of Solomon’s God. God is not in the business of Reproving man as much as He is the business of Repairing man. Throughout the pages of Scripture, the Rebuke of God can be heard but rarely is it heard without an accompanying Remedy. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the greatest example of this pattern. The Gospel of Jesus Christ starts with a Rebuke of Sin but quickly proceeds to the Remedy of Salvation. “For all have sinned” is God’s rebuke on mankind (Romans 3:23). It is quickly followed by God’s remedy, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Throughout the Bible, God points out our sin but rarely does He park there, instead choosing to proceed with the offering of a remedy to our sin; an alternative to our sin.
We would do well to follow the same pattern of Solomon’s God and of Solomon’s Wisdom. Where there is vice, there should be reproof. But where there is vice, there should be both reproof AND remedy. Where there are problems, there can be criticism but make sure sincerely-proposed solutions accompany that criticism. Husbands, wives, fathers & mothers especially need to follow this pattern. When wisdom attempts to influence men & women, she does more than rebuke – she invites men & women to become recipients of her spirit. When wisdom speaks, she does more than point out problems – she offers to solve those problems by pouring out of herself.
Let us remember that it’s not good enough for someone to forsake foolishness – wisdom must be received in order to replace foolishness. Jesus taught, “When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out. And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first” (Luke 11:24-26).