Proverbs 1:33 "But whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil."
The final verse of Solomon’s first chapter of proverbs concludes a fourteen-verse literary masterpiece on the virtue of wisdom. Solomon’s personification of wisdom gave his readers an unforgettable image of the principal virtue of his book. It gives us a mental picture of how Wisdom paints life with her and how she portrays life without her. Through these verses, we learn that she stands ready and willing to help mankind escape the dangers of ignorance and foolishness. We also learn that she will be hard to get if we reject her early in life. Wisdom is not something we can assume will be there when we need it. It is something that we must get before we find ourselves in a situation where we need it. Far too many erroneously view wisdom like prescription medication – something that can simply be ordered when needed. Wisdom is more like the discipline necessary for a healthy lifestyle so as to avoid needing prescription medication. Wisdom is something we need regardless of present circumstances. It is something we need whether presently poor or rich; whether presently perplexed or at peace; whether presently full of questions or full of answers.
Likened unto the Virtuous Wisdom that ends the Book of Proverbs, Wisdom at the beginning of the Book makes her final statement in verse 33, one that not surprisingly leaves us with an important truth regarding her companionship. She finishes her speech with a contrasting statement to the destruction she had just predicted for those who reject her. In verses 31-32, the fools who reject her will be void of virtue and as a result, on a path to destruction. Filled with their own ways instead of her ways, they will be helpless and hopeless. With that image in mind, she finishes her speech with an alternative outcome in verse 33, “BUT whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil.” Without wisdom, a person will have only his ways and ultimately, be unable to avoid self-destruction. With wisdom, a person will have wisdom’s ways and ultimately, be able to find safety.
In this passage, Solomon reveals the two-fold nature of wisdom. First, wisdom is the voice of prudence. Wisdom is that virtue that whispers prudent counsel in our ears. It tells us what to avoid and what to embrace. It tells us who to listen to and who to ignore. It tells us where to go and where not to go. It tells us when is good and when is not good. Wisdom offers the prudence necessary to avoid trouble and danger. It offers the prudence necessary to keep us safe and to extend our life. She says this more boldly in Proverbs 9:11, “For by me thy days shall be multiplied, and the years of thy life shall be increased.”
Wisdom offers to help us with what we can control in life – she offers us the prudence necessary to “dwell safely.” But she also offers to help us with what we can’t control in life – “time and chance.” Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 9:11, “I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.” He concluded that “wisdom excelleth folly, as far as light excelleth darkness” in Ecclesiastes 2:13, but within the same passage he recognized the unwelcomed fact about time and chance, “that one event happeneth to them all” (14). For those things that we can control in our lives, wisdom offers us the voice of prudence. For those things that we cannot control in our lives, wisdom offers us the voice of reason. She said in Proverbs 1:33 that her companions will “dwell safely” and that they will be “quiet from FEAR of evil.” Wisdom’s voice of PRUDENCE allows us to avoid unnecessary “evil” by making SOUND DECISIONS. Wisdom’s voice of REASON allows us to face unavoidable “evil” by embracing a SOUND MIND.
Nowhere in her speech does Wisdom ensure her lovers that they will never encounter evil. Nowhere in her invitation does Wisdom promise that her companions will be exempt from car accidents, home invasions, sickness, disease, identity theft or death. There are certain “evils” that are unavoidable in a cursed world. Wisdom keeps us from the HARM of avoidable evils and just as important, it keeps us from the FEAR of unavoidable evils. She doesn’t promise anyone that they will be “quiet from evil,” only that they will be “quiet from FEAR OF EVIL.”
What is the two-fold nature of wisdom?
First, it is the Voice of Prudence.
Second, it is the Voice of Reason.
PRUDENCE keeps us from facing avoidable evil while REASON keeps us from fearing unavoidable evil.
Wisdom is one of God’s gifts in our battle against a great enemy, fear. The Apostle wrote to Timothy, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7). Wisdom isn’t a virtue given only to help us make sound decisions; it is a virtue given also to help us maintain a sound mind. Wisdom helps us make difficult choices and it helps us manage difficult thoughts. Wisdom helps us do the best things and it helps us think the best thoughts. Wisdom is the perfect balance of prudence and reason. It is the harmonious union of “dwelling safely” and being “quiet from fear of evil” while dwelling safely. You can be prudent but still fearful. In fact, a lot of people who consider themselves prudent are actually just fearful. The person who prepares for every possible “evil” may “dwell safely,” but they will not be safe from the “fear of evil.” Wisdom strips us of the FEAR of evil by bringing a sound mind and the voice of reason.
Solomon understood by observation and Divine-inspiration that the wise are not exempt from certain evils in this cursed world (Ecclesiastes 9:1-3). More importantly, he understood that the true wise (unlike the foolish) are exempt from the fear of evil. Wisdom frees us from fear by providing us the reason necessary to navigate the innumerable possibilities that await us in a cursed world. Where the foolish are left to themselves and their own ways, the wise have the companionship of wisdom’s reason when facing the same evils. Wisdom to the wise in Proverbs 1 is the Shepherd to the sheep in Psalm 23. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will FEAR NO EVIL: for thou art WITH me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4).
What is wisdom?
It is the VOICE OF PRUDENCE that allows us avoid evil and “dwell safely.”
What is wisdom?
It is the VOICE OF REASON that allows us to be “quiet from fear of evil.”
Why is wisdom so valuable?
Because it helps us make sound decisions where we have a choice in what happens to us and because it helps us maintain a sound mind where we don’t have a choice in what happens to us. What we can control in life is only half the battle – what we don’t have control over is the other half of the battle. Wisdom offers us help with both!