“Where Should We Eat?”
(Proverbs 9:1-6, 13-18 – Pentecost 13 – August 22, 2021)
Proverbs 9:1-6, 13-18 – 1Wisdom has built her house, she has hewn out her seven pillars; 2She has slaughtered her meat, she has mixed her wine, she has also furnished her table. 3She has sent out her maidens, she cries out from the highest places of the city, 4“Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!” As for him who lacks understanding, she says to him, 5Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed. 6Forsake foolishness and live, and go in the way of understanding.” … 13A foolish woman is clamorous; she is simple, and knows nothing. 14For she sits at the door of her house, on a seat by the highest places of the city, 15to call to those who pass by, who go straight on their way: 16“Whoever is simple, let him turn in here”; and as for him who lacks understanding, she says to him, 17“Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.” 18But he does not know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of hell.
Dear Redeemed in Christ who has become the wisdom of God for our salvation and eternal life:
“Where should we eat?” At times we ask this question when we are considering different places in town where we might go out for a meal. Of course, when it comes to food for the stomach there is no right or wrong answer. Some foods may be healthier or tastier than others, but we are free to eat what God is given. There are many options open to us.
It is different when it comes to spiritual food. Not everything we might partake of would be good for our souls, though at first it may look very tasty to our flesh and promise to satisfy. This comes out in our text, as we hear of two different meals served by completely different persons – Wisdom and Folly. When it comes to the question, “Where Should We Eat?” spiritually speaking, there are only two options: 1) The house of Wisdom or 2) The house of Folly. The outcome for each meal is quite different; therefore 3) Let us eat wisely.
1) The house of Wisdom
First, we are taken to the house of Wisdom, who is personified as a wholesome woman. It says: “Wisdom has built her house, she has hewn out her seven pillars” (vs. 1). The house which wisdom has built is substantial and sturdy; with seven pillars firmly planted, this house will not be shaken. When we compare this figurative picture to concrete teachings in Scripture, we are led to think of the house God has built in His wisdom. The house of His Church is built on the rock solid, unshakable foundation of Christ as our Savior. We think of how Ephesians 2:19-20 describes all believers in Christ as “fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone.” Not even the gates of hell can prevail against Wisdom’s house, built rock-solid on the foundation of Christ Himself (Matthew 16:18).
Like the house she has built, the meal Wisdom has provided is also substantial and hearty. She serves only the best to her guests, as it says: “she has slaughtered her meat, she has mixed her wine, she has also furnished her table” (vs. 2). Here again as Scripture teaches, we are led to think of the hearty food for our souls God has provided in His wisdom and love. This too is centered in Christ who, as Isaiah 53:6-7 says: “was led as a lamb to the slaughter.” There it says that we all, like foolish sheep, have turned to our way in sin; but the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. In John 6:54, Jesus speaks of His flesh and blood sacrificed for our sins. Then He describes all who believe in Him as partaking of Him by faith as He says: “Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” Like the meal Wisdom sets before her guests, God has set before us His banquet of salvation in Christ. He has spared no pains to bring out the very best, serving us the riches of His grace in His Word and Sacrament. He has paid for everything with the life of His Son. In Christ crucified, God forgives all our sins. In Christ glorified, God declares us righteous and promises us eternal life.
Having prepared a sturdy home and a hearty meal for her guests, Wisdom invites all to come and eat. It says: “She has sent out her maidens, she cries out from the highest places of the city, ‘Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!’ As for him who lacks understanding, she says to him, ‘Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed'” (vs. 3-4). Wisdom calls in love, inviting all to eat freely. Her unselfish concern is to give them that which satisfies. Likewise, Jesus sends His messengers into all the world. By His Gospel invitation, He calls spiritually starving sinners, one and all, to come and find satisfaction for their souls in His free banquet of salvation and eternal life, which He has purchased by His blood.
2) The house of Folly
We have seen the house of Wisdom and the eternal life-giving food God provides for souls through faith in Christ. Now let us turn our attention to the house of Folly, where we meet an entirely different character serving an entirely different kind of food. As it says: “A foolish woman is clamorous; she is simple, and knows nothing. For she sits at the door of her house, on a seat by the highest places of the city, to call to those who pass by, who go straight on their way: ‘Whoever is simple, let him turn in here’; and as for him who lacks understanding, she says to him, ‘Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant'” (vs. 13-17).
Unlike Wisdom who labors in love, sparing no cost to provide an honest meal for her guests, Folly lazily sits at her door, waiting to lure the simpleminded into eating the stolen and dishonest treats she offers. In the context of Proverbs, Folly is pictured as an adulterous wife who cheats on her husband while he is away. Hers is the house of a harlot who calls out with smooth and seductive speech, and the unsuspecting soul who enters and eats what is forbidden will perish (Proverbs 7:5-23). As it says here: “But he does not know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of hell” (vs. 18).
Who could Folly represent but Satan and his seductive lies, by which he feeds unsuspecting souls with what brings death? “Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.” Hasn’t that always been the language of the evil one? From the beginning, Satan tempted humans with what God had forbidden. Just one little bite, eaten in secret, surely could not be harmful; surely there could be no serious consequences with fruit that looked so good! “You will not surely die,” Satan insisted; “For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God” (Genesis 3:4-5). It seemed to promise new wisdom and life; but as soon as sinners stole what was sweet and ate what was forbidden, death came upon them.
To this day, like the woman Folly sitting at her door calling out loudly, Satan and his messengers set themselves up in high and seemingly respectable places of society. Their seductive lies, sugar coated with high sounding words of worldly wisdom, call many unsuspecting souls aside from the path of God’s truth. We hear it in the teachings of Evolution, which Satan holds out as a counterfeit option to Creation. How many unsuspecting souls have swallowed that lie, believing they are accountable to no God but themselves? We hear it in the cry of Relativism, which Satan holds out as a counterfeit claim to God’s Absolute Truth. How many souls have swallowed that lie, believing there is no right or wrong but what they decide; thus they can believe and live however they want without consequence? So under Satan’s spell, Romans 1:18-32 describes many who have been deceived at the house of Folly, as it says: “Professing to be wise, they became fools… who exchanged the truth of God for the lie”; and as a result of their folly: “God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves” – in every form of sexual immorality and wickedness.
In what ways do we hear the voice of that seductress, Folly, offering us her poisoned food? In what ways does the Tempter seek to lure us by the desires of the flesh into his unholy house? One obvious way in terms of the imagery in our text, is sexual temptation. We are bombarded in the media and entertainment with images of sex, twisting it into something God did not intend outside of marriage. Have you heard that tempting voice: “You can have forbidden pleasures in secret! Who is going to know if you are looking where God has forbidden, in images of stolen dignity? Who is going to know if you indulge the flesh?” How often has a soul eaten of that forbidden fruit, only to be left empty in guilt and shame?
Satan is pleased to offer us anything that would appear to satisfy, but leave our souls empty. He would lead us astray by anything that amounts to spiritual adultery, anything or anyone that would turn our hearts away from our First Love in Christ.
Have you heard that tempting voice, calling out to you with all the urgent plans and busyness of life? Did you notice how that constant voice distracted you from taking time to sit at the feet of Jesus and eat the Bread of Life He wanted to give you in His Word, and from casting all your cares on Him? Did you notice how it left your soul restless and without peace?
Have you heard that tempting voice in new friends who seemed so nice at first; only to find out they were that bad company which corrupts good character the apostle Paul warned about (1 Corinthians 15:33)? In joining their walk, you might have felt accepted and treated as wise; but in the end, you found yourself feeling foolish and ashamed of the path you had taken.
As the master of deception, Satan would draw us away from Christ and His saving truth by even that which seems most sacred. As the dealer in stolen and counterfeit wares, Satan seeks even to usurp the place of Christ, posing as a lamb. Jesus warned Matthew 24:24: “For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.” Have you heard that tempting voice of the wolf in sheep’s clothing? He may quote the words of Christ and even claim miracles in His name. But he does not point you to the all-sufficient work of Christ, His perfect life for your righteousness, His sacrificial death for your forgiveness. Instead, you are pointed to your life of holiness and the sacrifices you need to make for God. Once again, it is the smooth speech of Folly; it is deception that pleases the flesh. It appeals to sinful pride to think there is something we can do to become worthy of God and a place in heaven – something in place of Christ, something in addition to Christ. But again, that path would only leave us under the burden of our sin and guilt.
How many souls have been called aside from the straight path of God’s truth in Christ by the smooth speech of Folly? How many souls have eaten the stolen and counterfeit food she offers, only to see her seductive smile in life turn into the grotesque frown of Satan in eternal death?
3) Let us eat wisely
We have seen the house of Folly and the menu she offers. Let us not eat there. Let us eat wisely! Let us heed the call of Wisdom, and eat of the wholesome food for our souls she offers, the food which endures to eternal life.
Again we hear the call of Wisdom, inviting all into her house: “‘Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!’ As for him who lacks understanding, she says to him, ‘Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed. Forsake foolishness and live, and go in the way of understanding'” (vs. 4-6). Wisdom calls in love to all who have foolishly wandered in of sin. Her unselfish concern is to give what truly satisfies in what she has sacrificed and prepared.
The invitation of Wisdom is the invitation of Christ. We remember how He was not ashamed to eat with sinners; for He came “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 5:30; 19:10). By nature, we were among those described as simple and lacking understanding. But now, He who laid down His life for us has graciously called us by His Gospel. By the grace of God, through the faith given by His Spirit, He has called us from the path of Folly to true Wisdom in Christ. As God’s Word says: “But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God – and righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30).
Here in God’s house of Wisdom, we partake of the salvation He has prepared for us in Christ. Here, as God speaks His truth in love, His Spirit leads us to confess all the ways we have turned aside to foolish paths, seeking satisfaction for our souls in what He has forbidden. And here in His Gospel, the Spirit shows us Christ, the Lamb of God who was slaughtered at the cross, by whose blood we are redeemed from all sin and guilt, punishment and shame. Here in God’s house of Wisdom, we live daily in the power His Baptism, drowning the sinful flesh with its deceitful desires, rising with Christ in His cleansing forgiveness to walk in newness of life. Here in God’s house of Wisdom, we come again and again to His Holy Table, to eat and drink of the true Body and Blood of Christ, given and shed for the remission of our sins.
Where should we eat? Let us eat heartily in the house of Wisdom! Here, we partake of all the riches of God’s grace in Christ. Here, we eat the food that endures to eternal life (John 6:27).
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. Amen.