The Backstory on A Prayer of the Foolish
Yesterday I published the short blog post, A Prayer of the Foolish. Today I will share a little about the thought that went into that post. These are some of the practices I follow when thinking over a portion of Scripture, especially if I have a thought of writing something related to Scripture.
In real life, these practices are not done as neatly and orderly as described below. In this recent case, Proverbs 9:6 is the verse that got my attention. I spent two days thinking, praying, and consulting various references. What follows is a bit of the details of that.
Comparing Bible Versions
One of the first things I do when a Bible verse intrigues me is compare the verse in a number of different Bible versions. I primarily read the King James Version. It’s what I “cut my teeth on” when I first started reading the Bible way back in 1980. (It’s the English that Jesus and His Apostles spoke, right?) I like to compare the KJV with several other Bibles that I have on hand.
So here is Proverbs 9:6 in nine different versions:
- KJV – Forsake the foolish, and live; and go in the way of understanding.
- Living Bible – Leave behind your foolishness and begin to live; learn how to be wise.
- Amplified Bible – Leave off, simple ones – forsake the foolish and simple-minded – and live! And walk in the way of insight and understanding.
- New American Standard Bible – Forsake your folly and live, and proceed in the way of understanding.
- New International Version – Leave your simple ways and you will live; walk in the way of understanding.
- New King James Version – Forsake foolishness and live, and go in the way of understanding.
- American Standard Version – Leave off, ye simple ones, and live; and walk in the way of understanding.
- New Revised Standard Version – Lay aside immaturity, and live, and walk in the way of insight.
- New American Bible, Revised Edition – Forsake foolishness that you may live; advance in the way of understanding.
You can see there is a bit of difference regarding the first half of the verse. The majority in that list tell us to forsake our own foolish ways. A few warn us to forsake foolish people. And one directs its admonition to “ye simple ones.”
I came to the conclusion that all three takes on the phrase are necessary and lead us to the same thing: we are simple ones, foolish in our own ways, AND we need to stay away from other foolish people – not following in their ways, but going in the paths of God’s wisdom.
Consulting Bible Commentaries
After comparing different Bible versions, I next consulted several commentaries on Proverbs that I have. Only one gave me something significant. That was Charles Bridges’ commentary. Bridges almost always provides a feast to digest that usually leaves me searching my heart. Here is what Bridges wrote regarding Proverbs 9:5, 6 (“Come, eat of my bread, and drink of the wine which I have mingled. Forsake the foolish, and live; and go in the way of understanding.”):
Come, eat of the bread of life; drink of the wine of gospel grace and joy.
Is there not besides a special invitation for her [Wisdom] children – a table richly furnished for their refreshment; where they eat of the bread, and drink of the wine, such as “the world know not of?” (Matthew 26:26 – 28)
But are not all comers welcome to the Gospel feast? The Master’s heart flows along with every offer of His grace. His servants are ministers of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:18 – 20) Their message is to tell of the bounty of Messiah’s house, and to bid sinners welcome to Him. Here, sinner, is thy warrant – not thy worthiness, but thy need, and the invitation of thy Lord. All the blessings of His Gospel are set before thee – love without beginning, end, or change. Honour the freeness of His mercy. Let Him have the full glory of His own grace, who invites thee to a feast, when He might have frowned thee to hell.
Let His heavenly hope be enthroned in the soul, displacing every subordinate object from its hold on thine affections, eclipsing the glories of this present world, absorbing thy whole mind, consecrating thy whole heart.
Here only are the ways of peace. The very severities of the Gospel prepare the way for its consolations. But never can these blessings be valued, till the path of the foolish be forsaken. Thou must forsake either them or Christ. (James 4:4) To abide with them, is to “remain in the congregation of the dead.” (Proverbs 21:16) To forsake them, is the way of life and understanding. (Proverbs 13:20; Psalm 26:3 – 6; 34:12 – 14; 119:115; Amos 5:15)
Are they more to you than salvation? To “be the friend of the world is to be the enemy of God.” “Come out, and be separate, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive thee, saith the Lord Almighty.” (2 Corinthians 6:17, 18)
– Charles Bridges, Proverbs, Geneva Series of Commentaries, pages 85, 86.
See what I mean? Take some time to digest that!
There is a footnote for Proverbs 9:6 in the New American Bible. It says the following:
That you may live: life in Proverbs is this-worldly, consisting in fearing God or doing one’s duty toward God, enjoying health and long life, possessing wealth, good reputation, and a family. Such a life cannot be attained without God’s help. Hence Wisdom speaks not of life simply but of life with her; the guest is to live in Wisdom’s house.
I appreciate that perspective. Yes, certainly, the book of Proverbs is FULL of guidance for our “this-worldly” life. Absolutely! Go apply its directions on honesty, hard work, diligence, ethical business dealings, respect of others’ property, charity to the poor, respect for authority, and more – and you will see improvements to your experience of the here and now. We all need that!
But as I contemplated the “this-worldly” application of Proverbs 9:6, I remembered 1 Timothy 4:7, 8 – “But refuse profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness. For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.” It made me think that there is an evangelical application to this beginning passage of Proverbs 9, which Charles Bridges certainly elucidated. There is a turning from something unprofitable and a turning to life. That is repentance. That is the call of the Kingdom of God. It was the message of Jesus Himself: “From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17)
One of my favorite writers, whose books abound with evangelical beauty, is John Owen. In his book on Communion with God, Owen touched on Proverbs 9:1 – 6 as an example of God’s gracious Gospel invitation. He said the following:
The Lord Christ, the eternal Wisdom of the Father, and who of God is made unto us wisdom, erects a spiritual house, wherein He makes provision for the entertainment of those guests whom He so freely invites. His church is the house which He hath built on a perfect number of pillars, that it might have a stable foundation: His slain beasts and mingled wine, wherewith His table is furnished, are those spiritual fat things of the gospel, which He hath prepared for those that come in upon His invitation. Surely, to eat of this bread, and drink of this wine, which He hath so graciously prepared, is to hold fellowship with Him.
– John Owen, Works, Vol. 2, page 46.
Charles Bridges referred to James 4:4. I went back to James 4 and read several verses.
- 4. Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.
- 5. Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?
- 6. But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.
- 7. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
- 8. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.
- 9. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.
- 10. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.
And there was the key I needed: “He giveth more grace. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord.” I want to forsake the foolish. But I AM foolish. Too often I am a friend of the world. Spiritual adultery! Is there no way out from under this mountain of corruption in my own heart? “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24)
“I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 7 – the very next verse)
Please see: A Prayer of the Foolish.
Thank you for reading.