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Volume 15, Issue 4: Poimen

Hell Hath No Fury

Joost Nixon

Though I have an excellent wife, I am consumed with love for another woman, still more perfect. But we do fight. It is awkward to admit, but there are times when she embarrasses me. And then we fight. Yet she has triumphed in every argument, for she is resolute, never yielding a millimeter—even for the sake of peace. Perhaps this is her only weakness, if you could call it that, for who quarrels with Lady Wisdom and wins? And if, knowing that arguing with her is futile, you spurn her entirely—there will be hell to pay, you can be sure of it.

I am an evangelical, and as such the first chapter of Proverbs contains one of those statements that embarrasses me so: Because I have called and you refused, I have stretched out my hand and no one regarded, Because you disdained all my counsel, And would have none of my rebuke, I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your terror comes, When your terror comes like a storm, And your destruction comes like a whirlwind, When distress and anguish come upon you. Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; They will seek me diligently, but they will not find me. (Prov. 1:24-28)
Regrettably, we cannot successfully dispute that Wisdom herself is talking. And what's more, she is laughing, and mocking, and shutting her ears, and hiding from seekers. "But this doesn't sound at all like wisdom," we evangelicals say. "In fact, it doesn't even sound Christian." But what an awkward thing to say! Are we asserting that Wisdom is an infidel? Or maybe that Christianity isn't wise? Either admission is damning. Perhaps we only spout such folly because we are so unacquainted with the essence of either. In our spineless culture, mockery seems so stark and unloving, and so Wisdom's response to rejection scandalizes us so. At least, it certainly scandalizes me. But is it wise to say that Wisdom suddenly plays the fool when rejected? No, it is we who have left the paths of wisdom.
So if we would be wise, we must know why Wisdom is mocking. And why is Wisdom refusing a helping hand to those who seek her? For those who give counsel as often as pastors do, these questions cannot be ignored. To ignore Wisdom's counsel on how to deal with those who ignore Wisdom's counsel is to invite Her to treat us as She does them. That sentence really stinks—but I trust you know what I mean anyhow.
Wisdom's example demonstrates that it is wise, at some latter stage in our counseling, to barricade our studies against the intrusion of determined fools. But if we do so precipitously, we would be guilty of a great sin. Wisdom is a great woman, and thank God she is patient too. She cries out in the streets, in the market places, at the city gates (Prov. 1:20-21). These cries are not her first—she has already been rejected and is still persisting. "How long, O simple ones, will you love simplicity?" The implication is that they have loved simplicity too long already. This noble Lady, ever-compassionate, is willing to treat with fools who do the first wise act of their lives, and turn at her reproof (1:23). As pastors we must emulate her patience and hospitality. Indeed, we invite fools to join us at her table (we who ourselves were rescued off the street). There will be times when a sinner returns to the same transgression three, four times, seventy-times-seven. Each time he is greeted with mercy and strong encouragement. "For the righteous may fall seven times, and rise again (Prov. 24:16). Other times, however, it would be unwise and unloving to deal so softly. Wisdom knows when, and we must learn from her.
For the purpose of simplicity, there are two types of counsel a pastor gives. The first kind is when the way of obedience is absolutely clear, "You must repent of adultery and be reconciled to your wife." No wiggle-room here. Such counsel comes with the weight of the Holy Trinity behind us. And if we need it, we have the keys—we can discipline if we must.
The other kind of counsel that pastors routinely give is where the path of obedience can diverge onto two or more lawful options, and Lady Wisdom helps us light the way. Our God is delightfully broad, and within certain parameters, bids us do as we like. This is quite benign when all that is at stake is ugly curtains. But marriage falls into this category too, as do other monumental decisions. For them, when many complex factors must be weighed, we must pound down Wisdom's door (she prefers eager guests). We must seek her before we get ourselves into such a mess that her help is useless. What good is waiting for a downpour to begin saving for a rainy day? But beware of merely going through the motions. When we do, this jealous woman sees right through our token overtures, and like any noble woman, hates the patronage. A young man can technically marry the wrong girl at the wrong time in spite of Wisdom's pleadings and still "get away with it." But does he really? His is not the tender, restorative discipline of the church, but the wrenching violence of the whirlwind (1:27).
Now back to our question: When does Wisdom mock the needy? When those who rejected her in their ease (when she could do much), now hunt frantically for her in their calamity (when she can do little). When she was available, she was far too responsible for the partying crowd. And so the fools spurned her. But now their foolishness has brought them to destruction. And as they teeter on the brink of the Pit, they cry out loudly for the woman they so recently scorned. But she is long gone and all that remains is the whirlwind, and the faint sound of her laughter. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.

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