The words of the mouth are deep waters, but the fountain of wisdom is a rushing stream. – Proverbs 18:4
This passage has to qualify as one of the shortest I have encountered on my journey looking at water in the bible.
The passage contrasts two things, the words of our mouth and the fountain of wisdom. The former is compared to deep water and the later is compared to a rushing stream. My initial reaction is that these metaphors seem to be reversed. I would tend to compare wisdom to deep water and the words of our mouth to a rushing stream. Let’s explore this stretch of water and see if there is more to this…
Deep water can 1) hide scary things like Leviathan and behemoths; 2) be a very cold and dark place; 3) harbor dangerous and unpredictable currents. So how are the words from our mouths like these things.
Certainly our mouths can spew very scary and harmful things. Unchecked, our words can start wars, end marriages, justify genocide, and all manner of beastly things. It is up to us to use wisdom to know when and how to speak so that our mouths do not bring forth evil.
Our words can be also be cold, dark, and promote decay. We have all encountered people that seem to see the negative aspects of every situation – they have Limburger cheese on their nose. These people often seem to relish sharing their cold dark words with others and the end result is that everyone experiences “decay”.
The power of our words is very unpredictable and sometimes dangerous to ourselves and others. I think all of us have said things during the heat of an argument or when we are hungry and tired that we would like to take back. Words are like toothpaste — they are not easily put back in the “tube”. The best we can do is replace the negative and harmful words with a sincere apology and a request for forgiveness.
The concept of wisdom brings to my mind visions of dusty shelves of books and grey haired wise men or professors standing around musty old academic halls. This is very unlike the visions I have when I think of a rushing stream. Rushing streams are a dynamic place alive with activity both above and below the surface of the water, and along the banks.
As a water scientist I get to spend a lot of time on rivers and streams. They can be amazingly beautiful places. The water is often clean and clear and provides great solace to my soul. This passage seems to be providing an alternative view of wisdom as a dynamic thing alive with complex truths and intricate eddies. I prefer this view of wisdom.
Although this passage is describing a “fountain of wisdom” I think it is really talking about God. God is like this too I think. We sometimes envision God in an “old man suit” sitting in a dusty library making rules when in reality He is wearing cutoff jeans, a tie dye shirt, and Birkenstock sandals. God wants us to seek out His wisdom as we would a rushing stream full of adventure and dynamic energy.
Prayer: God help us to seek Your wisdom and delight in the dynamic waters we find there.
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