The theater is just dark enough that the audience can just barley see a lone figure stride out to the center of the stage. He stands there for a moment and then a booming voice is heard from the balcony above; behind the patrons. This offstage surprise is immediately eclipsed by the authority of the message…
“The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel:
To know wisdom and instruction,
To perceive the words of understanding,
To receive the instruction of wisdom,
Justice, judgment, and equity;
To give prudence to the simple,
To the young man knowledge and discretion—
A wise man will hear and increase learning,
And a man of understanding will attain wise counsel,
To understand a proverb and an enigma,
The words of the wise and their riddles.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
But fools despise wisdom and instruction. “
It’s obvious that the obscure figure on stage is being addressed. But every person in the audience is intrigued by the weight and authority of The Narrator’s words.
As the lights come up, the audience sees, but cannot tell, how this momentous declaration has affected what they know now is a young man. He stands there with no expression. Neither attentive or divisive.
From Stage Right another figure appears. An older man carrying himself with humble dignity. He is, evidently, the young man’s father for he says:
“My son, hear the instruction of your father,
And do not forsake the law of your mother;
For they will be a graceful ornament on your head,
And chains about your neck.”
Every parent in the auditorium recognizes the plea. They identify with The Father’s concern. But what moves them is the unexpected, visceral, introspection they are exposed to. Could they have said such to their own children? Would, what they have said in the past, compliment the opening words of The Narrator?
As the two figures remain motionless on the stage the audience finds that they themselves have become the spectacle as they consider if their parenting could boast the same urgency, the same value.
Their tension increases as The Father speaks again:
“My son, if sinners entice you,
Do not consent.”
The actors barely move and then freeze in place again. The Father’s visage is all concern. The Son has turned slightly toward The Father but his expression cannot be read. The audience stirs and their facial expressions, all lined in their seats, are like a gallery full of portraits of pain, regret, loss, and remorse. They all have experienced the pressure and persuasion of The Wrong Crowd. They, too, fear for their own sons and daughters.
Suddenly, noises disrupt the room. Haughty laughter, the sound of breaking glass, the shuffling of feet and then The Wrong Crowd enters from Stage Left. They exude rebellion, hate, and idleness. When they see The Son, they cajole:
“Come with us,
Let us lie in wait to shed blood;
Let us lurk secretly for the innocent without cause;
Let us swallow them alive like Sheol,
And whole, like those who go down to the Pit;
We shall find all kinds of precious possessions,
We shall fill our houses with spoil;
Cast in your lot among us,
Let us all have one purse”
The audience gasps with fear and dread as they witness The Son slowly turning his head toward the low-lifes that his dad just warned him of. There is a slight relief when it becomes apparent that, though The Son’s face is not toward The Father his head is slightly nodded downward and barely toward his peers. For the first time his face has expression. The Son contemplates.
But there is no comfort found here as the audience sees this. What is there to consider? Why does The Son give any thought to The Wrong Crowd? What is the draw?
But then, they recognize that allure. They all know, personally, the gravitational pull to belong to the ‘in-crowd’, to not be thought of as uptight, backward, a prude.
The Father retorts:
“My son, do not walk in the way with them,
Keep your foot from their path;
For their feet run to evil,
And they make haste to shed blood.”
The audience cheers in support.
The Wrong Crowd scowls.
The Father then ‘outs’ the slackers:
“Surely, in vain the net is spread
In the sight of any bird;
But they lie in wait for their own blood,
They lurk secretly for their own lives.”
The old adage, “the serpent eats it’s tail” is presented. The truth of the matter is age-old. This outcome can be proven statistically. Just talk to the addict, the inmate, the hollow people of the world. Their pain is self-inflicted. Their agenda is self-referential. Their promises are lies spoken by those who have successfully deceived themselves.
The Father fires another salvo:
“So are the ways of everyone who is greedy for gain;
It takes away the life of its owners.”
The warning is clear, everyone means, anyone, including you…my son.
The Wrong Crowd fixes their eyes on The Son.
The Father stands with his arms stretched toward the son, palms up, in plea-mode.
The Son’s brows furrow with inner conflict.
The audience starts to get it…who will the Son listen to? That is, after all, the title of the play. Everyone knows who he should listen to though; it’s that obvious.
Then there is a stir in the crowd as the voice of a young woman is heard from backstage, wait, no, she’s in the balcony. Now in surround-sound her voice is coming from all the entrances and exits. Then the patrons are suddenly rocked by her laughter as it seems to fill the entire the building. It’s a marvelous theatric effect as it has had the audience in a spin trying to find her. Finally someone in the crowd shouts, “There she is!”
Wisdom, dressed like a goddess, has ascended a podium set deep at Center Stage. All the other actors have turned around and are looking up at her. She stretches out her arms and repeats her previous words:
“How long, you simple ones, will you love simplicity?
For scorners delight in their scorning,
And fools hate knowledge.
Turn at my rebuke;
Surely I will pour out my spirit on you;
I will make my words known to you.”
The words reveal a standing offer, a tragic choice, a refused gift.
The Father beams; grateful for the support.
The Wrong Crowd looks away, none of them will now look directly at her. Some shift their feet; others clinch their fists. Some of them even smirk in an attempt to mask their brazen contempt for her.
The Son slightly bows his head.
The audience is in instant awe of Wisdom. But while they naturally wonder what The Son is thinking; what he is contemplating, Wisdom speaks again:
“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.
Because they hated knowledge
And did not choose the fear of the Lord,
They would have none of my counsel
And despised my every rebuke.
Therefore they shall eat the fruit of their own way,
And be filled to the full with their own fancies.”
The indictment is solid and justified. The guilty have been given many chances.
Since The Wrong Crowd has constantly chosen to not fear the Lord they face calamity, terror, destruction, distress, and anguish.
The sound of thunder deafens everyone as the stage begins to shake, a portion of the floor gives way and the audience witnesses some of The Wrong Crowd falling through a trap door that has opened under them. Screaming out, some disappear while others crawl around in pain but some remain still on their feet, unmoved and unmoved.
The Son witnesses this all…
Then Wisdom speaks again, her voice has been amplified:
“For the turning away of the simple will slay them,
And the complacency of fools will destroy them;
But whoever listens to me will dwell safely,
And will be secure, without fear of evil.”
The crowd gets it. Though the Son has competing voices vying for his life, there are but two choices: Fear the Lord and dwell in wisdom or the Fear of Evil will come upon you.
All the actors hold their positions like statuary.
Wisdom: still positioned above everyone with her arms outstretched.
The Wrong Crowd: in various positions of judgement.
The Father: looking with hope toward his son.
The Son: has turned to face the crowd. He brings his hand up to his chin; a gesture signifying a decision.
The audience is viscerally spent. They aren’t sure what to expect and not sure if they can emotionally bear a tragic outcome.
But the curtain falls, for the chapter ends.
And it is then that the readers know that they are the Father’s child.
The end of the story is the beginning of each day:
who have they have decided to listen to ?