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While I Breathe, I Hope

Wisdom in not giving up on the unsaved

Proverbs 8:1-5

1 Does not wisdom cry out,
And understanding lift up her voice?

2 She takes her stand on the top of the high hill,
Beside the way, where the paths meet.

She cries out by the gates, at the entry of the city,
At the entrance of the doors:

“To you, O men, I call,
And my voice is to the sons of men.

5 O you simple ones, understand prudence,
And you fools, be of an understanding heart.


Do you know the motto of your state? Whether you live in the state of Nebraska, the state of Connecticut or the state of confusion, your state has a designated motto. This motto is in English, such as “Liberty and Prosperity” (New Jersey). It may be Latin, like “Labor Omnia Vincit” which means, “work conquers all” (Oklahoma). Or it is Native American, “Al-ki,” which is Chinook for “Hope for the future (Washington). 

Some state mottos seem unintentionally entertaining: Michigan’s motto is “Si Quaeris Peninsulam Amoenam Circum spice,” which translates “If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you,” and seems to basically be like the star on a map that says “You are HERE.” New York’s Excelsior! (“ever upward”) sounds a bit like something Star Trek nerds would shout at William Shatner after an appearance at a convention. And finally, North Carolina’s motto is Esse Quam Videri, meaning, “To be rather than to seem,” and sounds like something your college roommate would say at 3am during a long philosophical discussion that began with you simply asking him to do more of his share of chores around the apartment. 

Some of the cooler state mottos are “Alis Volat Propriis" (“She Flies With Her Own Wings”) from Oregon, which is just odd enough to be awesome. California has the exciting “Eureka!,” coined by the Greek mathematician Archimedes when he discovered gold there in 1849. And finally, the intensely patriotic “Live Free or Die” of New Hampshire–which is the motto that deep down every state wishes they had come up with because it just looks so good on t-shirts. 

My state of South Carolina has an interesting motto: Dum Spiro Spero. This is Latin for “while I breathe, I hope.” The phrase is of indeterminate origin, but can possibly be traced back to the poet Theocritus or the orator Cicero. 

The motto was adopted by South Carolina and affixed to the state seal shortly after the Battle of Sullivan’s Island in 1776. The British fleet had attempted to capture the city of Charleston, but were driven off by a small band of patriots defending an unfinished fort made of palmetto logs. The spongy palmetto wood absorbed the impact of the British cannon fire, and so the South Carolinians simply gathered the spent cannonballs from the beach in front of the fort and fired them back at the British ships–burning and sinking one and damaging the rest until they beat an ignominious retreat. 

This long-odds victory was followed up shortly by the news of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and hope was kindled in the hearts of the new nation. 

I find the motto so appealing because it makes me think of those whom I love who do not know Christ. I have friends and even family members whom are not saved, or are estranged from me. The simple phrase “while I breathe, I hope”  is a reminder that as long as they have life on this earth–and I have breath in my lungs with which to pray–then all hope is not lost for their eventual salvation.

Do you have loved ones or those you pray for like this? Have you been tempted to give up because of years of intransigence, or even hostility from them toward your faith? Well, you are not alone. 

Solomon is thinking along these lines here in the eighth chapter of Proverbs. He knows that his young pupils, the children of Israel, are like all sinful people who need to hear a good message repeated. Here, he leaves behind warnings of sin such as the seven “abominations” that God hates (Proverbs 6) and the folly of the adulterous woman (Proverbs 7), to remind them again of the call of Lady Wisdom:

1 Does not wisdom cry out,
And understanding lift up her voice?–Proverbs 8:1

The first nine chapters of Proverbs are a poetic prologue penned by Solomon himself. He is calling you to seek wisdom, explore the nature of knowledge, the meaning of life, and the path of righteousness. As this section draws to a close, Solomon comes to you again with a message he has given before: seek wisdom.

Chapter 8 forms a bookend to Chapter 1 and the introduction to Lady Wisdom. It is the penultimate poem of the Prologue, balancing it perfectly. Indeed some of the same phrasing is found here as there: 

20 Wisdom calls aloud outside;
She raises her voice in the open squares.–Proverbs 1:20

Like any parent or teacher, Solomon recognizes that even the best and brightest children or students need a refresher of the important things before moving ahead into other things. The rest of Proverbs is a compilation of ancient wisdom and valuable sayings prepared by Solomon, but for now he calls you to remember what he has taught.

Verse 1 asks a rhetorical question: “Does not wisdom cry out…?” Wisdom does not wait for you to find her, she is seeking you out. “Do you not hear her?” Solomon asks you–and yet how often is she ignored! If you have children you know the exasperation of having to repeat instructions or good advice to them, if only they would just listen.

But there is great comfort in this. Tim Keller points out that Wisdom’s persistence is a sign that she has not given up:

Perhaps the greatest encouragement in this passage is easily missed. Wisdom is literally seeking us.–Tim Keller, “God’s Wisdom for Navigating Life” 

Wisdom seeks you in daily revelations from God in His glorious creation, and in His wondrous works of Providence in your life. She is in His Word and the riches of Scripture. Your heavenly Father is always working, the Spirit always there to illuminate, and the Son always interceding on your behalf.

2 She takes her stand on the top of the high hill,
Beside the way, where the paths meet.–Proverbs 8:2

Wisdom practically shouts to you in all areas of your life. Through His Spirit, God is present and working in your home, in your church and fellowship group, at your workplace, in the events of the daily news, and in the lives of your neighbors and friends. If you wonder “where is God?” or “what does He want me to do?” you do not have to look far to discover. 

This is contrasted with the way of the adulteress–of the call of Dame Folly. Where Lady Wisdom practically shouts her message at the crossroads of your life, the alluring, worldly message of the adulteress comes at you slyly and is filled with empty promises. Commentator Bruce Waltke notes this comparison:

The adulteress moves stealthily at dusk and speaks deceitfully; wisdom moves publicly and speaks truthfully. The adulteress leads her victims to slavery and death; wisdom leads her disciples to kingship, wealth, and life. The adulteress lives, moves, and has her being in the earthly, mundane sphere; wisdom soars in heaven, above space and time.–Bruce Waltke, “Proverbs”

How does Dame Folly tempt and seduce you in your life? Do you have selfish desires that need to be fed through flattery and ambition? Do you insist on the respect of others to the point where you will become enraged at the slightest insult? Do you have addictions or sinful habits that she knows how to trigger all too well, and you willingly allow her?

This is why Solomon has brought you back full-circle to these truths, before moving on. At the crossroads of verse 2, you again must make a choice between wisdom or folly–between life and death.

She cries out by the gates, at the entry of the city,
At the entrance of the doors:–Proverbs 8:3

As you remember, the gates of the ancient city are the place where business is discussed each morning, and the tone of the day’s work is set. Wisdom arises early to bring you her message. God sets Himself in your path to call you to obedience. 

Jesus, who is the very personification of God’s wisdom (I Corinthians 1:24) bids you to “come and see” as He did John and Andrew on the day they first met and followed Him (John 1:39). Like the woman at the well, He meets you where you are in your daily life to confront you and call you to His side:  

20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.–Revelation 3:20

Do you seek His guidance in your decisions? Do you look to encounter Him in your daily routine? Do you seek His presence during every moment–or do you wait until you sit for bible study or attend worship? Jesus is there for you to call upon in sadness and in joy each and every moment, in a shout or a whisper. Singer-songwriter Phil Keaggy captures this well in his touching song, “Calling You:”

Hear me whisper as I breathe out Your name
Break the chains free and rekindle this flame
Come and hold me.–Phil Keaggy, “Calling You"

Jesus is not a passive savior, but is always there with outstretched hand, calling you and all men to Him:

“To you, O men, I call,
And my voice is to the sons of men.–Proverbs 8:4

This is another comfort: that God’s wisdom comes to people of all walks of life. It is not relegated to the clergy or to the educated, but is given to all who follow Him and seek His will. Solomon here is even giving it a broad appeal to all men, to “humanity” itself, for God’s wisdom is suitable and His salvation in Christ is given to common people. Tim Keller again offers encouragement in this:

In the end, the main way to become wise is to have a personal relationship with Him, to set our hearts on Him. Anyone can do that, regardless of status or education..–Tim Keller, “God’s Wisdom for Navigating Life”  

If anyone can do this, then there is even hope for fools. This is wisdom’s call in verse 5:

5 O you simple ones, understand prudence,
And you fools, be of an understanding heart.–Proverbs 8:5

This is one more call to those who still live in selfishness and sin to heed the cry to seek righteousness. This is hope for those who reject Him, and yet still live:

The uncommitted youth needs to make a critical decision to love wisdom before he enters the danger-laden city.–Bruce Waltke, “Proverbs"

Do you have those for whom you pray, but they will not seem to heed the call of Christ? Perhaps a son or daughter who has left the faith. Maybe a father, mother or sibling who has lived in darkness all their life, despite the light of faith in you. Friends, co-workers, and even your enemies may hate the name of Jesus and adopt the world’s silly spiritual bromides, but you continue to pray (I Thessalonians 5:17).

Do not give up. Remember the motto Dum Spiro Spero. While you breathe, you hope. While the unsaved person still lives and breathes in this world…you have hope in the power of the Holy Spirit and the Gospel.

It is easy to become discouraged, to even quit in frustration. But like the father who looked up and saw his prodigal son returning home at last, you too must hold out hope. Seek His will, appeal to your Heavenly Father, and flee to Christ for refuge to await the return of the lost, like the old hymn sings:

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
is laid for your faith in God's excellent Word!
What more can be said than to you God hath said,
to you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?–How Firm a Foundation



The Monday—Friday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay and this Saturday Deep is written by Matt Richardson. To subscribe to all the DEEPs click here:

The weekly study guides, which include the Monday–Friday devotionals plus related questions for discussion or meditation, are available for download here:

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.

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