Proverbs 30: Wisdom from Agur!
September 24, 2022
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
A whole chapter! Okay, here we go…Wisdom from Agur!
“The sayings of Agur son of Jakeh—an inspired utterance.
This man’s utterance to Ithiel:
‘I am weary, God, but I can prevail. Surely I am only a brute, not a man; I do not have human understanding. I have not learned wisdom, nor have I attained to the knowledge of the Holy One” (30:1-3).
What refreshing humility! Here is a man who is speaking an “inspired utterance” (or an “oracle”), and yet he begins by confessing his humanity, his inadequacy, and indeed his weariness. How we need such humility!
Humility is the mother and father of virtues, for without humility we cannot depend upon God to give us the fruit of his Spirit, cannot cry out to him for power to sustain us in the midst of temptation, nor make use of the armor of God (rather than our own frail human powers). Would you confess today that you in your own strength cannot attain to the knowledge of “the Holy One”? That would be a good way for any theological student or seminarian or Christian to start the day. We need the revelation of God through his Word by his Spirit!
“Who has gone up to heaven and come down? Whose hands have gathered up the wind? Who has wrapped up the waters in a cloak? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and what is the name of his son? Surely you know!” (30:4).
This verse seems to confirm how little a human knows in his own strength. We need God to show us the way of salvation!
“Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar” (30:5-6).
Every word of God is flawless; therefore, rely upon God’s Word—do not add to them or take away from them, but stick with them.
“Two things I ask of you, Lord; do not refuse me before I die: keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.” (30:7-9)
Too many people today long, above all else, to be rich. Instead, pray the prayer in this proverb: ask that God would give you neither too much nor too little! That way is the path of wisdom—so that you will neither forget God by relying on your riches, nor disobey God by stealing to feed your stomach. Enough, and no more, should be the prayer of the godly. And if we are graced to have more than enough already, then it should be our earnest desire to give generously to others what we do not need—not just for their own sake, but even for ours. For a person who has far too much is putting himself in spiritual danger.
“Do not slander a servant to their master, or they will curse you, and you will pay for it. There are those who curse their fathers and do not bless their mothers; those who are pure in their own eyes and yet are not cleansed of their filth; those whose eyes are ever so haughty, whose glances are so disdainful; those whose teeth are swords and whose jaws are set with knives to devour the poor from the earth and the needy from among the human race” (30:10-14).
This set of proverbs encourages us to see that words, and our use of words, really matter. Be careful with what you say, to whom you say it, and how you say it. And most of all: ensure that your conversation is seasoned with salt and filled with the sweetness of the gospel!
“The leech has two daughters. ‘Give! Give!’ they cry.” There are three things that are never satisfied, four that never say, ‘Enough!’: the grave, the barren womb, land, which is never satisfied with water, and fire, which never says, ‘Enough!’” (30:15-16).
These proverbs are encouraging us not to be discontent, but to be satisfied with what we have. The secret of happiness is godly contentment. (Philippians 4:12-13, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”)
“The eye that mocks a father, that scorns an aged mother, will be pecked out by the ravens of the valley, will be eaten by the vultures” (30:17).
The world today tends to disvalue the aged, even our own parents. The Bible is clear: we are to respect our parents (Deuteronomy 5:16/Ephesians 6:3).
“There are three things that are too amazing for me, four that I do not understand: the way of an eagle in the sky, the way of a snake on a rock, the way of a ship on the high seas, and the way of a man with a young woman” (30:18-19).
It’s a fool’s errand to try to predict the way of young love!
“This is the way of an adulterous woman: she eats and wipes her mouth and says, “I’ve done nothing wrong” (30:20).
But we can predict the way of adulterous woman. How can someone commit adultery? How can someone lure someone else into adultery? There is an internal dialogue that assuages the conscience. It is only an appetite. I need to eat; I need to have sex. What is the difference? Over and over again, adulterers must say to themselves: “I’ve done nothing wrong.” But we judge our behavior not by our own standards, but by the standards of God as revealed in his Word.
“Under three things the earth trembles, under four it cannot bear up: a servant who becomes king, a godless fool who gets plenty to eat, a contemptible woman who gets married, and a servant who displaces her mistress” (30:21-23).
These proverbs seem to be suggesting that there is an order to the universe, the moral structure of life, such that when that order is violated, the very “earth trembles.” We try to find cause and effect for why certain evil revolutionary actions produce such disastrous effects. But often there is no obvious cause and effect; what is at work is the moral order of the universe. When you disobey God’s laws, there are ramifications to the social structure of the world.
“Four things on earth are small, yet they are extremely wise: ants are creatures of little strength, yet they store up their food in the summer; hyraxes are creatures of little power, yet they make their home in the crags; locusts have no king, yet they advance together in ranks; a lizard can be caught with the hand, yet it is found in kings’ palaces” (30:24-28).
Similarly, wisdom is found not only in people but also in the way that nature itself is organized. God, through his wise Word, made the universe, and therefore the structure of that wisdom is found in nature too. Observe nature, learn from it; consider the ant and be wise to work hard!
“There are three things that are stately in their stride, four that move with stately bearing: a lion, mighty among beasts, who retreats before nothing; a strutting cock, a he-goat, and a king secure against revolt” (30:29-31).
There is an aspect of leadership that has always been “pageantry”: the drama of the West Wing, Buckingham Palace, the C-Suite. Again, there is a natural element that we see all around us, this proverb is suggesting. That does not mean that Christian leaders should be pompous! But it does mean that it is wise to think through how you come across in the way you look and how you behave. People who do not know you will interpret you through these visual cues.
“If you play the fool and exalt yourself, or if you plan evil, clap your hand over your mouth! For as churning cream produces butter, and as twisting the nose produces blood, so stirring up anger produces strife” (30:32-33).
What do you do if you have said something that has caused contention? Often the best advice is “stop digging!” Say nothing more. Or as this proverb puts it, “clap your hand over your mouth.” Do all that you can to avoid producing anger. And instead of continuing to talk about it, stop speaking. And listen.rov
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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