Well, we’ve almost read our way all the way through Proverbs; today features the last three chapters of the book. Today’s chapters include some wisdom from a certain “…Agur the son of Jakeh, the oracle. The man declares to Ithiel, to Ithiel and Ucal:” Proverbs 30:1 and “… of King Lemuel, the oracle which his mother taught him:” Proverbs 31:1. How did the proverbs of these men make their way into the inspired Scriptures? We little or nothing of either of them, so all we can do is surmise that they may have themselves been prophets of the LORD — unknown except for these verses. Could an unknown, and probably Gentile, king be a prophet? Well, king David was a prophet, and Balaam was both a Gentile and a prophet. Worship of the LORD was not limited to Israel only.
Having tarried on these background matters long enough, let’s get down to “business”.
“A man who hardens his neck after much reproof Will suddenly be broken beyond remedy.” Proverbs 29:1 — How many times have you rejected God’s will for your life? This proverb predicts that eventually the odds that you’ll suffer from your folly will catch up with you. Even more importantly, God’s patience eventually comes to an end, too. And when the axe falls, it tends to fall hard — broken beyond remedy. Isn’t it time you stopped stiffening your neck?
“A man who flatters his neighbor Is spreading a net for his steps.” Proverbs 29:5 — This is just another way of saying that you really ought to be careful, when you find others giving you too many compliments. Sadly, we are sometimes so caught up in the flattery that we never see the “catch” coming. Compliments and encouragement are good, but the person who offers too many has an ulterior motive.
“The righteous is concerned for the rights of the poor, The wicked does not understand such concern.” Proverbs 29:7 — “The poor” in this verse are assumed not to be a lazy person or sluggard. Some folks really are poor through tragedy, sickness, unexpected reversal of fortune, and other matters over which they had no control. Such people are still people and still are due proper justice. Righteous men understand, while wicked men seek to take advantage and oppress without a conscience.
“Every word of God is tested; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him. Do not add to His words Or He will reprove you, and you will be proved a liar.” Proverbs 30:5, 6 — God’s word is not some sort of philosophical or theological theory. “Tested” refers to the fact that those who have lived God’s words — and those who who have disobeyed them, too — can testify (no pun intended here) to the fact that God knows what He’s talking about. We can try doing our own thing, but in the end our wisdom always turns out to be not-so-smart.
“Two things I asked of You, Do not refuse me before I die: Keep deception and lies far from me, Give me neither poverty nor riches; Feed me with the food that is my portion, That I not be full and deny You and say, “Who is the LORD?” Or that I not be in want and steal, And profane the name of my God.” Proverbs 30:7-9 — Here’s the antithesis of our consumer society, a prayer for wisdom to not be deceived (given the context, by greed or riches) and to have neither too much nor too little. It’s a blessing to be middleclass. Too much and we start thinking that we’re “all that”; too little and we begin try to get by “by hook or by crook”. Contentment is a great virtue to aspire to.
“Four things are small on the earth, But they are exceedingly wise: The ants are not a strong people, But they prepare their food in the summer; The shephanim are not mighty people, Yet they make their houses in the rocks; The locusts have no king, Yet all of them go out in ranks; The lizard you may grasp with the hands, Yet it is in kings’ palaces.” Proverbs 30:24-28 — You don’t have to be big or great to do great or wise things. What a wonderful truth to ponder: you don’t have to be brilliant, tall, talented, rich, athletic, pretty, well-educated, or advantaged. Churches don’t have to be well endowed, well-connected, large, or high profile. In fact, God has tended to use the small and least suspected folks to do big things: from Abraham to David to Peter.
“For the churning of milk produces butter, And pressing the nose brings forth blood; So the churning of anger produces strife.” Proverbs 30:33 — I’ve known people, perhaps you have, too, who think its a good thing to stir things up. But it never leads to good things.
“An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, And he will have no lack of gain. …Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised. Give her the product of her hands, And let her works praise her in the gates.” Proverbs 31:10, 11, 30, 31 — Finding the right spouse is one of the greatest discoveries of one’s life. Whether one depended on parents to find one a wife as in ancient times, or whether, as in modern times, you pick out your own; you need to be careful. It’s important to look beyond the sexual attraction, beyond the charm, beyond the money, and beyond the fun. This proverb (vv. 10-31) covers integrity, diligence, discretion, hard work, maternal adeptness and aptitude, and more — it actually is an alphabetic acrostic, which is to say it is an A-Z. Pay attention to these and you’ll be blessed in this life immeasurably.
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.