Thursday, August 27, 2009

Proverbs 30: 1-9

Proverbs 30

The Words of Agur
1The words of Agur the son of Jakeh, the oracle. The man declares to Ithiel, to Ithiel and Ucal:
2Surely I am more stupid than any man,
And I do not have the understanding of a man.
3Neither have I learned wisdom,
Nor do I have the knowledge of the Holy One.
4Who has ascended into heaven and descended?
Who has gathered the wind in His fists?
Who has wrapped the waters in His garment?
Who has established all the ends of the earth?
What is His name or His son's name?
Surely you know!
5Every word of God is tested;
He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.
6Do not add to His words
Or He will reprove you, and you will be proved a liar.
7Two things I asked of You,
Do not refuse me before I die:
8Keep deception and lies far from me,
Give me neither poverty nor riches;
Feed me with the food that is my portion,
9That 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.

Today's Thought Question:
  1. What proverb in today's passage spoke to you and why?

First, a little background, per my S.B.: "This is a collection of proverbs written by an unknown sage who was likely a student of wisdom at the time of Solomon. Agur reflects humility, a deep hatred for arrogance and a keen theological mind.... Agur addressed his wisdom perhaps to his favorite pupils [Ithiel and Ucal], as Luke to Theophilus." Oracle is another word for prophet.

As you have noticed, Agur does not write in the same form as Solomon at all. I don't think I can dwell on just one sentence; this is quite an outpouring!

You can't escape reading verse 2 and not be caught up in the extreme expression of humility. "I am more stupid than any man...neither have I learned wisdom...." Remember, this is a sage at the time of Solomon, not just any fool at the city gate. He makes the very clear distinction between learning wisdom and having THE knowledge of the Holy One. "'Who' can have that?" he asks, rhetorically, in verse 4.

The power of the metaphor is rich in these verses. Look at his last question: "What is His name or His son's name?" What an interesting question for these times. Jesus would not have come yet, but, still.... Agur could lord all of this over his students, but he says, basically, I know nothing of my own. My wisdom is from a "fear of the Lord." Verses 5 and 6 confirm his understanding of God's Word.
Onto verse 7, where the dialogue shifts to a plea from Agur to God Himself. He asks not to be too rich or too poor, but to be fed "with the food that is my portion." (vs. 8) To live with great wealth might lead him down that road of self-sufficiency, which does not require a Holy God to direct him with His wisdom. Yet, to live in such dire poverty, he would forget the daily sustenance of the Lord and turn to the ways of evil to somehow regain his worth.

My study Bible mentions Job more than once in its exposition on Agur's words. Doesn't this quote sound like something Agur might say?

"I have not departed from the command of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food."
--Job 23:12

Why do you suppose this chapter is included amongst the Proverbs? Certainly, being a sage at the time of Solomon gives him a connection. Verse 1 suggests to me a relationship between teacher and students--and a teacher who undoubtedly received wisdom from THE seeker of wisdom! As we read Agur's words, we are instantly reminded of Solomon's thoughts, without the couplet pattern. And that's OK! That should encourage all of us in our desire to share the Word of God that we can do so in our own way, so long as we stay true to the Word. That Agur is a man of integrity and humility challenges all of us in our sharing to be likewise.

Listing Agur's students by name is not unlike reading Jesus and His students called by name. What I love seeing is the relationship and the purposeful leading of one another in that relationship. We can make so much out of Bible study--what book, what author, what translation, what this, what that.... It's about the Word of God and those who come together to gain wisdom from it.


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Tomorrow's Scripture Focus and Thought Question:

Proverbs 30: 10-20 (The words of Agur)
  1. What proverb in today's passage spoke to you and why?

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Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation, specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB). I will quote other sources if used in a post.
I also use Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (with notes from the King James Version).


T. Anne said...

7. I'm not sure of the intended context but in my mind it's my plea to the Lord through his promises secured by the blood of Jesus.

Carmen said...

I enjoyed the background on Agur. What stood out to me was that the more wisdom we get, the more we realize how little wisdom we have. It's the same with knowledge.

We see on the scale of the world, but on God's scale, well...that's more than I can even imagine. I believe Him when He says that we cannot even imagine what He has in store for us. So exciting!