At best, a proverb can but convey one aspect of truth, not the whole truth, true only in specific situations. ‘He who hesitates is lost’ could be a healthy exhortation to someone who tends to be introverted, analytical and indecisive when faced with a daunting challenge. But ‘Look before you leap’ – quite the opposite – could be better advice to give to the impulsive extrovert who can’t resist a dangerous dare.
In Proverbs 30:1-33 ‘Augur’ evidently liked to collect (or compose) pithy sayings, especially ‘the oracle’ that ‘the man declares’ (Proverbs 30:1-2) – was he ‘the man?
The introduction to the four small creatures (Proverbs 30:24) reads in the Hebrew text as: ‘Four [things are] little on earth but they [are] the wiser ones of those made wise.’ And they all have a couple of notable features in common: (a) they are all ‘small’ (when compared to animals of the farm or forest, and therefore are vulnerable, and (b) they ‘are exceedingly wise’ in some particular aspect of their behaviour – from which ‘Augur son of Jakeh’ believes we could ‘learn … wisdom’ (Proverbs 30:1, 3) to benefit our own lives. Their wisdom is not attained by rational calculation; they are ‘made wise’ innately by their Creator. Augur began his collection of proverbs with a personal confession of his failure to connect with God, the personal source of all wisdom: ‘I am weary, O God … I have not learned wisdom, nor have I knowledge of the Holy One’ (Proverbs 30:1-3). Now he wants to rectify this fault (Proverbs 30:5-9).
- The ants (Proverbs 30:25) show us the wisdom of ‘when’
(a) ‘The ants as a people not strong’ – when compared, say, to the oxen or the horses. However, anyone who has observed a colony of ants has been impressed by the size and weight of some of the objects they can carry. (b) ‘yet they provide their food in the summer.’ Earlier in this book of wisdom, Solomon had also observed how hard they worked at storing food at harvest time, an object lesson to the sluggard (Proverbs 6:6-11).
* Lesson One: Be diligent in the season of opportunity.
And we must not overlook Jesus’ way for us to provide for our future. Not by hoarding, for it is the ‘one who has left house … brothers … lands, for my sake and for the gospel … who will … receive a hundredfold … houses and brothers … and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life’ (Mark 10:29-30), and ‘whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple … he will by no means lose his reward’ (Matthew 10:42; Revelation 14:12).
- The rock badgers (or hyraxes, Proverbs 30:26) practise the wisdom of ‘where’
(a) They ‘are a people not mighty’ (b) ‘yet they make their homes in the cliffs.’
* Lesson Two: Be securely at home on high (‘in the heavenly places’, Ephesians 2:6).
- The locusts (Proverbs 30:27) display the wisdom of ‘how’
(a) They ‘have no king’; (b) ‘yet all of them march in rank.’ The widespread military demolition they can cause is described in Joel 1 and 2: ‘they march …; They do not jostle one another… they burst through the weapons and are not halted’ (Joel 2:7-8).
* Lesson Three: Be cooperative and withstand the enemy – in unity is strength.
- The lizard (Proverbs 30:28) exercises the wisdom of ‘who’
(a) ‘you can take in your hands’ and capture or kill, (b) ‘yet it is in king’s palaces’.
* Lesson Four: Be yourself, humbly unselfconscious – Remember: ‘The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it’, so be at home in God’s world.