Read: Proverbs 30:1-31:9
Yesterday we concluded the recorded proverbs of Solomon and today we read from two different perspectives: Agur and Lemuel. It’s interesting reviewing scholarly descriptions of these two characters, explanations and translations. The NIV Application Commentary on Proverbs provides this conclusion: “Scholars have written much and agreed little concerning this translation” (p. 655). So today, rather than attempt to dive into historical writings and languages I have zero knowledge about, I think I’ll just look for words of wisdom.
Chapter 30 captures the ancient wisdom of Agur with words that sound like Job speaking.
“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.
In all humility, I must agree with Agur, I have no wisdom or understanding compared to God, but I am completely confident in the knowledge that He is the God of the universe, “Every word of God is flawless” (Proverbs 30:5). Agur provides some key learning points for us to consider:
Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
give me neither poverty nor riches,
but give me only my daily bread.
May we be known as a people of integrity. I truly believe that if Christ-followers could walk in humility and wisdom at the same time, if the church, the collective body of believers, would fully embrace the idea of loving one another, people would break down the doors to join us. Lord, help us to have the kind of integrity that is so inviting and completely free of selfish gain.
Agur reminds us that there are those who self-centered in this world, they consider themselves pure and look down on others; their words are harsh and they have no consideration for the poor. This observation may be 2,000+ years old, but it is ever true today. It’s remarkable to see human nature described in ancient writings that are completely attributable to people we see in contemporary settings.
Agur’s final words provide a simple plan:
“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.”
Lord, keep me humble and shut my mouth when I act like a fool! Help me to see when I’m venturing into this territory and redirect my path. I don’t want to act like a fool, but not because of pride or embarrassment. I’m more concerned that I will trip someone who is genuinely seeking to know you, that they will see my behavior and delay or abandon their desire to hear The Gospel.
The first nine verses of chapter 31, the Sayings of King Lemuel (as taught by his mother), provide a call to action.
Listen, my son! Listen, son of my womb!
Listen, my son, the answer to my prayers!
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
Speak up and judge fairly;
defend the rights of the poor and needy.
Proverbs 31:2, 8-9
In the few verses in between, Lemuel recants the wisdom his mother taught him: stop getting drunk and chasing women! That’s pretty clear and direct, we simply can’t miss the message there.
In contrast to Agur’s words, Lemuel’s words give us the impetus to act, to do something, not just sit and watch others. Speak up for those who can’t represent themselves, especially the poor and needy.
So there you have it, clap your mouth and speak up. Clear direction for today!