God’s Word is the source of godly wisdom. But God also has given us vivid illustrations of His wisdom in the things He created. Understood through the lens of the Bible, creation teaches us and inspires us to live wisely and honor our Creator.
Words of Wisdom from Creation
We come now to Proverbs chapter 30, where we are told here in verse 1 that these are “the words of Agur son of Jakeh.” Nobody knows who Agur is. He is not mentioned anywhere else in the Bible. Agur means “the collector,” and Jakehmeans “the obedient.” It is possible that these are clever pen names for Solomon, referring to himself as the obedient collector.
What we do know is that Agur opens with this rather blunt statement about himself:
Surely I am too stupid to be a man. I have not the understanding of a man. I have not learned wisdom, nor have I knowledge of the Holy One. (verses 2-3)
Well, I think he is a little too hard on himself because it is going to take a rather intelligent person to write these proverbs. But I think there is a point to be made here. A person who thinks he is the smartest person around is not going to listen to instruction; he is not going to be teachable.
Another thing I notice here is that the author is comparing his intelligence and wisdom with God’s. He asks five rhetorical questions in verse 4:
Who has ascended to heaven and come down? Who has gathered the wind in his fists? Who has wrapped up the waters in a garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and what is his son’s name?
Of course, the answer to all these questions is God Himself. So, understand this: the author wants you to be humble and teachable so that you can learn the wisdom of God. God is the schoolteacher, but you have to show up in class so that God Almighty can impart to you His divine wisdom.
And by the way, this question here, “What is his name, and what is his son’s name?” is a wonderful Old Testament allusion to God the Son, the Lord Jesus.
Now here in Proverbs chapter 30, Agur begins to instruct us with some pretty serious warnings about sin. He points out four sins that are common among people and need to be avoided. He writes in verse 11: “There are those who curse their fathers and do not bless their mothers.” This is disrespect for parents, and there’s no age limit on this sin. He is not just talking about a three-year-old smarting off to his mother. This could be a thirty-year-old disrespecting his father and being unkind to his mother.
The second sin mentioned here is self-righteous hypocrisy: “There are those who are clean in their own eyes but are not washed of their filth” (verse 12). In other words, they claim they are not guilty of any sin at all! They don’t need to be cleansed by God; they are just fine in their own eyes.
Agur mentions next the sin of arrogance in verse 13: “There are those—how lofty are their eyes, how high their eyelids lift!” This describes people who are always looking down on everybody else.
Then the fourth sin is mistreating the poor and needy. Verse 14 says, “There are those [who] devour the poor from off the earth, the needy from among mankind.”
We need to understand that biblical wisdom does not just tell us what we ought to do; it also tells us what we ought not to do.
Now in this chapter, we read in verse 15, “Three things are never satisfied; four never say, ‘Enough.’” Then again, down in verse 18, we read, “Three things are too wonderful for me; four I do not understand.” This “three things . . . four things” is a Hebrew expression that tells us that “the list, though specific, is not exhaustive.” It is like saying, “There are three or four things that come to mind, but the list could be longer.”
Agur then begins in verse 16 to describe things that are not satisfied. Sheol, or the grave, is never satisfied. Likewise, the barren womb, parched and thirsty ground, and a forest fire that just does not seem to die out all illustrate human greed, which is never fully satisfied.
Now with that, Agur makes some positive observations about life. He writes in verses 18-19:
Three things are too wonderful for me; four I do not understand: the way of an eagle in the sky, the way of a serpent on a rock, the way of a ship on the high seas, and the way of a man with a virgin [that is, a woman he has fallen in love with].
These are wonderful things to observe.
But then he adds one thing he just does not understand. Verse 20 says, “The way of an adulteress: she eats and wipes her mouth and says, ‘I have done no wrong.’” She does not see any damage done to her family, her marriage, or other people. “I have done nothing wrong,” she says.
This is the perfect picture of our world today with all its sexual immorality. The world does not think it is wrong at all. It is something to be proud of, something you can celebrate. There is no need to worry about the ruin it brings to a marriage, a family, a home, or even a nation.
Now with that, the writer turns to some wisdom the world of creation offers us. Verse 24 says, “Four things on earth are small, but they are exceedingly wise.” The author then points out four specific creatures. First is the ant, which stores up food for the coming winter; second is the rock badger, which lives in the rocky cliffs for protection. These creatures understand their limitations and never stray far from home; and that is pretty good advice for us today.
The locusts, mentioned in verse 27, “have no king, yet all of them march in rank.” Even though no one is barking out orders, they have enough sense to work in unity. Then verse 28 lists the little lizard. It is tiny, but because of its persistence, it lives inside the palaces of kings.
Agur now writes in verses 30 and 31 of four things that are “stately”—that is, they are impressive in their appearance. He points out the lion, the strutting rooster, the male goat, and a king surrounded by his army. All four, picture confidence and strength.
It is not hard to observe that God has created certain animals for prominent positions; He has also placed certain people in prominent leadership roles. And a wise person recognizes this is the created order of God.
And with that, chapter 30 wraps up with a warning not to try to exalt yourself. Don’t work at your own promotion. That will open the door to scheming and manipulation and then anger and frustration if you do not get ahead.
Agur writes in verse 32, “If you have been foolish, exalting yourself, or if you have been devising evil, put your hand on your mouth.” Stop talking about yourself. Stop scheming to get ahead.
I was driving my pickup truck down the interstate the other day, and a sports car raced past me—it must have been going 100 miles an hour. It made me feel like I was in the way. As the car blasted by me, I noticed the license plate read, “Nfront”—and he certainly was. It was pretty obvious that what mattered to that driver was getting ahead of everybody else. I couldn’t help but think that is the wisdom of the world—do whatever it takes to get to the front of the line.
Beloved, the wisdom of God reminds us that while we should take initiative and work hard, we are to trust the Lord for His direction, His promotion, His assignment, His placement of us where we are, and with humility learn to appreciate our creator God and His perfect wisdom in our lives.