A STUDY OF WISDOM FROM THE BOOK OF PROVERBS
Wisdoms Impact on Success and Leadership
Proverbs 30:21-33 SCC 1/31/16
Wisdom contributes to regularity in life based on the knowledge and understanding of how things usually work. That regularity allows for success in many endeavors in life. Wisdom contributes to wise leadership in many arenas. The combination of wise leadership increases and encourages the possibility of success in these arenas of life.
HUMILITY IS A VIRTUE ESSENTIAL TO TRUE SUCCESS IN ONES ENDEAVORS
Verse 1-6: Agur identifies himself as the son of an oracle. The word for oracle is often used of one who speaks orally but usually with the idea of giving divine revelation. More likely Agur was a student of Solomonís who taught Solomonís proverbs to other students and continued to write some of his own or some unknown sage in Solomonís day. Ithiel and Ucal are probably students or disciples he taught.
In v 2-3 he confesses that he is ignorant of Godís ways. He claims ignorance lacking understanding, wisdom, and knowledge of God. He laments that he is not one who professes to understand the Holy One. In v 4 are 4 ?ís that focus on divine acts showing absurdity for mortals thinking they can explain God and His work. In v 5 he affirms Gods word is flawless, trustworthy, and nothing deceitful in it. In v 6 is a warning not to add to Gods Word since this is our tendency.
NB: Agur sees the #1 qualification for wisdom as humility. There is no way for a man to obtain wisdom by himself without the revelation of God. There is no wisdom and no knowledge of the Holy One apart from divine revelation. We have both general revelation in nature (Romans 1 and 2) and special revelation in Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16), but we can only know about God and understand life from what He has revealed. God rebukes those who think they can know more of God than what He has revealed about Himself. In fact they are often so far off base that God calls them liars.
CONTENTMENT PROTECTS ONE FROM SUCCEEDING DISHONARABLY
Verses 7-10: Here there are two things he asks for in his life before death. The first is about honesty. He finds deception intolerable, as we should. But the main point of this section is about riches. Agur makes a significant, and unusual, point about wealth. Give me neither poverty nor riches. Most want riches but not poverty. A few, like monks in cloistered monasteries, want poverty not riches. But Agur wants neither. The reason is, either one will be a temptation to sin. In v 10 he adds that slander is a dishonorable way of getting ahead and succeeding. The slave to his master is an illustration. Slander is, by definition, a lie, and this lie will likely be discovered when the slandered one defends himself.
NB: The danger of forgetting God when we prosper is a common theme in Scripture (Deuteronomy 8:12; 31:20; Hosea 13:6). Agur adds that poverty is also a temptation to sin. When we are in want, we tend to steal. We may steal from friends, strangers, employers, or the government. When we are poor, we tend to take what another has earned and feel justified in doing so. The real problem is, when I feel justified in stealing, I profane the name of my God. Neither wealth nor poverty is sinful, but both are a temptation to be sinful. (3rd world perpetual poverty and thievery)
IT IS POSSIBLE TO SUCCEED WHEN ONE EXPLOITS OTHERS FOR AN ADVANTAGE
Society exploits for an advantage
Verse 11-14: The opening word for each of these proverbs means period of time or generation. The point is that certain periods of time or generations have certain sinful tendencies. Of course, most sin is common to all generations, but some are emphasized at certain periods in history. These sins will be especially dangerous because it will seem normal and socially acceptable to commit them.
NB: At certain times in history it seemed right to build idols, use temple prostitutes, go on crusades, exploit women, trade slaves, or use internet pornography because everybody else is doing it. The specific sins Agur mentions are: not respecting parents, self-righteousness, arrogance, and taking advantage of the afflicted. These sins are always there, yet certain generations are less sensitive to certain sins.
The family can be exploited for an advantage
Verse 15-17: Here is a child who is disrespectful to his parents; holding parents in contempt. Agur sees little hope for a son or daughter who mocks his parents (this is an older child between puberty and marriage). This child is like a leech that sucks blood from an animal. This leech of a child says to his parents ďGiveĒ, ďGiveĒ. The one who mocks a father and scorns a mother, both despise and secondary means of laughter, which in the Bible is always a mocking laughter, rather than humor laughter illustrated with an older son who is lazy, or has an addiction.
NB: He mocks his parents in that he refuses their discipline, but he keeps getting in trouble financially, or with the law. If his parents keep bailing him out, as many do, the son will eventually drain them of all their assets and leave them with nothing. The punishment is talionicóthe eye that mocks will be pecked out by the birds. Stern punishment can be expected.
ITS NECESSARY TO ACKNOWLEDGE GODS WAY TO PREVENT FAILURE AND SIN
Verses 18-19: Many things in nature are amazing but incomprehensible. This proverb is all about the last phrase the way of a man with a maid. Agurís point is that we cannot completely understand any of these things or trace their step with any understanding. The course of romance is as untraceable as the way of an eagle in the sky. A young man will do things for his girlfriend, which makes no reasonable sense in any other situation. Encountering intimate love is mysterious and incomprehensible. No one can explain the way of a man with a maid. All of it part of Godís marvelous plan for his creation.
Verse 20: Incomprehensible, too, is how human nature distorts and ruins intimate love. Here it is not the manís way with a woman but an immoral womanís way with men.† The point is the adulterous woman has warped her conscience to the extent that she no longer feels guilt for adultery. It is as common to her as eating. She justifies it by ignoring the commandments of God.
NB: So she, as with most perpetual sinners, is not defining good as obedience to God but as what she determines for herself to be in her own best interest. When we decide for ourselves what is good and evil, instead of defining good and evil as obedience or disobedience to God, we will end up perverting our conscience into justifying sin.
SUCCESS IN LIFE IS NOT MEASURED BY STATUS OR STRENGTH OR PRIDE
Status is no guarantee of success
Verses 21-23: Certain people who are suddenly elevated in their status in life can be unbearable creating a social earthquake. The reason is this is not the normal result of cause and effect. This violates the law of sowing and reaping in the area of social preparation. For whatever reason a slave has become a slave, he is not prepared to be a king. The fool sows seeds, which lead to hunger not being satisfied with food. The unloved woman who is marriedóGod never wants to see a wife unloved. The maiden who is in competition with a mistress but finally supplants her. These tensions cause upheavals in the proper order of things making life intolerable.
NB: When unprepared people are, for some odd reason, thrust into a role they are not equipped for, then things happen which disrupt the normal social order. And when order reverts to chaos, then wisdom is lost. Many people who win a large lottery are fools because itís primarily fools who play the lottery. Before long, most of them are bankrupt, in debt, or in some other desperate financial condition. The advantage of capitalism is most financial positions are earned. Even a democracy can elect one unprepared to hold a high political office.
Strength to succeed is more than physical
Verses 24-28: Agur notices four small but wise creatures: the ants, the rock badgers, the locusts, and the lizards. The point is size and outward strength do not necessarily result in wisdom. Wisdom comes to those who are hardworking like ants, shrewd like rock badgers, persistent like locusts, and clever like lizards.
NB: Wisdom includes forethought and organization, provision and ingenuity. Two ideas emerge from these illustrations; First, physical limitations may be compensated for in other ways and second, since God protects and provides for even the humblest and lowest of His creatures.
Pride can hinder and not help one succeed
Verses 29-31: The three creatures and the king represent those who lead wisely. The real point is the last phrase that the wise king will make sure his army is with him. Agur is telling us that a wise leader does not just go strutting about insensitive to those around him (as a lion rooster or goat might do). A wise king will make sure his soldiers are taking ownership of their cause in such a way that they want to follow the king. In Godís order some creatures are small and in humble positions while others are more prominent in some ways.
DONíT TRY TO SUCCEED BY PROVOKING PEOPLE TO COMPLY
Verses 32-33: Anything we do to provoke anger in others will end as strife for ourselves. So, Agur says, put your hand on your mouth. Shut up about it. Stop exalting yourself. Stop defending yourself. Because what you are doing when you are defending yourself is exalting yourself. You canít win an argument. The reason you can never win is that you are always guilty of something.
NB: Jesus said: Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way, so that your opponent may not hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. Truly I say to you, you will not come out of there until you have paid up the last cent (Matthew 5:25-26). So, never go to court if you can help it because you arenít perfect, and neither is the court system. In addition to that, you will be in a position of pride, defending yourself in a matter, which will only result in the churning of anger, which produces strife. Strive for peace and harmony through humility and righteousness.