Tag Archives: Proverbs 30

Crisis Through Agur’s Eyes

“Under three things the earth trembles,
    under four it cannot bear up:
a servant who becomes king,
    a godless fool who gets plenty to eat,
a contemptible woman who gets married,
    and a servant who displaces her mistress.”

Proverbs 30:21-23 (NIV)

I don’t believe that I can truly appreciate just how blessed I am in this world, and in this time, compared with the general state of human existence throughout history. There are daily necessities for survival that I take completely for granted like fresh water out of a tap, secure shelter, heat in the winter, air conditioning in the summer, and an abundance of food. There is also sanitation, security, safety, and health. Then there’s communication (I get to see and talk to my grandson on the other side of the world whenever I desire), transportation (I can fly through the air anywhere in the world), medicine, and the rule of law make living today easier, safer, cleaner, healthier, and more entertaining than any age in human history this side of the Garden of Eden.

In the ancient Middle East, a very high value was placed on social order. I’m not sure I can completely appreciate why it was so important. I do understand, however, that everyday life for the sage Agur (who wrote today’s chapter of wise sayings) was infinitely more tenuous than for me. His most basic needs for human survival (water, food, shelter) were never givens. If he got a virus, an infection, or had a heart attack he would die. His life expectancy was short. If there was a famine, a drought, or a flood there was no government assistance or subsidies. Agur would starve, or risk traveling to another country to beg, or his tribe might attack another tribe to plunder what they could. Life for Agur was not safe, not secure, and not easy. So, social order gave him and people of his day a sense of peace and sanity to an otherwise unpredictable existence.

Agur then speaks of “earth trembling” (think uncertainty, confusion, insecurity, and being out of control) when four things happen. The four things he lists might seem silly to us today, but they represented the social order of Agur’s world turned upside-down. They were things that brought unease, insecurity, and meant the already tenuous order of life was going to be even more out-of-sorts.

In the quiet this morning, I can’t help but find myself thinking of the “trembling” our “earth” has experienced in recent weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic. The insanely easy and secure order life I enjoy has been briefly interrupted. I am inconvenienced. I will suffer a loss of income. But, as I meditated on what life must have been like for Agur, I imagined him traveling through time and arriving as a guest in my home. I imagine the wonder in his eyes as he sees how much room we have in our house (for only two people). I picture him walking around and seeing the food in my pantry (which could probably sustain us for weeks or months), our water faucet, the sanitary plumbing in my bathroom, the countless gadgets that entertain me, the library of books on our shelves, the safety of my nation and community, the modern apothecary and medical supplies in my medicine cabinet, the bed I sleep in, and the number of clothes in my drawer. I imagine him seeing all of this and taking it all in. Then I hear his incredulous scoff at my whining and complaints of the travails of quarantines, social distancing, and how inconvenienced I’ve been for a couple of weeks.

“Crisis” is a fascinating thing to experience. I find myself being continually reminded just how often Jesus told His followers not to be afraid, not to worry, and not to be anxious. And Jesus’ life was a lot more like Agur’s than mine. I find it ironic how easy it is to step into the fear trap, no matter how safe, secure, and well-provisioned I am.

Today, I want to keep seeing my life through Agur’s eyes.

I think the perspective will do me good.

Hollywood Endings

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There are three things that are never satisfied—no, four that never say, “Enough!”: the grave,the barren womb,the thirsty desert,the blazing fire. Proverbs 30:15-16

Several years ago I watched an action movie called Ronin that centered on a group of mercenaries hired to protect and transport a metal briefcase. The team quickly learns that there are many others who are willing to expend any and all means to get their hands on that case. Plenty of Hollywood stunts, explosions, gun fights, and car chases ensue. But, here’s the kicker: you never learn what’s in the metal case!

Many people told me they hated the film, but I found it an interesting premise that touches on a theme of human existence: life is full of unanswered questions and unsatisfied longings.

We would all love for life to always have a happy Hollywood ending. Perhaps we’ve allowed Hollywood to subtly deceive us into thinking that a Hollywood ending is what we deserve and should expect. Jesus’ teaching continually painted a different picture. While promising eternal joy, He also told us to expect temporal difficulties. We don’t discover the former without experiencing the latter.

Chapter-a-Day Proverbs 30

There are three things that amaze me—
      no, four things that I don’t understand: 
      how an eagle glides through the sky,
      how a snake slithers on a rock,
      how a ship navigates the ocean,
      how a man loves a woman.
Proverbs 30:18-19 (NLT)

Tomorrow is St. Valentine’s Day, and how fitting that we run into wise King Agur’s contemplation of romantic love in today’s chapter. I don’t claim to understand it anymore than he did, and perhaps my life journey and my own plethora of questions only serve to prove that I understand it far less. Nevertheless, the ladies in my life will tell you (at the risk of losing my man card) that my heart has some pretty large soft spots. I’m a sucker for a little romance.

Scholars will tell you that the ancient Greeks had three basic words for the one English word “love.” Agape is a pure, spiritual love. Phileo is a fond, brotherly love. Eros is the love of sensual appetite. I happen to love all three varieties in life giving measure.

Today, I’m grateful for the mystery of love between a man and a woman. I’m thankful for my wife with whom I can experience a fullness of agape love, phileo love, and eros love. And, I’m looking forward to the dinner we have planned together tomorrow night 🙂

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