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Agur ben Jakeh says, or more compilations of wisdom

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Read Proverbs 30:1-14

We begin this chapter a little differently; somewhat unsure as to whether Agur ben Jakeh was a foreigner who had come to know the ways of the one true God or a literary persona that permitted Solomon or another author to exercise some literary liberties in this chapter.

One label that might be applied to Agur is “The Compiler.”

For certain, we move from pairings to another literary form.

The sayings of Agur son of Jakeh—an inspired utterance.

This man’s utterance to Ithiel:

“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.
Who has gone up to heaven and come down?

Whose hands have gathered up the wind?
Who has wrapped up the waters in a cloak?

Who has established all the ends of the earth?
What is his name, and what is the name of his son?

Surely you know!

If this is truly in the first person and an account of Agur, then he is saying that he was truly lost and exhausted before he came to know the Lord.

If this is a literary tool, then it gives the fool a chance to question his disposition in life and perhaps find the way to the Lord and to wisdom.

In either case, this introduction concludes with some riddles. The answer to these questions is obviously God; however, part of this riddle could not be answered by any man of Old Testament times.

The name of the Son would not be revealed until an angel appeared to Mary.

But Agur moves quickly from his introduction into wisdom.

Every word of God is flawless;
he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.
Do not add to his words,

or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.

The word of God comes to us via the mouths and hands of flawed men and women; yet it arrives without defect.

It comes to us without defect. That should cause us to shout halleluiah every time we consider how miraculous this is.

What has been entrusted to man that he has not fouled or polluted or corrupted somehow?

Our language, our water, our air, our thoughts, and even our very lives are followed by a trail of pollution.

You don’t believe me?

Measure how much goes into the trash that goes out to the road once a week that eventually fills up a landfill.

Look at the smoke and smog that comes out of our factories and our cars and trucks.

Humankind leaves quite a footprint everywhere it goes.

I make this point not to say that we should stop living and working and driving and taking out the trash. I use this point to illustrate that as people we have a tendency to pollute something every time we accomplish something. There is always a little pollution in our accomplishments.

The exception is God’s word. Somehow, some way it has survived with great fidelity through the ages.

People are full of flaws, but flawed people through the ages have continued to pass on from generation to generation, from language to language, and from culture to culture the flawless word of God.

The second half of this dose of wisdom says don’t add to God’s word.

This doesn’t mean don’t discuss it. We know that we should talk about God’s word all the time. It doesn’t mean don’t try to translate it into modern application. We know the word is living and active.

It means what it literally says. Don’t add to it. Agur might have been wise to have added a footnote that read, “This will be especially applicable to the Pharisees and the 21st century church.”

The Pharisees heaped burdens on the backs of men by adding to God’s law. Our modern day churches seem compelled to look for reasons to disqualify those who come seeking God.

God’s word is without defect. Let us be people of God’s word. Today’s world has enough modern Pharisees. Let’s be faithful to what God is telling us.

Agur continues.

Two things I ask of you, Lord;
do not refuse me before I die:
Keep falsehood and lies far from me;

give me neither poverty nor riches,
but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you

and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’
Or I may become poor and steal,

and so dishonor the name of my God.

This is a somewhat selfish request. It may appear to be the epitome of humility, but it is the request of one who is not yet mature in his faith.

The request is for God not to challenge us.

Living day to day relying on God’s daily provision is wise, but we are called to be blessed so that we may be a blessing.

We have seen many people who live in poverty and many who have far more than they need and both groups have a tendency to fall away from the ways of the Lord.

We are called to use all of our gifts, talents, and abilities to produce a good return for our Master. We should desire that God trust us with a little more each day or at least each year.

We want to bring glory to God by what we do.

Agur’s request is something of a child’s prayer.

Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep,

If I shall die before I wake,

I pray the Lord my soul to take. Amen.

Agur is saying, this prayer is all about me.

Contrast this to the request that we as Christians make on a repeated basis: “Thy will be done.” This is also coupled with a request for our daily bread, but it does not ask God to restrict how he will use us, challenge us, or give us avenues to grow.

This is not to say that Agur’s request was wrong. It just does not have the maturity that we who know Christ should have in our requests.

Now back to a little wisdom in the imperative mood.

Do not slander a servant to their master,
or they will curse you, and you will pay for it.

This is counsel to us not to misuse our position when dealing with those of a lesser social status. The servant was often regarded more as property than a person and so due care was required to ensure that one did not maliciously malign a servant. The servant may not be afforded his day in court, but God will dispense justice in the matter.

We don’t even have the mindset to understand servants and slaves in our modern western society, but we do understand using position and status with and without regard for someone in a lesser position.

We are counseled not to abuse our status or position.

The final set of verses could have been written just for our time. There are, of course, applicable to all eras.

There are those who curse their fathers
and do not bless their mothers;

those who are pure in their own eyes
and yet are not cleansed of their filth;

those whose eyes are ever so haughty,
whose glances are so disdainful;

those whose teeth are swords
and whose jaws are set with knives

to devour the poor from the earth
and the needy from among mankind.

Agur is not just saying that there are people like this; he is saying that his generation is afflicted by the ungodly. In fact, from now until Christ comes again, we will live in a world that does not revere God. We are so much different when it comes to living amidst the wicked of the world.

Paul revealed something similar to Timothy.

People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love…read more.

Peter called us strangers or aliens in the world. He was talking to Christians, but even centuries earlier; God’s people were set apart as different from everyone else in the world.

Agur should know, for surely he spent much of his life as a friend to the world and a stranger to God. He is blessed to have come out of his former situation into the wisdom of God.

We are blessed that he decided to share this wisdom with all posterity.

Amen.

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