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God’s Word for You

Proverbs 30:18-19 too amazing for me

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, April 14, 2021

18 “Three things are too amazing for me; four that I do not understand: 19 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 girl.”

The first three of these four examples are events that follow an unpredictable or undetectable path. The first two are paths taken by animals, one the most majestic of creatures and the other, the most reviled of creatures.

The soaring bird of prey is the nesher, one of the unclean birds (Leviticus 11:13). In yesterday’s verse (Proverbs 30:17) I translated it “vulture,” but it often refers to any soaring, carrion-eating bird of prey. The path of such a bird in the sky is unpredictable, and once such a majestic creature has passed by, does it leave any footprints in the sky, in the clouds, or on the currents of the air?

The cursed serpent (Genesis 3:14) does indeed leave a mark in the dirt or sand as it moves along, but on a rock? And as it maneuvers itself along, who knows what its next slithering undulation will look like? It is unpredictable. Perhaps even the serpent itself could not reproduce its precise maneuver over the same terrain twice.

The second amazing pair consists of human efforts. The first is one of the greatest discoveries of mankind, the sailing ship. Using innovation, mathematics, engineering, knowledge of physics, trigonometry, woodworking and fabric skills, man has been able to harness two different elements, wind and water, and use them in balance together or even against one another to propel himself across the sea. While he walked among us, the Lord delighted to use this human innovation, and even used a ship as a pulpit (Luke 5:3). But while a ship may leave a wake, the path is quickly erased by wave and by tide. The same ship can pass along the same shoreline twice in a day and not take precisely the same route.

The way of a man with a virgin girl, that is to say, the romance of first love, is impossible to predict. Not every girl will be like Rebekah, willing to marry a man she has never met simply based on their shared faith and evidence of financial security, saying “I will go” (Genesis 24:58). With many girls there is the added hope that there will be love at first sight. Maybe this happened for, of all people, Rebekah, who “fell off her camel” as soon as she saw Isaac (Genesis 24:64, and note that nafal usually means to “fall,” not “dismount”), who may have been in an embarrassing position himself (compare Genesis 24:63 and Judges 3:24). Did she fall in love the moment she saw him? Is that also what happened for Adam and Eve (Genesis 2:22)? Who is to say how a girl will react when a young man offers his heart to her? She may scorn him, she may prefer his best friend. Maybe she will be repulsed by him. Maybe one day she will say no and the next day she will think, maybe yes. Even she cannot tell what will transpire. With a husband and wife, it’s very different. A husband’s glance and a wife’s smile tells the whole story between the two, and their love is blessed by God because it’s within their marriage. There is nothing sinful or dirty about the love, sex, companionship, and physical joy within a marriage. Marriage is the proper vessel for that part of human life, just as old age is the vessel for wisdom, youth is the vessel for constant play, and so on. The proverb simply says that the “how” of romance, the moment of mutual attraction that will lead to marriage and lifelong love and happiness, is a mystery.

This passage preaches law and gospel. It preaches law by shining the spotlight on the mystery of God’s creation, and by reminding us that even man’s greatest inventions are subject to nature, to mistakes, and to God’s will. It preaches the gospel, because God’s love for man is a mystery to man. I can’t say why God loves me, but I know that he does. God’s love for me, boundless and infinite, shows itself most clearly on the cross of Jesus Christ. Jesus died to rescue me from my sins. He didn’t do it because of anything lovable in me. I can’t explain it any more than I can tell you why a snake’s body goes this way or that way, why an eagle’s flight zooms this way or slips down that way at any given moment, or that a ship’s brow will breast one wave to the right and the next one to the left. What I can see is the result: The serpent arrives, the ship arrives, the eagle arrives, and the lover marries. And God rescues: the joy is in the one God has rescued. It’s me, and it’s you.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith

About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.


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