Wisconsin Lutheran Chapel logo

God’s Word for You

Proverbs 30:24-28 small but wise

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, April 19, 2021

24 Four things on earth are small but very wise:
25 Ants are not strong creatures,
    yet they store up their food in the summer.
26 Hyrax are not powerful creatures,
    yet they make their homes in rock.
27 Locusts have no king,
    yet they march together in rank.
28 The lizard can be caught with the hand,
    yet it is found in kings’ palaces.

All of these are little animals that do things that only very wise men can do. The point of this proverb might seem to be that if you and I want to be wise, we will do what these animals do, but this isn’t always true for everyone. Marching in ranks is learned by armies, young school children, and marching bands, but it can’t be done by other animals. Let’s keep that in mind before we apply the text.

Ants work together in everything they do, including building magnificent tunnels, but in Scripture they are praised for storing up food (see Proverbs 6:6-8). Store up your food while you can for the day when you’ll need it! “Store up for yourselves treasure in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:20).

The hyrax (Hebrew shaphan) is a small rabbit-like animal with short ears. Called the ‘coney’ in both the King James Version and the NIV, the hyrax is also called the ‘rock badger’ because of its habit of tunneling in rocky places. Agur is saying: Look at the soft little hyrax, the bunny’s bunny. Only the wealthiest and strongest kings like Solomon make their homes of stone, and yet the hyrax does it, too! Make your home strong and secure. “Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock” (Matthew 7:24-25).

When locusts move, they spontaneously divide into groups that move precisely like military columns, and yet no one is in command; they have no king. One is easily shaken off (Psalm 109:23) but ten thousand destroy a harvest (Psalm 78:45). They are used by God, obeying nothing but the instinct he provided for them. This was how the crowds behaved when they saw Jesus (Matthew 14:13; Mark 10:1).

The name of the lizard described in verse 28 (samamith) is similar to one in the list of unclean animals, the chameleon (tenasameth, Leviticus 11:30). This fits well with the context of a lizard that can be found in king’s palaces. Agur says: Kings live in kings’ palaces, together with their families. Yet because lizards are bold, they get in, too. This was a lesson that Queen Esther learned to save her people (Esther 4:11, 5:1-2).

What lesson do we learn from these creatures? They seem wise, but why? Their accomplishments make good examples. They are wise because they use the gifts God has given them. This is the lesson we should learn, and therefore this proverb falls under the heading of the third use of the law. The law’s three uses are (1) Curb, (2) Mirror, and (3) Guide. The curb of the law keeps society in check by establishing certain moral principles that almost all nations and cultures accept, resembling the second table of the Ten Commandments. Since it enforces conduct with threats, it is primarily meant for the unbelieving world. The mirror of the law shows us how we have failed with regard to God’s will. It is also based on threats, but the law as a mirror operates for the benefit of believers and unbelievers alike. The third use of the law, the law as a guide, is useless to unbelievers because it is motivated only by faith. This is the application of Scripture as a guide for Christian conduct and life based entirely on the thankfulness and abilities of the person who repents. This is why repentance and sanctified living looks different in every Christian. We all have different abilities and we all will respond in different ways, some of them slight, to the message of the gospel. Do your best to give God glory with what you do. Be prepared, build on a strong foundation, work together whenever possible, and aspire to greatness in your faith. These are lofty goals, but they please God. We want to please God out of love for Christ and his forgiveness. He shows us that we are each cherished members of God’s holy kingdom, each with the means to serve him.

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.

 

Browse Devotion Archive