God’s Word for You
Proverbs 30:7-9 Ten Commandments in two questions
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, April 8, 2021
7 “Two things I ask of you.
Do not refuse them to me before I die:
8 Keep falsehood and lies far from me.
Do not give me poverty or riches,
but give me only my daily bread.
9 Otherwise, I might have too much and deny you
and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’
Or I might become poor and steal,
and dishonor the name of my God.
Here Agur begins a series of ‘numeric proverbs,’ sayings in which a numeral is used to make a point. Here the point is between the “two things,” each of the two things really being a pair in themselves. These are also the conclusion to the opening dialogue with the skeptical unbeliever, closing the argument with a prayer to keep the believer faithful by giving only what is necessary and no more.
The prayer is to God (verse 9 makes this clear) and some translations bring the name of God into verse 7, although the Hebrew has only “you” as I have translated here. By saying “Do not refuse them to me before I die,” Agur means, “Grant these things to me my whole life through.” The God of the Bible is not the god of the Deists who imagined that some god started the universe going and then left it running on a shelf. Our God gives us forgiveness, help, guidance, correction, instruction, motivation, and he provides us with everything we need.
The first item, or pair of items, is to “keep falsehood and lies from me.” This is from two directions: Keep me from speaking falsehood, and keep falsehood from being spoken to or about me. Falsehood (the word is common in Job and Psalms; see also Lamentations 2:14) is an untrue statement, especially regarding the word of God. The prayer is to keep false teaching out of the believer’s ears, and of course to keep it out of the believer’s lips. Here it is more a defensive request; that false teaching would never beguile the believer. The second word of this first pair, “lies,” is anything at all that is false, but especially those lies that damage one’s name and reputation. Agur (our speaker) is asking for a way to keep the Third, Fifth and Eighth Commandments in particular:
- The Third, by keeping the Sabbath day and the worship of God holy by true words alone and no falsehood. “His worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23).
- The Fifth, by refraining from harming anyone with words or actions. “You are brothers. Why do you want to hurt each other?” (Acts 7:26).
- The Eighth, by not giving false testimony about anyone. “The ruthless will vanish, those who with a word make a man seem to be guilty, who ensnare defenders in court and with false testimony deprive the innocent of justice” (Isaiah 29:19-20).
The second item Agur asks for is daily bread (“the bread of his due” cp. Job 23:12). He explains that he means no more and no less by saying, “Do not give me poverty or riches.” His explanation comes from a believing heart: “If I have too much, I might forget that God gives it. If I have too little, I might be tempted to steal.” His thought is that he wants to obey the First, Second, Fourth, Sixth, Seventh, Ninth and Tenth Commandments, so he asks God just to give him what he needs and no more:
- The First, by being content with God’s providence. “I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant” (Genesis 32:10).
- The Second, by honoring God’s name. “Wherever I cause my name to be honored (God says), I will come to you and bless you” (Exodus 20:24).
- The Fourth, with contentment over what our parents or government can provide for us. “God is able to make all grace abound in you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8).
- The Sixth, by being content with and thankful for the spouse God has given or the state of being single, but never disparaging the holy estate of marriage. “Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Peter?” (1 Corinthians 9:5).
- The Seventh, by not being tempted to steal. “He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need” (Ephesians 4:28).
- The Ninth and Tenth by not being tempted even to covet what one does not have. “But we have one who was tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).
When we read this proverb we will naturally think of the Lord’s Prayer and the Fourth Petition, “Give us today our daily bread.” We might remember Luther’s explanation: “Daily bread includes everything that we need for our bodily welfare, such as food and drink, clothing and shoes, house and home, land and cattle, money and goods, a godly spouse, godly children, godly workers, godly and faithful leaders, good government, good weather, peace and order, health, a good name, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.” But in these two requests, Agur has found a way to ask God to give him help in keeping all of the Ten Commandments by focusing on true words and daily bread. As Jesus pointed out to the devil, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). There we have the same truth expressed with fewer words: Bread, yes, but the true word of God even more. May we always look for ways to serve God and to learn more about him through his true and perfect word.
Pastor Timothy Smith