In THE FIVE CHAPTERS now completed are proverbs of Solomon copied out by Hezekiah's servants. The last two chapters show a distinct change in character, both being called "prophecies," and written by two different writers. The number five is plainly characteristic of the book of Proverbs, being the number of man's responsibility and of the government of God; and hence chapter 29, the fifth section of this series, has emphasized this over-ruling government and its results in such a way that it should secure the utter subjection of every reader.
But even the book of Proverbs must not end here. If the book is largely moralizing, it has much greater ends than this; and these last chapters are necessary to bring a satisfying completeness from the instruction of the book, - seven as we know being the number of perfection, completeness, rest. They are certainly proverbial in character, yet being prophecies, they are a communication of the mind of God, first as regards His exposing and overcoming all the workings of evil (ch.30); and secondly in the fulness of grace given of His hand to produce abundant blessing and fruitfulness in the subject heart (ch. 31 ).
It cannot but be observed how wonderfully full and satisfying is the conclusion of this book in contrast to that of Ecclesiastes. For as regards proper numerical order, Proverbs is the fifth and last of the poetic books while Ecclesiastes is the fourth.
But it is amazing to consider that in a book written by the wisest of men a book of highest wisdom, this one chapter should be inserted, written by another man, a man unknown. who confesses himself more brutish and ignorant than any man! Is this not intended to teach us, after the clearest possible declaration of principles of moral wisdom, that in reality this wisdom is beyond the ability man can find in himself to follow it? Even Solomon himself badly failed in keeping his own advice. And the honest confession of man's ignorance of God is the only basis upon which he can expect God to give him the wisdom he lacks. Consequently this very confession of ignorance is wisdom, and Agur in some respects shows more wisdom than Solomon in this chapter. Being a sixth section of this series, it is a plain manifestation of what man is, his frailty, his ignorance, his sinfulness; while God's victory is beautifully implied in the latter part of the chapter.
"The words of Agur, the son of Jakeh, even the prophecy: the man .spoke unto Ithiel, even unto Ithiel and Ural."
Whoever Agur may he, he refers to himself only as "the man." and his description of himself is humbling. Yet his name means "gathered," and he is the son of Jakeh. which means "he shall be cleared." If the chapter is the very exposure of man in his vanity. yet do these names not imply that God's grace can clear the guilty. and gather those whose disorder has scattered them? Moreover the prophecy is spoken to Ithiel, which means, "With me is God," and to Ucal, meaning "I shall be enabled." Thus, where man is manifested in his helplessness, the promise of blessing is present, in the living God.
"Surely I am more brutish than any man, and have not the understanding of a man. I neither learned wisdom, nor have the knowledge of the holy."
We must not in any way think of this as put-on humility. There can be no doubt the man means it when he so speaks. When he considers things that are holy, things that are high, and outside the realm of human observation, he is profoundly impressed with his own ignorance, and feels deeply that his intelligence is not that of normal manhood. We must not suppose that Agur was by any means an imbecile according to the standards of ordinary society, but that in relation to spiritual understanding, he was brought to declare the same sentiments as Asaph in Psalm 73:22. "So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast before Thee." Sad to say, this is really the condition of mankind generally, but few realize it; and he who does realize it feels it so intensely personally that he appears in his own eyes more ignorant than all others. It is a similar principle when Paul speaks of himself as the chief of sinners. Indeed, this is the very real evidence of the working of the Spirit of God in a man's soul to show him in what darkness he has been.
He speaks of not having learned wisdom. Thus human education had not given him wisdom in Divine things. Nor did he have the knowledge of the holy: this was not either a matter of human intuition. Yet, in what follows, the wisdom of Agur's words is most remarkable. But it is higher than human: it is a revelation from God, who uses this instrument in declaring things most valuable in regard to the blessing of souls. Indeed, in all cases, such instruments are those He can most effectively use.
"Who hath ascended up into heaven, or descended? Who hath gathered the wind in his fists? Who hath bound the waters in a garment? Who hath established all the ends of the earth? What is His Name, and what is His San's Name, if thou canst tell?"
Is this verse not intended to show the complete ignorance of man apart from a revelation from God? It is indisputable that the heavens are there - above us, - and they have drawn the interest of man from time immemorial; but who has ascended there to fathom its mysteries? or who has descended to reveal its mysteries? While man's excursion to the moon shows his thirst for this knowledge, yet he knows he has barely touched the fringes of space: to ascend to heaven is how different a matter! There is a realm of things transcendently beyond him, and he knows it.
But coming lower than space, who controls the invisible wind in fists of awesome strength? Certainly man does not. Or who binds the water within bounds, water which by its very nature is unbound, unstable, the seas the very symbol of unrestrained lawlessness? Or who has given the solid earth its stability? In these three, all that is observable around us is comprehended, atmospheric, liquid, or solid. What real control does man have over these? Yet who can deny they are controlled? Let atheism, or science, or philosophy tell us, what is the name of this great Controller, and what is His Son's Name? But human investigation is impossible here: intellect, intuition, education must confess in this their hopeless inability to supply an answer.
How wonderful then is the suitability of verse 5 at this point,
"Every word of God is pure: He is a shield Unto them that put their trust in Him."
Revelation is the only answer. In order to be known, the Creator must reveal Himself. Simple, honest reasoning should lead anyone to this conclusion. His Word is this revelation, and it is of course absolutely pure in every part of it. It is not a mixture, but preserved totally free from adulteration. Only they who trust it are shielded from falsehood. Faith, not intellect therefore, is the principle that receives this revelation. Unbelief is really stupidity here, for any honest consideration must come to the conclusion that if a revelation of God is made, the only possible right attitude on man's part is to believe it. And the God who reveals Himself is the Shield of all who put their trust in Him. How simple, and how wonderful.
"Add thou not unto His words, lest He reprove thee, and thou he found a liar."
Any revelation of God. Since it is a revelation, must be precisely and absolutely accurate as He gives it. No thought of man must be allowed to intrude in the slightest degree, or it could not be a revelation of God. If man attempts this, as many have dared to do, he is exposing himself to the solemn rebuke of God, and will be exposed as a liar. Dreadful condemnation! These first six verses then show God as Sovereign.
"Two things have I required of Thee; deny me them not before I die: Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches: feed me with food convenient for me: Lest I be full, and deny) Thee, and say, Who is the Lord? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the Name of my God in vain."
The dependent spirit of a creature of God is seen in its simplicity here. Conscience is in true exercise, and a discerning distrust of the flesh. First, vanity is the very realm in which the entire world moves. Living only for the present, man has no substance that he can really grasp as his own: the objects of his labor and desire are but beautifully adorned bubbles, empty and ready to burst. It is simply "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life"; and devoid of all substantial, eternal reality. "Lies" are added in connection with this, for these too have far too strong influence in all of society, and only a true dependence upon God in prayer will preserve the child of God from either vanity or lies. Let us echo such a prayer as this from earnest lips, that such things should be far removed from us.
But he prays also that God would supply him with necessities, but allow him neither poverty nor riches. Agur has spoken of his ignorance, but certainly this prayer is far wiser than what generally characterizes men. He knows the serious dangers of wealth, wherein men too often trust, and in doing so, show little regard for the God who has blessed them. Even Solomon, with all his wisdom, proved to be unequal to the trust committed to him in the way of riches and honor. He used it to allow his own heart to he led astray.
On the other hand, poverty too is not good. This has no doubt been occasioned by sin, and many nations of the world today suffer because they have chosen a path of self-will rather than bowing to the Lord Jesus Christ. The answer here again is a true, real faith that trusts the Living God. And this is expressed in this beautiful and honest prayer. The danger of stealing and taking God's Name in vain he recognizes, and will not trust himself, but his trust is in God. If men steal to satisfy their hunger they often use God's Name as justifying this, but this is false, an outrage against that Name. We may easily understand a man's feelings in his stealing in such a case; but honest prayer to God would result in a righteous answer, however hopeless the condition seemed to be. Can we not be absolutely certain that a prayer like this will be definitely answered? It is manifestly a prayer of faith.
"Accuse not a servant to his master, lest he curse thee, and thou be found a liar."
The previous verses have evidenced the true character of a servant. Yet, even when faithful, a servant may be criticized severely by others, and this is specially so in the case of a servant of God. Romans 14:4 solemnly warns us, "Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, God is able to make him stand." It is the master to whom the servant must answer, and any unbecoming interference in this case may actually merit the curse of the master, with the real guilt found to be in the accuser. How sobering a reminder for us, if we should be at all given to a critical attitude.
This irresponsibility is seen to be further developed in the following verses.
"There is a generation that curseth their father, and doth not bless their mother."
All society knows that this generation is today rather formidable in its size, yet the horror of it is little considered. A brazen, critical spirit will not stop short of contempt even for parents.
"There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness."
Side by side with the harsh denunciation of others including parents, goes this haughty self-justification, a proud hypocrisy that trusts self and yet is transparently filthy and untrustworthy.
"There is a generation, O how lofty are their eyes! and their eyelids are lifted up."
This goes further than simply self-righteousness, for it is not only the case of those considering themselves pure when they are not, but rather of those who proudly consider themselves superior to everyone else. All man-devised religions have this character and produce such effects in their deluded followers. It is merely the worship of self in the final analysis.
"There is a generation, whose teeth are as 'swords', and their jaw teeth as knives, to devour the poor from off the earth, and the needy from among men." Thus the heart of the ungodly is clearly and unmistakably manifested. Pride is not content to be merely proud, but will express itself in cruelty toward those who cannot defend themselves, and by this means asserts its superiority, attempting to force others to bow in servile fear. This section then, from verse 10 to 14, is the third, manifesting the heart of man as in the light of God's presence.
The fourth section now continues to the end of verse 23, showing man's ways proving his weakness and failure.
"The leech hath two daughters: Give, give. There are three things never satisfied four which, say not, 'It is enough: Sheol, and the barren womb; the earth which is not filled with water, and the fire which saith not, It is enough" (New Trans.).
Is there not here the implied lesson that man by nature resembles a leech, a parasite, always ready to draw from a supply not really his own? So Israel in the wilderness, having been shown wonderful grace from God, only responded with continual dissatisfaction and murmuring. "Give, give" was her language, with little spirit of thankfulness.
But if this is man's character, he ought to be interested in considering seriously the four things that never say "It is enough." "Sheol" is the unseen state of the soul and spirit when death separates them from the body. Relentlessly, without respite, this dreaded king of terrors takes its victims one by one. Let man therefore be stopped in his tracks of material self-seeking, to consider that he too may very soon be claimed by death and the unseen.
Next is "the barren womb." Like Hannah, any wife who has a mother's heart cries out with a longing that can be satisfied only with the birth of a child. The spiritual lesson here is of utmost value. Our hearts are so constituted that if we do not hear true fruit for God we shall not enjoy true satisfaction. And fruit is borne only through the heart submissive to the operation of the Spirit of God. This is another important consideration.
Next, "the earth that is not filled with water." A dry land thirsts for water, and seems never to be filled. Man's soul too is so constituted as to thirst, and only the living water of the Word of God can meet such thirst. The believer is therefore likened to "the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it," and "receiveth blessing from God" (Heb. 6:7). But without this there can be no satisfaction.
Finally, "and the fire that saith not, It is enough." The devouring fire will rage so long as it can find an object to fasten upon. For instance, lack of rain will leave the forests tinder dry, and the awesome, relentless fire, when once it begins, will have pity upon nothing. Similarly, let man refuse the precious water of God's Word, and become like a dry and withered tree, how can he escape the fire of the judgment of God? Awful are the words describing the eternal torment of hell, "where the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched" (Mark 9:44). It is time now to seek true satisfaction, not to wait until all hope of it is impossible.
"The eye that mocketh at his father, and despiseth to obey his mother, the ravens of the valley shall pick it out, and the young eagles shall eat it."
The eve is that by which true knowledge is discerned, but it may be used in contempt of its Maker and of the authority committed by its Maker to parents: this is gross abuse. If fire speaks of the direct judgment of God, the ravens and eagles speak rather of God's judgment providentially carried out by unclean agents. How dreadful to be thus reduced to a state of painful blindness and the misery of spiritual destitution! It is a judicial blindness which man, through haughty self-will, brings on himself, though it may be accomplished by means of others who are as unclean and ravenous as ravens and eagles.
"There be three things which are too wonderful for me, yea, four which I know not: The way of an eagle in the air; the way of a serpent upon a rock; the way of a ship in the midst of the sea; and the way of a man with a maid."
All of these have in common the fact that there is no set pattern: their maneuvers are unpredictable. Is not all of this a reflection of the way of mankind in his being tested in his little time here? "The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked: who can know it?"
The realms of the air, the land, and the sea are again observed here, before "the way of a man" is spoken of. The first sphere, mysterious and wonderful, provides no visible support for the eagle, yet it soars high into the heavens, dives and climbs, spirals and floats in a manner that awakens the wonder of every interested observer. Yet all the while the eagle may be watching for a victim, upon which he falls with sudden swiftness from the sky. What a picture of the judgment of God, ready to fall upon the world, by whatever means it may please Him. Let man consider!
The rock on the other hand is solid, a type of Christ as the eternal God, the stable Rock of Ages. The serpent of course makes no impression on the rock, yet there its sinuous, twisting, unobjective, unreasoning character is displayed. What is all Satan's activity in comparison to the blessed Rock of Ages? Does it not cause us to marvel when we consider the cunning, crooked ways of the evil one in malice against the Lord Jesus, and yet with no real. sensible objective? How tragic too that multitudes of mankind follow the same tortuous course, as though lost in a hopeless maze, at the very time that salvation in Christ is near them if they would only receive Him.
But the sea is the very picture of instability, a type of the nations in a state of constant unrest and turmoil. A ship may surmount the waves, though greatly affected by them. Of course he is thinking of a small sailing ship, tossed in every direction, hardly seen to be making progress toward a definite end. In Matthew 14, the ship is the picture of the hope of Israel, tossed with the waves of Gentile opposition (v. 24); and similarly in Mark 4:37. All seems hopeless until the Lord Jesus takes control, - walking on the sea in the first case, and on entering the ship causing the wind to cease, bringing them safely to land: and in the other case speaking to the sea, "Peace, be still." Do we not also today marvel at Israel's pre-carious state of being tossed and threatened by the angry nations, yet still surmounting the waves, upheld as though by an invisible hand? Yet only the coming of the Lord Jesus will quieten the waves, and bring Israel's ship to shore.
But more than this, even "the way of a man with a maid" is beyond Agur's knowledge. Psychologists may attempt to explain the motives and reasoning behind men's actions, but at best these are only guesses: true wisdom will acknowledge that here is something beyond its ability to explain. Indeed, man does not know his own heart sufficiently to honestly explain the reasons for his actions. Only God knows accurately the thoughts, motives, reasonings of man that give occasion to his strange ways. Where a man's heart is involved, it is useless to expect that cool, calculating wisdom will dictate his actions, and he will be no more able to explain than is a child who is asked why he has done a senseless thing. The attempt to analyze motives will never lead to a proper conclusion: how much better to leave these things as matters of wonder, not to be explained by human wisdom. Since we cannot be trusted even to rightly interpret our own motives, how much less can we be trusted in reference to motives of others!
But underlying this also is the more amazing marvel of the love of Christ for His bride, the church. Can we by human reason understand His marvelous ways of love and grace, in giving Himself for so unworthy an object, in nourishing and cherishing her in tenderest concern, sanctifying and cleansing her, with the washing of water by the Word, with a view to presenting her to Himself:' ( Eph. 5:25-29 ). We shall never fathom all that is involved in this: but it will engage our wondering adoration for eternity. The verse following is in sad contrast to this, and contemplates the falsehood of an unfaithful wife.
"Such is the way of an adulterous woman; she eateth, and wipeth her mouth, and saith, I have done no wickedness."
A corrupt nature is so corrupt that it is insensible to its corruption. It will satisfy its own lusts ("eat"), wipe away the evidences of it, and justify itself. Indeed, man can go to the grossest excesses of evil, and still insist there is nothing really wrong in what he does. And yet only an honest confession of his guilt would make him a candidate for the forgiving grace of God. But Israel has been an unfaithful wife, and the false church is of course glaringly guilty of this corruption.
"For three things the earth is disquieted, and for four which it cannot bear: For a servant when he reigneth: and a fool when he is filled with meat: For an odious woman when she is married: and an handmaid that is heir to her mistress."
If in verses 15 to 17 we have seen no satisfaction, and in verses 18 to 20, no explanation, in these verses is the evident lesson of no rest. What a picture of the world do these three portray! But in the last of the three, the four features mentioned have in common the fact that proper order is upset, and all is thrown out of balance. If so, rest is impossible.
The rule of a servant will generally be intolerable: he is likely to be puffed up with pride that glories in his authority, with a resulting misrule and oppression. But to apply this in the fullest proper sense, all men are actually servants: to God alone belongs the place of reigning. Every king of Judah and of Israel has proven the inability of man to reign properly: all were failures in the end. They could not bring rest to their nation. And the earth has been continually disquieted through all the reigns of men. Only the reign of the Lord Jesus Christ will answer this state of unrest and agitation.
But if first we have seen the rule of the wrong person, next is the prosperity of the wrong person. To see the wicked prosper was a painful distress to the Psalmist (Psa. 73:3-9). Yet it is common. The fool, leaving God out of his reckoning, is a base materialist, and when satiated with all he wants (filled with meat), he is characterized by pride, violence, corruption, wickedness, oppression, and brazen speaking against God (Psa. 73: 6-9 ). Here is another cause for endless disquietude in the world. But faith looks further on, and with Asaph says, "Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end" (Psa. 73:17). When such men are reduced to utter desolation and eternal poverty, those who hunger and thirst after righteousness shall be eternally "filled." But meanwhile we know that disorder possesses the world.
Thirdly, is the case of a wrong person united in relationship to another. Marriage is sacred, a bond of which God is the author. "An odious woman," one whose character is revolting and untrustworthy, only adds brazen hypocrisy to her many sins in being married. In every way she is a contrast to the "virtuous woman" of chapter 31:10. But here again is a too prevalent condition in the world today, that of corruption of the holy relationships established by God.
The fourth case is that of the wrong person receiving honor. The handmaid here is one who disposes her mistress, as the Hebrew word for "heir" implies. Using subtle feminine charm she may be able to supplant her mistress in the affections of her husband. Thus her position is used for treachery. This is the most revolting of all these evils and yet who will correct it? In Christendom too a mere servant for hire, a professed law-keeper. will attempt to steal the place of the soul who stands solely upon the pure grace of God. But only those who stand in this relationship of pure grace before God are "heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ." Gehazi is an example of the treachery of a hired servant, who knows nothing of grace (2 Kings 5:20-27). But their number is all too great. These three verses then are a faithful summary of the reasons for the world's unrest. And they are common things, which no legislation or education can change, for they spring from the natural sinful condition of man's heart.
The fifth section of the chapter (vvs. 24-28) is a much brighter picture, for, following as it does the subject of man's ways in weakness and failure, it speaks of the exercise of the soul as under responsibility. In this case there will he progress, for it will bring God into the scene, - God with man enabling him for his responsibilities. Each of the four cases in this section illustrates that in spite of creature limitation, there is blessing to be found. As it is God Himself who communicates to the ants, conies, locusts, and spiders (or lizards) such fine instincts as they express, and is Himself their preserver, so this is intended as direct teaching to the same end in relation to man.
"There be four things that are little upon the earth, but they are exceeding wise: the ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their meat in the summer; The conies are but a feeble folk, yet make they their houses in the rocks; The locusts have no king, yet go they forth all of them by bands; The spider taketh hold with her hands, and is in king's palaces."
The ant's weakness is not made an excuse for laxity. Diligently they labor to prepare food for winter. Let us, too, have wisdom in our brief span of life on earth, to prepare for eternity. It is the fool who ignores this, while amassing "much goods" "for many years," - years on earth which he may not see at all (Luke 12:16-21). The ant rightly lives only for earth, and prepares for the only future she will have: man's preparation only for earth is folly, for his earthly future is nothing compared to the eternity he must face. But the ant is intended to teach wisdom in diligence, and to reprove laziness. "Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways and be wise" (Prov. 6:6).
The cony of verse 26 is evidently rightly the hyrax, a small, defenseless animal of the marmot type, not of the rabbit family, and not fitted to burrow, but dependent upon the holes and clefts of the rock for its protection. If its condition is extremely feeble, yet its position is strong. How apt a picture of the sinner saved by the grace of God. Weak as water himself, yet "in Christ" he has an impregnable position: "that Rock was Christ" (1 Cor. 10:4). The weakness of the little creature does not discourage him, but drives him to the safety of a strong refuge. So that if the ant teaches preparation, the cony as clearly teaches preservation or security.
But the locusts are marvelous in the fact of their spontaneous unity and order. What a lesson for the church of God! They require no king, no great intellectual leader, who is an expert organizer; yet the order of their camp is more precise, more thoroughly unified than the world's most carefully organized army. It is God who has given them this wise instinct. Alone, the little locust is virtually helpless: in bands they are practically invincible. How earnestly the responsibility of such unity and order is pressed upon the church of God in the New Testament epistles! Christ, the Head of the body, the church, is in Glory today, the only Head. But if He is not seen, is He any less capable of directing His saints in godly unity? It is all saints who are exhorted to "walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love: endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Eph. 4:1-3)
The power for unity is the unseen Spirit of God. The exercise of honest faith in every member of the body of Christ will result in an order beautiful as it is real. But the locust surely rebukes the shame of our many sad divisions, as well as rebuking the painful unbelief of man's organization, the introduction into the church of human authority, clergy, church boards, denominational distinctions, which ruins all unity, rather than securing it. Let us notice too that verse 26 speaks of taking refuge in the rock, while verse 27 is rather the "going forth," carrying the battle into the enemies' country. Defense is surely necessary but we must learn to have proper offensive character also, and true unity is a wonderful strength for this.
Translators agree that the spider of verse 28 is actually the lizard, a small creature called the gekko, quite common in Israel. It seems to have a peculiar preference for luxurious buildings, and its feet are equipped with cup-like toes that produce an adhesive substance by which they can cling in any position to the smoothest surfaces, and are not easily dislodged. How precious a lesson of the hold dependence of faith that is satisfied with nothing less than dwelling in the house of the Lord, taking hold of the proper privileges and blessings that rightly belong by grace to the redeemed child of God. As Joshua was told, "Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you" (Josh. 1:3), so the child of God is encouraged to possess those possessions that the grace of God has provided for him. His true place is as "raised up together and seated together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 2:6), and this is where his proper blessings are also: "blessed... with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ" (Eph. 1:3). Let us then, like the lizard, take hold in the King's palace and take hold of every blessing He provides.
Verse 29 now introduces the sixth (and last) section of the chapter. If man will not learn through the exercise of God's governmental dealings, taking to heart the wisdom taught even by the smallest creatures, still God will triumph. And this sixth section indicates that God will curb and overcome the restless will of man. How good to know this! How good for our own souls that it is so!
"There are three things that have a stately step, and four are comely in going: The lion, mighty among beasts, which turneth not away for any; a (horse) girt in the loins; or the he goat; and a king, against whom none can rise up" (New Trans.).
These are all in contrast to the feeble creatures we have just considered; and they tell us of power, speed, ability, and authority that is greater than that of man in the flesh. But how beautifully and perfectly do we see all these characteristics in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Great Overcomer. He is "the Lion of the tribe of Judah," strong beyond all others, Whose blessed moral courage is so displayed in His going straight on to the cross, not turning away for any, whether scribes, Pharisees, Pilate, Herod, or Satan: He could meet them all, and overcome them in death itself.
The second animal here is not actually named in the original, but perhaps refers to any animal "girt in the loins" that is having loins built for speed, evidently. The Lord Jesus too "girded himself," the more effectively and promptly to serve. And in Revelation He is girt for the solemn service of judgment. Who can compare with Him in the promptitude and swiftness of His judgment of evil, and overcoming of man's will? His coming will be as the lightning.
"An he goat also" would remind us of the graceful ease of His surmounting every obstacle, as the he goat leaps from crag to crag, and conquers the highest places above the level of man's abode. God leaves nothing that is not put under His feet (Heb. 2:8). Here is ability above and beyond mere mankind, but in One Who is yet Himself true Man, the Man from Heaven.
The dignity of perfect authority is last of all taught us in the king against whom none can rise up. There have been some in whom this character has been comparatively outstanding in history, yet only in our Lord will it be perfectly displayed in the Day of His glory soon to come. Not that mere force accomplishes this, but the power of love, of moral dignity, of faithfulness and truth, together with the infinite greatness of His Person. "Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever" (Isa. 9:7).
In view of this assured victory of God over all mankind, how appropriate are the last two verses, to press the truth home to our own souls.
"If thou hast done foolishly in lifting up thyself, or if thou hast thought evil, lay thine hand upon thy mouth. Surely the churning of milk bringeth forth butter, and the wringing of the nose bringeth forth blood: so the forcing of wrath bringeth forth strife."
Two things are here solemnly exposed as causes of incalculable damage, - self exaltation and thoughts of evil toward God. A lion may lift up himself, (Num. 23:24), because of his very strength, but if mere man would foolishly aspire to the place of God, he will be put down. How much better to judge ourselves now, lay our hand upon our mouth, and let God alone be great. Or if our thoughts have dared to question His wisdom. His righteousness, His ways, let it judge our thoughts now, and stop any rebellious word from passing our lips.
For the forcing of man's will is certain to bring results of a certain kind. The churning of milk results in butter, a much preferable end than that of the last two cases. Milk is a familiar symbol of the Word of God (1 Pet. 2:2), and if our time is spent in mulling over what we find there, we shall be blessed with the rich butter, the concentrated fatness and prosperity of spiritual blessing. This kind of exercise is profitable. But the wringing of the nose is damaging, with no object of good: it will produce blood. And thus too the forcing of wrath can have no good object and will achieve no good end. It allows no peace or rest, but stirs up strife. Let man therefore judge his own will as evil, and bow to the wise and holy and perfect will of God.
This page is part of the book: Wisdom's Closing Message - Bible Commentary on Proverbs 25-31 - by L M Grant
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