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No. 24: Advice From a Sojourner, Part 11

BIBLICAL Horizons, No. 24
April, 1991
Copyright 1991, Biblical Horizons

24. Four things are small on the earth, But they are exceedingly wise; 25. The ants are not a strong folk, But they prepare their food in the summer; 26. The coneys are not a mighty folk, Yet they make their houses in the rocks; 27. The locusts have no king, Yet all of them go out in ranks; 28. The lizard you may grasp with the hands, Yet it is in kings’ palaces.

Proverbs 30:21-23 concerns what happens when a small person becomes great: He becomes unbearable. Verses 24-28 concern what happens when a small person becomes wise: He becomes powerful. If there is any passage in the Bible that is designed to provide political wisdom for Christians, this is it. It concerns four ways in which the weak become strong, the humble influential.

The first two cases concern the wise actions of weak people in society at large, while the last two cases concern the wise actions of weak people in political life.

First, the ants are said to be weak, yet they lay up food in the summer in preparation for a time of distress. Consider how ants work together. They walk in single file, and each ant gets just a tiny bit of food to carry back to the nest. They cooperate with each other. They don’t try to do too much.

Have you every tried to stop a line of ants that is going for a jar of jam? You can put obstacles in their way, and they will scatter for a minute, but soon they will have found a way around the obstacle and will be lined up to the jar again. You can take a broom and sweep them away, but when you come back in a half hour, they will be back at the jar. Ants are persistent.

Ants show wisdom because they make provision for the future. They show us what it means to think about what is coming. They don’t try to get rich quick; instead, they just work a little at a time, and accumulate riches.

Second, the coney is a weak animal, like a bunny rabbit. To look at him, you would never guess that he makes his home in rocks. Yet, the coney has the wisdom to locate his sanctuary in a place where he cannot be reached by wild beasts. He admits to his weakness, and finds a place of shelter.

Similarly, we are to hide ourselves in the Rock, who is the Lord God. Like the coney, we need to confess our weakness and look to Him for protection.

Third, the locusts are said to have no king, yet they go out in ranks. They also are small and weak, but because they have order in their community, they are collectively powerful.

Agur says that locusts go out in ranks, because armies of locusts conquer nations. An individual locust is no match for a man, but an army of locusts easily defeats and destroys nations of men. Similarly, if Godly humble people form themselves into communities, they will have political influence and conquer kingdoms.

I believe that this applies to the Church. The Head of the Church is not visible, and so as far as politics is concerned, it appears the Christians have no king. Yet if Christians unite and work together, they are unstoppable.

Fourth, the lizard (a better translation than "spider") is found in the palaces of kings, even though it is small and soft. This points to the virtue of boldness, of audacity. The lizard is found everywhere. Like the prophet, he goes anywhere he pleases.

There is even a hint that the lizard has become the king!

Remember the first lizard ever found in a palace? It was the serpent in the Garden, and he wound up ruling this world. Jesus tells us to be wise as serpents (but, unlike Satan, also harmless as doves). The serpent was the wisest of the beasts, and he became the ruler through his wisdom.

These four examples go together in one proverb, and they display a progression of thought. They are stages of social action. Too often, Christians are lured by the world of politics and try to change society directly. They form political action committees, run people for office, and pretend to be lions and tigers. There may be some place for this kind of activity, but this proverb shows a better, wiser way.

All of these animals are silent. Have you ever waked up and heard ants at work in your kitchen? Have you ever heard the voice of a bunny rabbit? Does a single locust make much noise? Have you ever heard a lizard moving about? These are creatures that pervade society, yet are silent.

First, Christians must be ants. Ants are persistent and thrifty. They don’t bite off more than they can chew. They work bit by bit. If Christians want influence in society, that is how we must be.

Second, Christians must be coneys. We must build our home in the Rock. The heart of the Kingdom is built out of sight. Like the coney, we may go out into the woods to gather twigs and food, but our home is out of the sight of men. So, if we lose a battle here and there, we don’t panic, because our home is secure.

Third, Christians must be locusts. Locusts have no king, and thus no leader to kill or defame. They don’t engage in conflicts with the existing power structures. When the locusts invade, they completely bypass politics. You see, if you have a leader and you want to go head-to-head with the power structure, they can stop you easily. They need only shoot your leader, or defame him publicly. But if you have no one visible human leader, there is not much they can do.

Fourth, if Christians start out as ants and coneys, and move as locusts, they will wind up lizards, present in the palaces of kings. Through their serpentine wisdom they will have influence at court, like Joseph, Daniel, and Mordecai; indeed, they may even wind up on the throne.

If Christians follow the pattern of humble persistence in Proverbs 30:24-28, they will ascend to become the four stately things of verses 29-31.