Both Small And Exceedingly Wise

Whenever you’re at a loss as to what to read in the Bible, I highly suggest the book of Proverbs. It is a thirty-one-chapter collection of Solomon’s wisest aphorisms and insights, many of which are cleverly written and very memorable. I always seem to find something relevant to whatever I’m dealing with when I read them, and I always close the Word of God feeling encouraged.

Today, I came across Proverbs 30 and 31, written by Agur and Lemuel respectively. Some scholars believe they were penned by Solomon and/or Hezekiah, but regardless of the author’s identity, they both remain worthy of study. Chapter 30 is the more abstract and metaphorical of the two and is divided into shorter statements, several of which are “lists.” The one that caught my eye, Proverbs 30:24-28, reads:

Four things are small on the earth, but they are exceedingly wise: The ants are not a strong people, but they prepare their food in the summer. The rock badgers are not mighty people, yet they make their houses in the rocks. The locusts have no king, yet all of them go out in ranks. The lizard you may grasp with the hands, yet it is in kings’ palaces.

On a first read, the surface meaning is easy to see. These animals survive because of their adaptability and their smarts. However, I think there’s some symbolic value regarding the Christian life as well.

The Ants

From what I know of ants (most of which, I’m sad to say, comes from A Bug’s Life), they work as members of a team to harvest food they will use survive the hard months when nothing grows. One ant alone might not be able to gather enough for the time of famine; however, by working together, they provide plenty for all. I see a connection to Christians; we should work together for the greater good here on earth, providing for one another. However, the same can be said of our work for God’s kingdom. Remember, Jesus advises in Matthew 6:19-21:

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal;  for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

The Rock Badgers

With no Disney movie to guide me, I had to ask the all-knowing Google what a rock badger is exactly. Apparently, it’s called a rock hyrax and is a “terrestrial mammal, superficially resembling a guinea pig with short ears and a tail.” They live in little families and forage in groups while one or two stand lookout and warn the rest if predators are coming. If they’re threatened, they all scamper back up to the rocks that cover their nests. In essence, to get at one, a hunter would have to pull apart the side of a mountain. Pretty secure digs!

Wikipedia, the other great source of knowledge on the web, mentioned something I thought rather interesting: “In Israel, the rock hyrax is reportedly rarely preyed upon by terrestrial predators, as their system of sentries and their reliable refuges provide considerable protection. Hyrax remains are almost absent from the droppings of wolves in the Judean Desert.”

Our connection to this animal is even more obvious. As Christians, Jesus Christ is our rock and our strong refuge. Nothing in this world can rob us of our salvation, our eternal life in Him.  Like God did with Moses, He puts us “in the cleft of the rock” and covers us with His hand for our protection and deliverance (Exodus 33:20-23).

The Locusts

Like the ants, locusts aren’t a problem individually. However, get them in a group, and you’ve got trouble. (Just ask the Egyptians!) This passage isn’t telling Christians to descend upon others and eat them out of house and home, but that is something I think we Baptists could manage with little effort. 🙂

What the proverb is saying is that believers were never meant to go it alone in this life. We’re instructed time and time again in the Bible to work as one body, using our spiritual gifts in ways that make light work of anything. We are each blessed with talents God means for us to use in His service, and none of us should ever compare those talents. Some are born to serve, others to lead. Teachers are meant to educate fellow believers to help them better understand God’s Word, and those who have the power to exhort should always encourage others. Healing, prophecy, tongues–the list goes on and on! This is now though no one person (“a king”) leads us,  we “advance in ranks” with Jesus Christ as our leader. Because of that, we can change the world in the power of His name!

The Lizard/Spider

This last one is an interesting translation conundrum. In most versions, it reads “A lizard you may grasp with the hands.” However, in the KJV and NKJV, the text is “The spider skillfully grasps with its hands.” There is even a third translation that lists the animal as something “poisonous,” which lends itself to either animal, though more readily to the spider. All three versions, however, close with “And it is in kings’ palaces.”

Whatever way it is translated, the animal (like the ant, rock badger, and locust) is small and seemingly helpless. However, its size is of no consequence because that is exactly what allows it to dwell in the home of a king. At the risk of sounding like Yoda, “Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you?”

The animals in question here could dwell happily in the palace of a king, often going unnoticed for their entire lives because of their size. In the opulent home of a ruler, they would be protected from the elements, provided with an ample supply of food, and experience less exposure to predators than they would in their natural environment.

Like them, we will dwell in the home of our heavenly Father, but instead of skulking around or weaving webs in corners, we are joint heirs with Jesus, and each room of the heavenly palace is as much ours as it is His. We did nothing to earn our place there, but it is one of the many blessings we are granted because of His great atoning sacrifice on the cross.

Interestingly, these four animals appear to be part of a pattern.

  • Ants–Symbolize our life on earth, our labor and our toil. This pertains to all humans (both saved and unsaved).
  • Rock Badgers–Those of us who know Christ as Savior are like these creatures. As the psalmist said, “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 91:1).
  • Locusts–Rather than dwell in our own land, we are meant to go out as a part of the Great Commission and do to so as Christian soldiers.
  • Lizards–We will receive our reward in heaven when our lives are over and dwell in the place Jesus left to prepare for us.

Yes, the Book of Proverbs does offer amazing insight and wisdom, most of which is packed into portions of text so compact they would make IKEA engineers jealous!

Yes, I may be small in comparison to this world and the universe that surrounds it. However, the same God who made it all knows me. The very hairs on my head are numbered by Him, and nothing escapes His notice. Why should I ever be afraid when that great God is with me?

I’d love to hear your favorite Bible passages, be they from Proverbs or another book. Please take a moment and share your thoughts below!

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4 thoughts on “Both Small And Exceedingly Wise

  1. One of my favorites (and there are very many) is one that I wrote about today. 2 Peter 1. Sadly, I can’t remember the exact verses at the moment, but I believe it starts in verse 3, where Peter tells us that God has given us everything we need for life and godliness. These verses had a life-changing impact on me in 1984, and continue to remind me of the gracious provision that God has given us. We really have no need to ask for anything, because he has already given us everything we need!

    1. That is an excellent section. I looked it up to see what you meant and found this, “Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” I love it…be at peace because God has granted you everything you need in life and life everlasting. Amen, brother. Amen!

  2. If you’ve read any of my recent posts about my super-religious grandmother, you’ll know I have a major Bible aversion. Yet, your posts are always interesting and bring passages from the same Bible (that scared me as a little girl) to life in a way that is helpful and certainly non-threatening.

    Thanks for posting your Biblical interpretations in this informative, light-hearted way.

    1. The Bible is an amazing book, the inherent infallible Word of God. Now, that being said, there are many people who use it for nefarious purposes—to instill fear in a person concerning another human being or a manmade system, to excuse morally reprehensible behaviors, or to oppress others. That doesn’t make the book wrong, just the teacher. I’m really glad you keep reading my little snippets and that you are enjoying and learning from them. It always makes me feel good to know that I’m making someone out there say “Hmmmm.”

      I once feared God so much that I refused to have anything to do with Him (at least I thought). But what I came to realize is that God deserves our reverence, and a fear for His awesome power is a good thing. Like a parent, He places restrictions on us for our own good. However, this same amazing God who brought our world from the void also knew me and you in the womb before we were formed. The very hairs on our heads are numbered to Him, and He loves us so much and desires our presence with Him in heaven that He made it possible through the atonement achieved on the cross. I take such comfort in knowing who God is and how I am his prized creation! He would have sent Jesus if I were the ONLY person His actions would save. Imagine that! I mean that much to the Almighty. We all do. There is fear yes, a healthy fear of the Lord and His power is the beginning of all humility and knowledge, but more so than that there is love. It’s what God is, what Jesus preached, and what we are meant to do!

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