Ancient Words for Modern Times

Scholars have no idea who Agur, the author of Proverbs 30 was, but the ancient words he authored speak to our current reality as if they were written this very morning.

“…I am weary, O God; I am weary, O God, and worn out.” (v.1)

When asked, “How are you doing?”, the truthful answer that comes to mind these days is “I’m a little tired.” (after the culturally fixed “I’m fine” of course) As a pastor, I have observed through conversations with many people a widespread, almost universal weariness.

Weary of COVID-19. Weary of hyper-political partisanship. Weary of injustice and empty rhetoric. Weary of violence and destruction. Weary of needing to accomplish more than the body, mind, and soul were created to accomplish. Weary of sorrow. Weary of weariness.

But Agur is not simply weary. He is conflicted and keenly aware of his limitations and faults.

“Surely I am too stupid to be a man. I have not the understanding of a man. I have not learned wisdom, nor have I knowledge of the Holy One.” (v.2-3)

This Proverb is not commending negative self-talk, but describing the vulnerable and authentic reality of how this man felt. I have asked myself similar questions in recent months.

“Brad, why are you such an idiot?”
“How did I not see this coming?”
“If you were a better pastor, people wouldn’t have left the church.”

It is worth noting that most Proverbs do not begin with this approach. They typically begin with an affirmation of why the reader should listen to the wisdom the author wants to convey. But not Agur. He makes a great case for his lack of qualifications. Instead of making the case for why the reader should listen to him, Agur makes the case that we should turn our eyes and ears toward another.

Who has ascended to heaven and come down? Who has gathered the wind in his fists? Who has wrapped up the waters in a garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and what is his son’s name? Surely you know! (v. 4)

These rhetorical questions have only one implied answer. Like Job and Isaiah’s questions, the answer is an emphatic, Only God! Only God is powerful enough to provide the strength needed for this season we are facing. Only God is wise enough to provide the answers to the questions we have.

With the author’s limitations and God’s vast limitlessness clearly stated, he provides this remarkable and helpful encouragement to weary and limited people: Turn to Scripture and Prayer.

Scripture

“Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words…” (v. 5-6a)

Culturally speaking we swim in a sea of lies, manipulation, and hyperbole. We need a reliable source of truth and wisdom to settle our hearts and govern our steps. In a world of fake news and rampant conspiracy theories, we need our minds to be saturated with truth that is reliable and trustworthy. The Scripture reveals to us what is true about God, ourselves, and the world around us. Consider the timeless nature of this 2,700-year-old proverb as just one example. Not only does the Scripture remind us of what is true, but it reminds us where we can find rest for our weary souls. God is the refuge for the weary soul. Run, limp or crawl into his arms. He is ready and able to lift your weary heart. Let the God of heaven renew a spirit of joy and confidence in you.

Prayer

Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die:

  1. Remove far from me falsehood and lying;
  2. give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the Lord?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God. (v. 7-9)

Agur prays for just two things: integrity in his ways and provision for his needs. This prayer, not dissimilar from The Lord’s prayer in the Gospels, puts forth two pillars we need to flourish as God-glorifying disciples. First, we need integrity in our hearts, that flows out into our living. Let our prayer be the words of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, “You can resolve to live your life with integrity. Let your credo be this: Let the lie come into the world, let it even triumph. But not through me.”

Second, may we have the wisdom to recognize that wealth and poverty can have adverse effects on our souls, asking God simply for what we need. After all, once we truly discover who He is, we will know that God is all we really need for life and happiness.

Hear the words of Jesus today:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

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