A Proverb a day, with commentary from H.A. Ironside, a great Bible teacher from the mid-20th Century.
We now take up the study of the words of Agur, a wise man who keenly felt his ignorance, as is generally the case with the truly enlightened. In the first verse we learn of his parentage.
The first two proper names in this passage (Agur and Jakeh) have been translated by some as common nouns; in which case we would understand the verse to say, “The words of a gatherer, the son of [the] pious.” This might imply that the contents of Proverbs 30 have been gathered by an editor from various sources to be preserved for our instruction. It is evident, however, that neither the translators of the Bibles in use today nor the Masoretic scribes so understood it. In the Chaldee and Syriac translations the capitalized words are found as given in the text of the King James version.
Professor Stuart, a learned Hebraist, by changing the vowel-points, renders the whole verse: “The words of Agur, the son of her who was obeyed in Massa. Thus spake the man: I have toiled for God, I have toiled for God, and have ceased.”
Some commentators have supposed Agur to stand for Solomon and Jakeh for David; but the most straightforward explanation is that Agur was an inspired man of whom we have no record elsewhere in Scripture. His father’s name gives no clue to his family or tribe in Israel. Ithiel, which is translated “God is with me” and Ucal, “able,” are apparently his companions, or possibly persons who received instruction from him.
Agur begins his oracle by declaring his own ignorance apart from divine enlightenment-that “vision” of Pro_29:18 which enables a man to be a teacher of holy things. He is keenly aware of his limitations and lack of intelligence in the serious matters about which he is concerned. He has been compared with Amos, who was not a prophet nor the son of a prophet. However, the Lord enlightened Amos while he was engaged in his ordinary occupation and gave him the gift that enabled him to be a rebuker of kings. Agur was a plain, simple man, of little natural ability, perhaps even below average in human intelligence. Yet the Lord opened his understanding, revealing to him great and precious things; and He gave him the wisdom to impart these truths to, not only Ithiel and Ucal, but untold thousands who are still profiting from his words. He was one of those holy men of God who “spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2Pe_1:21). Inspiration is God’s way of taking a poor, feeble instrument and so controlling his mind, tongue, and pen as to cause him to give forth the very words of the eternal One.
The most learned man becomes incredibly ignorant when confronted with questions like those posed in this verse. We are at once reminded of the Lord’s challenge in Job 38 and 39. At best, human knowledge is very limited and narrow. No man, apart from divine revelation, could reply to the questions asked here. The first never found an answer until the words of our Lord concerning Himself, as recorded in Joh_3:13 : “And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.” He it was who descended likewise, as it is written, “Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things” (Eph_4:9-10).
How much there is for the believer in the precious truth connected with the Lord’s descent and ascension! Because of our sins He died on the cross, bearing the righteous judgment of God. There He drank the dreadful cup of wrath that we could never have completely drained to all eternity. But because of who He was, He could drink the cup and exhaust the wrath, leaving nothing but blessing for all who trust in Him. He died and was buried, but God raised Him from the dead, and in triumph He ascended to glory. Enoch was taken from this life without experiencing death. Elijah was caught up in a flaming chariot and carried by a whirlwind to Heaven. But neither of these went up in his own power. Jesus, His work finished and His ministry on earth accomplished, ascended of His own volition, passing through the upper air as easily as He had walked on the water.
The fact of His having ascended to Heaven and having been received by the Shekinah-the cloud of divine Majesty-testifies to the perfection of His work in putting away forever the believer’s sins. While Jesus was on the cross, Jehovah “laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isa_53:6). He could not be now in the presence of God if one sin remained on Him. But all have been atoned for and put away, never to come up again. Therefore He has entered Heaven, by the power of His own blood, having accomplished eternal redemption. “Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men” (Eph_4:8). He had destroyed “him that had the power of death, that is, the devil,” that He might “deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Heb_2:14-15).
The trembling, anxious sinner is pointed by the Holy Ghost, not to church or sacraments, not to ordinances or legal enactments, not to physical limitations or feelings, but to a risen and ascended Christ seated in highest glory!
The righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:) Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; That, if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation (Rom_10:6-10).
Christ carried our sins on the cross. He died for them. He has been raised from the dead in token of God’s infinite satisfaction in His work. He has ascended up to Heaven, and His place on the throne of God as a man in glory is proof positive that our sins are gone forever. When this fact is embraced it gives deep and lasting peace.
When the believer realizes that all has been done in a way that pleases God; that He who accomplished it is one with the Father; that man as a fallen creature had no part in that work save to commit the sins for which the Savior died: then, and not until then, does the majesty of the work of the cross dawn on the soul.
The question, “What is his name, and what is his son’s name,” followed by the challenge, “if thou canst tell?” finds its answer in the New Testament revelation of the Father and the Son.
There are two great facts enunciated in these verses. The first is the perfection of the Word of God and the second, the all-sufficiency of that Word. The Scriptures, as a whole, are called the Word of God. Any portion taken separately is a word, or saying, of God. All Scripture is God-breathed; every part of it is divinely inspired. It is therefore pure and perfect in itself. All who rest on it find its great Author is a shield from the enemy’s assaults and a refuge for their souls. He will be the protection of those who confide in Him; but no one who doubts or questions the integrity of His words really trusts Him.
To attempt to add to what God has already written is to deny the all-sufficiency of Scripture. It will provide for every circumstance of life and enlighten the saint in every aspect of the faith. In each age there have been visionaries and enthusiasts, as well as frauds and charlatans, who have sought to supplement the Bible with revelations and compilations of their own, claiming divine authority. But when compared with these writings, the Holy Scripture shines forth like a diamond of beauty and value surrounded by worthless bits of glass and paste. The Bible alone is truth. All imitations are lies that deceive the one who believes and follows them.
The apocryphal books to both Testaments are an example of deceptive writings. This is particularly true in regard to the wild legends of Tobit and Judith, the apocalyptic visions of Hermes, and the ghostly records of the pseudo-gospels of the Infancy, St. Thomas, and Nicodemus.
The Jewish Talmud and the vagaries of the Cabala are the same kind, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.
In the Christian era, especially in the last two centuries, many imitations have been palmed off on the credulous as being of the same character as Holy Scripture. But judged by the words of Pro_30:5-6, we unhesitatingly declare these writings to be lies of Satan. Of this number are the pretended revelations and wild hallucinations of Emanuel Swedenborg; the Book of Mormon and kindred works of Joseph Smith and his followers; the Flying Roll of the Jezreelites; the prophecies and visions of Ellen White, regarded by the Seventh-day Adventists as of equal authority with the Bible; the unchristian and unscientific theories of Mary Baker Eddy, as set forth in Science and Health, which its followers claim to be a key to the Scriptures. To this list may be added any and every book or teaching that claims a divine origin, but has not been included in the Law, the Prophets, the Psalms, or the New Testament. In the grand collection of the Holy Bible, God has made known His holy will and revealed all that He will impart concerning Himself, His purpose, and His ways, until the ushering in of the glory for the saints. That day will also be the day of doom for those who refuse His sure testimony, trampling it beneath their feet or adding to it the poor thoughts of sinful man!
Read Psa_12:6 and Psalm 119 in its entirety; Deu_4:2; Deu_12:32; Col_1:25; and Rev_22:18-19.
This prayer of Agur appeals to the heart of the saint in all dispensations. It has a strong resemblance to the touching prayer of Jabez recorded in 1Ch_4:10. It is an appropriate expression for any child of God, even though grace has taught the soul to say, “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am,… to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need” (Php_4:11-12). Only as the heart is surrendered to Christ can one triumph over all circumstances. He who knows himself understands well why Agur could pray for moderate circumstances if it were the will of God. He did not distrust divine power to keep him in any state. He did distrust himself.
The first of the two things that he required of the Lord, was to be kept from iniquity. He desired that vanity and lies be removed far from him. The man of God fears sin and hates it. The new nature within him makes it impossible that he should be happy while walking in an evil way. Holiness is his joy and delight, therefore he groans for full deliverance from the flesh, that lawless principle within his breast that wars against the new nature. A professing Christian who finds pleasure in vanity and lies, demonstrates the true condition of his heart and makes it plain to every Spirit-taught soul that he is still a stranger to the new birth. A hatred of sin and yearning to be delivered from its power and its very presence is one of the surest evidences the Spirit is at work in the soul, even though the person may not yet understand completely the precious, peace-giving truths of the gospel. The youngest and the oldest saint may therefore very properly take up the cry of Agur, “Remove far from me vanity and lies.”
The second petition has to do with temporal things and is worthy of careful notice. We can well understand a man praying that he be preserved from poverty, but it is most unusual to find one who dreads wealth and prays to be kept from riches. He dreaded abject poverty, lest in the weakness of his flesh, he would become dishonest, and bring reproach on the name of his God. But riches, too, were equally to be feared, because it is a common thing for men to grow more and more independent of God as their worldly goods are increased; “Jeshurun waxed fat, and kicked:…then he forsook God” (Deu_32:15). The wealthy are exposed to many snares that those in moderate circumstances seldom experience. Agur had observed this. Therefore he would not desire to revel in luxury, but would be fed with food befitting his station in life. He would choose, if such were the will of God for him, to occupy a middle position between the two extremes of deep need and overflowing abundance. The more we meditate on this prayer, the more we see its wisdom and piety.
The circumstances of a servant in the East, who was often a slave, were hard at best. Therefore he who took it on himself to accuse a servant to his master, whether the accusation were true or false, was likely to be hated by the poor wretch he had informed on. And if the accuser were proven to have had no just grounds for his charge he would be put to shame by one of inferior station. Applying this principle to Christians, we are reminded of the impertinence and lack of thoughtfulness and care for one another, which would lead one saint to judge the service of his fellow laborer. “Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth…Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling-block or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way” (Rom_14:4; Rom_14:13).
The word generation is used here, as in many other parts of Scripture, to describe a particular class of mankind having certain characteristics in common. Our Lord used it this way when He spoke of the Jews as an evil and adulterous generation and declared that that generation should not pass away prior to His return from Heaven. To suppose He meant a generation of thirty to forty years is to throw the entire prophecy into confusion.
Agur graphically describes a generation of prideful people for our instruction and warning. Self-sufficient, they recognize no indebtedness to father and mother, but curse the one and do not bless the other. Contaminated with the horrible pollution of their sins, they are nevertheless pure in their own sight, each declaring his own goodness. See Pro_20:6.
Rolling their eyes and raising their eyebrows, they demonstrate their supercilious insolence and haughtiness. If anyone seeks to correct them or make them aware of their true condition in the sight of God, they turn angrily on him as wild beasts ready to tear him with their teeth, which are like swords and knives. Even where there is no provocation, they can be cruel and treacherous, devouring the poor and the needy. See Pro_6:17; Pro_21:4.
This generation of people is typified in the New Testament by the Pharisees. Outwardly they were cold and proud, correct and pious, while secretly they devoured widows’ houses and did not heed the cry of the poor.
Such is man in his self-righteousness. Such would be characteristic of all, had not the matchless grace of God made some different!
Proud and self-sufficient though he be, the heart of man is never satisfied. Like a leech voracious of his food, he is never full. The two daughters are perhaps simply a symbolical way of declaring this characteristic of the blood-sucker of Arabia. But I have followed Professors Noyes and Stuart in regarding the words “Give! Give” as the names of the daughters. The name indicates their wretched habits.
Notice the peculiar yet exact use of the numbers three and four. Three things are never satisfied: the unseen world, into which disembodied spirits are constantly descending; the barren womb; and the earth on which rain falls incessantly somewhere. But “four things say not, It is enough.” Therefore to the three already given, the author adds fire. It devours until all that it can reach has been consumed. Then it has to cease and is, in a sense, satisfied, but only because it must be; were there more material to feed on, it would go on destroying still.
All of these are just pictures of the restless yearning, implanted in man’s bosom by the Fall. The world and all that it contains is not enough to fill and satisfy man’s heart. “Thou hast made us for Thyself,” said Augustine of Hippo, “and our hearts will never be at rest, until they rest in Thee.” How slow we are to learn the lesson!
See Pro_30:11 of this chapter. It is a well-known fact that ravens, eagles, and many other birds of prey begin their attack on a carcass, living animal, or person by plucking out the eyes. Instinct seems to tell them that once the power of sight is gone, their victims are quite disabled. “The crow shall one day pick out thine eyes!” is an Eastern imprecation which may indeed be founded on this very proverb.
The disobedient mocker will come to grief in a similar way to what is described here. Suddenly, but surely, he will be deprived of the power of vision. He will stumble in the darkness, vainly trying to beat off the foes that have destroyed his happiness and would further ruin his life. It is the law of retribution to which all have to bow. How many a parent, shamed and heart-broken because of the waywardness of a rebellious son or daughter, has remembered in an agony of remorse his own similar disobedience when his parents, long since departed, were harassed and distressed by his refusal to be controlled. These memories return in later years with crushing force.
Again we have a three and a four carefully distinguished. All the causes of wonder are beyond a man’s ability to explain, but only three are impossible for him. He cannot trace the paths of an eagle in the air, a serpent on a rock, or a ship in the sea. The way of a man with a woman-completely controlling her mind and will-may not be able to be explained, yet there are too many examples of it to permit its being considered as too wonderful for him.
The author goes on to describe the behavior of an adulterous woman. Hardened in conscience, she lives in her sin; but like the eater who wipes his mouth and removes all evidence of his eating, she hides her guilt and boldly says, “I have done no wickedness.”
“Exhort one another daily,… lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Heb_3:13) is a verse to be profitably kept in mind. Sin is frequently excused as something for which men are not morally accountable. People often consider sin a mental and physical disease rather than as iniquity for which the wrongdoer will be called to account. But God has declared plainly that He will “bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (Ecc_12:14).
The first three of these obnoxious things are very irritating. The fourth completely overturns the order of the household.
A servant ruling is like the sweeping storm of Pro_28:3. It was not an infrequent occurrence in the East for a slave or a servant to be suddenly elevated to great power through some remarkable turn of events; sometimes it was through treachery, as in the case of Zimri (1Ki_16:1-20), or through favoritism as in the undeserving Haman (Esther 3). Persons of a low position who are exalted are often far harder on the populace than those born in high station. One has said that a servant ruling becomes “the most insolent, imperious, cruel, and tyrannical of masters.” Equally disquieting is a fool or a churl who is full of food-that is, has all that his heart desires. Rolling in plenty, he despises the needy and considers that his possessions entitle him to respect, though he lacks every virtue. This was true of Nabal the husband of Abigail to whom we have referred before.
A fitting completion to this wretched trinity is an odious woman when married. Unamiable and vindictive in her disposition, she destroys the peace and happiness of her family.
The fourth instance, however, is to be dreaded more than all, so far as interfering with the order of the home is concerned. The Septuagint renders the clause “A handmaid when she hath supplanted her mistress.” A home is completely destroyed when one employed as a servant wins the husband’s affections, alienating his wife and children. Unhappily, such instances are far from rare and have wrecked thousands of families. How important it is to watch for the first beginnings of an unholy familiarity that may result so fatally!
In the four wise things described in these verses we have a beautiful picture of the gospel.
We have already remarked on the provident habits of the grain-eating ant of Palestine, in the notes on Pro_6:6-8. Its wisdom consists in diligently preparing for the future. Instinctively the ant knows to make use of present opportunities in order to supply coming needs. It carefully stores away its food, anticipating a time when the bright days of summer are past and gone, and the cold of winter prohibits its search for provision to sustain life.
In material things, man readily shows the same wisdom as this tiny creature. He, too, provides against the coming days when ill health or old age will forbid his going forth to labor. But is it not amazing that men who display remarkable foresight in earthly matters will forget altogether to prepare for that unending eternity to which every moment brings them nearer?
Forgetful of the ages that follow this short life on earth, they allow golden opportunities to slip by, never to return. They rush carelessly on, ignoring the need of their souls and the fearful danger that lies just beyond death. “As it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment; So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation” (Heb_9:27-28). Here we learn of the fast-approaching danger and of the One who alone can deliver from it. But the majority of mankind are so insanely concerned about the fleeting present that they completely ignore the everlasting future.
To all such, the insignificant little ant preaches loudly, crying in the ears of any who will listen, “Flee from the wrath to come” (Mat_3:7); “Prepare to meet thy God” (Amo_4:12)! The ant is a practical preacher too, for it teaches by action. Refusing to idle away the golden hours of summer, the ant faithfully uses the present in view of the future. It is unlike human beings who waste the days of childhood, youth, and middle age with insignificant matters, leaving themselves unprepared for eternity,
The ant pictures the wisdom that all should take to heart. If the reader is unsaved, if he has not yet settled his eternal matters by coming to Christ, let me shout in his ears the cry of the shipmaster to the runaway prophet: “What meanest thou, O sleeper? arise, call upon thy God” (Jon_1:6)! If you are not awakened soon, you will be aroused too late; you will learn that preparation days are over and eternity has begun with your soul still unsaved, and you will abide forever without Christ!
To him who desires to escape coming judgment the coney also has a message telling of the only safe refuge. Properly speaking, the little animal of the 26th verse (Pro_30:26) is not a coney at all; it is a very timid, defenseless creature of the marmot type, known to naturalists as the Syrian hyrax or rock badger. The true coney belongs to the rabbit family and does not live in the rocks. But the hyrax does. It is described as “a small animal found in Lebanon, Palestine, Arabia Petra, Upper Egypt, and Abyssinia. It is about the size, figure, and brownish color of the rabbit, with long hind legs adapted to leaping, but is of a clumsier structure than that quadruped. It is without a tail, and has long bristly hairs scattered over the general fur; as to its ears (which are small and roundish instead of long, like the rabbit), its feet, and snout, it resembles the hedge-hog. Because of the structure of its feet, which are round, and of a soft, pulpy, tender substance, it cannot dig, and hence is not fitted to live in burrows like the rabbit, but in the clefts of the rocks. It lives in families; is timid, lively, and quick to retreat at the approach of danger; and hence is difficult to capture. In its habits it is gregarious, and feeds on grain, fruits and vegetables.” In the Hebrew it is called Shaphan and is included in the lists of unclean animals in Lev_11:5 and Deu_14:7, because, though its jaws work with a cud-chewing motion, it does not have a divided hoof. Psa_104:18 refers to the same fact that is brought to our attention here in the Proverbs: “The high hills are a refuge for the wild goats; and the rocks for the conies.”
The hyrax is feeble and defenseless in the presence of its enemies and unable to burrow and make a house for itself. It finds a suitable dwelling-place in the clefts of the rocks where it is safe from the power of the marauder and protected from the fury of the elements. Surely the picture is plain. “That Rock was Christ,” says the apostle, when writing of the rock from which flowed the living water in the wilderness (1Co_10:4). There too the rock speaks of Him; for He alone is the sinner’s refuge. The little unclean hyrax, weak and feeble, flees to the rocks and is safe. So, too, the helpless unclean sinner, awakened to a sense of his dire need and aroused by the signs of the storm that is soon to break over the heads of all who neglect God’s salvation, flees for refuge to the Lord Jesus Christ. He finds in Him a safe and blessed shelter where no foe can ever reach him and judgment can never come.
It is in the clefts of the rock that the hyrax hides; it is in a Savior, pierced for our sins and bruised by the awful vengeance of the Holy One, that the believing soul finds a hiding place.
On Him almighty vengeance fell,
Which would have sunk a world to hell;
He bore it for a chosen race
And thus became their hiding-place.
Have you found a refuge in Him? If you are still living under the wrath of God, cease from all effort to save yourself (which can only result in bitter disappointment in the end). Flee to Jesus while He still extends the peace-giving invitation, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Mat_11:28).
The third wise thing mentioned in Pro_30:27 is the locust. Having no visible leader, they go forth in ranks, like soldiers in their respective regiments. They are so methodical that they seem to be acting under definite instructions and in strictest discipline. To those who have found a refuge in Christ the locusts furnish an example of that subjection one to another and to our unseen head in Heaven. This might well shame us as we contemplate the broken, scattered condition of the people of God and reflect on our share in the terrible ruin.
To the world and the world-church, the body of Christ must seem like a heterogeneous, miscellaneous company, with no leader and no bond of union. But the same Jesus who died for His people’s sins is now seated in highest glory; God has made Him the head of all who have been redeemed by His precious blood. The Holy Spirit, sent down from Heaven upon His ascension there as man, is now indwelling every believer; this binds all together in one great company, every one “members one of another” (Eph_4:25).
When the soul grasps this blessed truth, it will lead to judgment of all that is opposed to the truth of the church as revealed in Scripture. If there is one body, and the Word of God knows no other, I will acknowledge my membership in that alone; by obedience to the truth, I should walk worthy of the vocation wherewith I am called.
The locusts all work together and this declares their wisdom. So it should be with the body of Christ. Divisions and schisms are plainly declared to be sinful and works of the flesh. “For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?” (1Co_3:3)
Earnestly the saints are exhorted to walk together in love and fellowship, “striving together for the faith of the gospel” (Php_1:27). Throughout the letter to the Philippians this precious unity is ever insisted on. In 1Co_1:10 likewise, the apostle writes: “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” Such is the lesson of the locusts. May we have grace to learn it in the presence of God.
It is now generally acknowledged that the Hebrew word shemameth in Pro_30:28 does not refer to the spider, but to a little house-lizard called the gecko. It is very common in Palestine and has a peculiar idiosyncrasy for fine hangings and palatial homes. It uses its forefeet very much like hands to catch its food, chiefly flies and spiders, and securely hold them while it devours them. On the under side of each toe is a tiny sponge-like sac containing an adhesive liquid. As it runs up marble walls or out on decorative ceilings, this substance oozes out; it enables the gecko to “take hold with its hands” on the smooth, slippery surfaces, from which it is not easily dislodged.
This lizard should speak to us of the power of faith. This is indeed the hand by which the believing sinner takes hold of the precious truth of God and enters into His blessings. Faith allows us to be at home in the King’s palace and ensures an eternal abode in the Father’s house.
It is amazing grace that gives all who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ a place by faith even now in the heavenlies.
God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus (Eph_2:4-7).
He has gone up on high as our representative. Soon we will be there with Him to enjoy His companionship for eternity!
Happy is the soul who has learned the message of these four wise things!
It is quite proper to speak of the first three creatures as excelling in their movement, though it would hardly apply to a king. Majestic and glorious, he moves with stately bearing and therefore comes under the second head.
The lion is characterized by unflinching boldness; it represents that holy courage which should mark the Christian soldier as he contends earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints. In his faith, he is to have virtue, true courage, to withstand in the evil day and remain true to his course. It is not mere dogged determination that is contemplated, but “the irresistible might of weakness” that leans on God; this is what led Paul to write, “when I am weak, then am I strong” (2Co_12:10).
The second in this series has been variously translated as “a greyhound,” “a girded horse,” “a zebra,” and “a strutting rooster.” The latter is preferred in the Septuagint, Syriac, Vulgate, and Chaldee versions. But according to the best authorities the word simply means girded as to the loins. It may therefore be applied to any slender creature characterized by swiftness. The translators of the King James version preferred “greyhound” as most fully expressing the idea of an animal adapted to running. It matters little what beast is signified. The lesson for us is clear enough. As a girded animal does not rest until it reaches its prey or the goal to which it is running, so the saint is to press swiftly on, refusing to be turned aside by the attractions of this world. He is viewed as a racer in Php_3:13-14 :
Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
This should always be the Christian’s attitude. Having no city here, he does not halt to dally with the insignificant things of earth. With girded loins and eyes fixed on Christ, he hastens on to the judgment seat where the prize is to be awarded.
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God (Heb_12:1-2).
Christ was the great pattern-pilgrim, passing through this world as a stranger; He found only sorrow and grief here, but His joy is now full in glory!
The male goat is the climber. Refusing the low and often un-healthful valleys, he mounts up higher and higher to the rocky hills and the peaks of the mountains. (See Psa_104:18). Breathing the exhilarating air of the top of the rocks, he finds both pleasure and safety in his retreat. The lesson is simple. The Christian must walk on the high places; then like Habakkuk, he will be able to rejoice in the day of trouble and joy in the God of his salvation when everything of earth seems to fail (Hab_3:17-19). From the soul of the climbing saint there will ever be melody.
A heavenly-minded soul is lifted above all the mists of this poor world and enabled to view all from God’s standpoint.
If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God (Col_3:1-3).
This is the lesson of the male goat. Would that every believer could enter into it!
The last in the list of these pleasant things is the king going forth in undisputed, majestic strength. It is the overcomer, the man of faith, made a king unto God; his dignity is never greater than when he walks in lowliness and meekness through this world, drawing his supplies from above not from below. Great is the honor conferred on all who have been redeemed. No longer children of the night, but of the day, they are called to overcome the world in the power of the truth revealed to them by faith. Abraham was such a “king” as he went from Melchizedek’s presence to meet Sodom’s fawning monarch. He vanquished this ruler in a different way from that in which he had defeated the confederacy headed by Chedorlaomer (Genesis 14). God would have every Christian defeat his enemy in stately majesty, joining forces with Him, and counting the richest treasures of earth as dung and dross. “This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith” (1Jn_5:4). Strong in faith, the man of God views his present situation in the light of his future reward. Then, even though accounted as sheep for the slaughter, he can exclaim, “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us” (Rom_8:37).
Having depicted in parable the dignity of the saint and his appropriate behavior, Agur’s last word is an exhortation to self-judgment. He gives a warning to those who may have forgotten their holy calling by foolishly exalting themselves, and speaking or acting with evil intent. If the thoughts are not pure, speech is exceedingly dangerous. It is far better to cover one’s mouth than to persist in what is unrighteous.
It is so easy to provoke another to anger. To do so betrays a soul that is out of communion with God and a disobedient spirit. As butter is produced by churning and blood by twisting the nose, so strife results from unnecessary provocation. “The servant of the Lord must not strive” (2Ti_2:24). He is exhorted to demonstrate gentleness and that fine courtesy which marked all that Jesus said and did. Coarse, ungenerous words and ways are very unbecoming in one who is the recipient of God’s mercy. He is therefore expected to demonstrate the compassion of Christ toward even his enemies.
With this final warning Agur’s message comes to a close. He is unknown except for this precious collection of wise sayings preserved for our edification in this one chapter. Yet how much we would have lost if the Spirit of God had not included his ministry in the sacred volume!