Lectio Continua: a continuous reading of every verse
Lectio Semi-continua: shorter reading selections from the passages
“Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.”
~King Agur, Proverbs 30:5
The book of Proverbs concludes with contributions from two other sages—Agur and King Lemuel. Scholars are in agreement that neither man was an Israelite, but both were probably well known for their love of wisdom. Agur may have been a famous teacher. Lemuel is clearly a king, one who may have been a friend or contemporary of Solomon. Solomon was well versed in the wisdom literature of other cultures (for example, some of his proverbs are quotes from Egyptian literature). He had a lot of friends, and, as an influential king, he most likely spent time around other learned leaders. Wisdom is wisdom, whether it comes from Solomon or someone else. The proverbs assembled here, even if found on the lips of a wise Assyrian, have their source in God.
The wisdom of Agur. Agur dishes out wise observations about the world around him, a world filled with mystery! Even the atheist Richard Dawkins, who tries to explain everything in the world from a materialist perspective, conceded in a recent debate with Alister McGrath that “there is incredible mystery in the universe.” There are mysteries that the greatest minds have yet to unravel because we are, after all, trying to get our minds around God.
Perhaps my favorite section in Agur is the wise instruction he gives to his students from observing “four things on earth [that] are small, yet they are extremely wise” (Prov. 30:24). You don’t have to be big or strong or powerful to be successful; you just have to use your head! Ants are small, but they know how to plan ahead. Coneys are small, but they know where to go to protect themselves. Locusts are small but they know how to work together. Lizards are small, but they find their way into kings’ palaces (or as I say to my boys, “There’s a way to get this done; we just have to be creative”).
The wisdom of King Lemuel. King Lemuel tells young leaders that they must be wary of getting into a relationship with the wrong kind of woman. A high-maintenance woman can wear a king out and create all kinds of headaches for the entire kingdom. Therefore, the king devotes an entire epilogue to encouraging young men to choose a wife carefully. (Though not written to young women, it is certainly instructive for both sexes.) He teaches the young that beauty is fleeting, and charm can be deceptive (Prov. 31:30). So look beyond these good but overrated qualities. Seek someone whom you can trust (even with the checkbook!), someone who works hard (even as a stay-at-home mom), someone who puts family first (even when it isn’t fun), someone who wants to help you succeed in life (she wants you to look good), and someone who is kind to all, even the poor. Choose your bride wisely young men; it’s a relationship that will change your life!