An odd chapter.
Its from a different author, Agur of whom nothing is really known. The tone is instantly wilder and blunter, the consequences of foolishness more extreme than in previous chapters.
It explicitly claims to be God-inspired ecstatic utterance, and it says lots of great stuff, but much I barely comprehend as well… and its only 30 verses or so… such an exhausting book this one!
He is a good example of humility, his wisdom is not his own, it comes from God and from God’s creation. He realises how great and unknown is God – some powerful poetic images reminiscent of Job: the Lord’s hands gathering the wind and wrapping the waters in his cloak. How can we compare? He includes an intriguing reference here to God knowing the name of his son – impossible now for Christians not to think of Jesus.
He treasures God’s words, and he asks for contentment: neither to be poor nor rich. Both lead us into temptation. He wants just his daily bread, which for me illuminates the lords prayer as a petition for moderation and contentment as well as for basic needs to be met. Give us enough, not less, not more.
We’re working through issues of contentment as a family at the moment. Its a wonderful thing to pray for.
He then speaks of groups of people which displease or ignore God – in other translations they are called generations: a generation who invent their own standards of goodness and righteousness without reference to God or inherited wisdom; a generation who are violent and attacking.
I found it oddly encouraging to hear of generations so long ago going to the dogs. We tend to think the latest generation is the one that is going to hell in a handbasket, but it has always been thus.
Sure, it not great to see wide scale foolishness, evil or ignorance. But it doesn’t mean God has lost control. Its a generation, it will pass.
It concludes with a bunch of lists of observations from nature – generally 3 or 4. Its a poetic device similar to our “et cetera” or “for example”. A list with some specifics that is not exhaustive.
Its encouraging you to look to the world to learn of what is good and what is wrong. Honestly, this was the bit where I really started to loose comprehension.
He lists things that are:
- never satisfied – including the grave and childlessness;
- too amazing for him – including young love’s passionate eroticism, which he finds far more amazing than casual uncommitted sex
- things that make the world unbearable – basically women, servants or employees that rise in the ranks… I really didn’t get that one, he’s finding social mobility or equality offensive?
- things that are small yet wise, humble things in nature with impressive achievements, like ants. This kind of undermined the previous point, but was well made.
- things that have stately bearing – such as a lion, or a greyhound. OK. As a proud Italian Greyhound owner, I can only agree!
Lastly a general warning about evil and stirring up trouble.
So a mixture of stuff that I found helpful and stuff that is hard to access for me now – culturally remote.
I got feelings of God’s size and power, and the sense that despite the randomness and evil we often see around us, God is in control.
I need it. A drumbeat of sadness still underlies the shock of the massacre in New Zealand at the hands of an Australian gunman.
Such a peaceful, tolerant society! Chosen because they had the effrontery to make diversity work, to punish them for having compassion and love.
He’s failed, but at an insane price.
I sat in church this morning and thought about how easy it would be for someone to walk in and slaughter us if they wanted to try and break a society that would allow us to flourish.