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Wisdom from Little Things

Four humble animals illustrate life in the Spirit

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When Solomon wrote about four little creatures that are very wise, he was not merely giving facts of entomology and biology. The habits of these creatures are illustrations the Holy Spirit would use to instruct us. God wants us to be wise in ways that correspond to the instinctive wisdom he has placed in these creatures: “There are four things which are little upon the earth, but they are exceeding wise: The ants . . . The conies . . . The locusts . . . The lizard” (Prov. 30:24“28; all quotations are from the American Standard Version). Each creature is said to be “exceeding wise” in one thing, and altogether we are given four maxims of wisdom from them.

Figure I: The Ants. “The ants . . . provide their food in the summer.” They use the favorable time, the opportune time, to provide against the time of need. There is in each life a favorable time, an opportune time, to provide for our needs, to lay up for that time. We must do it when we read the Word of God: “Thy word have I laid up in my heart, that I might not sin against thee” (Ps. 119:11). Mary of Bethany did just that when she “sat at Jesus” feet and heard his word” (Luke 10:39). She laid up His words in her heart against the time to come. Mary of Bethany did not go to the tomb of Jesus. Had she not provided for that time by laying up His words in her heart and did she not believe for His resurrection? It is thought that she did.

Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, in the favorable time, provided against the need to come. During those hidden years in Nazareth He was providing for His future ministry. I believe that Isaiah 49:2 gives us light on those years. Messiah is the speaker, and He says: “he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand hath he hid me: and he hath made me a polished shaft; in his quiver hath he kept me close.” He came forth a “polished shaft” from that “hand” and that “quiver” in which He had been “hid” while in Nazareth, and the words of His mouth were “like a sharp sword.” [German theologian Ernst Wilhelm] Hengstenberg wrote: “Messiah, before His appearance, was hid with God, ready to be drawn forth at the moment God saw fit.” Like the “wise” ant, He was preparing Himself during those 18 hidden years and providing for His future ministry.

Figure II: The Conies. “The conies . . . make . . . their houses in the rocks.” The creature meant is the “rock badger.” The name comes from a Hebrew root meaning “to hide.” This coney is in itself defenseless, but “its security is in rocky hiding places.” The original word for “rocks” is in Ã�» the singular, the Rock. David must have seen these conies running to the rock for shelter and security and learned a lesson from them. He said, “Jehovah is my rock” (Ps. 18:2).

In a time of danger, David said: “Deliver me, O Jehovah, from mine enemies: I flee unto thee to hide me” (Ps. 143:9). In Isaiah 33 is a beautiful illustration. The Assyrian army is seen surrounding Jerusalem. Inside the city are “sinners” and “hypocrites.” They are “afraid.” They think that the Assyrians will enter city and crush them. But there are saints and righteous people also in the city, such as Hezekiah and Isaiah. God spoke to each one who trusted in Him and said: “He shall dwell on high: his place of defense shall be the munitions of rocks” (the same word as in Prov. 30:26). And so it proved. God said: “I will deliver thee and this city” (Isa. 38:6). He became to each one who hid in Him a Rock of Defense.

Figure III: The Locusts. “The locusts have no king, yet go they forth all of them by bands.” The Hebrew suggests that they go forth “all together.” The lesson these “little” creatures teach us is unity. Our ascended Lord and Savior desires unity among His people; He desires that we be banded together as one. Four times He prayed the petition that His people might all be one (see John 17:11, 21“23). We may have unity of spirit and unity of purpose and unity of aspiration. We must, however, both attain to and keep this unity by endeavor: “giving diligence to keep the unity of the Spirit” (Eph. 4:3). The Lord “gave gifts unto men” for the “building up of the body of Christ: till we all attain unto the unity of the faith” (Eph. 4:8,12,13). Andrew Murray says about this “unity”: “But this indeed is grace, when amid conduct that tries or grieves us, or teaching that appears to us unscriptural or hurtful, we always give the unity of the Spirit first place, and have faith in the power of love to maintain the living union amid outward separation. Keep the unity of the Spirit: Such is God“s command to every believer” . We would learn wisdom from the locusts and keep banded together if we practiced Augustine“s famous saying:

“In essential things, unity;
In nonessential things, liberty;
In all things, charity.”

It is not meant that we are to have “charity” with anti-Christian teaching, for another Scripture exhorts us to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3).

God“s blessing is there! “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!” (Ps. 133:11) It may be mentioned that the locusts “have no king.” Beware of trying to be “king” in a situation where none is called for. See what the Lord said about that in Luke 22:24“26. And do not be a “Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence” (3 John 9). He thereby would have broken the bond of unity in the church.

Figure IV: The Lizard. “The lizard taketh hold with her hands, yet she is in kings” palaces.” The “little” creature meant here is the gecko, a “lizard having toes with adhesive disks.” We saw them on our rafters and ceiling in our home in Japan. The gecko has four “hands” and five finger-like appendages on each hand. These are so constructed that it can easily move forward and backward and upside down. It is by using these “hands” that it can get into the “palaces of a king.” If we are “wise” we shall do the same. The “hands” are associated in Scripture with prayer, and it is by the hands of prayer that we are to get into the palace of the King. We are told to lift up our hearts with our hands unto God in the heavens” (Lam. 3:41).

Christians are exhorted to “pray in every place, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and disputing” (1 Tim. 2:8). In a time of special need the psalmist said: “In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord: My hand was stretched out in the night, and slacked not” (Ps. 77:2). In this sense we are to imitate the “exceeding wise” gecko and use the hands of prayer to get into the presence of God. In prayer we “draw nigh to God” and He draws nigh to us (James 4:8). Esther, “standing in the outer court of the king“s house,” touched with her hand the golden scepter held out to her, and had an audience with the king. (Esth. 5:1“8). William Law said: “Prayer is the nearest approach to God and the highest enjoyment of Him that we are capable of in this life. We are not before kings and princes but in the presence and audience of the Lord of all the world, and can be no higher until death is swallowed up in glory. It is the noblest exercise of the soul, the most exalted use of our best faculties, and the highest imitation of the blessed inhabitants of Heaven” . Paul, a prisoner in Rome, was constantly in the palace of the King by prayer, as his letters show.

Daniel in Babylon and John on Patmos, through the hands of prayer, were frequently in the palace of the King. John was “in tribulation” but he was “in the Spirit.” May it be so with us!

These four spiritual lessons are as applicable today as they were to people who were contemporaries of the wise King Solomon.

“Adapted from The Alliance Weekly, April 27, 1953, pp. 5“6.

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