Whenever we decide that we want to take a trip it is important that we take a map with us. Trust me, you really need a map. If you or I want to arrive at our destination then we need a map. It doesn’t matter whether you are going to Seattle, Washington or Sarasota, Florida, Napa Valley, California or New York, New York…you need to have a map in order to get there.
I have a friend who made a trip to Kids Across America a few summers ago. She really didn’t know how to get to camp so she talked to her dad and told him about her predicament. Dad had the answer! He used Google Maps to get her to camp. All she had to do was follow directions. She followed every command and arrived safely at her destination.
I got to thinking about my friend’s trip to camp this past week while I was studying our Scripture from Proverbs 30. It seems to me that many of us are lost as a goose when it comes to knowing which road will lead us to wisdom, the wisdom that we need to make good, godly decisions while trying to live this life. There are so many different ideas about what we should do, which path we should take, and the course we need to follow to help us live life to the fullest. Wouldn’t you agree that there are far too many different ideas about how to proceed to the land of wisdom? It seems like everyone has their own idea of which road we need to take to really experience life and arrive in the land of wisdom. Even though we have different ideas about how to get wisdom, we all believe that we are right, that we know the best route. As much as I hate to admit it, the truth of the matter is that we can’t all be right. It is just an impossibility.
Some of the routes that others have suggested to me throughout the years haven’t been helpful at all. I took advice from my peers while I was younger that got me in trouble. Some of the advice offered to me through the years has been helpful, but the roads I’ve traveled haven’t necessarily led me to become more wise when it comes to living life to the fullest. Let me share some of the advice that I’ve received.
Some of my older friends gave me directions when I was young. They said the route to wisdom led through the halls of academia. I continue to hear this advice given today and I encourage the young people that I know to go to college as well.
Each year we celebrate with the graduates in our church. For many in our society the next turn on the GPS system would read, “go to college.” Some would even say, “If you really want to acquire wisdom, then you need to go to a fine institution of higher learning. If you really want to ride on the highway to wisdom then go to an Ivy League school–Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Dartmouth. Ssurely one of these schools will get your further down the road to wisdom. I didn’t go to one of the “fine” institutions I’ve just mentioned, but I did go to college. I learned facts while I was in college, the degree I received opened doors of opportunity for me that would have been closed if I hadn’t gone to college, but that is all that I gained. Going to college didn’t make me happy, it didn’t bring a greater sense of contentment to my life, and it sure didn’t make me wiser about how to live life, make my marriage last, or give me the upper hand as I try to be a good dad.
There are others who would say that the next turn you and I should make in living life to the full is a turn on the highway of hedonism. Now they wouldn’t call it that, but this is really what it is. Their motto in life is “have fun, live it up, do what you want to do, indulge your every desire.” I took a trip down hedonism highway and I learned that it will wear you out. If you indulge your every appetite and give yourself to drugs, alcohol, promiscuity, or materialism they will take you to dark and dreary places that you never dreamed you would go.
Madonna was interviewed about her life and her past a few years ago. Back in the 80’s and 90’s Madonna was the poster child of hedonism, but now Madonna is a momma with two kids of her own. Let me read to you from the interview. Madonna said, “Sometimes now I sit back and say, ‘What was I thinking before I was thinking?'” In the 80’s and 90’s, the singer became a worldwide phenomenon with an act that stressed sexuality as a form of female empowerment. Now, much older and as the rather strict mom of two kids, she realizes that some of her antics were a bit much. Madonna said, “I hurt people by confusing them,” she says. “One minute, I was saying, ‘believe in yourself,’ and the next I was saying, ‘Just be sexually provocative for the sake of it.'”
Every time Madonna made a new album or video it was controversial because of its over-the-top sexuality. Now she is hiding all of those old videos and CD’s from her own daughters. When you read the interview with Madonna you read “regret” in every sentence. Her inner “GPS” led her astray. And so it is with all of the man-made GPS systems of morality and wisdom.
Today I want to introduce you to another kind of GPS system, God’s Positioning Scriptures. God’s Holy Word will never lead you astray. God’s Word will lead you in wisdom; equip you to make good, godly decisions that will bless your life, keep you out of trouble, and allow you to live life to the fullest. Let’s take a look at our Scripture for today found in Proverbs 30:1-6.
1 The sayings of Agur son of Jakeh, an oracle: This man declared to Ithiel, to Ithiel and to Ucal: 2 “I am the most ignorant of men; I do not have a man’s understanding. 3 I have not learned wisdom, nor have I knowledge of the Holy One. 4 Who has gone up to heaven and come down? Who has gathered up the wind in the hollow of his hands? Who has wrapped up the waters in his cloak? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and the name of his son? Tell me if you know! 5 Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. 6 Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.” (Proverbs 30:1-6 NIV)
As we come to the 30th chapter of Proverbs we run into a new name. Solomon didn’t write Proverbs 30, a man named Agur wrote the wisdom of this chapter. Who was Agur? That is a great question and we will only briefly touch on this question for the sake of time. Throughout the years there have been so many things said about Agur. Some say that the phrase, “Agur son of Jakeh” is nothing more than an allegorized designation of Solomon, but that can’t be so. Others have said that Agur was an Ishmaelite who had converted to Judaism. The way they arrive at this conclusion is found in verse 1 where we read, 1 “The sayings of Agur son of Jakeh, an oracle:” The word for “oracle,” is the Hebrew word, “massa.” The word can mean, “load, bearing, utterance, oracle, tribute, or burden.” The exact same word is a proper name for the seventh son of Ishmael. Turn with me to Genesis 25:13 and you can see what I am talking about.
13 These are the names of the sons of Ishmael, listed in the order of their birth: Nebaioth the firstborn of Ishmael, Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, 14 Mishma, Dumah, Massa, 15 Hadad, Tema, Jetur, Naphish and Kedemah. 16 These were the sons of Ishmael, and these are the names of the twelve tribal rulers according to their settlements and camps. (Genesis 25:13-16 NIV)
Agur was an Ishmaelite, a descendant of Ishmael. He was not a Jew, and yet he recognized the wisdom of the faith of the Jews and became a convert. He was a wise man and his wisdom has been passed on to us. I pray that we will hear his wisdom and follow in his steps. There are many of us here this morning who, like Agur, are not followers of the faith. You may have come here today and even though you are not a Christian, it is my prayer that this morning you will see the wisdom of God and make the decision to give your life to Christ, to walk in His wisdom, and allow His Word to mold and shape your life. Let’s take a look at verses 2-3.
2 I am the most ignorant of men; I do not have a man’s understanding. 3 I have not learned wisdom, nor have I knowledge of the Holy One. (Proverbs 30:2-3 NIV)
Agur doesn’t sound like a very wise man at this point does he? He describes himself as “the most ignorant of men.” Agur says that he doesn’t have understanding, he hasn’t learned wisdom, and his knowledge of God is lacking. Where is Agur’s self-esteem? Where’s his bravado? You’re never going to make it in the marketplace unless you’ve got your act together. Even if you don’t have your act together then at least baffle them with baloney. That’s just not where Agur is at when we read Proverbs 30:1-2. He’s honest in his confession. He doesn’t presume to have all of the answers. He isn’t arrogant. As he stands in the presence of God he recognizes that his wisdom is foolishness, his power is puny, and he is the most ignorant of all people.
When Agur says that he is “ignorant” he uses a very descriptive Hebrew word. The word, “ba`ar” means, “brutishness, stupidity, or foolish.” The word is only used 5 times in the Hebrew Bible, but you can really get the sense of the word by examining these Scriptures. Turn with me to Psalm 73:21-22 where the Psalmist is coming undone because he sees the wicked prospering and the godly suffering. He writes,
21 When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, 22 I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you. (Psalm 73:21-22 NIV)
When he saw the wicked getting over on others and not suffering the consequences of their actions he acted stupid, he drew conclusions that were not true, and he didn’t have any sense at all.
Just how stupid and ignorant can we be? There is no limit to our ignorance. In Psalm 92:6-8 we see how the really ignorant can look at the glory of God’s creation, witness the works of His hands, read His Holy Word, and not even give them a second thought. Instead of seeking the Lord, the really ignorant just plow right ahead with their plan not realizing that their plan will destroy them in the end. The Psalmist writes,
5 How great are your works, O LORD, how profound your thoughts! 6 The senseless man does not know, fools do not understand, 7 that though the wicked spring up like grass and all evildoers flourish, they will be forever destroyed. 8 But you, O LORD, are exalted forever. (Psalm 92:6-8 NIV)
In Isaiah 19:11-12, God calls the officials of Zoan “fools,” and he says the counselors of Pharaoh offer stupid advice. Now you have to remember, these are the counselors, the inner-circle of Pharaoh. These are the wisest of the wise, the Ph.D’s and Summa Cum Laude graduates who advise Pharaoh on the most important of matters. Their wisdom and counsel can’t thwart God’s plan for Egypt. Read along with me from Isaiah 19:11-12.
11 The officials of Zoan are nothing but fools; the wise counselors of Pharaoh give senseless advice. How can you say to Pharaoh, “I am one of the wise men, a disciple of the ancient kings?’ 12 Where are your wise men now? Let them show you and make known what the LORD Almighty has planned against Egypt. (Isaiah 19:11-12 NIV)
When Agur says that he is the most ignorant of men he is telling us that he doesn’t have all of the answers. He has trusted in his wisdom in the past, but his wisdom has fallen short. He has failed to recognize God’s hand at work, he has failed to heed God’s counsel, and his lack of attention to the things of God has cost him dearly. When Agur writes Proverbs 30:1-2 he has come to grips with his failures and he recognized his limitations as a human being. I would say that Agur isn’t ignorant at all, in recognizing the limitations of his humanity he is brilliant!
Agur has identified for us the predicament of humanity–we are unable to obtain wisdom on our own. It doesn’t matter how much education you have gained, how much life experience you have under your belt, you and I are unable to acquire godly wisdom on our own. Solomon counseled us to resist the temptation to trust in our own wisdom in Proverbs 3:5-7. Read along with me.
5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. 7 Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil. (Proverbs 3:5-7 NIV)
This just goes against everything that we are taught in our day. We are taught that you’ve got to believe in yourself, you’ve got to trust your instincts, and you’ve got to chart your own course. Solomon, Agur, and all of Scripture urges us to realize that we are lost as a goose and desperately need to follow God’s counsel if we are going to live this life to the full.
Agur says that he doesn’t possess knowledge of the Holy One. He doesn’t mean to tell us that God is unknowable or that he doesn’t revere and stand in awe of God, but he is telling us that God’s ways are so far beyond his own ways that he doesn’t presume to possess complete knowledge of God. It reminds me of what God told His own people in Isaiah 55:8-9.
8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. 9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9 NIV)
In the next section of Proverbs 30, Agur describes just how limited our understanding is by asking rhetorical questions. Read along with me.
4 Who has gone up to heaven and come down? Who has gathered up the wind in the hollow of his hands? Who has wrapped up the waters in his cloak? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and the name of his son? Tell me if you know! (Proverbs 30:4 NIV)
The answer to all of these questions is, “Not me, but God.” None of us can traverse the expanse between heaven and earth. Who controls the wind and the waters? Not us, but God. I am always amused during storm season around Oklahoma. We have some wicked weather and the meteorologists around Oklahoma City have the finest equipment that money can buy to help us navigate the storms that descend upon us. The weather people have radars that can pinpoint your house and mine, and yet they can’t predict the weather any more than you or I can by looking out the window. Who controls the weather? Not us, but God.
The gulf between God and us is huge. There is not a little difference between the understanding, power, and wisdom of God and us, there is a huge difference. We may think that we are in control, but we are not. Many people in society are ignorant of this fact and they live their life like they are in control, as if they know what is best for their life, but nothing could be further from the truth. For those of us here this morning who have bought in to what society and popular culture has taught us, I pray that our eyes will be opened today.
For those of us who have realized the limitations of our humanity, what do we do? For those of us who have recognized that, like Agur, we are ignorant and do not even begin to understand how life works, what do we do? That’s a great question and I believe that it is the first step to acquiring wisdom, true wisdom, godly wisdom. Let me give you an example of what I am talking about.
Job couldn’t figure out his predicament. He was a good man, he did what was right, but trouble and heartache had flooded his heart and home. Job acted ignorantly, he said things that were just ridiculous, things like, “If God were here I’d ask Him some questions, I’d line Him out.” Would you really now? When God showed up He asked Job some of the same questions that Agur dealt with. Questions like, “Where were you Job when I laid the foundation of the world? Have you ever journeyed to the springs of the sea or walked in the recesses of the deep? Tell me if you know the answers Job.” (Job 28) After Job thought more about all that God had to say he responded to God. Turn with me to Job 42 and let’s read together.
1 Then Job replied to the LORD: 2 “I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted. 3 You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. 4 You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.’ 5 My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. 6 Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:1-6 NIV)
When Agur and Job came to their senses and recognized that God is God and they weren’t, then they began to acquire wisdom. Not their own wisdom, but the wisdom of God. This is key for us. We are not left to our own to figure out life, God wants to show us how to live a full life, He wants to lead us through this life, and He has provided His Word and His Spirit to accomplish this in our life. Turn back with me to Proverbs 30:5-6 and let’s read together.
5 Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. 6 Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar. (Proverbs 30:5-6 NIV)
“Every word of God is flawless.” You can trust God’s Word to lead you through life. God’s Holy Word is a lamp to our feet and a light unto our path in this dark and chaotic world. We don’t have what it takes to navigate our way through this life, but we have no need to fear as long as we trust and follow God’s Positioning Scriptures. Let me give you a couple of examples of what I am talking about when I say, “God’s Positioning Scriptures.” Turn with me to Psalm 119 and let’s begin reading in verse 1.
1 Blessed are they whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the LORD. 2 Blessed are they who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart. 3 They do nothing wrong; they walk in his ways. 4 You have laid down precepts that are to be fully obeyed. 5 Oh, that my ways were steadfast in obeying your decrees! (Psalm 119:1-5 NIV)
We learn from this section of Scripture that if we will walk according to God’s Word that we will be blessed, we will live in right relationship with God and those around us. All of the education I’ve ever received didn’t teach me how to live with contentment and peace in my life, but God’s Word has taught me every step of the way. The older I get the more I see the necessity of simply living according to God’s Word. By living according to God’s Word I am able to lay my head down on my pillow at night and go to sleep in peace.
The guidance of God’s Word goes on in Psalm 119 to give us advice concerning sexual purity. Lord knows we need this advice in our day as even though Madonna may have left the scene of promoting promiscuity there have been a legion of others who have stepped into her shoes. The Psalmist writes,
9 How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. (Psalm 119:9 NIV)
God’s Word will position you and me so that we can travel the road to wisdom and learn how to live in right relationship with God and others. What a blessing! What a joy! What an honor! The God of the Universe has given you and me everything that we need to live this life and walk in wisdom.
The first step is to recognize that we don’t have all of the answers and that we need help. I pray that you’ve recognized this fact today and that you will invite Jesus into your heart to save you from your sins and begin to lead you through this life.
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
January 29, 2013