Proverbs 30:24

I. EXAMPLES.

1. The ant (Ver. 25); tiny in frame, yet full of providence, making wise provision against the rainy day.

2. The hedgehog ("coney," ver. 26); though feeble, finds compensation in the strength of the dwelling it selects.

3. The locust (ver. 27); a creature, as an individual, easily crushed, yet gaining immense force by union with others. Joel

(2) gives a splendid description of the raid of locusts under the figure of an invading army, with which the accounts of travellers in tropical lands may be closely compared.

4. The lizard (ver. 28); another tender and feeble creature, nevertheless penetrates human dwellings, and makes itself at home in the palaces of kings.

II. LESSONS. The lower creatures show unconscious mind. What they do, apparently with blind mechanical impulse, is exemplary in many respects to us who have reason and will. The profoundest lessons may be derived from the lowliest things. Mr. Darwin's work on 'Worms' shows how the most despised of creatures, by the very law of its being, labours for others and blesses a world. It is folly to seek to explore the heights of wisdom until we are familiar with what it teaches us in the little and ¢he low. The "little flower in the crannied wall" contains in its life the secret and mystery of all existence. - J.







There be four things which are little upon the earth, but they are exceeding wise.
Everything is full of lessons of wisdom.

I. THE ANTS. They know the time for work, and they do their work when the time comes. This is their wisdom.

II. THE CONIES. What these lack in strength they make up in wisdom. They dart into their mountain fastnesses and are safe. Knowing their natural helplessness, they have the wisdom to make the rocks their habitation, and are stronger in their retreats than all the powers that may come against them. So there is a Rock for us: that Rock is Christ.

III. THE LOCUSTS. Their work is nothing but plague and ruin; but it is not so much the character of their work, as the wisdom or system on which they do it, that is here commended for our observance and imitation. We too have an allotted work to do, and we must do it together. One man's work may by itself be little, but it adds to a great whole.

IV. THE SPIDER. An example of private industry and ingenious, patient toil. She aims at no great and showy things. Learn the worth of assiduity in little things, humble spheres, and private duties.

(J. A. Seiss, D. D., LL.D.)

These words teach that wisdom is not measurable by physical magnitude. The elephantine and prodigious body may hardly have a soul at all. Wisdom — wisdom alone — is the true standard of measurement. The humblest life is greater than the sublimest art, and one spark of intellect is infinitely more precious than the most crushing animal strength. It is possible to be little and yet to be exceeding wise. He makes a wise use of nature who regards it as a book of Divine instruction. The ants "prepare their meat in the summer." This is forecast. Some people seem to have no forecast; no power of turning the past into the prophet of the future. The ants know the time of their opportunity, and make the best of it. Every man has a summer. Life hath but one summer, as hath the rolling year. The conies "make their houses in the rock." The tenant is weak, the habitation is strong. There is a law of compensation. In the universe there is a law of what I may term complement, a law which makes up to men, somehow, the thing that is wanting. Man must always look out of himself for this complemental quantity. God provides the Rock for the conies, and God provides a Rock for all weakness. The locusts "come forth all of them by bands." A very beautiful and practical republic. They have no king, but every one of them has a little bit of kingliness in himself. Here I find combination, co-operation, going together, moving in bands. God hath called us to unity, co-operation. One man is not as good as another. There are men who cannot go in bands. The spider "taketh hold with her hands, and is in kings' houses." This means skill, and patience, and progress. Every man is set upon an ascending scale of human life. All the Divine movement is an upward movement. In all labour there is profit. The whole study becomes an argument. If God has given such wisdom to insects, how much more will He give it to men? If God commends so distinctly the right use of instinct, how bitterly will He complain of the abuse of reason!

(J. Parker, D.D.)

The text may be taken as illustrative of a twofold view of the people of God. On the one hand, the weakness of the Church; on the other hand, the strength of the Church.

I. THE WEAKNESS OF THE CHURCH.

1. It is a collection of "feeble folk" in an historical sense. It has always been a poor, persecuted minority.

2. In a spiritual sense. The generic character of our race is summed up in two words — the "flesh is weak."

3. In an experimental sense. They become feeble in their own estimation.

4. In a relative sense. As compared with their "ghostly enemies."

II. THE STRENGTH OF THE CHURCH. Not in itself, but in Him, the Rock of Ages, in whom it ever finds shelter and help.

(J. B. Owen, M.A.)

God overbalances all seeming evil by compensatory benefits, so that what happens is never wholly unrelieved evil.

1. It takes time to realise the result of the Divine dealings.

2. There is no exposure in our lot over against which God has not set some refuge.

3. The providences of God have ever two sides.

4. It is to the compensations of Providence that we should pay increasing heed. There is some good on the way to us, even if it be borne in the arms of so unwelcome a messenger as suffering. The true art of living is to carve our fortune, be it what it may, into a ladder of ascent toward spiritual perfection, for God brings to us nothing that may not be for our good.

(M. McG. Dana, D.D.)

I. GLANCE. AT THE SEVERAL ALLUSIONS OF THIS SCRIPTURE. Ants show their wisdom in their social habits, their industrious workings, their sagacious foresight. In time of plenty they provide for scarcity. Instinctively foreseeing the evil, they set themselves might and main to get ready against it The voice says to us, "Look onward. Now is the summer of grace, the gathering-time of salvation." The conies are full of timorousness and fear. They show their wisdom by running at the least sound of danger into the crannies of the rocks. This working of the law of self-preservation says to us, "Beware! Be not self-confident! Get away into the clefts of the rock Christ Jesus." The locusts go in well-marshalled and compacted companies. Union, harmony, co-operation are among the chief things in the economy of the locusts. One impulse stirs them. They all act, and act together Ye are Christ's temple and union is the cement that knits together the severed parts. Ye are Christ's army, and union alone can give solidity to its ranks and strike its foes with terror. The chief property of the spider's working is completeness — diligent, persistent completeness. Learn to have a purpose, and bend to it all your powers.

II. LESSONS MINISTERED TO BY THESE TINY CREATURES.

1. The great law of self-preservation.

2. The necessity of regeneration.

3. They bear a message concerning Christian diligence.

4. And concerning Christian completeness.

5. The pointing of these little creatures is onward.

6. And they may teach us the importance of decision.

(H. J. Roper.)

Homilist.
I. THE ANTS.

1. Their weakness. Look at their size; their foes; the duration of their lives.

2. Their wisdom. This wisdom consists in foresight, diligence, prudence, and union.

3. Their teaching. The lesson is weakness made up for by industry. We are now to gather and appropriate the bread of life.

II. THE CONIES.

1. Their feebleness. Physically: not armed by strength, or weapons, or armour. Intellectually: few creatures , are more timid than a rabbit. They have no daring, no strategy, no idea of combined action.

2. Their strength. This consists in renouncing self. Their safety is to flee to place of refuge. And as they are so weak themselves, they choose the strongest that can be procured. How wise would be feeble men if they would follow the same tactics. But it is the tendency of man to cling to his own thoughts and his own ways. Each thinks his own efforts, his own plans, his own productions better than his neighbour's. So, especially in religion, man is a feeble creature. If he attempts his own salvation his refuge shall be swept away. But if, knowing his own feebleness, he makes his dwelling in the rock Christ Jesus, he shall be safe. And what a home is that Rock! It contains not only shelter and protection, but provision and joy.

III. THE LOCUSTS. Locusts are not pleasant creatures. They often accomplish much harm, as they appear in large swarms, and destroy everything they come across. Notice —

1. Their principal characteristics. These are(1) Contemptible insignifcance. A dozen can be crushed in a man's hand or trod under his foot. They are poor, wretched, hideous creatures.(2) Utter worthlessness. They accomplish no good purpose, and afford neither pleasure nor profit to any.(3) Woeful destructiveness. All they accomplish is plague and ruin. The land may be a garden of Eden before them; they leave it behind a desolate wilderness.(4) Absence from restraint. They have no king. This might teach us how people who have no government and no restraint rush madly on in their course of destruction. But this is not the purpose of the wise man. Notice —

2. Their remarkable power. Notwithstanding their evil purposes they accomplish mighty results, even though they be destructive. The wisdom which is commended to us consists in —(1) Their unanimity. They have no varied counsels. What one does all do. They have no politics and no parties or sects. If men were equally united, what might not be accomplished.(2) Their perseverance and determination. No obstruction can check their progress. People troubled with their ravages sometimes dig pits and trenches and fill them with water, or build piles of leaves and timber, which they set on fire. But the hordes rush on right into the water those behind walk on the dead bodies of their drowned comrades, or into the fires till they are extinguished by the moisture of their own bodies. Though uncounted millions perish in the front, there are always sufficient in the rear to fill up their places. Man has a work to accomplish — not of destruction, but of mercy. Many will fall in the effort; there must be martyrs. Christ Himself had to be a victim, but, though the world dig its trenches and Satan build up walls of fire, we are to go boldly, and, if need be, to fill the one with our dead bodies, or to quench the other with our blood rather than betray our Master's cause.

IV. THE SPIDER. The lessons from the spider are here rather implied than indicated, but it will be interesting to select a few from the many thoughts which this remarkable insect suggests. Here is —

1. Unostentatious toil. The spider does not court public gaze. The generality of the world is not particularly favourable to his presence. The bird would snap him up; the housewife would sweep him away. He is contented to do his own work without exciting either admiration or envy. So, to quote a writer, "It is not the daring public act that makes a man great and distinguished; it is not the splendid oration that makes a man an orator, but the long and painful culture of mind, body, and soul." The spider is not seen, and yet he works. His work is all of the best. There are no slovenly threads, no unfinished corners. His web is geometrically perfect. He might catch his prey with a carelessly-made trap or an unsightly web, but he never attempts to do so. We may well learn to do the least thing we undertake with the best of our ability, and not to shirk our duties because we suppose that our work will not be observed. Assiduity in little things, humble spheres, and private duties marks the true man. The spider taketh hold with his hands. Hands were made to use.

2. Honoured safety. Industry will make its way in whatever sphere of life those who employ it may be placed. The great and good will carry out their life-work, even amid the discouragements of uncongenial greatness.

(Homilist.)

The human soul has liberty to make everything within the compass of its knowledge, however insignificant it may be, to contribute to its growth, its happiness, and its perfection. The text teaches us to study animated nature for the purpose of gathering moral wisdom.

I. EXPLAIN THE ILLUSTRATIONS OF CHRISTIAN KNOWLEDGE AND DUTY PRESENTED IN THIS TEXT. The ants excel in foresight; in their social habits and economical arrangements they display admirable industry and sagacity. They apply themselves to the ingathering of proper food, and that at the most proper time. Conies are weak and timorous, having neither power nor courage to defend themselves against the assaults of their enemies. But they give an exemplary proof of the highest wisdom in "making their houses in the rocks," where their enemies can neither destroy nor disturb them. The sense of our indigence and weakness should drive us to the Lord Jesus Christ. In the union of the locusts great wisdom is displayed. Their concentration of aim and energy, the social combination of individuals, is an example to the sons of men. The spider is an illustration of patient perseverance in the use of means, in order to the attainment of a specific end. The work of the spider discover unity, proportion, and completeness. We should, like them, strive to surmount every obstacle, in order to gain our end and fulfil our object, which is to glorify God's name.

II. APPLY THESE ILLUSTRATIONS FOR THE INSTRUCTION AND ENCOURAGEMENT OF SUNDAY-SCHOOL TEACHERS.

1. To the motives of the work. The love of the Lord Jesus, and regard to immortal souls.

2. To the duties belonging to it. Perseverance, condescension, and a spirit of love.

3. The difficulties attending it. Want of spirituality, pride. Apply to those who are engaged in the work; to those who have not yet begun; and to parents.

(Fielding Ould, M.A.)

Man is the most important and most interesting being in our world; this is shown in several particulars, but among other proofs of man's natural greatness is his power to seek and derive moral profit, not only from beings that are superior to himself, but also from beings greatly inferior in nature and destiny; his mind can spread itself over the length and breadth of creation. Thus the text teaches us to study animated nature for the purpose of gathering moral wisdom.

I. IT IS PROPER TO GLANCE AT THE TEXT IN THE LIGHT OF NATURAL HISTORY.

1. The ants. "A people not strong." Cicero believed the ant furnished, not merely with senses, but with mind, reason, and memory. A remarkable phenomenon: the great God exists, works, and reigns in the little ant; it is an humble mediator between us and the Infinite.

2. The conies, or rabbits, "are a feeble folk." Every creature in the universe has the power of self-defence, every wise creature puts it in exercise. The neglect of this power, in a moral sense, has been the ruin of our race; its restoration is the work of the Lord from heaven.

3. The locust. Many allusions to them in Scripture, especially a wonderful description in the second chapter of Joel; they give a fine specimen of union, harmony, and co-operation, social combination, etc.

4. The spider. An instance of patient perseverance to gain a specific end. In a spider's work is unity, proportion, and completeness, as much accuracy as if she knew all the laws of architecture and mathematics; so man should strive to surmount every obstacle to gain his point and fulfil his purpose. His great work is to glorify God, etc.

II. IN A GENERAL VIEW OF THE WHOLE PASSAGE NOTICE THE GREAT MORAL TRUTHS WHICH IT TEACHES. "Ask now of the beasts, and they shall teach thee, and the fowls," etc., etc.. (Job 12:7). And what do the little creatures described in the text teach us?

1. That we ought to act according to our whole nature. They do so. These little beings carry out all the powers they possess, their whole constitution is at work; they never war against their own instincts, they never act inconsistently with themselves. Man acts wisely only in proportion as he acts agreeably to all the principles and powers of his own extraordinary constitution. There are many sorts of beings in existence; some of these beings are superior to ourselves: they act according to their entire nature. There are also beings which are inferior to ourselves; they likewise act according to their entire nature. Man does not do so; he has broken the order of the universe; he has broken his own peace, and brought his own nature to ruin; he is at variance with himself, with the creation, and with God: this is man's sin, his misery. The soul of man is not only a part of his nature, but the principal part of it; it includes moral consciousness: when our soul acts so as to govern absolutely and always every other part of our nature, it is then only we act according to the whole of our nature; man acts unnaturally when he acts as if he had no soul, no reason, no conscience, no law, no judge. Now, when is man acting according to the whole of his nature? When does he act wisely?(1) Man's greatest good consists in his restoration to the favour, image, and service of his God — in union with God. Look to God as your end, take care of your hearts in this matter, let your intellect and affections ascend up to God; make the Divine nature your great study, your true home, your eternal heaven.(2) To this end suitable means must be employed; there is the whole mediatorial system, etc. It is not the existence of Christianity, but its influence on our moral system, that can save us; as an abstract system, it can do you no more good than paganism, deism, or atheism, unless you make it the means of your ascension to God, its infinite author and end.(3) It is not enough that we know what our greatest good is, and what the proper means of securing it are; but we must employ these means in the time and manner which God requires.

2. The text teaches us that we ought to secure all the happiness of which our nature is susceptible. These little creatures do so.The text distinctly illustrates this; but —

1. That God has provided happiness for every nature, and for every nature its own happiness. God's happiness is peculiar to Himself. It is like Himself — eternal, immutable, infinite, necessary. His is the happiness of creating, of reviewing, of contemplating His own universe and His own nature. His happiness is to pour out a living stream of bliss over His vast creation. Misery existing only in the creature is not eternal, is not necessarily existent, is not essential to the universe. But happiness is so; there must be felicity, for there must be God. God wishes you well — there should be no doubt about that; His language, His actions, His nature prove that. Men do not believe that God has provided happiness for them. Two things account for this — their own experience and their hard thoughts of God.

2. Man's happiness is to be obtained in connection with his own activity. The text suggests this idea. Man can arrive at moral pleasure only by the action of his own nature; activity is the means, though not the meritorious cause, of his spiritual perfection. Indolence of every kind tends to misery.

3. We ought not to be satisfied without obtaining all the happiness which the Divine mercy has provided for us.

(Caleb Morris.)

(to the young): — Instinct is a sort of wisdom.

1. The ant teaches a lesson of providence or prudence. It looks forward into the future, and makes provision for what is coming. We are not to be over-anxious, but we are to look forward, make our plans, and take our measures.

2. The little coney, when it has once run into the cleft, has the whole strength of the mountain to protect it. Outside the rock it is helpless enough; inside the rock it is perfectly safe. The Bible speaks of Christ as the Rock of His people.

3. Weak by itself, the locust is strong in association with others. He teaches us the power of association. Christ has gathered His disciples into a society; that brings responsibility on each one of us.

4. It is a lesson of perseverance that the spider teaches. No matter how we are laughed at or opposed, we must perseveringly keep on, if we are in the right way.

(Gordon Calthrop, M.A.)

(to the young): — None are too little or feeble to fill some place in God's creation. The ants teach us to lay up treasure in heaven. Every temptation resisted, every act of kindness and usefulness done, every cross manfully borne, is so much treasure laid up in God's storehouse. The least suspicion of danger sends the conies scampering into their holes. So at every sight or sound of evil we should away at once to the Rock of Ages. The locusts teach us that, in order to act together, each one of us must keep his place, doing his duty in that state of life to which it has pleased God to call you. The spider teaches us to lay firm hold on God's promises in Christ Jesus by the hand of faith, and spend life in faithful and loving work for God.

(J. E. Vernon, M.A.)

(to the young): —

I. THE ANTS.

1. Their houses or ant-hills.

2. Their foresight. General two ways of entrance and escape, and at these doors they place sentinels.

3. Their industry. They work all day long, and even by moonlight. They are diligent.

4. They provide meat in season.

II. THE CONIES. Hawks and eagles prey upon them, so they never venture far from the mouth of their hole. Christ is our Rock; never venture away from His safe keeping.

III. THE LOCUSTS. Very small, but very destructive. Work in bands. Very wise. It is not perhaps much that any one of you can do, but if you all unite in doing good you may accomplish a great deal.

IV. THE SPIDER. A clever, busy creature. Very humble, yet so ingenious and busy that it finds room to live even in kings' palaces. It is a mean-looking creature, but it is diligent at its own proper work. The King's palace will find room for many poor, mean-looking creatures who did the work that Christ wanted them to do in this world cleverly and busily.

(G. B. Blake, M.A.)

I. The locusts of Syria and Arabia belong to the class of wise little folks that know how to COMBINE AND CONQUER (Joel 2:7). Like grasshoppers, these resistless little creatures have long, gauzy, overlapping wings for sailing through the air, and a pair of long, jointed hind legs for leaping over obstacles on the ground. They are born in millions, and swarm in immense numbers among the hot sands of the desert. No sooner can the young locusts leap with ease than they marshal themselves in companies, like so many regiments of soldiers; and, by some unerring law of instinct, begin to march in one direction towards a fixed goal. They march steadily through valleys clad with living green and plains studded with brilliant wild flowers; and after they have gone the land is desolate as winter at Christmas. They climb walls and leap ditches like conquering armies millions strong; and in a single day blooming gardens are turned into barren wilderness. The trees are barked, vegetables and flowers are eaten up, vines are laid waste, and every green thing is consumed. Mountains they scale with amazing swiftness; they run up the faces of precipices, they cross rivers, and even penetrate walls of fire! Now, it is of these destructive creatures that Agur speaks. Strange that a good and wise man should ask us to imitate such voracious animals! But, mark you, he invites us to imitate their good qualities only. They are orderly and united. "The locusts have no king, yet go they forth all of them by bands." There is no strife in their camp; they fight desperately, but they do not fight among themselves. Peace reigns at home. How quietly do these small, clever creatures preach to us of orderliness and union! They have no self-will, no egotistical conceits, no personal hobbies. Sour and sulky locusts are not known. Wanton and wayward locusts are never seen. The principle is, union is strength. Little people can work wonders, if they will only unite. If all the members of one family were united on the side of reverence and truth, they could put down all the lying and swearing in a village. And if all the members of the Church loved the Lord Jesus passionately, and united for the grand purpose of saving lost men and women, soon, very soon, the whole world would be brought within the fold of the Good Shepherd.

II. The last weak and wise creature mentioned by Agur is the spider, or rather the LIZARD. "The spider taketh hold with her hands, and is in kings' palaces." The Hebrew word for "lizard" is a curious and rare word, and the translators of the Bible thought it meant the spider, because spiders resemble lizards in these respects, that they are small and clever, ambitious and daring, and frequently found in royal houses. Moreover, it is better, because more accurate, to translate the whole verse: The lizard thou canst catch with thy hands (so small is it), yes is it found in kings' palaces (so clever and ambitious is it). Lizards are charming little creatures, bright-yellow as the golden canary, and speckled like the young frog. They are wonderfully quick, nimble, and wise. They can run over the smoothest surfaces, and can even creep along ceilings like flies. Notwithstanding their littleness, they climb to the highest positions. Their power lies in their activity and agility, in their energy and alertness. Let all young folks imitate them, and they will rise to honour and influence. Dull, drowsy, humdrum people climb no mountains of difficulty, and sojourn all their days in the valley of humiliation. Success of the noblest kind has always behind it energetic toil, skilful, persistent labour. We cannot be lazy and good or great. Sir William Jones is the name of a great Englishman who could speak twenty-eight languages, while occupying one of the highest legal positions in India. In youth he was marvellously energetic and industrious, quick-witted, quick-footed, quick-handed, and daring; he did all things well, and triumphed over all difficulties. Dr. Thackeray, his tutor, used to say of him, "If that boy were left naked and friendless on Salisbury plain, he would find his way to fame and riches." And let us remember that the palace of the Great King, in the city of shining gold, can only be entered by active, energetic Christians. However little we are, however weak, we may climb high.

(J. Moffat Scott.)

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