Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Proverbs 30, verse 8.
If you remember, last Friday’s verse was an impassioned prayer asking something of God. Said Agur: “Two things I ask of you, O LORD; do not refuse me before I die.” Here, now, are the things Agur asked for. Perhaps there’s something significant about them. I mean, Agur the compiler of maxims and sayings, didn’t say “help me pay my taxes.” He didn’t demand healthcare or health insurance, he didn’t ask to be cured of any diseases, and he didn’t ask for money. All that matters.
I did some research about Agur of the Proverbs. Wikipedia says that he was a “Massaite,” the gentilic termination not being indicated in the traditional writing “Ha-Massa. “Agur,” and the enigmatical names and words which follow in Prov. 30:1, are interpreted by the Aggadah as epithets of Solomon, playing upon the words as follows: “Agur” denotes “the compiler; the one who first gathered maxims together.” “The son of Jakeh” denotes “the one who spat out,” that is, “despised” (from קוא, “to spit”), le-Ithiel, “the words of God” (ot, “word”; El, “God”), exclaiming, “I can [ukal] transgress the law against marrying many wives without fear of being misled by them.” Another exposition is that “Agur” means “the one who is brave in the pursuit of wisdom”; “the son of Jakeh” signifies “he who is free from sin” (from naki, “pure”); ha-massa (“the burden”), “he who bore the yoke of God”; le-Ithiel, “he who understood the signs” (ot, “sign”) and deeds of God, or he who understood the alphabet of God, that is the creative “letters” (ot, “letter”); we-Ukal, “the master.” Later on, Wikipedia also mentions that the name, Agur, may actually just be a pseudonym for Solomon. Imagine that.
Imagine anything you want, actually, because it really doesn’t matter who Agur was. What matters in this verse are two things (three if you count the things for which he asked). One is those things Agur requested and the other is what he didn’t ask for. Why, in particular, does that matter? Think about it (and this is all the more pressing if said Agur actually was Solomon himself): you have all the blessings of the world possible through God and instead of asking for wealth, good health and other worldly things, you ask for only honest living. It’s better than finding a genie on the beach because the genie only grants you three wishes. God promises all things, and that all things are possible through Him.
Agur knew this. He knew that he could ask anything of God and that God would deliver what is best in return. Not wasting words, Agur asked to live an honest life. His request not only implies that he wants to live an honest life, but that he asks for God’s help in keeping lies, liars, and the consequence of lies far away from him. We don’t know why. Maybe Agur was bothered by lies he had told, or maybe someone close to him had lied. Maybe he was simply perceptive and understood the destructive power of lies. He obviously understood, however, that he lived in a world where lies were commonplace – and what has changed in 3000 years? – and that they were everywhere around him. Our man Agur wanted none of it. He knew he needed help and asked for God to provide it.
When was the last time you asked God to keep all liars away from you? Chances are, unless you’ve been caught in lies or lived with them, it isn’t high on your prayer list. It isn’t on mine, and I’ve told and been affected by some real whoppers. There’s a lot we could learn from Agur.
And the next thing he asked for was just simple provision. He understood that all he had was from God, that God provided everything. It is implied that Agur could ask God for anything, including riches and even poverty if he so wanted. Hand in hand with that is understanding that God provides food, nourishment to us. Does he ask to eat until he’s stuffed? He asks to simply have what he needs. It takes a thankful attitude to ask for this. Is Agur asking for real food or nourishment for his soul? Answer: yes.
Ponder that one while I go back to research the verse and get a bowl of chili.
But, seriously, the writer of the proverb understood that if he asked for anything from God, that God would answer. He knew God loved him and provided for him, and that God would listen and answer somehow. It’s natural that Agur, as a man, would ask to have some basic needs fulfilled; they must have been on his mind as much as they are regularly on yours or mine. Earlier I asked “what’s changed in 3000 years?” That’s a good question to end with. If it was true for Agur, whoever he was, 3000 years ago, isn’t it still true for us today?
The moral of it is “pray anything to God.” Ponder the question about what was good for Agur, and then ponder that last statement as well. Then, perhaps it would be time to listen to your heart and share a few words with the Almighty. Agur would.