“There are three things that are too amazing for me, four that I do not understand: the way of an eagle in the sky, the way of a snake on a rock, the way of a ship on the high seas, and the way of a man with a maiden.” Proverbs 30, verses 18-19.
I’m with the writer of the verses: these things are too amazing for me. There are probably people smart enough to fully explain them, but I’m not one of those people. After a little research, the only thing I can say for sure is that there isn’t real agreement on what these verses really mean. My Concordia says that the meaning of the verses is unsure because there aren’t any other direct correlations to them in the book; very true. The nearest contrast is verses 15 and 16 (that talked about the three things never satisfied); again, true, but it’s a contrast, not an explanation. Matthew Henry’s online commentary (at http://www.studylight.org) talks about how the verses are a contrast to verse 20 (which we’ll discuss tomorrow); so far, no explanation. One resource (at http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries) said “Hypocrisy is illustrated by four examples of the concealment of all methods or traces of action, and a pertinent example of double dealing in actual vice is added.” Again, that fourth item we’ll look at tomorrow. I looked at a number of other resources but couldn’t find anything else that quickly shed light on what they could mean. I’m left still scratching my head at just what the verses mean in the context of the book around them and am left feeling that maybe they are just a standalone point that God was trying to make.
And then came this thought: there is one lesson that can be drawn; perhaps it is the best one. God’s creation is bigger than we can understand and more fantastic that we can really bear. I laugh when I hear about how people think we can affect the weather, the forces of nature, or (really) the planet. It’s not only implausible, but it’s arrogant stupidity. Man’s innovation and ability to use our resources is impressive. To be sure, the same people who shape the land into cities, fill in the seas to build artificial islands, and harness atomic energy are the same people who fell forests only to replant them for later generations. But change the tides? Affect the forces of gravity and light? Change weather patterns? Not a chance. We are men, not God. The supernatural harmony of nature itself is beyond our ability to manipulate. When there are things we can’t explain (like these verses or how the planet really functions), it’s ok to say “I don’t know” and just accept it as it is.
That means accepting the truth that there are simple miracles abounding in everything. Where do eagles fly and how do they know where to go, or even how to fly? They simply know. Does a snake leave any trace as it slithers across stones? I haven’t seen one, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there (or that it is). Give me a few minutes and I can explain the very basics of celestial navigation: how ships steered across the seas for centuries. My explanation, though, doesn’t account for how the stars were set in place, or the brilliance of figuring out how to use that for navigation. And young love? How do you explain the feelings between a man and woman? How can poets, artists, or lovers even really put into simple words the miracle of love that passes between women and the men who love them? Even atheists understand love but unbelief doesn’t explain it while belief does. It’s a miracle.
There are miracles everywhere. In the middle of a world that can be rotten, harsh and cruel, it helps to remember that. Just yesterday, that was the theme. Skip back only one verse and one day and you’ll remember that, once again, God reminds us how this is a cruel world stained by sin. He didn’t make it that way, but we tolerate it that way. It’s mucked up, tossed around, frustrated in creation because we’ve allowed it to become something it wasn’t intended to become. Just like us. And yet, in the middle of that, there are wonders, small miracles, hidden mysteries that serve to remind us that He is still at work here, buying back what we and our forefathers corrupted.
Even in the middle of a modern world that seeks to rationalize away God as something we don’t need any more, God sticks to the simple and makes it into the amazing. We can’t manipulate the tides, but we can sail on them. We can’t control where the eagles fly, but we can learn from them. We can’t trace the invisible, but we can learn how to pattern it. And in the middle of chaos, war, and death, we can still love and make love out of nothing at all.
If that isn’t a miracle, then there are no such things.
Me, I wouldn’t want to live in a world where miracles are impossible. They are touch-points where the divine meets the human, where the supernatural becomes natural and the impossible real. I may not understand why the verses said what they do, or why the planet warms and cools, or how chlorophyll is made for natural plant food while meat is food for other creatures. There’s more I don’t understand in the world than what I do. But, when it comes to love and God, aren’t we all just a little bit Forrest Gump? I’m not a smart man but I know what love is.