25 October 2013

Proverbs 6:1-19

“Go to the ant, you lazybones, consider its ways and be wise.” (v. 6)


Anyone who has lived in a tropical climate can have nothing but admiration for the ant! Ever on the lookout for the casual spill of a sticky drink, the missed crumb in the corner of a room or the unsealed box of chocolates wrapped up as a gift, an ant colony will quickly organise its troops to invade and carry off loot many times its own body weight! In Caribbean churches, the legs of the communion table may well be placed in containers of water to deter ants from reaching the bread and wine before the congregation do. This simple but striking proverb extols the virtue of industry and organisation over its opposites - sloth and disorder.

The verses exemplifying the diligence of the ant (verses 6-8) come between a short section advising prompt action to extricate oneself from the dangers of pledges and deals (verses 1-5), and a description of the behaviour of a scoundrel or villain (verses 12-15), which is characterised by undermining harmonious relationships in the community.

The writer then lists seven abominations to the Lord, in a form common in the Hebrew Scriptures and in other literature of the Ancient Near East. (Indeed, much of the book of Proverbs has similarities to Egyptian texts which were used in the education of royal princes and state officials.) The haughty eyes and lying tongue are reminiscent of other passages describing the antithesis of Wisdom - the seductress (verses 24-25); the hands which shed blood, the feet which run to evil and the lying witness are the physical outworking of the heart which devises evil in the one who sows discord. Again the writer intertwines the need for Wisdom as a guiding principle on the inside, which will govern the practical and outward life and actions. No wonder Charles Wesley cries out for a "heart from sin set free" (Singing the Faith 507) - the renewal must begin in the heart if the life of the disciple and of the redeemed community is to be transformed.

To Ponder

  • If you can, sit and watch some ants at work - how can their wisdom change your lifestyle?
  • "Sowing discord" (v. 19) is the mark of a villain, but it is so easy to do. Are there habits in your own life which may contribute to a breakdown in community relationships - in your family, in your workplace, in your church?
  • Whilst this passage may be headed "practical admonitions" it is really about the transformation of the heart. Ponder the words of "O for a heart to praise my God" (Singing the Faith 507) as a meditation on the renewal of the heart.

Bible notes author

Jill Baker

Jill Baker lives in Glasgow and is glad to be part of the small but distinctive Methodist Church in Scotland. She is a local preacher and local preachers' tutor in the Strathclyde Circuit, where Andrew is superintendent minister.