Wednesday

28 September 2016

“Who has ascended to heaven and come down? ... And what is the name of the person’s child? Surely you know!” (v. 4)

Psalm: Psalm 16


Background

There are parallels here with the dramatic questions in Job 38, when God challenges Job: "… who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb? ... and said, 'Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stopped'?" (vv. 8, 11). But here in Proverbs the speaker is not God, but Agur, son of Jakeh, whose identity beyond these four words is uncertain.

Unusually for a wisdom text, the speaker begins by declaring his own stupidity. He goes on to ask a series of rhetorical questions that highlight human limitations and the awesome power of God. These words, recorded hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus, carry particular resonance for Christian readers: when asked "Who has ascended to heaven and come down? ... And what is the name of the person's child?" (v. 4) we cannot help but think of Jesus, the Son of God, "joy of heaven to earth come down" (Singing the Faith 503).

Verses 7-9 contain the only prayer in Proverbs. There are parallels with the Methodist Covenant Prayer - the prayer acknowledges that God, not the speaker, is wise and knows what he (the speaker) needs most. He asks God to "feed me with the food that I need" (v. 8), acknowledging the dangers of both poverty and wealth. In one version of the Covenant Prayer, Methodists are invited to pray: "Your will, not mine, be done in all things… when I have all things, and when I have nothing."


To Ponder

  • How do you feel about asking God to 'feed you with the food that you need'? When asking God (in the Lord's Prayer) to "give us today our daily bread" are we talking about our spiritual needs, or our everyday practical needs, or both?
  • Do you think it is easier to pray 'your will, not mine, be done' in situations where you have 'all things' or where you have 'nothing'?


Bible notes author: Naomi Oates

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