“There are three things that make the earth tremble – no, four it cannot endure: a slave who becomes a king, an overbearing fool who prospers, a bitter woman who finally gets a husband, a servant girl who supplants her mistress.” – Proverbs 30:21-23 NLT
There is a created order to God's world. There is a way in which things can and should work so that we experience peace and not chaos, calm instead of confusion. And when God's way is either ignored or rejected, the result can be catastrophic and earth-shaking. It may seem simple and innocent enough, but when we fail to do life according to God's terms, it never turns out well. When God's natural order or path of wisdom is departed from, it creates a hole in the fabric of the universe. in this Proverb, Agur gives us a series of "three-four" sayings that act as warnings against life lived outside of God's prescribed plan. At first glance they appear somewhat humorous, but upon closer examination, we realize that these sayings are real and sobering. In verses 21-23 we find a list of four seemingly innocent and innocuous individuals who find themselves in improved situations. You have a slave who winds up a king, a fool who has an endless supply food, an unloved woman who lands herself a husband, and a servant girl who ends up taking the place of her master's wife. Each of these individuals represent an unexpected, elevated status that is not accompanied by a change in nature. These are simply examples of events that are not in keeping with God's natural order of things. A slave is not meant to become king. If he does, he will tend to take advantage of his new-found power and authority and lord it over those under his control. A fool who refuses to work and is inherently lazy, but finds himself with an endless supply of food and stuffs himself on it, will never learn that blessing is the result of diligence. A bitter, unloved and unhappy woman who finds herself a husband will not automatically become happy and content. She will continue to struggle with the same issues, driving her husband insane and, ultimately, away. A servant girl who becomes the focus of her master's affections, taking the place of even his wife, will fail to honor the one for whom she works. Each of these people are pictured as getting what they long for: power, prosperity, affection and position, yet they are not truly satisfied. They have attained what they have unfairly or even unnaturally. Their circumstances have changed apart from God's natural order of things. It is like a poor couple winning the lottery and suddenly finding themselves rich beyond their wildest imaginations. The likelihood of that situation turning out well is not good. Their new-found wealth will result in unwanted, but NOT unexpected consequences.
It's interesting that these examples of unhealthy life changes are stuck between Agur's statements regarding the blood-sucking leech who is never satisfied and a series of four other creatures that reflect diligence, hard work, and a reliance upon God's creative order for all things. Get-rich-quick-schemes are warned against all throughout the Proverbs. Laziness is villainized. The expectation of reward without work is discouraged. Achieving the apparent blessings of God without living according to the expectations of God can be dangerous and is to be discouraged. We must do things God's way. No short cuts. No compromises. It has to be His way if you want to experience His blessing.
Father, thank You for giving this world order. Thanks for providing some method in the midst of all the madness. May we learn to do things Your way rather than try and shake things up by operating outside your perfectly prescribed plan. Amen.
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men email@example.com