A Proverb for Today — Proverbs 30:4

“Who hath ascended up into heaven, or descended? who hath gathered the wind in his fists? who hath bound the waters in a garment? who hath established all the ends of the earth? what is his name, and what is his son’s name, if thou canst tell?” (Proverbs 30:4).

In the preceding verses, the writer, Agur, has asserted his inability to understand wisdom, to know God, to understand spiritual things:

1 The words of Agur the son of Jakeh, even the prophecy: the man spake unto Ithiel, even unto Ithiel and Ucal, 2 Surely I am more brutish than any man, and have not the understanding of a man. 3 I neither learned wisdom, nor have the knowledge of the holy.

In verse four, it is as if he says, “It is not just me, actually.”  No one can know God, no one can ascend into Heaven.  No one can apprehend or understand God’s power and all of His greatness.

Proverbs 30:4 gives us the problem of the ages.  How can we have knowledge of God?  How can we understand One who is so much greater than us, who created all things by the word of His power?

In verses five and six, Agur answers the problem:

Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.

God has revealed Himself to us through His Word, the Scriptures.  His Word is pure, genuine, true.  Because He is good, shielding those who trust in Him, He does not leave us without knowledge of Him.  We could not go up to Heaven to reach Him, but He reached down to us by revealing Himself to us through His Word.  The purpose of His Word is to reveal Himself to us, and if you add to His Word by saying things about Him that He has not said, you stand convicted and condemned as a liar.  Convicted as a liar?  Yes, but not just any kind of liar, you will be a liar about God.

Proverbs 30:4 asks the question of the ages, and Proverbs 30:5-6 gives us the answer, but there was another answer yet to come.  For this, we turn to John 3:13.  Let’s look at Proverbs 30:4 again, with certain parts emphasised:

Who hath ascended up into heaven, or descended? who hath gathered the wind in his fists? who hath bound the waters in a garment? who hath established all the ends of the earth? what is his name, and what is his son’s name, if thou canst tell?

Now, John 3:12-13:

12 If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? 13  And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.

The Lord here gives us the final answer to man’s earth-bound problem, described in Proverbs 30:4.  Who has ascended up to or descended down from Heaven?  The Son of Man, the Son of the Creator.

Enoch was taken up into Heaven.  So also was Elijah.  But Jesus Christ did not have to be taken up — He ascended, as He had descended.  John 3:13 clearly refers to Proverbs 30:4, and provides the answers.  We may struggle with earthly things, and heavenly things are far beyond us.  But there is One who has both ascended and descended from Heaven, One who bridged the gulf between God and man.

This is the message of Hebrews 1:1-2.  “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son.”  Proverbs 30:5-6 answered the questions of verse four with the Scriptures, the work of the prophets.  The greatest way in which we know God, though, the way He has spoken to us “in these last days,” is by knowing His Son.

If you don’t know Jesus Christ, then it doesn’t matter how well you know the Scriptures, you don’t know God.  The whole point of the Scriptures is to testify of Christ:  “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me” (John 5:39).

Proverbs 30:4 is probably the most directly Christological of the Proverbs, as the citation in John 3:13 shows.  Did Agur and his readers understand that?  We can’t really know.  They may have thought the reference to “His Son’s name” was just showing how high above us God is, a statement of His transcendence, that He is beyond our normal human relationships.  I Peter 1:10-12 tells us the prophets at times prophesied things they didn’t fully understand, things that have now been revealed to us.  Maybe Agur didn’t really understand the questions he asked, or God’s answer.

John 3:13 ensures that we can understand Proverbs 30:4 more fully.  Agur asked, “What is His Son’s name?”  It is the Son of Almighty God who has ascended and descended.  He is our Lord and Saviour, the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  The only One who has ascended to Heaven, who came down to us from Heaven, is the only way to the Father.  His Son’s name is Jesus.

About Jon Gleason

Former Pastor of Free Baptist Church of Glenrothes
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