Small and Wise—Weak and Strong
“Four things on earth are small, but they are exceedingly wise: the ants are a people not strong, yet they provide their food in the summer; the rock badgers are a people not mighty, yet they make their homes in the cliffs; the locusts have no king, yet all of them march in rank; the lizard you can take in your hands, yet it is in kings’ palaces.” (Proverbs 30:24-28)
Life is full of ironies and oxymorons. You’ve had to put off having a picnic for weeks because of the rain. But the beautiful Spring day has arrived, the basket is loaded with goodies, and your car suddenly won’t start—for the first time. Sometimes we need to “act naturally,” or we are “clearly confused,” not to mention when we do things in “random order.” The four small animals mentioned in Proverbs 30:24-28 are paradoxically powerful. Did you know that there are about 1.5 million ants in a pound of ants (give or take, depending on the species)? And, in spite of their size, ants can carry up to fifty times their body weight? (1) Rock badgers look like guinea pigs but they aren’t rodents, and they can grow up to two feet in length. Even though they are known for creating homes in the cliffs, they love to form heaps and bathe in the sun. (2) Locusts, known for their vast, destructive swarms are otherwise solitary animals. They, swarm only after there is a shortage of food and they rub against each other to get it. They molt five times and change shape entirely before forming a swarm. (3) Most lizards feed on birds, insects, and rodents, but I used to have them all over my houses in Africa, where there were no birds or rodents, and very few insects (which I made sure of). They also love the sun, yet they are often found in very shady places, rushing to some unknown destination.
But this is not just a nature lesson; instead, we have these are examples of strength in humility and natural skills. Ants are small but industrious; rock badgers are weak but constructive; locusts are leaderless but orderly; and lizards are insignificant yet affluent, going wherever they like. The ant has food for the future, the rock badger a secure, durable home, the locust a community whenever there is a need, and the lizard can go where we can’t–into a king’s palace. Size and strength are no issue here, only God-given ability, suitable environments, and accommodation to conditions. In these characteristics, they are all exceedingly wise.
We are not evolved from animals but were created in God’s image as humans with the ability to think, reason, plan, discern, choose, organize, negotiate, and do far more than these four wise animals. I believe that we should be exceedingly humbled (and maybe a little crestfallen) by God’s use of them as examples to us of wisdom and industriousness. After all, we are higher than the angels, are we not? (See Hebrews 2:6-7.) Maybe we ignore our natural inclinations, given to us by God, to do work that is simple and plain, in favor of something that will win us the approval and applause of men. We tend to elevate ourselves when we should be exalting the Lord.
Jesus Christ is our ultimate example of wisdom in human weakness, working at that which was his calling, in the greatest humility. He did so to provide us with the best possible life here–yet, we strive for something else, as it is better somehow. We are like ants trying to be lizards, or locusts attempting to live like rock badgers. In what way might you be fighting your natural inclinations, skills, and talents for work or ministry? What weakness or smallness in you might God want to use for your greatest productivity and his glory? How might you celebrate your smallness in light of God’s greatness as you worship today?
(1) Ant information from https://askabiologist.asu.edu/content/ant-factoids
(2) Rock badger information from https://www.wired.com/2014/01/the-creature-feature-10-fun-facts-about-the-rock-hyrax-or-are-you-ready-to-rock-hyrax/
(3) Locust information from https://easyscienceforkids.com/all-about-locusts/