Four things on earth are small, yet they are extremely wise: Ants are creatures of little strength, yet they store up their food in the summer; conies are creatures of little power, yet they make their home in the crags; locusts have no king, yet they advance together in ranks; a lizard can be caught with the hand, yet it is found in king’s palaces.
(Proverbs 30:24-28, NIV)
It is a challenging, unprecedented yet very memorable time to be alive. The year 2020 began on a high note. It was the turn of a decade, the second in the century. Three months down the line, humans have literally been to the moon and back. I was reflecting on some of the famous lines that have been going around in recent times. Lines and quotes by the kind Paul would refer to in his letter to Titus as “their own prophets” (cf. Titus 1:12, emphasis mine). Two quick ones to sample: (i) Money makes the world go round and (ii) Nobody can stop reggae. Well, since Corona Virus (COVID-19) showed up, it has not been business as usual. Great nations of the world are on their knees with their economic and health care system on trial. For us who are from not so great a national (at least by ‘their’ ranking), we too are on our knees, only for us, we have bent them in prayer. It is the only thing we always have. Our economic and health care systems are nothing to write home about. The turn tables of reggae have twisted and all we hear now are echoes of “…this should have been done earlier.”
We missed wisdom
And here comes the Scriptures with a thought-provoking challenge. Just how much could we achieve as humans if we accepted our true nature, overcame our bigoted pride and worked together for the common good of each other and of the world we live in? How about a little wisdom? Now that calamity has overtaken us, disaster is sweeping over us and distress and trouble overwhelm us, could it be the time for us to love knowledge, respond to Wisdom’s rebuke and know His thoughts? (See Proverbs 1:22-27).
Wisdom can be learnt from four small but wise things (things! Think about that for a moment. These are actually creatures. They are living. I guess they have a personality too! But for now, four things!).
Storing food in the summer
Ants are creatures of little strength, yet they store up their food in the summer. As a young boy, it was always thrilling to watch an army of ants match with a mountain of food to their hole. What was a mountain to them was negligible for me. Probably fell off my plate over a meal. I’d make this observation on a warm afternoon oblivious of what the ants were up to. Sometimes I’d enjoy disrupting their neat row only to have them get back to formation a few steps after my ‘road-block’. When it rained, I never saw ants. They must have been enjoying their hay, made while the sun shone.
God allows us to experience times of bountiful harvest, times of peace, joy, laughter, celebration, budding love and every kind of increase. The lesson from the ant is not to bask in the sunshine but to make hay. To practise generosity, become hospitable, invite others to share the joy and to meet the needs of people along our way, the kind the Saviour referred to as ‘our neighbours’. This is how we get to store bounties for our rainy days. By appreciating that we, like ants, are creatures of little strength, we learn to sustain our own welfare by sustaining that of others.
In these times of Covid-19, we could do well to maintain social distance, stay at home and minimize unnecessary movement (we all know what unnecessary is), not going round when certain that we have been predisposed to the virus, wash our hands regularly etc. The nature of the virus demands community survival or community destruction. Our little strengths put together can help push away this menace.
Making home in the crags (rocks)
Conies have been described by scholars are being animals related to the hyrax or the rabbit/hare. Described in the scriptures as being of little power they lack the ability of capacity to do things in a particular way. Humans have built sky scrapers in the ocean, built under water roads, been to the moon, broken down the human DNA, performed surgeries without incision, ran a marathon in under 2 hours and a billion other vast achievements. Indeed, one of our own prophets has said, “No human is limited.”
Unfortunately, we have not harnessed our ‘power’ to build a home in a rock. For we are but dust which is quickly blown away by the wind. And nothing has made this clearer than Covid-19. When the president of a nation like Italy comes to the public broken and destitute, and the super powers like the US and China are battling helplessly, one thing – though unspoken – is made clear: we are not as powerful as we tend to think.
But Christ is. He is the chief cornerstone, he is the rock of our salvation, he is our pillar of strength, indeed he is the Rock of Ages. Let us hide ourselves in him while we draw this fleeting breath. There has not been a better time to build upon the rock than now. Today is the day. When you hear his voice, do not harden your heart!
Advancing together in ranks
Locust have invaded parts of our country for some time now. They have wreaked havoc in farmlands and devastated even desert places. One of the short term mission programs I help run for my organization was cancelled due to Covid-19. Part of my responsibility with the coming of the news was to inform 13 pastors and mission practitioners that this year, we will skip the GP as we know it. It was during one of those conversations that one of the pastors from Marigat, Kenya remarked, “The locusts just passed over Marigat, 10,000 square foot of a swarm. For about 20 minutes, the sun was blocked.” These creatures are not known to have flying power and rely on the wind to push them. In a day (12 hours) they can move for up to 600km. They blocked out a whole town from the sun for 20 minutes. Yet they do not have a king!
We, unlike locusts, have a King. The King of kings. But we have adamantly refused to live by his command. We have chosen ranks and positions for ourselves, and brought the way of truth to disrepute. We, like the locust, have continued to depend on wind. Beings tossed back and forth by every wind of doctrine. Where every doctrine has not moved us, other winds such as racism, tribalism, greed, corruption, deception, sloth along with similar forms of wickedness have swept us off our feet.
Since we have rejected the wisdom of our King, we are continually devastated. However, our King reigns in truth, justice and mercy. And because Mercy triumphs over Judgement, we must collect ourselves together and advance in ranks as those of the Army of the Lord. Fearing not the things of the world for its light will become darkness, in the light of the glory and grace of our Lord. Let us stand up for Jesus, soldiers of the cross, lifting higher his royal banner, it must not suffer loss!
Being found in the King’s palace
I have severally, chased away a lizard by bringing an object close to it. The thing (here we go) vanishes in seconds. A lizard holds on the wall feebly but surely. Almost suggesting that “I know I shouldn’t be here but just a little warmth please.” And to its credit, you can find it looking for warmth in the king’s palace. A place where ordinary people, like you and me will never set foot in to save by direct invitation and after passing a thorough security check by mean looking gentlemen.
You and I, unlike the lizard that can be caught by the hand, have a sure and secure place with God. He says in Isaiah 49:16 …See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands… Now that is secure. Like the Psalmist in Psalm 91, we must make the Lord our refuge and fortress, our dwelling. O may our souls yearn for the courts of the Lord and our hearts and flesh cry out for the living God (Psalm 84:2). Let us dwell in His shelter that we may rest in His shadow (Ps. 91:1).
In the midst of the Covid-19 crisis that the world if facing, and in light of all the crisis that the world has become, we humans hold the highest responsibility for any positive possibility. We have learnt the wisdom of four creatures and the meaning of their experiences. We must therefore seek the wisdom of God in these and in all times. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him (James 1:5).
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”