TODAY’S READING: Proverbs 30–31
Neither Agur (Prov. 30) nor King Lemuel (Prov. 31) appear to be Israelites. Agur in fact was a Yemeni (Sabean) name, meaning the most religious of the proverbs issued forth from a man of the Arabian Peninsula. Lemuel’s wisdom came from his mother (31:1), and though we don’t know what country Lemuel ruled, it’s evident he revered his mother. Through his mother then the Bible affords us three missionary applications that tend to run counter to all fallen cultures: abstinence from anything that obscures reason, advocacy for those appointed to die, and appreciation for the vital role women play in life and service.
Abstinence. Momma told her son that it’s not for kings to drink wine or princes to drink anything intoxicating (v. 4). The principle is that leaders need to abstain from anything that obscures reason or causes clouded discernment. Missionaries are to be astute observers and learners of their host culture, but never in a way that abandons their allegiance to the supra-cultural principles of Scripture. The effort to get inside a culture is noble, yet there is value to an external view if that view is submitted to Scripture and stripped of its own cultural bias. Admittedly, this is difficult, but all of us have benefited from a fresh pair of eyes. Becoming so intoxicated with a culture (our own or another) that we take on its unbiblical aspects does missionaries no good and gives God no glory.
Advocacy. Momma told her son to pray for the lost and to preach the gospel to the perishing (v. 8). One reason missionary prayers are so vital is that so many lost in false religions or ideologies either pray in vain or do not even pray at all. Some groan for deliverance, but are unable to articulate their cry, struck dumb by terror, pain, fear, or bondage. Some are so grieved by religious abuse that prayer itself is repugnant to them. Missionary hearted people pray for those who cannot or do not or will not pray for themselves. If you are from a godly home or a praying church, think of all the advocacy that has risen to the Father on your behalf, then juxtapose that with the 18 million Buddhist Isan of Thailand who perhaps have never heard a prayer ascend to Jehovah on their behalf. Oh, may someone reading these words pray for the speechless and advocate for those who are appointed to die!
Appreciation. Inspires trust. Does good. Seeks. Works. Brings. Provides. Buys. Plants. Girds. Strengthens. Perceives. Holds. Reaches. Fears not. Makes. Supplies. Speaks Wisdom. Spreads Kindness. Watches. Labors. Excels. Fears the Lord. Different cultures allow different measures of opportunity for women, but God’s culture praises and appropriately reveres them. The Bible is clear that God speaks to and through women just as He does men, that God loves and is loved by women just as with men, empowers and trusts women just as He does men. As clearly as the Bible affirms that men and women are different, it also affirms the worth and value of both. The history of missions is the history of women who lived out the verbs above cross-culturally to the glory of God.