FOUR LITTLE THINGS
T. PIERCE BROWN
Since I was raised on what we called a farm (mostly twenty acres of rocky hillsides), I spent a lot of time outside the house. When it was too cold or rainy to be out, I would spend a lot of time with the Bible and the Sears & Roebuck catalogue, which were about the only two books we had. About 65 years ago, I read Proverbs 30:24-28, “There are four things which are little upon the earth, but they are exceeding wise: the ants are a people not strong, yet they provide their food in the summer; the conies are but a feeble folk, yet they make their houses in the rocks; the locusts have no king, yet go they forth all of them by bands; the lizard taketh hold with her hands, yet she is in kings’ palaces.”
I think perhaps it was because I was small, weak, and exceedingly ignorant that it had a special appeal to me. So I went out and observed the ants. I did not know what conies were, but someone told me they were a rock badger, somewhat like a rabbit. So I took a special interest in them. Locusts and grasshoppers were abundant. Since I only had the King James Version, I read “spider” instead of “lizard,” but I was especially fascinated with the spider.
Some lessons from all of them have impressed themselves on my mind for the past 65 years, and I would like to share some of them with you, for Solomon says, “They are exceeding wise.”
One of the first things I noticed about the ants was that while they were preparing their food in the summer, no task seemed too difficult for them to approach with confidence that it could be accomplished. Many times I have been amazed to see the tiny creature with a burden many times its size. If it could not carry it going forward, it walked backward. If it could not get it over the object that was in its path, it went around.
There were two immediate lessons that impressed themselves upon my untutored mind. First, they seemed to know that there was a season when they had to prepare their food, for there was a time coming when they would either have no food to prepare, or the circumstances would prevent their preparing it. I doubt that they reasoned it out. They just acted as God created them to act. Would not the results be fantastic beyond imagination if all humans would act like God created us to act?
Paul put the lesson in these words, “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2b). James said it this way, “Come now, ye that say, To-day or to-morrow we will go into this city, and spend a year there, and trade, and get gain: whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. What is your life? For ye are a vapor that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away” (James3:13-14).
Shakespeare had the same idea in mind when he said, “There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries.” Shakespeare was probably more familiar with the Bible than many members of the Lord’s church are today.
The second lesson I learned was that although weak and small, through industry, perseverance and the proper use of their God given talents, they could accomplish tasks that seemed impossible. Some ants may have been lazy, cantankerous, proud, self-willed, unwilling to help another who was in trouble, and would continuously act contrary to the nature God gave it, but I never found one. Every ant that I observed was industrious, cooperative, searching for ways to get the job done rather than trying to find an excuse to get out of it. No wonder Solomon said in Proverbs 6:6, “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways and be wise.”
Then I looked at the rabbit. It was the closest thing to the conie of which I knew. Knowing their own natural helplessness and weakness, they have the wisdom to make the rocks their refuge. Our songs which suggest the Rock as our refuge, our abiding place, our source of Living Water, shelter from storms and desert heat, and the hiding place we find in Christ all emphasize this lesson. And it is a lesson we all need. Especially in times of prosperity, we have a tendency to depend on our own strength, wealth, wisdom, ability, power and influence. Even Paul apparently had to be taught by his thorn in the flesh that his power was not in himself, but in God. He did not simply say, “I can do all things,” as some of the popular books on self confidence would have us do. He said, “I can do all things through Christ that strengtheneth me.” Peter could walk on water. But it was not by learning better techniques of walking, or studying in more detail the movement of the waves. It was by relying on and obeying his Lord.
Then I studied about the locusts. I had previously thought primarily of their destructive power in the case of Pharaoh and the stories my mother had told me about the plague of locusts a little before I was born. They ate the clothes from the clothesline and destroyed all the vegetation on the farms.
But as I studied this, I realized that Solomon was not talking about the character of their work of destruction, but the wisdom of the system by which they accomplish it. Without a king, they still cooperate on an individual and collective basis and accomplish tasks that would otherwise be inconceivable. When we consider that we can easily squash a dozen of them with one foot, it is even more impressive that working together toward one goal or purpose, they accomplish their task in spite of the opposition of all the forces that men can muster against them.
What a fantastic lesson for us today! Without any human authority, popish control or earthly headquarters, there is no task God wants done that we could not do. Our problem is that we so seldom unite with burning zeal for the accomplishment of any one task that God ordained. We are so busy biting and devouring one another that we have little time or strength to get done the primary job that Christ left for us.
This in no sense implies that we should hesitate to “Reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all long suffering and doctrine” when false doctrine or ungodly living faces us (which it does constantly). It does mean, however, that even when we differ on the manner in which we preach, do our radio programs or write our articles, when one of us suggests a specific plan to get the gospel into all the world or into every home in the nation, we should cooperate like the army of locusts cooperate in chewing up all opposition and overcoming all of Satan’s hosts.
The spider is probably not trying to make a show of her work, but if you ever saw a spider web with the early morning dew on it, shining in the sunlight, you surely would glorify God. Skill, patience, progress in simply doing what God made you able to do in the way God wants you to do it will enable you to produce things of beauty and joy for the good of man, and for the glory of God. I never heard a spider make any great noise, or any kind of fuss that would call attention to itself or its work. Nor did I ever see one make an unsightly web or do slovenly work.
If there was ever a great lesson concerning the need of patient perseverance in the use of the means God gave us in order to achieve specific ends that God ordained, it is in the work of the spider. Not only is there unity, proportion, completeness, artistry and beauty in the work, the spider is found in king’s houses. The spiders I observed seemed to be just as content in the humble log cabin in which I lived as they would have been in a palace, but their quiet diligent faithful activity would get them to any place they wanted to go.
Surely there are tremendous lessons in these four little things, not only in our day by day Christian activities, but also especially in our efforts to get the gospel into every home in this nation, and into all the world. If we will meditate on and appropriate the lessons we can learn from these four little creatures, then actively, quietly, assiduously and cooperatively work toward the end for which God made us, we can within the next year not only get the gospel message into every home in the nation, but glorify God throughout the world in an unusually effective way.