24 “Four things on earth are small,
yet they are extremely wise:
25 Ants are creatures of little strength,
yet they store up their food in the summer;
26 hyraxes are creatures of little power,
yet they make their home in the crags;
27 locusts have no king,
yet they advance together in ranks;
28 a lizard can be caught with the hand,
yet it is found in kings’ palaces.
This is Agur’s fourth list of four things, each revealing an aspect of wisdom. The first had to do with satisfaction (15-17), the second with wonder (18-20), and the third with competence (21-23). The subject of this fourth list is perspective. It is easy to focus on your limitations and see the challenges at hand as insurmountable. Temptation takes full advantage of this attitude, reminding us of our weakness, vulnerability, lack of direction and insignificance – in an effort to bring us to despair.
But every challenge is an opportunity, every limitation is a call to ingenuity. Does the ant feel sorry for itself? What it lacks in strength it makes up for with diligence, it may not overcome every obstacle but it quickly finds a way around. Similarly the hyrax, which is similar to a marmot, does not dwell on its vulnerability. The qualities which make it easy prey on the plain, also make it unrivaled among the crags – it wisely leans into its strengths.
“Locusts have no king, yet they advance together in ranks; a lizard can be caught with the hand, yet it is found in kings palaces.” Another occasion for self pity is lack of leadership, if only someone else would take responsibility! But such excuses do not occur to the locusts, who are also leaderless, and yet they find a way to cooperate. So also the lizard is not deterred by its insignificance, but it boldly makes its home among kings. Each of these four creatures are “extremely wise” because they make use of whatever advantages they have, in spite of their limitations.