The last verse in Proverbs where “God” occurs is Proverbs 30:9. Verses 7-9 form a whole thought in which Agur prays to be kept from deception and lies as well as poverty and riches. Fear of denying Yahweh or dishonoring God’s name motivates his prayer. Agur prays,
7 Two things I ask of You, Do not refuse me before I die:
8 Keep deception and lies far from me, Give me neither poverty nor riches; Feed me with the food that is my portion,
9 That I not be full and deny You and say, “Who is Yahweh?” Or that I not be in want and steal, And profane the name of my God.
There are multiple layers to this passage’s doctrine of God. Here are only four of them:
- God has a name — a reputation.
- God’s name may be “profaned”
- God encourages personal identification with Him — “my God”
- God wants us to pray this way
1. God has a name.
God’s “name” refers to various things in Scripture: what He wants to be called—Yahweh (Exod. 6:3); his character (Exod. 33:19; 34:6); his reputation (Ezek. 36:20-23). All three are seen in this context. They are all connected. Yahweh is God’s name that reflects God’s self-existent, promise-making, promise-keeping character which is what God wants to be known for (reputation) throughout the world. Your reputation is important to you. It should be important to me as well.
2. God’s name may be “profaned.”
The verb translated “profane” by the NASB normally means “to handle, to seize, capture.” This is the only context in which it occurs with “name” as its object. It may be borrowing battle language to picture doing violence to God’s reputation by misrepresenting His character through one’s actions. Or, it may be a synonym for nasa’ “take, lift” and thus allude to the 3rd commandment as apparently the LXX takes it. Either way, “dishonor” or “profane” appears to be the sense and this conclusion is supported by the unanimous English translations along those lines.
God’s name can be profaned by the actions of those who identify you as their God. Agur fears tarnishing God’s reputation or misrepresenting God in the eyes of onlookers. His prayer is essentially what Jesus taught, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:16).
Do I share Agur’s concern for your name, Father? I pray for grace to represent you properly. If God’s name can be profaned by my actions, then it can be sanctified by them as well (cf. Isa. 8:13). I pray that your name would be sanctified in me. Help me to remember that I represent You in everything I do (Col. 3:17).
3. God encourages personal identification with Him.
“My God.” Here Agur moves deeper in and further up. God, whose name is holy (Prov. 30:3), whose name Agur first challenged his listener to supply (Prov. 30:4), can be known personally. The same One who gathers the wind in His fist and the water in His garment and establishes the ends of the earth permits us to call Him “my God.” Thank you for allowing me to know You, to have relationship with You, and to claim You as “my God!”
Father, I marvel that you risk your reputation by connecting it to your people. We are under construction and thus still fallen. We are far from the perfection that we will shall someday share with you. And we often fail in representing You as You deserve to be represented. Yet, you still allow us to call you “my God.” Your patience and forbearance are amazing!
What would motivate such vulnerability? It must be love. Your passion for the glory of your name is itself motivated by your love—your self-sacrificing commitment to seek the highest good of all your creatures. For, our greatest good lies wholly in You. Your glorious goodness shines brightest in the satisfied service of saintly sons who prize You above all prizes. Help me to see more clearly that You are all I need and all I could want to make me perfectly satisfied.
4. God wants us to pray this way.
What does the fact that You inspire this prayer (Prov. 30:7) tell me about You? It tells me that You want me to ask You to guard me from circumstances which would catalyze sinful behavior in me. You model for me prayer language that is bold — “Do not refuse me.” You want me to boldly ask for protection from falsehood and lying (Prov. 30:8). Considering the larger context of Prov. 30:1-9, if Your words are pure (Prov. 30:5), then my words should be too (Prov. 30:8). Agur’s prayer models for me how to apply the truth that God’s word and thus God is pure: I must pursue purity of life and lip as well.
You also want me to ask to be kept from poverty or riches. This is not because they are inherently evil. Proverty and riches are contexts in which temptation to self-dependence and thus denial of God are more acute. Wealth tends to deaden my sensitivity to my constant need for God. Poverty tends to heighten our native unbelief that my well-being depends on me. Whether forgetting God or stealing food, the root sin is self-dependence rather than God-dependence.
Father, keep me from anything that will incline me to desert You or defame Your name. Do not refuse me!
Originally posted at Exegetical Thoughts and Biblical Theology.