If you could ask God for anything–and you knew that He would grant that for which you asked–what would it be? Money, power, security, long life, influence, etc.? If we’re honest, that’s what most of us are inclined to ask for. However, when God came to Solomon and told him to ask for whatever he wished and it would be granted to him, Solomon asked for the most precious gift–he asked for wisdom! God granted him that request and made him wiser than all the men of the earth until the coming of the Son of God–the greater Solomon. In 1 Kings 4:29-31 we read, “God gave Solomon wisdom and exceedingly great understanding, and largeness of heart like the sand on the seashore. Thus Solomon’s wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the men of the East and all the wisdom of Egypt. For he was wiser than all men—than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman, Chalcol, and Darda, the sons of Mahol; and his fame was in all the surrounding nations.” Interestingly, God also gave Solomon riches, power, security, long life and influence along with the wisdom for which he asked (1 Kings 4:2-34)–since he had not asked selfishly for any of those things. Solomon asked for wisdom for the following reason:
I am a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. And Your servant is in the midst of Your people whom You have chosen, a great people, too numerous to be numbered or counted. Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?” (1 Kings 3:7-9).
When we read the Proverbs we gain insight into the greatness of the wisdom of Solomon. The covenantal wisdom of God is revealed through Solomon, in whom the Holy Spirit worked to inspire the Proverbs. But, it was not just Solomon who asked for and gained wisdom from God. As we work through the Proverbs we come across another request for wisdom. This time, we find Agur, the son of Jakah, asking the Lord for two specific aspects of wisdom–for two great requests:
Two things I request of You
(Deprive me not before I die):
Remove falsehood and lies far from me;
Give me neither poverty nor riches—
Feed me with the food allotted to me;
Lest I be full and deny You,
And say, “Who is the Lord?”
Or lest I be poor and steal,
And profane the name of my God.
A myriad of books (e.g. consider this, this and this) have been devoted to the second part of this passage; however, the first has been almost completely neglected in any sort of focused way when the text is cited. It seems to me that the order in which Agur asked for these two things is as important as that for which he asked. To be a wise man or woman is to be a truth loving man or woman. To be a wise man or woman means being a man or woman who hates all falsehood. A large part of falsehood includes loving and running after money. Jesus reduces the whole of idolatry down to this: “You cannot serve God and money.” However, while the first requests leads to and is connected to the second, it is an all encompassing request. A substantial part of the Proverbs are taken up with this teaching (Prov. 6:19; 14:5, 25; 19:5, 9; 29:12; 30:8). So what is Agur really asking for when he asks God to remove falsehood and lies from him? Consider the following:
1. The God of Truth is sovereign over keeping us in the truth. The very first thing that we learn from Agur’s request is that God is sovereign in the affairs of men–and specifically here in the work of giving truth and removing falsehood. Agur’s request reveals a humble acknowledgment that he cannot keep himself from falsehood. It shows that he recognizes that deception is a very real thing and that God must lead him in the path of truth. Many years ago, I heard a friend say, “The most frightening thing about self-deception is that those who deceive themselves don’t know that they are doing so.” It is for this reason that we need to look long and hard in the mirror of Scripture. But, we also need to recognize that unless the Lord removes all falsehood from us, we are ever susceptible to succumb to it. The God of truth is sovereign in his dispersal of truth.
The Scriptures teach on the flip side that God sometimes gives men over to the falsehood for which their hearts have so longed. In Romans 1, the Apostle Paul says three times, “God gave them up…” to the sexual immorality and idolatry men want by nature. Additionally, when the Apostle Paul writes Timothy about false teachers, he says, “The Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron…” (1 Tim. 4:1-2). And who among us can forget what the Scripture says about God hardening Pharaoh’s heart as a just punishment for Pharaoh hardening his own heart (Exodus 9:12; 10:1, 20, 27; 11:10; 14:8). In the words of Geerhardus Vos, “It is the well-known Scriptural law of sin being punished by irretrievable abandonment to sin.”1
2. Prayer to the God of truth for truth is essential to remain in the truth. Secondly, consider that we must go to the God of truth in prayer in order to be kept in the truth. God wants us to depend on Him. It is not enough to go to the Scriptures and act as if we can keep ourselves in the truth. Agur models for us a deep heart dependence on the God of Truth for a manifestation of the truth in our lives. When the Psalmist cried out to God for understanding he prayed, “Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from Your law” (Ps. 119:18). This is something after which we must continue to seek. We need to learn to cry out to God continually for truth and wisdom. James prods us on in this way when he writes, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5).
3. Requesting truth is a life or death matter. Finally, Agur teaches us that there is a dire need for us to be led into the truth before we die. I love the way that he introduces his prayer for truth and contentment: “Two things I request of you; deprive me not before I die.” Agur recognizes that there is an absolute necessity of gaining possession of the truth prior to dying. What a sad reality that many live and die embracing falsehood and never coming to a knowledge of the truth. What a sad reality that so many live and die without coming to know the One who said, “I am the Truth.” Jesus Christ is the truth of God–the manifestation of the only True and Living God in the flesh. Jesus died to take the falsehood upon Himself. In fact, the answer to Agur’s prayer that God would remove all falsehood far from him is only and ever answered at Calvary. There, the One who is the Truth had all of the guilt and corruption of falsehood–false teaching that we have believed and false living in which we have acted–placed on Himself. Being led into truth and having all falsehood removed from us means being led to the Lord Jesus Christ.
The next time we take an inventory check on our lives, let’s ask ourselves, “What are the most important things for which I should go to the Lord?” If the most significant request is not for a heart of wisdom and truth, then we have misplaced priorities. May God grant us hearts that discern what is of chief and lasting importance. May he remove falsehood and lies far from us and keep us close to the One who is Himself the Way, the Truth and the Life.
1. Geerhardus Vos Biblical Theology (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdman’s, 1948) p. 125