Three things cause the earth to tremble,
even four it cannot bear up under:
a slave when he becomes king,
a godless fool when he is filled with food,
a woman who is unloved when she gets married,
a maid when she replaces her mistress. (Proverbs 30:21-23 GW)
(Context—Proverbs 30:20-33 GW)
Benjamin Franklin is credited for several proverbial sayings typifying early America. Many of his sayings ascribed a sense of order important for a new nation birthed through a revolution. Here’s one of them—
A place for everything, everything in its place.
This isn’t just an American sentiment. It’s universal. It’s innate in our humanness. We like and want order. Something inside us wants to bring the chaos or disorganization around us into some form of order.
Out of order
When things are out of order, it’s unsettling. When a different or new form or order comes, it’s more than unsettling. It’s as if things are turned inside-out and upside-down.
This happens in many ways in daily life and across generations and centuries. A basic knowledge of history makes this clear.
Revolutions and wars have a way of resetting the previous order of things—new governments and far-reaching societal upheavals. Modern examples are the American and French revolutions. But political and social change reaches around the globe and back through many centuries.
Most of us aren’t students of world history and sociology. We’re more concerned with disruptive changes impacting our lives in a personal way.
These three verses give us four life situations where things are not how we’d expect or want them to be. Each of them can be found throughout history and also in the Scriptures.
When a slave becomes king
In one of the prophecies in the book of Daniel, it speaks of a vile or contemptible person who would become a king but not recognized with royal honor. Later, he does terrible things to the people of God—slaughtering many.
He was an infamous king who desecrated the temple of God in Jerusalem when he sacrificed a pig on the altar (Dan 11:21, 29-36).
This illustrates what happens with a person who does not know or understand how to handle authority. They abuse their power at the expense of others and themselves.
The full fool
Here’s another story of a king from the book of Daniel. Daniel was known as trustworthy and faithful. He became a great statesman and advisor to the great emperor, Nebuchadnezzar—even in the emperor’s worst times (Dan 2:27-34).
Much later in Daniel’s life, when Nebuchadnezzar’s grandson Belshazzar reigned, Daniel was forgotten and Belshazzar was foolish and impudent. During a great feast, when he was full of food and wine and himself, he had the sacred articles of Jewish worship brought in to worship his gods (Dan 5:1-7).
His foolishness cost him the empire and his life. That same night after being warned by a miraculous sign of a finger writing on the wall, Darius the Mede invaded, conquered the empire, and put him to death.
When a fool is full, he becomes full of himself and a danger to himself and others.
An unloved woman
The story of the patriarch Jacob’s first wife, Leah, is an example of the impact of neglect, jealousy, and favoritism. Each of these has a harmful ripple effect for obvious reasons.
Sadly, the repercussions of Jacob and Leah’s troubled marriage and the children born by her and her handmaidens rippled on for generations. It didn’t just impact their family but the nation of Israel for generations (Gen 29:30-32).
One way we see God’s favor upon Leah, almost as compensation for being unloved by Jacob (Gen ), is how she was blessed to give birth to six sons—three times those of Rachel, the loved wife. Even when we disrupt God’s order, He moves to bring restoration.
The replaced mistress
Sometimes ideas and plans don’t bring their expected results. When it comes to our own efforts to circumvent God’s direction and provision for our lives, it never brings the results we expect.
God promised a son to Abraham but it took much longer than expected. In fact, he and his wife had grown old past the age of bearing children. Sarah, his wife decided to make God’s promise come to pass by having Abraham lay with her servant, Hagar (Gen 16:1-5).
After Hagar gets pregnant she despises her mistress, Sarah, thinking she was better and preferred over her. Of course, this doesn’t sit well with Sarah and Abraham is caught in the middle. The story gets worse as it goes on except for one thing—God’s faithfulness.
So many lessons could be drawn from this saga but the connection to this proverb is simple. When we try to reorder things our way from what God intends, we turned things inside-out and upside-down and wonder why.
There will always be exceptions to the rule but the exceptions don’t become the rule. When a person is not equipped or prepared for a certain role, they aren’t able to handle it well. When their expectations aren’t met or are unrealistic—there will be unintended consequences.
We always have the choice to trust God when faced with various life situations. Trusting Him means having the long view of things—willing to wait upon the Lord’s direction and provision. When we try to reorder things our way, we’re likely to turn things inside-out and upside-down.
When you find yourself struggling to trust God in any life situation, reflect on these life lessons and others like them in the Bible. Consciously choose to trust the Lord rather than figure it out your own way. Express this choice to the Lord in prayer and ask Him for the wisdom and grace to leave it in His hands.
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