Four things on earth are small, yet they are extremely wise: Ants are creatures of little strength, yet they store up their food in the summer; conies are creatures of little power, yet they make their home in the crags; 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. (Proverbs 30:24-28)
This builds on Small But Smart (Part 1)
The Serenity Prayer
These Proverbs remind me of a prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971):
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time; Enjoying one moment at a time; Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; Taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His will; That I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him forever in the next world. Amen.1
It would be a waste of time for ants, conies, locusts, or lizards to wish they were people, lions, elephants, or giraffes. The four animals mentioned accept what the Lord has made them and make the best of it. That’s what wisdom is and does. Not fretting, not arguing about limitations, but adapting to difficulties by accepting them and carrying on. William Arthur Ward (1921–1994) said: “The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails on their boat and sails ahead.”
These four animals all face dangers and threats, but instead of fussing, they work to make a solution. Lord, make us wise like them!
Conies Are Weak, But Compensate
Proverbs 30:26 says: “Conies are creatures of little power, yet they make their home in the crags.” What is a coney? The Hebrew word shaphan maybe a rabbit or a rock badger, which still lives near the Dead Sea. Some translate it hyrax. A coney is about the size of a prairie dog, squirrel, or chipmunk and they live in groups, in small cracks and caves of rock hills. They are difficult to capture because one always serves as a watchman who alerts others when danger approaches. The lookout coney makes a sound and all others hear and run for cover. That’s how they protect themselves. That’s smart.
In the Hebrew Bible, verse 26 literally says coneys are feeble people because they are mentioned as a lesson and example for us to follow. They are not strong enough to fight larger predators head to head, toe to toe. They are not strong, so they have an instinct for caution and learn to be careful. Coneys and rabbits have many natural enemies including: bobcats, mountain lions, coyotes, foxes, large birds of prey, and snakes. It reminds believers of our weakness and liability to danger. Jesus said: “I am sending you out like sheep surrounded by wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”2
Coneys never wander far from a hole or protective area in the rocks. They don’t want to become meals for larger, stronger predators. So they learn to adapt to compensate for their limitations, as we should. What they lack in strength, they make up for in smarts. What they lack in brawn, they have in brains. For their weakness, they compensate with wisdom. They know what they do best and stick to that. What a lesson for us!
Wise Conies Run to a Place of Refuge. So Should We.
They take hide in nooks and crannies of the rocks so they can’t be reached, hurt, or destroyed. It’s not brave to stand and fight when you have no chance to survive. It’s foolish, stupid, and dumb. So coneys don’t stray from places they know well. They stay close to safe places. They are alert for enemies and post a lookout all the time. And they get out of the way when trouble comes near. It reminds us of Proverbs 27:12, “The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.”
Paul writes: Take a good look, friends, at who you were when you got called into this life (with Jesus). I don’t see many of “the brightest and the best” among you, not many influential, not many from high-society families. God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks, exploits, and abuses. He chose these “nobodies” to expose the hollow pretensions of the “somebodies.” Don’t be blowing your own horn before God. Everything that we have—right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start—comes from God by way of Jesus Christ. That’s why we say, “If you’re going to blow a horn, blow a trumpet for God.”3
Jesus is our Strength, Protector, Hiding Place, and Home
Many Scriptures make this point. Here are just a few:
The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer, in whom I take refuge, my shield, my salvation, and my stronghold….The Lord is a mighty tower where His people can run for safety….The Lord is good, a refuge in time of trouble. He cares for those who trust in Him….God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble….The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.4
The coneys in Proverbs 30 and the Scriptures above remind me of a praise song on this theme:
You are my hiding place. You always fill my heart with songs of deliverance.
Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You. I will trust in You.
Let the weak say I am strong in the strength of my Lord.5
Prayer: Heavenly Father, keep us safe from physical and spiritual harm and enemies. We confess that we are weak and needy apart from you. Hide us in the shelter of your presence. Keep us safe from the traps set by evildoers and from the snares they lay for us. Help us to trust in you, and do good, to dwell in your land and befriend faithfulness. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.6
Notes (various translations): 1 Many versions of this prayer exist. Versions are used by Alcoholics Anonymous and other recovery programs. Some scholars believe that the prayer precedes Niebuhr. 2 Matt 10:15. 3 1 Cor 1:26-31 MSG. 4 Psalm 18:2; Prov 18:10; Nahum 1:7; Psalm 46:1,7. 5 Words and Music by Michael Ledner, 1981 Maranatha! Music drawing on Psalms 32:7; 2 Cor 12:10. 6 This prayer is based on several Psalms.