“Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me Lest I be fill and deny thee and say, Who is the Lord? Or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain.”
This is a prayer; our hands are folded.
That is proper, our posture in prayer agrees with our petition, “Feed me.”
Sometimes those hands are small with pudgy fingers that dovetail pillows of flesh. Some are gripped like a vise controlled by ribbons of steel; others are pale and trembling. Some are gnarled with age, clothed with transparent flesh that exposes the rivers of life quivering with each pulsation of the weakened heart.
Many kinds of hands, but they are all folded.
And the lips utter the same cry, “Feed me.”
Our text is a prayer of faith.
It is the prayer of a little child, whether he is ten, fifty, or ninety years old. A babe cries for food when he is hungry, so we children of God cry to Father, “Feed me.” We know we are so dependent.
There is still more proof. The content of this petition reveals a deep spiritual attitude toward life. “Give me neither poverty nor riches, feed me with food convenient for me: lest I be full and deny thee and say, Who is the Lord? or lest I be poor and steal and take the name of my God in vain.” One who prays this way has an honest understanding of himself as sinful creature standing before the perfect Creator. These words are Spirit breathed.
Man is of the earth, earthy. He was fashioned out of the earth; for, “God formed him out of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul.” As such man was made distinct from the angels who are heavenly hosts. Man must breathe the air of the earth if he will stay alive; he must eat of the fruit of the earth if he is to continue to breathe. “The earth hath he given to the children of men.” Ps. 115:16. Man is dependent on the earth for his physical life.
The significance of this becomes all the more acute when we bring into focus the consequence of sin upon the earth: it was cursed for man’s sake. Before the fall she was his mistress offering to man her fruits with open arms; now her back is turned upon man and she kicks up her heels and blasts him with her wind, entangles him in her poisoned net, and pricks him with a carpet of thorns. No longer can man reach up and pluck the fruit of life; with sweat and groans he now must wring from nature his daily bread. A myriad of forces march against man, trying to puncture his lungs. The burning sun would dehydrate man into a morsel for vultures; the frigid blast of the wind shrieks her ominous threat to stiffen him into a pillar of ice. Armies of insects worm their way through the earth to nip off his seedlings and destroy his crops. Some of them slip into man’s blood stream and with deadly tentacles grab at his vitals to bring him back to the dust.
We are dependent upon that kind of earth for our physical life. Our life is very fragile. We need the right kind of diet, or we weaken. We need protection from the elements of nature, or we perish. We have need offood; all these things which we need in order to live are included in this one word. Jesus called it “bread” in the prayer he taught us.
Agur now leads us in specifying the amount we desire, namely “food convenient for me.” As such, however, the word means very little to us. When we speak of convenient things we have in mind those things that are useful and advantageous to us. So we consider conveniences of life to be refrigerators, central heating, electrical appliances, etc. The word in this context means something quite different.
Literally, we could better translate this word “allotted to me” or “my portion.” Then too we must be careful to understand it properly. Certainly we do not pray to God and lay claim to something to which we have a right. We do not stand before God and say, “Give me my allotment which I deserve,” for that would be the height of presumption. Nor is that the idea of our text. Rather we recognize that God owns all the things of the earth, the cattle on a thousand hills are His, His hands formed the dry land; they all belong unto Him. The trees of the forest, our houses and lands, the furnishing of our homes, our jobs and wages we earn, our health and safety all belong absolutely unto Jehovah. He owns the stock market, industry and commerce, ships on the sea and jets that sweep through the air. All things belong unto Him.
Still more, He controls the distribution of earthly things. He gives to one and takes away from another. He maketh rich or bringeth to poverty. He not only owns commerce; He controls it. The plan that He follows is not subject to change, He has laid the course long before the worlds began. In His perfect counsel He has determined exactly who should be born and how much each one should have of the earth’s wealth. All that you own this very day is not yours through your own clever dealings or your superior ability to get ahead; it was given you of God. He distributes to each one.
So we pray, “Feed me with food that is allotted to me.” Now you understand: we say give me the portion that thou hast determined should be mine for this day.
How much is that?
Looking back, it is not difficult for us to answer this question. We look in our cupboards, look in our garages, check our bankbook and we can pretty well estimate how much God has allotted us.
With the words of our text, however, we are not looking back; we are looking ahead. We are looking into the future which we cannot discern and which we cannot know. In this prayer we are telling God what we wouldlike to have, always praying in subjection to His will. What we desire is, “neither poverty nor riches,” adding immediately, “Feed me with food according to thy will.”
Prayer Day is soon upon us and we will gather in the House of God to pray in a special way. Our prayers will be directed to God, petitioning Him to supply our natural and spiritual needs. We think upon the warm springtime when the plow will soon slice the earth into fresh furrows. We consider the seeds that will be planted and sown, that will need rain and sunshine, that must be cultivated and sprayed, and ere long harvested. We think about our jobs in the factory and the general economic situation. We confess together that our health and strength which we will need to enable us to work must be given to us, We know Jehovah owns and controls all, and therefore we will pray to Him to feed us with just sufficient that will allow us to carry on our task as children of God.
Agur reflects spiritual qualities that put us to shame. It is not certain who Agur was, perhaps a contemporary of Solomon who wrote wise sayings and reflected this deep spiritual outlook, which Solomon incorporated in his own collection; or it is possible that he lived in the days of Hezekiah who added to the works of Solomon, and that Hezekiah inserted them. At any rate, he was a man of God. He prayed in the Spirit, “Give me neither poverty nor riches.” There aren’t very many people, not even “Christians” who pray that way. How do you pray?
According to the flesh we like much. We like to increase our income, so that we can do more and buy more things. We dream of improvements. Sometimes I even hear a religious tone to this desire for riches. If we have more money we can do more radio work, we can send out more missionaries, we can improve our schools and pay higher salaries. All would be so true if we only had more money and could be rich. We are inclined to get on our knees and say, “Lord, make me rich.”
Agur prays, “Give me not riches.” What does it mean to be rich? We like to think of the rich man as one with a house set on a hill, who has servants who work about his residence, has a sauna room inside his house and a swimming pool in the back yard, travels to Florida for the winter, owns a good business, and so in general has all his heart could desire. There is one thing wrong with this idea of the rich: it places him so far away from us. At that rate very few are rich! Rather, a rich person is one who could easily give away a pair of shoes and not miss them; he could skip a meal and not fall over fainting. The rich have many things they could easily do without and not suffer if they should lose them. Are you rich?
The Spirit leads us in praying, “Give me not riches.” The reason? “Lest I be full and deny thee and say, who is the Lord?” The easiest thing for us to do when we are rich is to forget God. When we have abundance, we like to pat ourselves on the back and boast how good we are. Our human nature likes to take the credit for success and, by so doing, deny God. For the business man it is expressed by boasting of his many customers, forgetting that God brings them in one by one. For the laborer who works with his hands or mind it is expressed in bragging of the good job he has and so earns good wages, forgetting that God gives him strength and health to do his work faithfully. The farmer likes to estimate success by the size of his farm and the number of corn cribs he fills and cattle he feeds, forgetting that God sends the sunshine and rain and bestows harvest as a gift upon him. You see, for our spiritual good we pray, “Lord, do not give me riches: for then I will be so inclined to forget thee.” And that we hate to do, for we love Jehovah. From our spiritual hearts we desire to be spiritually strong and pray that material success and boasting may not interfere with our fellowship with Jehovah our Covenant God.
He also adds, “Give me not poverty.” That is the other extreme. Some of God’s people know what that means too. For us here in America, we have to look back quite a few years to recall destitute times. Poverty in its strictest sense means that one lacks the necessities of life to such a degree that his very existence is threatened. Even as riches implies an abundance, so poverty implies a lack. That brings one sometimes to the point of desperation; one has too much of this world’s provision to die, yet not enough to live. Such poor have no place to go for help. The benevolent fund is depleted; the neighbors will not or cannot help; the bread box is empty; and the store will not sell. They grovel in the earth seeking food, lest they die. Some experienced that in the depression; some men saw that in the Orient during the war; some experience that even today; and we may encounter that when we “cannot buy nor sell without the mark of the beast.” When conditions become so desperate, we are inclined to steal and to curse God. Even the best of God’s people do that sometimes. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is so weak: So we pray to God, “Do not make us poor, for then we so easily break thy law and rebel against thy distribution.” The very thought of doing that makes us shudder, for God is a righteous God.
You understand the reasoning. For the sake of our souls we pray that our bodily needs may be supplied just sufficiently; not an abundance, nor a lack, for either extreme endangers us spiritually.
“Feed me.” No that doesn’t mean we sit down to wait for the ravens to come. We recognize that God aloneprovides our bodily needs. We must work in our daily calling as God gives us strength; yet all our work avails nothing unless God blesses our labors. We pray for that blessing.
What if our “allotment” (convenient food) is riches? We must not rebel against God and say we did not ask for so much. We must recognize that if God be pleased to give us much of this world’s goods, it is a spiritualburden; and so we turn daily to God, beseeching Him for grace to be faithful and use our riches aright. So also if God be pleased to make us poor, we recognize a spiritual burden; for we are prone to complain and criticize His distribution.
Our desire, and thus our prayer is that earthly things may not interfere with our fellowship with our God, but, on the contrary, may be the means by which we serve Him perfectly. Hence, we desire neither poverty nor riches; just sufficient for each day.
We unfold our hands and go to work.
God answers prayer.