Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
The words of Agur the son of Jakeh, even the prophecy: the man spake unto Ithiel, even unto Ithiel and Ucal,God's Riddle
'What is His name? and what is His Son's name? Canst thou tell?' It is God Almighty's great conundrum spoken out of eternity into time; it is the riddle propounded by the Supreme Intelligence to the heart and reason of every man born into the world.
I. 'Canst thou tell?' The history of humanity is little else than one long wrestle with God's infinite conundrum. And there are noble souls and able thinkers who never guess the riddle here, though who can dare to doubt that the solution comes to them hereafter? Never be a giver-up of God's riddles; work at them till you die. The position of a giver-up of God's riddle is dreary and paralysing; it declares that the riddle is unanswerable, and that the name of Him 'who holds the wind in His fists' is unknowable.
Is it unknowable? I believe that every man born into the world possessed once the solution of the riddle, when, 'trailing clouds of glory,' the immortal part 'came from God who is its home' into the prison-house of human birth.
It is a sweet legend of the Talmud that the indentation upon the upper lip of every man born into the world is a mark of the finger of God touching the mouth at birth and saying, 'Child, thou knowest, but thou shalt not be able to reveal that which thou knowest till thou hast learnt it by the things which thou shalt suffer in the infant school of human life'.
II. 'O our God, what is Thy name?' Canst thou tell? There are tens of thousands who can tell. The Divine Man of Nazareth is the Sacrament of God, He is the outward and visible sign of the heart of universal Fatherhood; and to know it with an intense spiritual conviction that is beyond expression is to know the answer to God's riddle about Himself. It is to give Him back the answer: 'We have found out Thy secret'.
No man can force another man to believe it, there is cooperation necessary between his volition and the power of the Holy Spirit; but to believe it is to view the world and its problems from that moment with new eyes. And, moreover, it is to learn a new motive for purity, watchfulness, self-control.
III. But this is not all the riddle. 'What is His name? and what is His Son's name? Canst thou tell?' Thy son's name, O God, is Man; the human family itself, in all ages and in all conditions, the sum total of human flesh and blood, illumined by its heroism, its nobility, its victories, weighted with its crimes, its brutalities, its degradations. O God, alienated humanity may be, but it is Thy son.
And do you not see that here, and here only, is the impregnable foundation of the eternal hope for the race? The inexhaustible and ultimately effectual remedy for human depravity is the central, indwelling, immortal, Divine sonship in man. The Divine spark is inextinguishable. The Jew of old would keep his feet from treading upon a morsel of paper, however soiled, lest the name of Yahveh might be written thereon. Keep thy foot when thou art tempted to trample on thy brother man! The name of thy Father is written on his heart.
But how intensely does this magnificent truth emphasize the obligations of human brotherhood! The 'solidarity of the race' which we talk about so glibly is not a German epigram, but a Divine truth. It is a truth that, in spite of all our glorious assurance, will cause yearning anguish to the heart that realizes it most. Upon such a heart 'the Lord lays the iniquity of all'. Only One so realized the unity of the race of which He was the Archetypal Representative, that every sin and God-defiance in the world thrilled through Him, and it broke His heart far more surely than the soldier's spear.
—Archdeacon Wilbeefoece, Sermons Preached in Westminster Abbey, p. 15.
References.—XXX. 8.—E. H. Eland, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lx. 1901, p. 397. XXX. 8, 9.—H. Rix, Sermons, Addresses, and Essays, p. 135. J. J. Ingram, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxix. 1891, p. 101. J. M. E. Ross, ibid. vol. lxii. 1902, p. 34. XXX. 24-28.—J. M. Neale, Sermons on the Apocalypse, etc., p. 324. XXXI.—Stopford A. Brooke, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xliii. 1893, p. 241. XXXI. 1.— W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven for Life on Earth, p. 568. XXXI. 10.—R. Glover, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xl. 1891, p. 379. F. Temple, ibid. vol. lvii. 1900, p. 232. XXXI. 10-31.—W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven for Life on Earth, p. 571. J. Vickery, Ideals of Life, p. 239. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—Esther, Job, Proverbs, etc., p. 288. XXXI. 11.—J. M. Neale, Sermons on the Apocalypse, etc., p. 191. XXXI. 11, 12.—G. Bainton, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxviii. 1890, p. 234. XXXI. 12.—J. M. Neale, Sermons on the Apocalypse, etc., p. 201. XXXI. 13.—Ibid. p. 211. XXXI. 14.—Ibid. p.. 220. XXXI. 15.—Ibid. p. 228. XXXI. 16.—Ibid. p. 237. XXXI. 17.—Ibid. p. 245. XXXI. 18.—Ibid. pp. 252, 258; see also Sermons Preached in a Religious House, vol ii. p. 401. XXXI. 20.—J. M. Neale, Sermons on the Apocalypse, etc., p. 275. XXXI. 21.—Ibid. p. 281. XXXI. 22.—Ibid. p. 287. XXXI. 23.—Ibid. p. 294. XXXI. 24.—Ibid. p. 303. XXXI. 26.—Ibid. p. 309. XXXI. 25, 26.—C. Gore, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lix. 1901, p. 72. XXXI. 26.—A. F. Winnington Ingrain, The After-glow of a Great Reign, p. 48. XXXI. 26.—J. M. Neale, Sermons on the Apocalypse, etc., p. 317. XXXI. 28.—H. C. G. Moule, My Brethren and Companions, p. 81. XXXI. 29.—J. H. Hitchins, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxvii. 1890, p. 109. H. P. Hughes, ibid. vol. lix. 1901, p. 82. XXXI. 30.—G. Bainton, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxviii. 1890, p. 122. XXXI. 30, 31.—H. Broughton Barnes, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxvii. 1905, p. 83. W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven for Life on Earth, p. 578. XXXI. 31.—G. Bainton, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxviii. 1890, p. 410.
Surely I am more brutish than any man, and have not the understanding of a man.
I neither learned wisdom, nor have the knowledge of the holy.
Who hath ascended up into heaven, or descended? who hath gathered the wind in his fists? who hath bound the waters in a garment? who hath established all the ends of the earth? what is his name, and what is his son's name, if thou canst tell?
Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him.
Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.
Two things have I required of thee; deny me them not before I die:
Remove far from me vanity and lies: 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.
Accuse not a servant unto his master, lest he curse thee, and thou be found guilty.
There is a generation that curseth their father, and doth not bless their mother.
There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness.
There is a generation, O how lofty are their eyes! and their eyelids are lifted up.
There is a generation, whose teeth are as swords, and their jaw teeth as knives, to devour the poor from off the earth, and the needy from among men.
The horseleach hath two daughters, crying, Give, give. There are three things that are never satisfied, yea, four things say not, It is enough:
The grave; and the barren womb; the earth that is not filled with water; and the fire that saith not, It is enough.
The eye that mocketh at his father, and despiseth to obey his mother, the ravens of the valley shall pick it out, and the young eagles shall eat it.
There be three things which are too wonderful for me, yea, four which I know not:
The way of an eagle in the air; the way of a serpent upon a rock; the way of a ship in the midst of the sea; and the way of a man with a maid.
Such is the way of an adulterous woman; she eateth, and wipeth her mouth, and saith, I have done no wickedness.
For three things the earth is disquieted, and for four which it cannot bear:
For a servant when he reigneth; and a fool when he is filled with meat;
For an odious woman when she is married; and an handmaid that is heir to her mistress.
There be four things which are little upon the earth, but they are exceeding wise:
The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their meat in the summer;
The conies are but a feeble folk, yet make they their houses in the rocks;
The locusts have no king, yet go they forth all of them by bands;
The spider taketh hold with her hands, and is in kings' palaces.
There be three things which go well, yea, four are comely in going:
A lion which is strongest among beasts, and turneth not away for any;
A greyhound; an he goat also; and a king, against whom there is no rising up.
If thou hast done foolishly in lifting up thyself, or if thou hast thought evil, lay thine hand upon thy mouth.
Surely the churning of milk bringeth forth butter, and the wringing of the nose bringeth forth blood: so the forcing of wrath bringeth forth strife.