Small but Wise Ants

A foundational Scripture passage – Proverbs 30:24-28

“Four things are small on the earth, but they are exceedingly wise: The ants are not a strong people, but they prepare their food in the summer; The rock hyraxes are not mighty people, yet they make their houses in the rocks; The locusts have no king, yet all of them go out in ranks; The lizard you may grasp with the hands, yet it is in kings’ palaces.”

The corresponding Scripture passage for us humans is this:

 “ … Consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God.”[1]

As we apply to humans what is said about these four “small” animals, we will see that wisdom is essentially having the aptitude to recognize and compensate for our human limitations.  Notice that the proverb says: “Four things are small on the earth, BUT ….” Ants are not strong, BUT …” “Hyraxes are not powerful, BUT …” “Locusts have no king, BUT …” “Lizards can be seized with the hand, BUT ….” Each is small and weak, BUT through God-given wisdom their very weakness is made into a strength.  This should remind us of what the Lord said to the apostle Paul: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”  And Paul’s response was: “Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.  Therefore, I am well content with weaknesses … for when I am weak, then I am strong.”[2]

We need to recognize our weakness, find contentment with the “smallness” of our humanity – that is the humility component; and then seek God for the wisdom which turns that very weakness into strength – again the “Humility – Wisdom Connection”.

 The Ants

The proverb says: “The ants are not a strong people, but they prepare their food in the summer.” Their “smallness” is they “are not a strong people”.  Their “wisdom” is they “prepare their food in the summer”.  This means that they HAVE FORESIGHT AND MAKE PREPARATION FOR THE FUTURE.  These “small but wise” ants can be likened to a particular tribe of people back in history, and also to a people the Lord is “forming for Himself to declare His praise”[3]. Let’s look at a very interesting passage of Scripture describing a people – a particular tribe of Israel as the tribes gathered together under David at Hebron. I Chronicles 12:23 reads: “The kingdom of Israel had been taken away from Saul, and it now belonged to David. He was ruling from Hebron, and thousands of well-trained soldiers from each tribe went there to crown David king of all Israel, just as the LORD had promised.”[4] 

Firstly, I’d like to point out two things that relate to the subject matter:

  • The Hebrew name, Hebron, means “joining together” in an alliance or association, in a confederation or company, a union.[5] We will see that such a “joining together” is wisdom.
  • The context of this Scripture passage is a time of change in Israel’s history – a time of transition from the leadership of Saul to the leadership of David – Saul representing rule of Man, and David representing the rule of Christ. It was a time of a new expression of the kingdom of God.

I Chronicles 12:23 then finishes with: These soldiers, who were always prepared for battle, included…”[6], and it gives a list of the various tribes including …

The Sons of Issachar

And in verse 32, it says: “… the sons of Issachar, (were) men who understood the times, with knowledge of what Israel should do…” The Hebrew name, Issachar, means “he brings a reward”.[7]  The ants had foresight.  These sons of Issachar also had foresight – they “understood the times”. 

Understanding the Times

I’d like us to consider this phrase “understanding the times”:  Where did they get this understanding?  It was God-given.  It is in our own best interests to not look to the world system[8] for “understanding the times”.  The world system lacks the understanding that God gives.  The world system propagates information.  But there is a difference between information and understanding.  I am referring to making God and His word our source for understanding, rather than the world system and its media as our source for understanding. You see, understanding comes when one has insight into the information.  And we need to “understand the times” from God’s perspective rather than from the perspective of the world system.  The media is our culture’s major tool in the shaping of people’s perspectives, attitudes, and behavior.[9]  This goes beyond the saying: “You can’t believe everything you read in the newspaper”, etc.  The media – especially the electronic media – have a powerful and effective potential for propaganda. Depending on the surrounding culture, media propaganda can be obvious or understated, but in either case it will be powerful and effective in shaping perspectives, attitudes, and behavior. It is the rich and powerful who own the media; and they are rich and powerful because they own the media.

A quote from the Columbia Journalism Review: The U.S. media landscape is dominated by massive corporations that, through a history of mergers and acquisitions, have concentrated their control over what we see, hear, and read…. Our media wasn’t created by the free market.  It is the direct result of policies made by Congress and the Federal Communications Commission in Washington…. Do the laws benefit the public or do they just benefit big companies that can afford high-priced lobbyists?”[10]

Notwithstanding the plethora of media information, journalists themselves are concerned about the objectivity and quality of journalism in America.[11]  I don’t have an easy solution for finding objective information in the media.  All news organizations have a bias – from the progressive secular humanist to the conservative Christian.  The secular humanist perspective is obviously at odds with the Biblical worldview. Personally, I agree with the perspective of most, not all, but most, Christian reporting, I just think that it is typically limited in its choice of topics and issues, and therefore doesn’t offer a full picture of all the forces at work in the world.  I try to find a variety of sources, including world news organizations and journalism outside of the major media corporations and networks, and then try to put the information in the context of a Biblical worldview and perspective of the future.

Information plus insight gives understanding. We need to get our insights from the Holy Spirit rather than from the “spirit of the world”.[12] We must recognize the fact that there are “false prophets” both in the world and in Christendom.[13]  The Lord said through Ezekiel: “… they lead my people the wrong way by saying, “Peace!” when there is no peace. When the people build a weak wall, the prophets cover it with whitewash to make it look strong.[14]  And through Jeremiah He said: “They tried to heal my people’s serious injuries as if they were small wounds.  They said, ‘It’s all right, it’s all right.’  But really, it is not all right.”[15] If Jesus said, “In this world you will have tribulation”; then anyone saying, “Peace, it’s all right”, must be a false prophet.

Gaining understanding of the times requires the ministry of “the watchman” – a people who call upon God and seek God in prayer. This is what the Lord said through Isaiah: “I have posted watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem; they will never be silent day or night. You who call on the LORD, give yourselves no rest.”[16] We also need to realize this: It is much more important to devote ourselves to understanding what the God of history is doing in the world rather than what the world system is trying to accomplish; because in the end, it is God’s purposes – not the world’s agendas – which will prevail. So, we need to be like the ants and the sons of Issachar – having foresight and spiritual insight  

 Preparation for the Future

But the Scripture also says that the sons of Issachar had “knowledge of what Israel should do”.  Like the ants, the sons of Issachar were a diligent people.  We all have some idea of what it means to be diligent; but the Hebrew word, charuts, and the Latin root, diligere, communicate an original meaning which our English usage has lost.  The original meaning of diligence is to choose, to decide.  To be diligent is to act in a decisive, determined way.  The sons of Issachar had the faith and confidence to act in a decisive, determined way, because they believed that God had given them the wisdom to do so – wisdom to truly understand the times, and wisdom to know what the people of God should do.

Like the ants, they knew how to make preparation for the future based on the understanding of the times given to them by the Spirit of God.  The ants “prepare their food in the summer” in preparation for winter.  They prepare during the summer days for the winter’s night. Isaiah wrote: “Watchman, how much of the night is left? Watchman, how much longer will it be night?” The watchman answers, “Morning is coming, but then night will come again. If you have something to ask, then come back and ask.”[17]

About 770 years later, Jesus confirms this perspective by saying: “We need to be energetically at work for the One who sent Me here, working while the sun shines.  When night falls, the workday is over.”[18]  This seems to indicate that as human history progresses up to the time of “the great tribulation”, doing the work of God on the earth may become increasingly difficult.[19]  The apostle Paul, therefore, admonishes us: “So then, be very careful how you live. Don’t live like foolish people but likewise people. Make the most of your opportunities because these are evil days.  So, don’t be foolish, but understand what the Lord wants.”[20] “These are evil days”.  We need to seek God to know what He wants – His wisdom to know how to live – His wisdom to make the most of every opportunity He presents to us – being “watchmen” who “understand the times” and know what to do – now and in preparation for the future.

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“The Small But Wise Ants” is an excerpt from the eBook “Facing the Future”. See the corresponding eBook and Audio Message on our website.

 At Christ’s Table – ACTpublications © 2013

“Explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.” 1 Corinthians 2:13

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[1] 1 Corinthians 1:26-29

[2] 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

[3] Cf. Isaiah 43:21

[4] Contemporary English Version

[5] Exhaustive Dictionary of Bible Names, Dr. Judson Cornwall & Dr. Stelman Smith

[6] Contemporary English Version

[7] Exhaustive Dictionary of Bible Names, Dr. Judson Cornwall & Dr. Stelman Smith

[8] Namely, “the present condition of human affairs in alienation from and opposition to God.” Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words

[9] This is a real and chronological sequence.  Perspectives give rise to attitudes, which in turn influence behavior.

[10] “The Big Six”: General Electric, Time Warner, Walt Disney, News Corp., CBS, and Viacom (Columbia Journalism Review: “Who Owns What”).


[12] 1 Corinthians 2:12, Ephesians 2:2

[13] Matthew 7:15; 24:11, 24; 2 Peter 2:1; 1 John 4:1

[14] Ezekiel 13:10 (also verse 16) New Century Version

[15] Jeremiah 6:14 (also 8:11) New Century Version

[16] Isaiah 62:6 New International Version

[17] Isaiah 21:11-12

[18] John 9:4 The Message. 

[19] Some Scriptures that seem to support this idea: Daniel 7:25, Isaiah 51:6, Matthew 24:9, 12, 21, 29, Mark 13:24, Revelation 2:10

[20] Ephesians 5:15-17 God’s Word Translation

“Freely you have received; freely give.” (Matthew 10:28)
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Quo Vadis

God is always moving forward in His kingdom plans and purposes. He never moves backward. And for those who love Him, He never stops moving in our lives for His glory. But to continue moving on with God “from glory to glory” requires our living “from faith to faith”. It takes an act of faith