Small but Wise Lizard

 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 Lizard

Lastly, we look at the LIZARD[3]: “The lizard you may grasp with the hands, yet it is in kings’ palaces.”[4] Its “smallness” is that it is so defenseless it “may be grasped with the hands”.  Its “wisdom” is that it finds its way into “kings’ palaces”.[5]

What the proverb said about the lizard is amazingly similar to what Jesus said about His disciples: “I am sending you like lambs into a pack of wolves. So be as wise as snakes and as innocent as doves. Watch out for people who will take you to court, and have you beaten in their meeting places. Because of me, you will be dragged before rulers and kings to tell them and the Gentiles about your faith.”[6] Jesus said: “Because of Me….” the disciples “will be dragged before rulers and kings”, that is, because of their faith in Christ. So, the disciples were arrested – arrested under various accusations of civil disobedience. In every case, the “civil disobedience” was essentially ministering the word of God. Some of the more well-known disciples who were arrested are John[7], Peter[8], Stephen[9], Silas[10], and Paul[11].

Some Historical Background[12]

Some historical background might help us “understand the times”: Rome allowed the Jews to self-govern their people according to their religion, as long as they also accommodated the Roman syncretism, which was an “everyone believes everything” type of religious environment. Ultimately, this did not work out well with the Jews (nor with the Christians). The two ruling parties for the Jews were the Pharisees – the “peoples’ party”, which was devoted to the Jewish law and tradition, and was antagonistic towards Rome; and the Sadducees – the aristocratic party, which very willingly aligned itself with Rome. The Roman military was present to maintain law and order in the provinces.

Jesus had referred to Herod as a “fox”[13], but the “wolves” He referred to were the Jewish rulers – the leaders of a religious system that was waiting for a different messiah – a messiah after their own liking – a different messiah than the One God had sent. It was these religious “rulers” who initiated the arrests of the disciples, brought them before the Sanhedrin – the Jewish court – and then appealed to the Roman government, which reserved the right to administer the death penalty. The “kings” were puppets kings of the Roman government – King Herod, and later King Agrippa, who answered ultimately to Emperor Caesar.

The Issue of Government

A key issue – indeed, a foundational aspect of this message, is the question of government: Who will govern us? The God of Heaven or the “god of this world”? Like Daniel in the lions’ den, and Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the blazing furnace, the apostles John, Peter, Stephen, Silas, and Paul all ended up “dragged before rulers and kings” for one reason – in the words of the apostles: “We must obey God rather than men.”[14] The issues of civil obedience and civil disobedience are worthy of many messages in and of themselves; but not being able to devote time to a full exposition in this message, I’d like to simply state a serious concern I have – and that is this: In the future we will not be able to continue in our superficial, one-sided understanding of certain Scripture passages like Romans 13:1-5 and 1 Peter 2:13-14, which the Western Church has patriotically parroted.

These passages have to do with the individual Christian’s responsibility toward the state in terms of civil obedience. But does the state always deserve our unquestioning obedience? What of the state’s responsibility toward society? Insofar as the state and its rulers exercise their authority in keeping with God’s will, they act as God’s ministers for the good of society. If, however, the authority of the state runs counter to God’s will, then the authority should not be understood as God-given. From Revelation 13 and 18, it is quite clear that the state can be taken over by powers of darkness and evil forces diametrically opposed to God’s will. Revelation 13 pictures the state as a beast opposed to God’s will. Revelation 18 pictures the downfall of any nation that becomes a modern Babylon, corrupted by wealth, materialism, and injustice.

In Hard Sayings of the Bible[15], Peter Davids says: “In the gospels, we see that Jesus did not accept all legal and governing authorities as ultimate dispensers of God’s will. Wherever He went, He bucked the system, upset the status quo, and challenged the authorities’ claim to the right and the truth.”[16]

Likewise, in e He Acts 17:6-7 Jesus’ disciples are described as men who have caused trouble all over the world…They are all defying Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus.”[17] In other words, the disciples were not “dragged before rulers and kings” to receive good citizenship awards – they were accused and arrested for civil disobedience.[18] They were “obeying God rather than men.”[19]

As Jesus said: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.”[20] He did not tell us to render to Caesar the things that are God’s. That is specifically the Antichrist agenda.

God’s Purpose “in Kings’ Palaces”

Now, God has a purpose in all this. Jesus said His disciples would be “in the kings’ palaces” for this purpose: “to tell them about your faith”.  In the Book of Acts, we see the apostle Paul telling the people: “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there.  I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me.  However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.”[21]

Paul was arrested and imprisoned in Jerusalem, but once there, he also appeared before the Governor Felix[22], Governor Festus[23], and King Agrippa[24] – and to each he “told them about his faith”.  The reason Paul appeared before each of these nobles is because he had made an appeal regarding his Roman citizenship and his right to appeal to Caesar.  In doing so, he proved to be, as Jesus said: “wise as a snake and innocent as a dove”.   Like the lizard, Paul could be “grasped by the hands” of the Jews and Romans although he was “innocent as a dove”.  And like the lizard, Paul conducted himself “as wisely as a snake” in that he appeared “in king’s palaces” and seized the opportunity to “tell them about his faith”.  Paul lived up to his charge to the Ephesians: “make the most of your opportunities, for the days are evil.”[25]

So, what is the wisdom of the lizard?  It is this: He is an OPPORTUNIST – an opportunist for Christ.  He is “making the most of his opportunities” to “tell about his faith”. And this is particularly so “in kings’ palaces”. In other words, if you find yourself in a place of authority, or in a place of high visibility, realize that it is God Who has placed you there as a public spectacle for His purposes; and for God’s sake, don’t be “ashamed of the gospel”[26] – seize the opportunity to “tell about your faith”.

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“The Small But Wise Lizard” 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] “spider”: KJV, NKJV

[4] Proverbs 30:28

[5] The lizard is the only animal the author refers to in the singular.  Does this have any particular significance?  We saw that part of the strength and wisdom of the ants and locusts is that they work together.  The rock hyraxes also live in colonies and are dependent on one another to give an “alarm call” when danger is approaching. But the lizard does seem to be a singular sort of fellow, in that when sighted, they are usually alone. When the Lord brings one into “kings’ palaces”, is it the nature of the case that it be a solo mission rather than a group assignment? In any case, we spot lizards in amazing places.  Haddon Robinson said he saw one on the 26th floor of a hotel in Acapulco, Mexico, and asked himself, “How did it get there?  Did it climb the stairs?  Take the elevator?  Scale the walls?” I suppose one answer is: By being persistent the lizard can get to wherever he wants to get to – even a king’s palace.  While this may be true, I don’t think being persistent is necessarily equivalent to being “exceedingly wise”. I think the more significant issues concerning the lizard in kings’ palaces are: Why is he there? How did he get there? And what is he supposed to do now that he is there?

[6] Matthew 10:16-18 Contemporary English Version

[7] Acts 4:1-20

[8] Acts 4:1-20; 5:17-42

[9] Acts 6:6-7:60

[10] Acts 16:16-40

[11] Acts 16:16-40; 18:12-17; 19:24-41; 21:27-26:32

[12] See: ADDENDUM

[13] Luke 13:32

[14] Acts 5:29

[15] InterVarsity Press (1996)

[16] Ibid. p. 574

[17] New International Version

[18] I believe that some in the Church are particularly called to what I refer to as “prophetic” evangelism to expose deception (Ephesians 5:11-17) and proclaim truth. Daniel’s ministry to Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar and Darius is an excellent example (Daniel 1-6). As with the ministry of “apologetics”, I personally believe that this ministry of proclamation is essentially “declaring the praises of God” (1 Peter 2:9), which, in itself, is a type of spiritual warfare (Psalm 149; 2 Corinthians 10:3-5). This ministry of proclamation isn’t limited to, but may include, addressing the government and society in the public arena. I am not necessarily referring to “group demonstrations”, which somehow end up giving the wrong witness even if sending the right message. In the Scriptures, we see that while prophets did seek the Lord and fellowship in “schools”, they found themselves alone when speaking publicly. This type of prophetic public presence may incur accusations of “civil disobedience”. However, considering our Savior’s example in Isaiah 53:7, there is certainly no place for violent civil disobedience in the Church.

[19] Acts 5:29

[20] Matthew 22:21

[21] Acts 20:22-24 New International Version

[22] Acts 24:1-17

[23] Acts 25:1-27

[24] Acts 26:1-32

[25] Ephesians 5:16 The Charles Williams Translation of the New Testament

[26] Romans 1:16

“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