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I know NoTHING!

Wisdom in seeking God's wisdom before seeking the the world's

Proverbs 30:2-4

2 Surely I am more stupid than any man,
And do not have the understanding of a man.

I neither learned wisdom
Nor have knowledge of the Holy One.

Who has ascended into heaven, or descended?
Who has gathered the wind in His fists?
Who has bound the waters in a garment?
Who has established all the ends of the earth?
What is His name, and what is His Son’s name,
If you know?


In 430 BC, a disciple of the Greek philosopher Socrates visited the great Oracle at Delphi, the great shrine to Apollo. The Oracle was a destination for hundreds, if not thousands of pilgrims across the Greek world in the thousand years before Christ. 

People would come with questions about business, farming, raising families, and seeking their fortune. Many would wait in long lines for hours or days just for their opportunity to pay their offering and ply the priestess with a question in hopes of receiving a prophesy in return.

The disciple held great admiration for his philosopher and teacher. With great reverence for the Oracle, he asked his question of her, “Is there anyone wiser than Socrates?” 

The spirit of Delphi—the voice of Apollo—gave a clear answer: “No.” 

Overjoyed and satisfied, the student carried the good news back to Socrates. This information puzzled the great philosopher, and the more he pondered it, the more he began to strive to understand and know. Socrates considered himself the least wise person on earth. He spent the rest of his life trying to determine if the god of Delphi was correct.

Socrates’ struggle gave birth to the dialectic: using questions to discover the truth. In the end socrates concluded that the Oracle was right–socrates WAS the wisest man.  Not because of what he knew, but because he admitted that he knew nothing. Thus, one of Socrates’ most famous sayings:

Awareness of ignorance is the beginning of wisdom.–Socrates

In other words, if you are aware of your own ignorance, you can begin to grow in wisdom. 

This same sentiment seems to be captured in another ancient voice of wisdom: the prophet Agur. Proverbs chapter 30 is a collection of his sayings compiled by Solomon in his book of wisdom. Little is known about Agur, other than he feared God and served as His voice to Israel. 

One commentator has said that it is fitting that Solomon begins Proverbs with instruction in wisdom to young men, and ends with the voice is that of an old man looking back on a life lived and learned. His wise sayings point to the true source of wisdom: the words of Yahweh, the I AM.

For to seek God’s wisdom you must truly understand the depth of your need, and the towering strength of the Almighty’s boundless knowledge. 

Agur begins to lay this out in an almost comical way beginning in verse 2:

2 Surely I am more stupid than any man,
And do not have the understanding of a man.–Proverbs 30:2

The tone of this verse can almost be read in the voice of “Sergeant Schultz” in the television sitcom, “Hogan’s Heroes.” The comedy show, set in an allied POW camp during World War II, featured the antics of clever prisoners of war versus their ignorant, buffoonish German captors. 

This included regular interactions with the bumbling Sergeant Schultz, their overweight, incompetent captor who was easily bribable with strudel, and whose fear of responsibility would lead him to respond with, “I know noTHING!” when he inevitably saw what shenanigans the allied prisoners were up to. 

Agur’s words may sound comical or maybe a little too self-deprecating, but he has a point: when it comes to natural wisdom, man is woefully under-equipped. His words are almost like that of the psalmist:

But I am a worm, and no man;
A reproach of men, and despised by the people.–Psalm 22:6

In our modern culture, people assume that all true wisdom and knowledge comes from somewhere inside themselves. This is a result of decades of inward-looking philosophies and the self-help, therapeutic mindset. Movies, books, internet searches, and children’s shows all point the individual to “look in their own hearts,” and to believe in themselves to find purpose, fulfillment, and contentment.

In the end, all of that comes to nothing. 

And so Agur makes another confession in verse 3:  

I neither learned wisdom
Nor have knowledge of the Holy One.–Proverbs 30:3

Agur is proof that even in ancient times, one could not find their soul’s satisfaction by “looking within.” It must come from the divine—it must be the wisdom of God. This is reflected in the words of Job, another book of the wisdom of old:

12 But where can wisdom be found? 
And where is the place of understanding?
13 Man does not know its value,
Nor is it found in the land of the living.–Job 28:12-13

Do you detect this in the voices and actions of the people around you? Everyone seems to be continually pursuing the things that will give them happiness, security and peace—and yet never seem to find it. Every awesome vacation is followed by a return to the daily grind. Every new toy purchased or new relationship quickly sees the shine wear off. 

There is something in our very hearts that knows and understands that true wisdom cannot be purchased or found here among the dust and weeds of our lives. We must be lifted up out of this world to look upon what heaven offers. Commentator Bruce Waltke puts it well:

Fallen and finite humans are unable to grasp the enigma of the human situation and so cannot live in accordance with divinely established moral order apart from sympathizing with the mind and will of God.–Bruce Waltke, “Proverbs”

Knowing this, Agur reveals what you must do: you must seek to transcend the natural depravity and relativity of purely human understanding. In other words, see the world as God sees it.

You and I may lay claim to vast tracts of mental real estate as we learn and grow greatly in our knowledge of life, the universe and everything. But we can never know it all. 

For every wise doctor there is a need for specialists who know more about important fields. For every capable contractor, there is a need for artisans, craftsmen, and subcontractors who can complete tasks more easily and expertly. 

Human knowledge is shared and dependent and others. The knowledge of God is dependent on nothing but Himself: 

4 Who has ascended into heaven, or descended?
Who has gathered the wind in His fists?
Who has bound the waters in a garment?
Who has established all the ends of the earth?–Proverbs 30:4a

Here, Agur’s words take on the tone and feel of the prophet Isaiah as he extols God’s great wisdom, might, and power: 

12 Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand,
Measured heaven with a span
And calculated the dust of the earth in a measure?
Weighed the mountains in scales
And the hills in a balance?–Isaiah 40:12

Do you feel the pressure to know everything? No one likes a know-it-all, but all of us like to have all of the answers. Are you uncomfortable with open-ended thoughts or situations? When people are faced with those unanswerable questions or times in life when there seems to be no clear choice of what to do, anxiety levels rise, blood-pressure boosts, and frustration grows. 

Agur is reminding you to let go of this, and let God be your source of wisdom. Can you be content to know a little about everything and a lot about nothing? 

The great jazz musician Earl Hines was known for his pioneering piano playing and genius for playing to the crowds. One of his popular songs, “I Know A Little Bit About A Lot Of Things” has been covered by many artists, and the words go something like this:

You know I went to school
And I'm nobody's fool
That is to say until I met you
I know a little bit about alot of things
But I don't know enough about you

How much, really, can you know? Human wisdom and knowledge is always changing. One commentator uses the example of environmental policies. For many years great campaigns were waged to prevent forest fires. Smokey Bear became a household name, and everyone worked to keep errant sparks or untended campfires from causing disasters.

But then it was realized that in many cases, fire was not only good, it was essential for healthy forest management. Controlled burns mimicked natural processes and made forests healthier and safer. Such is the need to reconsider any wisdom by which you live your life, and point it continually up to God. For this is Agur’s conclusion:

4b What is His name, and what is His Son’s name,
If you know?–Proverbs 30:4b

His express mention of God’s name and “His Son” has implications far into the future beyond Agur’s own sight. On one hand, the name of God is not only powerful, it is built into who He is. As God reveals to Moses in Exodus that he is the I AM (Exodus 3:13-14), so the “Son” is revealed to be God’s chosen people, Israel. 

In all of this you see the key yo God’s wisdom is revealed not simply in intellectual terms, but in relational. In other words, to be truly wise is to know God, and to be His. To be in a relationship with the sole possessor of wisdom itself. 

You and I, as the spiritual descendants of Abraham share in this through the One bridge that closed the gap between God and man permanently: the true “Son,” Jesus Christ.

In these proverbs, the ancient voice of Agur is like God drawing a straight line across thousands of years, right through Israel to the cross of Christ, and then through Christ to your own heart. 

In Acts 17, the Apostle Paul stands in the temple of earthly wisdom: the Areopagus of Athens and is laughed off the stage. The “wise” men of Athens could not see the true wisdom that Paul shared with them. Later he would write to the church in Corinth and share it with them:

1 And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.–I Corinthians 2:1-5

Is your wisdom solely in the wisdom of men, or in the power of God? Do you have a relationship with the fount of all knowledge and wisdom Himself? In Christ you have God’s final Word of wisdom, and by His Spirit you have illumination for God’s Word to be a “lamp unto your feet, and a light unto your path. (Psalm 119:105)”

Is this sufficient for you? It is important that you and I do far more than simply see the Bible and our relationship with Christ as a supplement to our knowledge of this world. Knowing the King of Kings is more than an add-on to what you know, or a “spiritual component” to earthly knowledge.

Pursue wisdom in this world, and seek all of the advanced degrees and knowledge that you can. But over it all, maintain your relationship with the One who loves not just your mind, but also your soul. 



The Monday—Friday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay and this Saturday Deep is written by Matt Richardson. To subscribe to all the DEEPs click here:

The weekly study guides, which include the Monday–Friday devotionals plus related questions for discussion or meditation, are available for download here:

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.

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