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The DEEP

Wild Kingdom

Wisdom in seeing God’s provision in the smallest of His creatures 

Proverbs 30:24-28

24 There are four things which are little on the earth,
But they are exceedingly wise:

25 The ants are a people not strong,
Yet they prepare their food in the summer;

26 The rock badgers are a feeble folk,
Yet they make their homes in the crags;

27 The locusts have no king,
Yet they all advance in ranks;

28 The lizard skillfully grasps with its hands,
And it is in kings’ palaces.

 

Just outside your door lies another world. In the grass below and in the trees above, creatures scurry, crawl and fly. In nearly every biosphere and ecosystem of the world, God’s creatures have been specially made to adapt and thrive, even under extreme conditions.  

Such an abundance of life makes it seem as if the classic television show Wild Kingdom could be filmed right in your own backyard—or even on your back porch.

First airing on American television in 1963, Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom soon became a fixture of Sunday evening programming on NBC. For over two decades, viewers young and old tuned in to see this exciting documentary that featured the hosts Marlin Perkins and naturalist Jim Fowler encountering various wildlife on location from the jungles of Brazil to the African savanna. 

Using creative camera work and a hands-on style, Wild Kingdom brought both unique and ordinary wildlife into the very living rooms of viewers in a way that both dispelled myths and instilled fascination. 

Wild Kingdom often featured a format that included the older, dignified Perkins narrating off-camera while Fowler, dressed for the bush, would encounter dangerous wild animals. Many viewers remember the dialogue amusingly as, “I waited in the truck, while Jim wrestled the wild [insert deadly animal here].” 

This is untrue, however, and is rumored to have begun as a joke by late night host Johnny Carson, on whose show Jim Fowler was a frequent guest. 

In reality, Marlin Perkins—who grew up in Carthage Missouri chasing snakes and lizards—did his own share of wild animal wrangling. Viewers of Wild Kingdom were regularly on the edge of their seats, especially with scenes like Perkins’ wrestling of a wild anaconda.

Like Marlin Perkins and Jim Fowler, Solomon must have held a great respect and fascination with the wild creatures that inhabited his ancient kingdom. This is evident in his repeated use of wild and domestic animals in his books of wisdom. One such passage is found in Proverbs 30. 

Here Solomon looks at not majestic and fierce animal such as lions or bears, but small, yet incredibly adaptable wild creatures that are often overlooked or even viewed as pests. God’s glory can be seen even in these—and the wisdom that He shows us in their ways is a reminder of His provision for what he has made, and for you and me.

Solomon first begins with an introduction:

24 There are four things which are little on the earth,
But they are exceedingly wise:–Proverbs 30:24

How can something “little on the earth” be “exceedingly wise?” The small size of the creatures that are illustrated in the following verses reveals God’s wisdom through them as each exhibits fascinating behavior that enables them to survive in hostile environments. 

Each seems to happily go about its existence unbothered by the stresses or concerns for survival that other creatures display. And yet they perform vital roles in preserving life in this world in a way that almost unconsciously gives glory to God. Much like the role of Hobbits—as J.R.R. Tolkien describes in Fellowship of the Ring:

Hobbits Must Seem Of Little Importance. They Are Neither Renowned As Great Warriors, Nor Counted Among The Very Wise.–Tolkien

The small wise creature that Solomon holds up to you first is the ant: 

25 The ants are a people not strong,
Yet they prepare their food in the summer;–Proverbs 30:25

You have seen ants appear in other proverbs of Solomon:

6 Go to the ant, you sluggard!
Consider her ways and be wise,–Proverbs 6:6

Solomon knows that ants are small, but they can be overwhelming in number and they seem to work tirelessly to build up their nest and prepare for times of scarcity. Their labyrinthine colonies are a maze of protected chambers and tunnels that the ants work to fill with food for the workers and as nurseries for their young.

Using chemical signals and genetic habits, ants work together outside the hive to locate and harvest food, and can carry up to 10-15 times their own weight. Their “working in summer” denotes their taking advantage of favorable seasons of life to plan ahead for the future—and they do all of this without a planning committee or a smartphone calendar to remind them.

Much like the ant, if you are wise you will also take advantage of good times to “make hay while the sun is shining.” This phrase comes from 1546, appearing in John Heywood’s book, A dialogue conteinyng the nomber in effect of all the prouerbes in the Englishe tongue. When hay and fodder for livestock is grown it is harvested in the warm, dry months of summer. Falling rain can cause the dry hay to become damp and lead to harmful mold. 

Do you seek to be productive and take the best advantage of the “sunny” years of your life? Too often, youth is spent carousing or entertaining one’s whims and not preparing for the future. The completing of an education, seeking of a spouse, and the bearing of children can be best done during these seasons.  

There is a spiritual calling in this as well. As a mortal, you know that the days of your life are numbered and that each hour that passes will never be regained. To be a believer is to be supremely aware of this and to know that the time to act to follow Christ and live for Him is now. As Paul confirms:

1 We then, as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For He says:

“In an acceptable time I have heard you,
And in the day of salvation I have helped you.”

Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.–II Corinthians 6:1-2

The second creature that Solomon points to is the humble rock badger: 

26 The rock badgers are a feeble folk,
Yet they make their homes in the crags;

The rock badger resembles a small, furry groundhog, but it finds its home in the fastness of rocky hills and cliffs. An ideal prey for many different predators, nevertheless, the rock badger thrives by making its home among the rocks. This not only protects the dens of the colony but they cooperate and cleverly post sentries to protect the group. They are even mentioned in the Psalms:


17 Makes home among the rocks, high on cliffs
God cares for them
18 The high hills are for the wild goats;
The cliffs are a refuge for the rock badgers.—Psalm 104:18

Once science journal reveals that this allows them to gain an advantage of seeing predators early and quickly. This behavior is confirmed in that studies of predators—particularly those of the mountains around the Dead Sea of Solomon’s kingdom—showing that the “scat” of wolves and large cats rarely contains rock badger remains.

God may not be requiring you to live in a hole between rocks to keep from becoming wolf droppings, but there are wise life lessons here as well. Are you vigilant to danger in your life? This can mean become aware of actual, physical danger posed on you and your family by bad people or situations. If so, are you prepared to take steps to prevent harm from coming to you?

The cooperative nature of the rock badger colony is a reminder not only to peacefully work together with your neighbors, co-workers, and the general public, but also be prepared to work in spiritual cooperation with your brothers and sisters in Christ—for the devil is ever seeking to do you harm. As the Apostle Peter encourages you in his first letter:

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.–I Peter 5:8-9

Make the home of your heart in the fastness of the high hills of your Heavenly Father: 


3 God is the rock
For You have been a shelter for me,
A strong tower from the enemy.

I will abide in Your tabernacle forever;
I will trust in the shelter of Your wings. Selah—Psalm 63:3-4

The third creature is the prolific, ravenous locust: 

27 The locusts have no king,
Yet they all advance in ranks;–Proverbs 30:27

Locust are often employed in the Bible as famine-causing pests and even as a plague on entire peoples, as in Exodus 10. The “wisdom” of locusts is seen in their highly motivated behavior. Millions swarm chaotically, but move toward one goal, they compete with but do not strive against each other. 

As a believer, you are reminded that you uniquely fulfill a role as part of the Body of Christ. You and I are different from each other, and yet we are all called to serve and function together as Christians for His glory. As Paul writes to the church in Corinth:

12 For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ.–I Corinthians 12:12

What unique gifts do you possess? How can you use your talents for Christ in His kingdom? How can you encourage others who are different than you to do the same? Compete without strife and move with one goal in Him. 

The final “wise but small” creature is the lizard: 

28 The lizard skillfully grasps with its hands,
And it is in kings’ palaces.–Proverbs 30:28

There he is, up on the wall, or on the railing of your porch. He navigates nearly any surface with ease, darting with small, quick, stealthy actions. He is ungovernable, yet unobtrusive—as Solomon notes that even his palace is home to these small insect-eating insurgents.

How are you as a Christian to live wisely like a lizard? No, you are not called to creep people out or lurk on balconies. Instead, you and I are called to function humbly in this life, unimpressed by worldly power and prestige. R.C. Sproul reflects on this passage as a call to contentment:

If we are content with where God has placed us and are happy to be under His leadership, we will enjoy success both now and in the life to come.–R.C. Sproul 

Are you content with your Father’s provision for you, or are you always grasping for more? This is pointless, as Jesus reminds you:

25 “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?–Matthew 6:25-26

Instead, like these small creatures that dwell from remote places to royal palaces, you as a Christian are reminded that you will dwell forever in the palace that their Heavenly Father is preparing for you:

1 “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.—John 14:1-3

And this wisdom is no small thing.

 

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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:

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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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