Every word of God is pure; he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him.
Add not unto his words, lest he reprove you, and you be found a liar.
Agur’s one-page collection of wisdom begins with God the Creator and then moves on to the source of truth. This amounts to an epistemological authority. Everyone trusts in some source of authority. For Agur, that source of truth is the revealed Word of God. Men today look to science and the conclusions drawn from science as the pure, unadulterated truth. When scientists take a measurement of the radioactive decay rate in a piece of rock at the present time, assuming constant decay rates over billions of years, and assuming certain starting conditions, they conclude the rock to be X number of billions of years old. They insist the fossil captured in the rock layer is the same age, and nobody must ever question these conclusions. According to them, the truth that comes by observation and interpretation of the data is truth in its purest form. This, however, is not Agur’s ultimate truth authority. When consulting with the wizards in the white coats that peep and mutter, Agur would say, “To the law and to the testimony! If it is not according to these words, it is because there is no light in them” (Is. 8:19–20). If God’s words tell us that God made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them in six days, then we must reject the wizards in the white coats. Might we have reasons to question the orthodoxy of science? Yes, but we never have a reason to doubt the words of God. Without God’s revelation, you must know everything about everything in the universe before you can be sure that you know anything about anything. Although scientists may feign a little certainty, they cannot be certain about anything without having an absolute standard as a starting point. We are wandering in a snowstorm in Antarctica without a tether if we have no sure starting point for truth. Thankfully, we can trust in the Word of God.
Every worldview also presents a way of salvation as Agur does in this verse. Many turn to man for salvation. They look to large, centralized states to provide salvation from poverty, sickness, and even death. Most humanist religions depend on their own works to save them, always relying on themselves to save themselves. But it is not so with Agur. Only God can protect us from our greatest enemies, and we must trust in Him for that salvation. This is a simple, rustic Gospel for the humble saints of the Old Testament. In the New Testament, the message is essentially the same. It is only by faith in the Son of God that we are saved (Acts 16:31).
Now, in verse six, we are warned not to add anything to what God has given us as false prophets do when they offer information that does not comport with previous revelation. They cram widely differing doctrines into the corpus of divine revelation, and the final product presents a completely different worldview, theology, and soteriology. This is what has happened in the religions of Mormonism and Islam.
Men will also add to the Word of God when their traditions make the laws of God of no effect, a practice that Jesus condemns in Matthew 15. Could the traditions of youth ministries, children’s church, and Sunday Schools displace God’s intent that parents teach their children God’s Word as they sit in their own homes, as they walk by the way, and as they lie down (Deut. 6:7; Eph. 6:4)? When celibacy becomes normative instead of an exception for pastors and elders, are we really retaining the biblical principles laid down in 1 Timothy 3 and 1 Corinthians 7?
Some have attempted to practice a principle of God’s Word by emphasizing one particular application not specified in God’s Word. For example, some families will insist on “timed feeding” for a nursing baby so that the child may learn to honor his parents and that if any parents feed their children “on demand,” then these parents fail to teach the fifth commandment. But we must be careful here. The Word of God has nothing to say about “timed feeding.” It is possible that for some families “timed feeding” may be a good way to teach the fifth commandment, but it is not the only way. There are thousands of ways in which parents might teach the commandment. To narrow the application in this way will often place our own applications on par with the principles laid out in the Word of God. Even when we don’t intend to do so, it may happen subconsciously with ourselves and others. Over time, these pet applications displace the authority of the Word of God in our minds and lives.
1. What is the source of all truth according to Agur?
2. How are we saved according to Agur?
3. How does an Islamic view of God and salvation differ significantly from that presented in the Old and New Testaments?
4. In what areas might we be tempted to add something to God’s Word or displace God’s Word with our own traditions?