The phrase “I’m standing in ants!” has stuck with me since grade school. I had a buddy who delightfully bore the moniker of class clown. This kid was hilarious and would do almost anything for a laugh. I’m sure he is running a Fortune 500company today someplace, but back then, Rueben was as dumb as a hammer and played it up for
His Dad told us a classic Reuben story in which the aforementioned phrase was created. In brief, Rueben’s first choice when finding himself standing on the bed of upset fire ants was to shout, “I’m standing in ants!” His dad paused dramatically as he told us how he responded to Rueben, obviously proud of his witty retort. His dad laconically replied to his son, “Well Reuben, get out!” I’ve laughed at that obvious solution for years now.
The simplicity of the Dad’s reply sparks something in me when I read Proverbs 22. Verse 3 states that “the prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on a suffer for it.”
Modern culture loves to exalt simplicity. It’s the subject of countless magazine articles, web content, and table discussion. Thoreau spoke to living deliberately and keeping all your account on your thumbnail. All that is well and good, but I believe the proverbs call us to something deeper.
Simplicity and folly are framed together in a negative light throughout the book. Proverbs seems to presuppose complicated living in a difficult world. The “win” in the proverbs is not living simply in a state of balance. Proverbs is about divine perspective. Diligence and prudence trump simple living in almost every chapter. The notion of prudence in proverbs is a God-given ability to apply what you know about God to future choices. Prudence is about a holy sixth-sense that detects the danger ahead.
Rueben’s Dad was able to speak simply to him when he was standing in the ants. The answer was obvious that he had to hop out of the vicinity of the ants. Had Rueben been prudent in the first place, he wouldn’t have come to his predicament.
What are you praying for? A simple heart? A balanced lifestyle? They are blessed thing to aspire toward. The greater good, however, is praying for a perspective informed by His wisdom that gives you a divine ability to notice events, social situations, and proximity to things that would contribute to a wrecked life. Get wisdom, get insight, and for goodness sake, get out of the ants!
To say some of the stories found in scripture are provocative would be an understatement. From book to book, we read stories of how he worked out his will through people we don’t understand in ways we don’t understand. The modern reader, (meaning me) has difficulty relating to the cultural norms of the day-(multiple wives), unlikely ceremonial rites-(circumcision), and the use of unlikely people doing unlikely things people as instruments of His will-(i.e. Sampson, Noah, multiple kings, and one ultra-orthodox Pharisee named Saul)
Before Jericho is sacked by the Hebrews under Joshua’s leadership, we are introduced, yet again, to an unlikely heroine. After two spies are sent inside the walls to get a threat analysis, they are sheltered on Rahab’s roof away from the eyes of city officials trying to find them. Rahab sneaks them out of her window and down the city wall to safety. During a tense moment, Rahab pleads with the spies to save her family when the attack comes. The spies swear on their lives to do so.
There are two important things to notes about Rahab.
1. God moves a woman to center stage in His story. Throughout the bible we see women raised up at critical moments. Culturally, this would have been inconceivable. Equality with the station of man was an impossibility. God chose to use someone different.
2. Rahab was also in the business of selling her body. Because Jews and Christians have heard this story since birth, I think we can sometimes burnish Rahab’s story and mentally skip over the ugliness. The word harlot is the “censored” word of choice. The facts are that she was set up as part of the red light district and used daily by men. Not the stuff for Sunday School, or for the culture of that day. God chose to use someone socially unclean.
3. Rahab becomes the great great grandmother of King David and therefore is a direct ancestor of Jesus. Impossible? Once again, the Lord does his thing through the people he chooses.
Before the door of your heart and mind is ever opened to the enemy’s taunts about your worth or your capacity for use in God kingdom, think about Rahab. Think about this example of redemption. Meditate on her inclusion in the big story. I think you’ll also find His work can be done in and through you as well.