In Proverbs 30. 18, 19, we read of four things which are beyond the understanding of man. In these we can see pictures of the excellence of our Lord Jesus Christ, and they are:
1. The Way of an Eagle in the Air.
2. The Way of a Serpent on a Rock.
3. The Way of a Ship in the midst of the Sea.
4. The Way of a Man with a Maid.
1. The Way of an Eagle in the Air
We are reminded here of the wonder of the eagle as it soars in the air, as a speck in the sky, without a movement to attract the attention of those below, and yet at the same time it sees all that is going about on the ground. It can pick out the smallest of animals as a prey, and swiftly it swoops down.
This picture reminds us of our Lord as Son of God, who is over all, looking down in perfect knowledge, not only of the details of what is happening on the earth, but also into the hearts of all. Just as the eagle, He is unseen, and yet all-seeing, taking note of the smallest details, watching over the most insignificant of creation. How thankful we ought to be for the assurance that every detail of life is noted by Him, and although it may appear that there is injustice, we know that we shall receive a full reward at the judgement seat of Christ, 2 Cor. 5. 10.
While the eagle is looking for a prey as a food for its young, the Lord is taking interest in all that He sees. He takes no pleasure in judgment, but delights in mercy. It is this perfect knowledge which secured our eternal salvation. The One who sees all, is the One who could see us for what we really were, even before we were formed, and He loved us just the same. He does not ask that we heed His voice out of fear of judgement but rather out of devotion to the One who knows the worst about us, more than even we can fully appreciate, and loves us with an undiminished love. How grateful we ought to be that He uses His knowledge for our blessing, ordering all things for good to them that love Him, Rom. 8. 28, and not for our harm. Sometimes, however, His love demands that He chastise as a father chastises his son, Heb. 12. 5-7, not as punishment, but as correction to bring us back to Himself.
2. The Way of a Serpent on a Rock
Here we have two pictures which are common in the scriptures. The serpent is a picture of the devil, moving in guile and deceit, the rock, a picture of our Lord. As the two are brought together here, we can see the picture of the serpent as it moves across the rock, looking for a fault into which it can enter. In just the same way, we can consider the way in which the devil would search the Lord and prove Him while He moved through the world, whether by seeking to destroy Him by death, which is seen from his childhood when Herod sent forth to kill Him, Matt. 2. 16; by putting His character to the test, as when He was in the wilderness, Matt. 4. 1-11; or by the subtle suggestion that He might turn aside from the path that was given Him to tread, as through Peter at Caesarea Philippi, Matt. 16. 23.
We rejoice to look to the One who was above every circumstance that He faced. If His enemies sought to destroy Him, then He was ready for them, and answered them until the time appointed, when He went with them in willing subjection to their power, and even then only after proving Himself to be Lord of the situation, John 18. 4-8. What a glorious assurance for our lives! If He is Master of the situation even when in the circumstances of seeming weakness, then surely we can rest in the confidence that He is Master of every situation.
In the wilderness, we see the temptation from the devil. It was at a time of great physical weakness, and the character of the circumstance showed the fulness of the devil’s armoury with which to attack man. While the precise details may vary, the devil will always resort to the threefold attack, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life. In Genesis 3, the woman was taken, in Luke 4, the same attack is used in the same order, but it cannot leave a mark on the One who is not only sinless, but impeccable – incapable of sinning.
The third attack is in the form of guile and deception, whether through Peter or through the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees. Once more, He is beyond the reach of temptation. He cannot be misled for two reasons: firstly, He sees beyond the outward to the heart; secondly, there is nothing in Him to respond to any temptation which departs from the will of God.
What a contrast between the serpent on a rock, and the great serpent on the Rock. While in nature, there may be a fault in the rock that the serpent will find, the devil hath nothing in Him, John 14. 30.
3. The Way of a Ship in the Midst of the Sea
The idea here appears to be that of the ship on a storm-tossed sea. The word, ‘midst’, has the idea of the heart. Here is a ship completely at the mercy of the sea. Once more, there is a picture here of our Lord as He faced up to the wrath of God for sin. The Psalms speak of the idea of the waves and billows pressing in upon His holy soul. We can see the picture of the tempest that would arise against Him. It may include the enmity of men who hated Him without a cause, the powers of darkness as they surround the throne, inciting the multitude, and taking pleasure in the sufferings that were endured by our Lord, but the most awful of all must surely be the wrath of God that was poured out upon Him. Physically and mentally, others have suffered much. What cannot be dismissed is the fact that He was to suffer in a way that no one else ever could suffer. Here is the ultimate suffering of the cross. A holy God must punish sin, but there is One who was willing to bear the wrath in all its fulness on behalf of the sinner.
As we consider the picture here, once more there are lessons to learn by way of contrast. A ship is at the mercy of the storm, but our Lord went out with the words, ‘Arise, let us go hence’, John 14. 31. In the garden, those coming to arrest Him were forced to bow before His word, ‘I am’, John 18. 6. He was never in any respect at the mercy of the storm, He always went in full knowledge and in willing obedience to fulfil the will of God for Him. The second contrast is that the ship may always offer the possibility of being destroyed by the storm, or of losing some of those with it. We rejoice in the assurance that our Lord has braved the storm in all its fulness and finished the work. The storm of the wrath of God can never arise against the believer, the storms of life can ail be faced with the assurance that it is the way that He has gone, and we are in Him, hence He will ride the storm with us. ‘When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee’, Isa. 43. 2.
4. The Way of a Man with a Maid
Here we see one of the most beautiful pictures in the whole of scripture. We frequently read of brides in the scriptures, and they would cause us to contemplate the Lord as the Bridegroom, coming to claim His bride, the church. It does not matter what the aspect may be that we consider, we can see the shadows of the One who came for His own. Perhaps here the emphasis might be upon that of which Paul speaks as he writes to the Ephesians. We see the love which lay behind the desire of the Lord. It was a love which is seen in Jacob as he is ready to serve Laban for fourteen years to earn Rachel, even though he is cheated at the end of the seven years. The idea of the word ‘gave’ in Ephesians 5. 25, is stronger than simply a gift. The Lord was prepared to give ‘all that he had’, Matt. 13. 46, as the parable suggests. Nothing was held back by our Lord in His desire to obtain a bride for Himself.
The word for man is ‘strong man’. Here is a reminder of Boaz, the mighty man of wealth, who took to him Ruth the Moabitess. Here we see a man who was ready to put his inheritance at risk for the sake of the one whom he loved. This was the reason given by the nearer kinsman for not fulfilling his duty. While our Lord did not ‘risk’, He certainly left His place as Son in glory for the shame of His earthly path, in order to gain His bride. How our hearts should rejoice to consider the One who is our beloved. With this, as with every other aspect of His character, every example we could consider from the scriptures would only serve to give a faint foreshadowing of the One who excels every man in every detail of his character.