Monday, December 25, 2006

One of these things doesn't belong... or does it?

Today's reading from Proverbs contains an odd list, a list that reminds me of the old Sesame Street song
Three of these things are just like the others,
Three of these things are kinda the same.
One of these things just doesn't belong here —
Now it's time to play our game
When I read the list, I wonder if the author was implying that there's an "odd man out":
There are three things that are stately in their stride,
four that move with stately bearing:
a lion, mighty among beasts,
who retreats before nothing;
a strutting rooster, a he-goat,
and a king with his army around him.
Proverbs 30.29-31
So: Is there an "odd man out" in this list? Each is powerful in its own domain, but each is subject to a greater power (of course God is more powerful than the king). Only the king is mentioned as having others around him.

The list isn't in order of increasing (or decreasing) power; I suppose the author is telling us that the differences among the items in the list are of degree rather than kind. Or is it this: the animals feel confident (or move with stately bearing) because of their physical strength, equipment, or fighting skills, whereas the man's power is based on social convention?

What I take from this verse (which still strikes me as very funny) is that a rooster is not so much different from a powerful politician, tycoon, or syndicate boss. The strutting rooster looks ridiculous when confronted by a dog (say) and has to suddenly turn tail to flee; likewise, a strutting tycoon looks pitiful when fired by the board or sentenced to prison for securities fraud.

And how many powerful men will feel worse than ridiculous when their Maker confronts them? May they turn toward God while there's still time, and may we do the same.

No comments: