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The Path to the Almighty God

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Introduction

If you are Christian, you have a conversion story. Every story contains a path, a journey. Although different for all us in how it was realized, all conversion stories include elements of self-realization, confession, repentance, faith, and trust in Christ. As a result, we become a new creation. We begin to have a greater passion for things that we never before. Our hearts start to long for things that we never thought it would ever happen, and such was the story of St. Augustine.
Augustine’s life was characterized by a quest for knowledge. He lived loosely and in search for the fundamental questions of life. He tried different religions and philosophies to find answers. He began with Manicheism, then Neoplatonism. He sought to find a solution to the origin of evil, which plagued him for some time. He concluded that evil was not a substance, but a perversion of God’s will. That realization brought him closer to the Christian faith. He also began to realize the extent of his own wickedness.
Augustine’s life was characterized by a quest for knowledge. He lived loosely and in search for the fundamental questions of life. He tried different religions and philosophies to find answers. He began with Manicheism, then Neoplatonism. He sought to find a solution to the origin of evil, which plagued him for some time. He concluded that evil was not a substance, but a perversion of God’s will. That realization brought him closer to the Christian faith. Consequently, he also began to get a sense of sin and the extent of it in his life.
One day he heard the preaching of Ambrose, a bishop from Milan. He was caught in a battle of wills, and his heart began to rage with fear and anxiety. He was in agony and began to despair. Shortly after he was outdoors with his friend Alypius, feeling ashamed and remorseful. He began to hear the voice of a child singing, “Pick it up and read it. Pick it up and read it.” At first he thought it was some sort of children’s game, but he couldn’t remember ever hearing such song.
One day he heard the preaching of Ambrose, a bishop from Milan. He was caught in a battle of wills – relent or continue with a sinful lifestyle - and his heart began to rage with anxiety and greater fear. He was in agony and began to despair. Shortly after he was outdoors with his friend Alypius, feeling ashamed and remorseful. He then heard the voice of a child singing, “Pick it up and read it. Pick it up and read it.” At first he thought it was some sort of children’s game, but he couldn’t remember ever hearing such song.
He realized that the words from the child were a command from God. He looked for a Bible and began to read the letter of Paul to the Romans. “Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” (, ESV) Reading it, he felt as if his heart was flooded with light, and he finally surrendered. He confessed and repented He gave his life to Christ.
He realized that the words from the child were a command from God. He looked for a Bible and began to read the letter of Paul to the Romans. “Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” (, ESV) Reading it, he felt as if his heart was flooded with light, and he finally relented. He confessed and repented, and put his trust in Christ.
As one reflects Augustine’s life, his hunger and passion for Scripture, his love for God led him to be one of the greatest theologians of our Christian faith. He became known as the Doctor of the Church, and Catholics and Protestants alike consider him to be their theological father. Augustine wrote his famous prayer, “You have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until they rest in you.” Such was also the effect of what see in . A quest for knowledge that led to God, and restless heart to honor him in full. Today’s sermon is titled, “The Path to the Almighty God.” I will give you three points regarding this passage and I hope God will speak to you.
As one reflects Augustine’s life, his hunger and passion for Scripture, his love for God led him to be one of the greatest theologians of our Christian faith. He was later nicknamed the Doctor of the Church. Today Catholics and Protestants alike consider him to be their theological father. Augustine wrote his famous prayer, “You have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until they rest in you.” Such was also the effect of what see in . A quest for knowledge that led to God, and restless heart to honor him in full. Today’s sermon is titled, “The Path to the Almighty God.” I will give you three points regarding this passage and I hope God will speak to you.

Confess in Humility before the Almighty God (1-4)

Who is Agur? Nowhere outside of this book is this name ever mentioned. There are a lot of speculations as to the identity of Agur. The word Massa perhaps gives us some ideas regarding him. Massa can be a place in northern Arabia, but it can mean an oracle, as noted in our ESV translation. If it is a place, then Agur wasn’t an Israelite, and if that is true, then it is interesting that wisdom can be found outside of those who do not belong God’s people. It also affirms that there is such a thing as a general revelation in which some wisdom can be known. Wisdom is wisdom, truth is truth, and in this case worthy enough to be included in Scripture.

A Message (1a)

What we know about Agur is that God inspired Him and his message has God’s divine imprints. The word oracle or “Massa” in our Bibles could have a double function, which would be to indicate a place as well as denoting a pronouncement. In Hebrew “Massa” is sometimes used to represent a prophetic utterance that carries significant weight. For that reason, we need to listen, regardless who God chooses to deliver His wisdom.

The Students (1b)

The names Ithiel and Ucal are also a mystery. Some theologians believe they were the students of Agur, but the Bible doesn’t certify it. Agur is making an appeal to Ithiel (God is with me), and Ucal (I am consumed). Translators again have to make a decision on how to render this appeal. In ESV it reads “I am weary, O God, and worn out,” while in the NKJV it reads to “Ithiel and Ucal.”

A Humble Confession (2-3)

Agur makes a powerful confession. It appears that Agur has low self-esteem as has declares to be too stupid to be a man. Some theologians think that Agur is being sarcastic because he is confronted by people who believe that they know more than him about God. Thus, he responds by describing himself as totally ignorant. But I believe, people who see it that way are wrong. I think Agur is trying to tell us something more profound.
The word stupid is powerful and quite rare in the OT. He goes on to deny that he has any sort of understanding. In this case, Agur is affirming his stupidity. In other words, he is saying that he is far too stupid to be considered a man. Then something happens, and Agur clarifies why he is so stupid. Rather than being stupid in general sense, he lacks the knowledge of God. He is saying that he hasn’t formally learned the things of God. Therefore, he has yet to become wise. He has not learned true wisdom. Moreover, it follows Agur’s expression of not having the knowledge of the Holy One. In short, Agur is saying, “I don’t know what God is like, and I have never being taught the fear of the Lord.” As we know, the fear of the Lord is the foundation of wisdom. It seems that if you don’t have a fear of the Lord, you might as well be considered stupid. That sounds very strong and condescending. However, such is a general reminder for those who never experienced the life-changing power of God.

An Earnest Cry (4)

Agur then makes an earnest cry. He asks six questions in a very similar way as . Remember when God answers Job by using a rhetorical question, “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” Here, Agur is the one making a heartfelt plea. He is seeking God. Agur doesn’t appear to have been raised in a godly home, nor did his parents teach him about God. But something in his heart is saying that God is real, and I need to know Him. Agur is searching, and He is crying out through the voice of creation. Who has ascended into heaven, or descended? Who has gathered the wind in His fists? Who has bound the waters in a garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth?” (). Then the last two questions of verse four ask the name of the creator and His son. To know a person’s name was the key to knowing the person. It was the proof that whether divine or human, whoever created the world was real.
I want you to pay attention to the first and last question of verse 4. There is a bracketing effect. How is possible that a non-Israelite could look to God’s son who would come down to earth from heaven? Do you see the link with which says, “No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven?” We can only conclude that Agur’s state had a divine prompting.
How many of us have come to a point in our lives and noticed that we really don’t know anything? I remember in 2007 when I had this necessity to know God, to understand this new way of seeing the world. It was this sudden awakening, an intense hunger pang, which led to an M.A, then to an M.Div, and so on. But through the experience, there was this realization of ignorance. How many of you can relate? The more I learned, the more I didn’t know. That is one’s realization of ignorance and stupidity. Hence, why I seldom argue. I feel that my knowledge isn’t entirely complete unless somebody says something very stupid of course. I submit and plead to God for understanding. I submit because I know that God is the foundation of truth and without Him, I know nothing. Anselm and Augustine something to the extent “I believe so that I may understand.” I think Agur felt the same way.
God first revealed Himself to Agur through general revelation. Agur looked at this incredible word, and his heart was convinced there had to be a powerful enough to God who created it. In the end, God’s light sipped into Agur’s soul, and he passionately cried out for more of God’s light. Like Agur, let’s have the same attitude to confess in humility before the might God.

Trust in the Words of the Almighty God (5-6)

It seems that in some way Agur got hold of the Holy Scriptures. It must have had an impact on his vision of reality because his testimony of Scripture is one of the most authoritative in the Bible.

Believe in God’s Protection (5)

Agur confesses that God’s Word is pure. How did come to this conclusion? Note , “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” () Agur searched, he asked, he followed the light, and God gave him the light he was looking for. God fulfilled His promise and revealed Himself to the one who earnestly sought it. Not only did God disclose Himself, but produced faith in Agur. For he confessed that God’s word is pure.
We make the claim that God’s word never fails, for it is true and everlasting. It is without error, in such a way that it powerfully impacted Agur’s life. Agur’s experience testified that God is a shield to those who put their trust in Him. The idea of God as a shield is not something abstract, but practical for dealing with day to day life.

A Strong Warning (6)

Agur gives a strong warning and command not to add to God’s Word. Man cannot add, but only derive his understanding of God. His revelation should be as it is, for Scripture alone is sufficient. It is a reminder of Luther’s principle of and Reformation call of “sola scriptura.” It is the principle that we Protestants abide by, for it speaks of the sufficiency of Scripture as the supreme authority in all spiritual matters. It is the claim that all truth necessary for salvation is found in Scripture. Scripture alone is the rule of faith, not creeds, papal authority, or the church. The Word of God is the sole authority for our Christian faith.
No man can ever add to the words of the Bible. It is a warning to the believer since Agur seems aware that the temptation of man is to improve it in his own bias. Men are prone to error. Let me give you examples. In 1889 a ten-year-old schoolboy was told by his teacher that he would never amount to anything. That teacher was a fool because that happened to be Einstein. In 1954 a music manager said a young man to go back to being a truck driver because his music wasn’t good. That manager was a fool because that happened to be Elvis Presley. In 1952 a record label said that band with guitars were out style and they were to take a hike. That record label was a fool because that happened to be the Beatles. People err, people make mistakes, so the Bible does not need the help of men to improve it. The Bible stands alone, and God’s words are timeless. It has survived attacks by Emperor Diocletian, and predictions of extinction by the French philosopher Voltaire. It is ironic that 50 years after Voltaire’s death, the Geneva Bible Society moved into his house. In the end, no other book in history that can ever equate to the endurance and exclusivity of the Bible. We can put full trust in the Words of the Mighty God.

Pray unselfishly to the Almighty God (7-9)

After Agur puts full trust in the Lord. We can say that his conversion is genuine. Agur is a changed man, and such prayer becomes the next order of business. As one who is changed by God, Agur gives us a model of an unselfish prayer. He requests two things, and two things only before he dies. Meaning, for as long as I live, please grant me two simple and yet difficult to carry on wishes. Note that he doesn’t pray to God to rescue him from an immediate bind. Agur is showing us what a humble prayer for persistence looks like.

Desire for Integrity (8a)

The first wish is for integrity. In an imperative mood, the request is to remove falsehood and lies. We all know the damage that dishonesty causes and the effects on innocent victims. Falsehood in Hebrew “shaw,” literally means emptiness. Therefore, falsehood and lies are worthless behaviors of speech that are void and empty. The Bible condemns lies (), since it impacts the social order and welfare of others.
Like Agur, I shouldn’t have to tell you that we need to long, to be honest in everything we do. We should desire to speak the truth always. In prayer, we implore God for His Spirit to work in us that we may not lie.

Meet My Needs, Nothing More Nothing Less (8b-9)

The second request has protection and supply in mind. Agur asks only that God would meet his basic needs. For he knew that contentment is found not in abundance, but dependence on God’s sufficient provision. Agur also figures out that he could very well steal and disgrace God if he didn’t have enough to meet his basic needs.
Agur was fully aware of his weakness, which is one that we all share as well. First, he is aware that when life gets too easy, we forget who God indeed is. In contrast, when life gets too hard, the tendency is blame and turn away from God. What we need to do is to pay attention to Agur’s attitude. He didn’t want to have anything to do in his life that would bring reproach to God. Pay attention to Agur’s heart and sincerity of his prayer. How many of us look at , where Jesus says “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” (, ESV), and wonder why God didn’t answer our prayers, when he promises it. The reason is that many of us don’t trust in God’s provision and sufficiency of it.
I want us to finish this point with some real applications on prayer that we can glean from Agur’s example.
1. If we have truly repented and believe in Christ, then we will experience a life that is changed. Whatever we desire, the way we approach life, how we arrange our priorities will be drastically changed. God’s spirit will move in us and especially in our prayer requests.
2. We also need to be aware of our temptations. Agur’s temptation was dishonesty, materialism, or greed. We are not much different, for Jesus knew it as well. We are reminded of the Lord’s prayer, where Jesus taught us to pray “And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” (, ESV). We come to God with specific needs, confess our weakness, and ask His protection to overcome it.
3. We are always tempted, and we are very much capable of sinning. We have our sin nature, but we ask God for help. In prayer, let us always depend on God, and remember that we are a new creature in Christ.

Conclusion

showed us the path to the almighty God. Agur, an unbeliever, came to know God. His path began with a confession of insufficiency to know anything meaningful. He then found God in Scripture and relented. He believed and trusted in the Words of the Almighty God. Agur treasured God, and as a changed man, he knew that God was everything for Him. In full trust, he converted and prayed unselfishly to the Almighty God, so that he would never dishonor the biggest treasure of all.
God is majestic, Christ is resplendent. Let us confess our inability to God, affirm our trust in Christ, and thanks to the Holy Spirit and Christ’s sacrifice, we come boldly in prayer before the throne of grace ().
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