“It is the honor of God to conceal a matter; but it is the honor of kings to search out a matter. The heavens for height, the earth for depth, and the hearts of kings cannot be fathomed.” Proverbs 25:2-3
Wow. Theology, the nature of humanity and the world, and our purpose in life – all are sublimely addressed in a few verses of sacred text. This makes Bible study exciting and worthwhile, don’t you think?
Let’s search for meaning by progressing carefully through these verses.
The first notion is that God’s matters are generally cloaked from us in mystery. Though we often have a sense of God’s attributes and actions, we should be humble in our claims of theological certainty. As to the face and nature of God, God knows, and we don’t. As we learn from Deuteronomy 29:28, “the concealed things belong to the Lord our God.”
Importantly, however, that verse goes on to say “…but those things that are revealed belong to us and our children forever that we may do all the words that we’ve been instructed.” This wisdom is essential for our understanding the next idea in the proverb.
Before we go there, though, let’s clarify the identity of “kings.” Clearly, among other things, the word “kings” means kings. I think it means more. It likely refers as well to those who work in the king’s court. It also has been read to include rabbis who issue “edicts,” as do sovereigns. But, even more, I believe the word could and should be extended to all of us, all who live to extend God’s sovereignty in the world.
We are indeed the “kings” of our own lives. We seek and act on choices, and, thus, like a king, are rulers in our personal realms.
Thus, it is our honor, as the proverb says, “to search out a matter.” In Deuteronomy’s terms, this means we’re to search out God’s revelation so that we may do what we’ve been instructed.
In thinking about the proverb’s second verse, we know there is much we can learn and benefit from science. We can know a lot about the heavens and the earth, as well as the heart of man. But, we cannot reach to the end of those unfathomable territories. I take these limits principally to mean that, out of humility, we should avoid being enslaved by the idea, or governed by the ambition, that we can fully comprehend all such things.
So, where does this leave us?
We cannot know all God’s matters; nor can we really know the heart of others. Therefore, we should avoid excessive use of time, spirit, and resources in believing otherwise.
Rather, it is both our honor and burden to “search out matters” from divinely revealed words to live in accord with God’s Instruction, and, thus, make the world a more righteous, just, and equitable place.