I would challenge you to discover an ant at rest. We may often see spiders resting (perhaps often waiting for prey, which is not truly rest) on or near their webs. Though easily disturbed, flies often seem to rest. Butterflies appear to perch, resting on a leaf or a stem near the petals of a flower they are about to descend on for its nectar. In fact, any arachnid or insect we might think of seems frequently to rest. But not the ant. God commends this little creature to our attention twice in the Book of Proverbs. “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest” (6:6-8). “There be four things which are little upon the earth, but they are exceeding wise: The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their meat in the summer” (30:24, 25; the other three: conies [badgers], locusts, spiders [lizards?]). Since Proverbs is the Book of Wisdom, we ought to consider something of what God would teach us from these passages.
General Lesson 1: God knows His creation. He did not commend the sloth or the mule to our attention for instruction in industry. He chose a creature that is found throughout the world and epitomizes industry. If a creature as small and insignificant as the ant is known by God down to the characteristic that distinguishes it from other creatures, how well must He who loved us and gave Himself for us know and understand us? How vain it is to think that we can hide any sin or weakness from Him; how encouraging that He will note our smallest endeavor. If the labor of the ant attracts the attention of its Creator, can the faithful service of a son escape the commendation of his Savior?
General Lesson 2: God’s creation is intended to instruct us. We could fill multiple pages with verses from Scripture referencing animals (and inanimate creation, for that matter) that are cited as illustrations for our edification. While Scripture refutes pantheism (that God does not exist as a personal being but is expressed in all the visible creation), it gives ample testimony (e.g., Psa. 19:1-6; Acts 14:7) that God manifests Himself in and through creation for the purpose of magnifying Himself and both exhorting and encouraging believers. The closer to the Lord a believer walks the more clearly he sees the Lord’s hand in everything around him.
Specific Lesson 1: God commends natural diligence. Since Proverbs is a very practical book, among other things, it guides us regarding the necessities of our mundane existence. I think there is no doubt that God, by pointing to His little creature the ant, is commending natural industry. Paul expresses the principle pointedly: “this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat” (II Thes. 3:10). Government does not owe us a living; society does not owe us a living. Believers are instructed to be diligent in their practical decisions as part of being faithful stewards. Having been bought with a price, we are not free to do what we want when we want. We are to serve the Lord even in our eating and drinking.
Specific Lesson 2: God commends spiritual diligence. An ant illustrates practical diligence: though it is not a creature with a spirit, it does exactly and precisely what it was designed and created to do. As such, the ant also should teach us to be spiritually diligent. We were created spiritual beings; believers will live forever with the Lord. Our time on earth should be recognized for what it is: preparatory for eternity. These few temporal years are merely the vestibule of eternity. The ant’s faithfulness in the realm for which he was created should encourage us to be faithful to the realm for which we were created. As children and heirs of God our attention should be focused on doing God’s will and bringing Him glory. The lifespan of an ant is brief (a few days or weeks?), it has only a moment to accomplish its intended purpose. And I am unaware of any ant that has failed to do so. Of how many believers may the same thing be said? In the light of eternity, our lifespan is but a moment, a little vapor that vanishes away. May we be as faithful in diligence as the ant.
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