Two Things have I Required of Thee
Introduction to the Requests (vs.7)
1. This verse begins by mentioning “two things” the author requested.
a. In fact, the rest of the chapter is divided into proverbial sayings that are arranged in numbers.
b. Vs. 7-9 – the two requests
c. Vs. 15b-16 – two daughters; three things never satisfied
d. Vs. 18-19 – three things which are too wonderful
e. Vs. 21-23 – Four things the earth cannot bear
f. Vs. 24-28 – Four things which are little but wise
g. Vs. 29-31 – Four things that are comely in going
2. In this section the author makes two requests.
a. “Required” is a verb that means to ask (this is its usual translation – 94 times): To beg; to earnestly ask; to demand.
b. It is translated “required,” which is similar to demand, but might lean a little too heavily on the “demand” side of this verb. It is basically a request. Agur is not putting any requirements on the Lord. He is not arrogantly making demands of God.
c. But the author is earnestly requesting (with great emotion and zeal) that God answer him in these two areas.
d. Jonah 4:8 – “The sun beat upon the head of Jonah, that he fainted, and wished in himself to die.” The verb translated “wished” is the same verb. You can sense Jonah’s intensity in this request. It is an attitude of longing for an experience.
e. Agur was also longing for an experience – an experience of victory.
f. The requests came as prayer requests to the Lord because he was genuinely concerned about his spiritual life.
g. He made TWO requests because he had two besetting sins over which he longed for victory.
3. “Deny me not!”
a. To make his requests even more earnest, he pleas, “Deny me not!”
b. I take this request to have been made with the utmost reverence and respect for God.
c. It is also a request that comes because of his intense awareness of his own frailty and weakness.
d. These two things go hand in hand: (1) reverence for a holy, Sovereign God and (2) awareness of our own weakness and sin.
e. It is as if he refuses to take no for an answer.
f. This may well be based on his understanding of Scriptural promises concerning prayer.
• Ps. 86:7 – “In the day of my trouble I will call upon thee: for thou wilt answer me.”
• Ps. 1-2:1-2 – “Hear my prayer, O LORD, and let my cry come unto thee. 2Hide not thy face from me in the day when I am in trouble; incline thine ear unto me: in the day when I call answer me speedily.”
4. “Before I die.”
a. This seems to imply that the two requests he made reflected his two most spiritually damaging besetting sins.
b. It sounds like the plea of a man who desperately wants to experience victory over these sins before he dies.
c. He doesn’t want to go to the grave with these sins as his slave master.
d. Once this life is over, opportunity to win spiritual battles and to demonstrate victory over sin has ended.
e. Life on earth is short. Life on earth is God’s university for us. Now is the time to learn the lessons He wants us to learn. Now is the time to demonstrate faith and thus gain the victory.
f. It’s not a bad idea to think of the brevity of life – how little time we have here – and incorporate that into our prayers.
g. Pray in light of the fact that our lives are but a vapor.
h. Therefore, “Oh Lord, we need victory—now!”
Negative Request: Remove far from me vanity and lies: (vs .8)
1. This is a negative request. He is praying for God to take away something negative in his life – the sin of vanity and lying.
2. Vanity defined:
a. This Hebrew word can mean devastation or ruin.
b. It also has the meaning of “emptiness; nothing; falseness; idol.” This seems to be the way it was used in our proverb.
c. In Ex. 23:1 the term is translated “false” report.
d. The term was also used of idols in that they were empty… nothing. They were therefore false.
e. The world system is a lie. It is a falsehood. It offers false hope… false joy… false meaning to life.
f. John Bunyan spoke of the world as “Vanity Fair” – empty and void of anything spiritually substantive.
g. Agur, the author of our proverb evidently had a problem with this kind of vanity – falsehoods…
h. Anyone can get caught up in the vanities of this world.
3. Lies defined:
a. The term translated “lies” differs from vanity (falsehood) in that it speaks to falsehoods that are spoken.
b. The verb means to speak or to say that which is a lie or a falsehood or purposeful deception.
c. Prov. 14:5 – “A faithful witness will not lie…”
4. Both of the terms used imply something that is false and untrue.
a. The term vanity speaks of falsehood in general. It is possible to live a lie. It is possible to think lies, imagine lies, even love lies—all without speaking.
b. The term lies speaks of words spoken to convey a falsehood.
c. By using these two terms, Agur is describing the vanity of falsehood and the sinfulness of lies. Lies can be lived or spoken; they can even be a way of life.
d. False prophets and false teachers lived a lie AND they promoted lies through their preaching.
e. Their words were empty and void of truth. But worse than being empty, they were evil. They were lies.
5. Agur asked the Lord to REMOVE far from him, vanity and lies.
a. Remove: To become far or distant; removed far away; to send far away; to put away off into the distance.
b. This was a personal request to God from the author of this proverb. It indicates that Agur himself had a problem with falsehood and lying.
c. His request was that God would take away his tendency to lie… to stretch the truth… to be dishonest… to embellish… to exaggerate… to leave out important details in a story on purpose… to manipulate… to deceive…
d. Psalm 119:29 – “Remove from me the way of lying: and grant me thy law graciously.”
• This is the virtually same prayer request.
• Evidently, the psalmist also had a problem with lying… dishonesty… falsehood.
• Note the way of victory over lies: “thy law” = truth. Fill your mind and heart with truth and learn to love it.
e. Psalm 119:37 – “Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity; and quicken thou me in thy way.”
• Evidently the psalmist also had a problem with looking unto (with delight) vanity – the empty air bubbles the world offers… which in themselves are deceptive.
• This too was a request for God to enable him to stop beholding vanity… the “things” of the world… and the philosophies of the world.
f. This might be a little discouraging to hear. Godly men who wrote the Bible (which is the Truth we have staked our lives upon) tell us that they have a problem with falsehood and vanity?
g. Can we trust them?
• Prov. 30:5 – Agur just told us that “every word of God is pure.” We can trust in God.
• But what about the people God used to write the Bible? We have two authors of Scripture that admit they had a problem with lying. Can we trust them?
• I would have a problem trusting them if they said that they NEVER had a problem with lying, or exaggerating, or embellishing the truth. These sins are common to man.
• The fact that they admit it tells me that they were honest men who acknowledged that they had a sin nature that was bent towards sinning—like every other human being ever to walk this planet apart from the Lord Jesus.
• These men were wise enough to acknowledge the depth of the depravity of their own heart—and they understood the power of the allurement of the vanities of life in this world.
h. The fact that they admit it tells me something else about these men. They were sensitive to sin: which in itself is a sign of spiritual health and maturity.
i. Hardened liars don’t care that they lie. They love it. It’s a game to them.
j. Prov. 10:23 – “It is as sport to a fool to do mischief: but a man of understanding hath wisdom.”
k. The fact that these men asked God to remove lying from them reveals a tender heart – sensitive to sin… and desirous to remove it from their lives.
l. This does not mean that they were false teachers; or that they had ever gone about town spreading lies about this and that. It doesn’t mean that others could not trust them or that they were known in the community as liars.
m. Rather, it means that they themselves were painfully aware of their inner struggle with dishonesty.
n. They may have been inwardly tempted to lie or deceive and it pained them.
o. They may have found themselves stretching the truth or embellishing a story—and later it grieved them so they had to run to the Lord weeping in prayer and repentance… seeking for His forgiveness and deliverance.
p. A hardened liar doesn’t do that. A hardened liar doesn’t even care. It’s a sport to him.
q. If we were all honest, we too could make Agur’s prayer request our own: “Lord, remove far from me vanity and lies!”
6. Let’s not judge Agur or the psalmist too harshly.
a. The fact that a hardened liar tells the truth on occasion does not mean he isn’t a liar. He is a liar. An occasional truth doesn’t change the fact that he is a liar.
b. And the fact that an honest man tells an occasion lie does not mean that he is not an honest man overall.
c. He is an honest person… IF he deals with his sin before God—like Agur did… and the psalmist did.
d. Agur hated the sins of vanity and lies and desperately wanted victory over those besetting sins before he died.
e. And in a respectful way (because he loved righteousness and hated iniquity) he wouldn’t take no for an answer. “Deny me not!”
f. This was a man who hated lying… and wanted no trace of it in his heart or on his tongue. That is an honest and a very godly attitude.
Positive Request: Feed me with food convenient for me:
A. Feed me with food convenient for me
B. Give me neither poverty nor riches
C. Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the LORD?
D. Or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain.