Bible Reading: Proverbs 16.1-4
To humans belong the plans of the heart,
but from the Lord comes the proper answer of the tongue.
2 All a person’s ways seem pure to them,
but motives are weighed by the Lord.
3 Commit to the Lord whatever you do,
and he will establish your plans.
4 The Lord works out everything to its proper end—
even the wicked for a day of disaster.
Have you ever found yourself feeling frustrated when your plans have been derailed? Have you ever felt your conscience challenged by God’s word? Proverbs 16:1-4 has much to say about our standing before God. All of these verses contrast the glory and greatness of God with the finitude and creaturely status of people. God is above us in every way – his plans are greater than ours, and his judgement is clearer than ours. These truths can be difficult for us to accept, and even more difficult to apply to our lives. Yet it is necessary that we do so in order to live our lives in harmony with God’s design.
We humans make plans all the time, a necessary step in achieving our goals. But our goals are not always God’s goals, and though we make plans, God has the final say. God has a sovereign plan for everything that happens in the universe. It is true that God gives us the freedom to make choices, but we cannot overturn his will. Though it may cause us frustration when things don’t go the way we planned them, we can find rest in the knowledge that God works all things for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28). His plan is better than ours. Reflecting on this fact can bring us peace when our plans do not succeed.
God’s judgement is clearer than ours, and verse 2 reminds us of our need to maintain constant moral humility before God. We must always be on guard against the danger of self-deception. Sadly, we are more than capable of justifying all kinds of sinful behavior. Sin we don’t recognize is perhaps the most dangerous kind. We should therefore approach God with humility, asking for his mercy in an attitude of repentance. Only then do we find our consciences purified by the sacrifice of Jesus (cf. Hebrews 9:14). This attitude of humility, repentance, and trust in God should characterize the entirety of our Christian walk, from its inception to its future consummation in heaven.
We are to trust our plans to the Lord before acting as verse 3 encourages us. When we do so, God will guide our plans in order to bring them into alignment with his will. While verse 1 reminds us that our plans will fail if they contradict God’s plan, this verse tells us how to make them succeed – align them with God’s plan. Humble prayer is the key. Jesus modeled for us a perfect attitude for prayer when he prayed “not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). Before we make any plans, we ought to first pray that God’s will be done, reflecting on God’s word as we do so. This is a challenge; we prefer to make plans and then pray that God does what we want him to do afterward. But that is backwards – prayer ought to come first. When we pray in the humble and listening spirit of Jesus, we find that prayer can be a two-way conversation rather than a one-way request.
We are reminded once again of God’s sovereignty over the universe in verse 4. God has a purpose in mind for everything he has created, including each one of us. Though sin has corrupted creation, we can rest assured that God will bring everything to the goal he ordained for it. For those of us who have found salvation by faith in Jesus, these are comforting words. God will one day bring us into complete restoration, free from sin, death, temptation, and corruption. We will perfectly reflect in ourselves the image of Jesus, who the paradigm for recreated humanity. Yet the wicked will come to their fitting end as well. Those who reject the salvation offered through Jesus will find themselves under God’s punishment on the “day of disaster,” the final judgement. Their destruction, though God desires for them to repent and be saved (cf. Ezekiel 18:23), will glorify God by showing him to be a just and righteous judge. Reflecting on these facts should encourage us in the midst of our trials and persecutions here on earth, as well as remind us of the great need for evangelism.
Taken together, Proverbs 16:1-4 remind us of our creaturely status. Though we seek control over our lives, we have none. Though we seek moral justification apart from God, we have none. Recognizing these facts is an important step to reorganizing our lives with God’s wisdom at the center. We ought to allow God to be God of us, admitting that his ways our better than ours. Only then can we find ourselves and our lives back on track to achieve the purpose God made us for.
Memory Verse: Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established. Proverbs 16.3