July 12th 2018 – Proverbs 16:1-9

The plans of the heart belong to man,
    but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.
All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes,
    but the Lord weighs the spirit.
Commit your work to the Lord,
    and your plans will be established.
The Lord has made everything for its purpose,
    even the wicked for the day of trouble.
Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord;
    be assured, he will not go unpunished.
By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for,
    and by the fear of the Lord one turns away from evil.
When a man's ways please the Lord,
    he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.
Better is a little with righteousness
    than great revenues with injustice.
The heart of man plans his way,
    but the Lord establishes his steps.

Proverbs 16:1-9

There is more obvious cohesion in this chapter, at least in the first half of it, than we have hitherto seen, with 1-9 belonging together, also 10-15 and 27-30. In each of our verses today, apart from 8, the name of the Lord is mentioned. This is in one sense unusual since many of the proverbs deal with the 'horizontal' relationships, between man and man. Here, the emphasis generally is on the sovereignty of God and on His watch and surveillance upon the whole of life. In 1, the RSV rendering is clearer and truer, setting the two parts of the verse in contrast to one another. The meaning is that, for all man's freedom to plan, it is God's will nevertheless that is furthered in the final issue. As we say, man proposes, but God disposes. An illustration of this may be seen in the story of Joseph and his brethren in Genesis. The latter planned and schemed to Joseph's hurt, but 'God meant it unto good'. One sees in the story the marvellous interaction of human planning and activity with the divine sovereignty. This is not something we can ever fully understand: one has simply to hold the two poles of the paradox in tension. In 2, the truth that is stressed is that all human actions, and indeed all human thoughts, come up for divine appraisal (cf 2 Corinthians 5:9, 10, 1 Corinthians 4:3-5). 'Commit' in 3 literally means to 'roll upon', and is one of the words translated in the Old Testament as 'trust' and emphasises the act and attitude of faith as being to roll one's burden off one's shoulders on to the shoulders of Another. Kidner finely comments, 'Our activities and plans will be no less our own for being His, only less burdensome, and better made.'