July 13th 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

The RSV correctly renders 4 as 'The Lord has made everything for its purpose', and the meaning is that in the economy of God nothing is wasted: even evil is put to use and made to contribute to God's glory. This never means that God is its author, merely that it is under His control. In 5 we have one of the familiar notes of Proverbs. Though the wicked join forces, as it were in a league against God, they shall assuredly have their desert. For the phrase 'hand join in hand' see Note on 11:21, Friday, 26th October, 1973. The parallelism in 6 seems to indicate that 'mercy and truth' have reference to man rather than to God. This does not in any wise contradict the biblical doctrines of grace, nor is it true to say that man's loyalty or faithfulness can have any part to play in atonement for sin. Rather, the reference is to the practical response of faith to God's mercy and truth. Taken like this we can surely realise how qualities like ‘loyalty and faithfulness' (RSV) can do a very great deal in human relationships, in terms of bringing a new spirit into a situation. The wonderfully hopeful statement in 7 does not contradict the New Testament teaching about the inevitability of tribulation and persecution as the lot of the believer; rather, it bears witness to the gracious over-ruling of God in specific situations, bringing peace again and again to the experience of His people. He is Victor, and He gives that victory to those that trust in Him. For a notable illustration of this truth, see 2 Corinthians 1:8-10. The thought in 8 echoes that in 15:16, 17 (see Note), and 9 is a companion verse to 1. One recalls the saying in Jeremiah 10:23, 'The way of man is not in himself; it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps'. As Ironside puts it, 'People frequently think they are having their own way, when in reality the Lord is leading them with 'bit and bridle' through strange paths, for their discipline and blessing at last (cf Ruth 1:21).'