Man’s will and God’s rule: Proverbs 16

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Today’s reading: Proverbs 16-18.

“Guidance, like all God’s acts of blessing under the covenant of grace, is a sovereign act. Not merely does God will to guide us in the sense of showing us his way, that we may tread it; he wills also to guide us in the more fundamental sense of ensuring that, whatever happens, whatever mistakes we may make, we shall come safely home.” J.I. Packer, Knowing God

God is sovereign. Some embrace that fact at the same time that it chafes others. It reassures and comforts those who celebrate God’s power. It troubles those who emphasize man’s will or put limits on God’s knowledge and choices. It’s always best to rely on God’s word when searching for answers to these kinds of questions. Proverbs 16 gives good insights into God’s power. It may not be the whole counsel of God on this matter, but it’s a good launching pad.

To man belong the plans of the heart, but from the LORD comes the reply of the tongue. All a man’s ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the LORD. Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed. The LORD works out everything for his own ends– even the wicked for a day of disaster… In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps… The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD. Proverbs 16:1-4, 9, 33

God permits our plans and motives. We aren’t robots with every move programmed by God. We have our plans, our motives, and our ways. Proverbs says they are ours. God weighs or judges our motives, giving further evidence that he considers them our responsibility. This section of Proverbs, chapters 16-22, is called the Royal section because it often refers to the character and actions of kings. Kings are like limited versions of God, and each of us is, in our own way, king-like in our ability to plan and act.

God produces his own outcome. Even the actions of the king are limited by God. “The king‘s heart is in the hand of the LORD; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases” (Proverbs 21:1). “The LORD works out everything for his own ends,” but I can’t explain how he does it. God declares much more than he explains. I would caution everyone not to limit God’s choices to his own sovereignty or man’s will if his creation has room for both. God is the author of the story, but within the story the characters he created have their own thoughts, motives, and plans. In the end, however, God leaves nothing to chance. He has written the final chapter.

God calls us to align our plans with his will. If our motives can be judged, then some are good and some aren’t. There will be conflict when our motives lead to actions that oppose God’s plan. There will be rewards when we serve faithfully according to God’s plan. There will be fruit when our service furthers God’s kingdom or futility when we work against him. God is so sovereign that he even takes our futile resistance and uses it to accomplish his will.

So think and plan. God has given you responsibility for your mind and motives. But remember that God controls the outcome. Let that encourage you when face struggles and uncertainty. Let that inspire you when you feel life lacks meaning and purpose. God has made it possible for you to overcome futility and find much reward when you live according to his plan.

Image by flow14 on Flickr, CC by-nc-sa 2.0

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One thought on “Man’s will and God’s rule: Proverbs 16

  1. Pingback: Bible Daily Devotional – Proverbs 16 – Man’s will and God’s rule | ChristianBlessings

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