1 In the LORD’s hand the king’s heart is a stream of water that he channels toward all who please him. 2 A person may think their own ways are right, but the LORD weighs the heart. 3 To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice. 4 Haughty eyes and a proud heart– the unploughed field of the wicked– produce sin. 5 The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty. 6 A fortune made by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapour and a deadly snare. (Prov. 21:1-6 NIV)
1 In the LORD’s hand the king’s heart is a stream of water that he channels toward all who please him.
Every single ruler on earth is appointed to their place by the Sovereign Lord. They may be in place through their authoritarian regime or through a democratic vote. They may claim to have absolute power and may boast and brag about what they can achieve but as quickly as they came to power so they can easily be removed from power. When the ruler is wise and lives in the fear of the Lord, then the rule is wise and blessed by God. Even the evil choices of rulers can promote the glorious purposes of God.
2 A person may think their own ways are right,
but the LORD weighs the heart.
We like to persuade ourselves that we are right in our actions. We act spitefully and persuade ourselves that our actions and our words are just. We say hurtful things to others and persuade ourselves that we are just being frank, open and free from hypocrisy. We need to bring our hearts under the scrutiny of God’s word so that the ugliness of sin be removed from our lives. God knows the heart and He is not fooled by all our pretences and posturing. The Lord has already assessed our hearts without us asking or submitting. What we need to submit to is to learn what God says about our hearts and behaviour, and we do that by reading the word of God and allowing the Holy Spirit to teach us and expose the indwelling sin.
3 To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.
To offer worship to the Lord and continue to live in disobedience is detestable to the Lord. There is a place for sacrifice in the NT. There is only one atoning sacrifice in the NT and that is the sacrifice of Christ upon the cross. There are three NT sacrifices that we can offer to God: the offering of our whole selves to God (Rom 12), the offering of our wealth to God, and the sacrifice of praise, the fruit of our lips. When we come to worship God, we acknowledge our sin because we have not been right and just before the Lord. Like the path to God’s presence seen in the tabernacle, we come through the gate where Christ is our way of approach. We are confronted with the altar of burnt offering where we are reminded that the sacrifice of Christ is needed for the forgiveness of sins and we confess that sin. We come to the laver and we are reminded that we are washed through the word of God. We attend to the means of grace through listening to God’s word and approaching the throne of grace in prayer. We offer our praise and vow to do all those things that God has said.
4 Haughty eyes and a proud heart—
the unploughed field of the wicked– produce sin.
To be sinful is dreadful, to be proud and haughty about our sin is detestable to the Lord. The ‘unploughed field of the wicked’ has also been translated ‘the lamp of the wicked’. It is a difficult phrase to translate so we ought not to be dogmatic about how we deal with this. If we take the text as it is given in the NIV, it means that the heart of the wicked has not been cultivated by God’s wisdom, and so that heart leads to sin. We can draw a similar meaning from the alternative translation, that a proud heart is the lamp of the wicked that shines on everything and produces sin. It is like the lens through which the wicked view things and the evitable result is sin.
5 The plans of the diligent lead to profit
as surely as haste leads to poverty.
Here the contrast is between the thoughtful plans of the wise and diligent and the unplanned haste of the wicked. It is wise to plan to prepare. There is a popular saying, ‘if we fail to plan, we plan to fail.’ Diligent and wise planning carried out in the fear of the Lord leads to profit. This can mean financial profit, but is not limited to wealth, it can mean profit and success in every area of our lives. Haste is seldom seen as good in the Proverbs or the Scriptures. When we rush in, to think, to act or to say, it leads to poverty. Poverty here is any bad or poor outcome.
6 A fortune made by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapour and a deadly snare.
Wealth obtained by dishonest means, such as a lying tongue, will not last and we can end up caught in the deadly snare of dishonest gain. This doesn’t mean that the wealth disappears, because dishonest gain could be well invested and provide a lifetime of wealth, but this doesn’t bring happiness or allow us to fulfil the Go- appointed purpose for our lives. The possession of wealth may lead to pride, to despising the people that we have managed to fool by our lives.
Lord help us to be just and right and obedient to Your word. To obey is better than to sacrifice. Lord this word that You have given us in Proverbs is immensely practical and reaches into every area of our lives. Help us to not dismiss this word but to obey and then to sacrifice by offering ourselves, our wealth and our praise, because we ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.