1 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. 5 The LORD detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished. 6 Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for; through the fear of the LORD evil is avoided. (Prov. 16:1-6 NIV)
1 To humans belong the plans of the heart,
but from the LORD comes the proper answer of the tongue.
The first nine verses of chapter 15 deal with the relationship between God’s sovereignty and human activity. To humanity has been given the ability to plan and arrange. Because humanity is made in the image of God, we have an ability to think, design and make plans. We need to remember that this is a God-given gift. While humanity can plan, we need to realise our limitations because only God can put the perfect and effective answer in a person’s mouth. We are not to lean on our own understanding. We have the responsibility to reason and decide but we should do all this with dependence upon the Lord.
2 All a person’s ways seem pure to them,
but motives are weighed by the LORD.
God is always in a better position than us to make a true assessment of a person’s ways. Even the wisest person can fool themselves about the purity of their motives. We need the scrutiny of God’s word upon our lives to be able to decide how pure our motives are. The natural tendency of the heart is to try and justify what we have thought, said or done. We will go to quite elaborate lengths to justify ourselves. Our sole judgement is not to be trusted. Our appropriate approach to assessing our hearts is to turn to God. We are not left until the future judgement to find out what God’s assessment is. He has given this to us in His word. We should humbly ask God to reveal to us through His word what we ourselves might not be able to see. Ultimately God will make the final judgement:
Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God. (1 Cor. 4:5 NIV)
3 Commit to the LORD whatever you do,
and he will establish your plans.
The words behind ‘Commit to the Lord’ literally mean to roll everything before the Lord. This is not a guarantee that the Lord will accomplish our every plan. When we commit our plans and whatever we do to the Lord, these plans are often changed to conform to God’s word and God’s will. Committing to the Lord means giving our ideas but it also means submitting to doing things God’s way. Our plans get shaped and corrected to conform to God’s plan and then God will accomplish that plan.
4 The LORD works out everything to its proper end
— even the wicked for a day of disaster.
The Lord designs, creates and works out everything according to its purpose or proper end. We were designed to be in relationship with God and to worship Him. When we fail to live in that way then things don’t work well. Life becomes twisted and doesn’t work the way it was intended. Even the wicked fulfil the purposes of God. In the end those who have chosen evil will find that they have not opposed God’s plan but that they fit into God’s plan, and that through their actions God brings about the day of disaster for them.
5 The LORD detests all the proud of heart.
Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished.
It is with great impunity that people sin and brag about how their lifestyle opposes what the Christian faith would have imposed upon them. They are proud in how they live, and they boast of their liberty. The Lord detests their pride and their sin. They retort, ‘what do we care?’ They even boast that they don’t care. But time is marching relentlessly towards a time when they will care. Just as they are not in control of their death, they are not in control of their judgement after death and God’s word warns them that they must be sure that they will not go unpunished.
6 Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for;
through the fear of the LORD evil is avoided.
This is a difficult verse at first sight because it seems to contradict a biblical theme that atonement is only through the death of the Lord Jesus Christ. Some have tried to reconcile this verse with Christ’s atonement by saying that the love and the righteousness are Christ’s love and faithfulness. But here the love and faithfulness belong to us. Just as the fear of the Lord is found in us so is love and faithfulness. Therefore, in what sense can our love and faithfulness atone for sin? The word translated ‘atoned for’ is often used in the sacrificial system where God makes a provision to deal with our sins. This is not the sense that the word is used here in this proverb. It is used the same way as in:
Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs. (Prov. 10:12 NIV)
In this context sin is atoned for in the sense that it is covered over, not in a redemptive way, but in a relational way as love covers a multitude of sins. This is not peace with God on the basis of redemption from our sins, but is the work of a wise man to maintain peace by covering the sin. This is a lesson that our society could learn. We have entered a period of ‘public shaming’. Anyone who is appointed to a public office today will immediately have everything that they have published on social media or anywhere else examined to see if they comply with the latest ‘woke’ prohibition. This word ‘woke’ was originally defined to mean an attentiveness to issues of social and racial justice but it has morphed into a term referring to a signifier of pretentiousness and ‘cultural elitism.’ People take glee at watching the downfall of someone; they take delight in righteously feeling that they have been part of the punishment of the transgressor. They behave like a pack of hounds baying for blood as they pick up the scent of their prey. This is so prevalent in society, that we in the church need to guard our hearts against joining in with that practice. At times it is necessary to publicly rebuke someone for persistent and unrepentant sin, but love should first endeavour to pursue the most private path of helping a sinner return to their walk with God.
Lord God help us to bring our plans before You in prayer. Help us to submit our assessments of our thoughts, words and actions to the scrutiny of Your word. By Your Holy Spirit help us to see what we are in the light of Your word and forgive our sins Lord. Give us a steadfast spirit to help us walk the wise way in life, because we ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.