Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. Proverbs 3:6 NKJV
One of the memories I have from my childhood was memorizing scripture in Sunday School. Of course, in hindsight, I understand I was diligent to do so entirely because by doing so we would win a prize. Looking back now I wonder if this was bribery or just simple encouragement to get a child to do something they might not have wanted to do at the time, but whatever it was it worked. The reason I mention this is that one of the prizes I received was a plaque which I got to paint by myself which had this passage from Proverbs on it. It hung in my bedroom for as long as I could remember, and this is a passage that I have never forgotten.
The reason for writing the book of Proverbs is revealed to us in the first five verses of the first chapter where Solomon tells us this;
The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel: To know wisdom and instruction, To perceive the words of understanding, To receive the instruction of wisdom, Justice, judgment, and equity; To give prudence to the simple, To the young man knowledge and discretion-- A wise [man] will hear and increase learning, And a man of understanding will attain wise counsel, Proverbs 1:1-5 NKJV
Even as a young boy, I understood the stories about how Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived and as a result came to the conclusion at an early age that this was one book I should pay a attention to if I wanted to be smart. Since this passage meant so much to me, I thought today I would take a little time to just share with you what it says to me, and hope that you will in turn take some time to study it and reflect upon it with the hope that it will be as much help to you as it has been to me.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart…The first thing I see here is that rather than just instructing us to trust in the Lord, Solomon tells us to trust Him with all of our “heart”. The Hebrew word for heart used here is “leb” which means much more than you might think. It can be used to refer to “the inner man, mind, will, heart, understanding, inner part, midst, midst (of things), heart (of man), soul, heart (of man), mind, knowledge, thinking, reflection, memory, inclination, resolution, determination (of will), conscience, heart (of moral character), as seat of appetites, as seat of emotions and passions, as seat of courage”. When you look at it this way, trusting the Lord with all your heart is a commitment to place your entire life, thoughts as well as actions, into the hands of God.
And lean not on your own understanding…What seems obvious to me now, but took me a very long time to figure out, is that Solomon is saying that a wise man trusts God with his heart, and not just his head. What I see here is simply that we have a choice to either totally commit to trusting every facet of our lives to God, or holding back at times and using our own “wisdom” to figure something out. Now given a choice to trust the God of the universe who knows the past, present, and future, or trusting in my own often demonstrated ignorance, it becomes apparent just how wise Solomon was in writing this passage. Yet how often do we all decide that we know enough to try and solve our own problems without so much as a prayer for guidance directed to the God who knows all?
In all your ways acknowledge Him…The Hebrew word for “all your ways” is “derek”, which means; way, road, distance, journey, manner. Obviously Solomon is talking about our journey through life and absolutely everything we might encounter along the way. It took me a very long time to figure out that there was nothing in my life so small that I had no need to talk to God about it. Why is it that we always are looking to make our own decisions and “direct” our own path through life without even considering whether or not it might not be what God had in mind for us. There is a popular country song titled “Jesus Take the Wheel” which illustrates this point very well. The cry for help only comes when we realize we can’t do anything to help ourselves and life is spinning out of control because we insisted on “driving” and ended up in trouble.
And He shall direct your paths…Have you ever considered letting Jesus take the wheel all the time and never worrying about where He is taking you? This is exactly what Solomon is trying to tell us in this passage, and in reality, in the whole book of Proverbs. If I were to try to explain what Proverbs is all about I would have to say that the most repeated idea in the entire book is that God has all the answers! What Solomon takes the time to tell us is that there are really only two types of people in this world; wise men or fools. The wise listen to God, seek His face, and allow Him to direct the path we are to walk. The fool? Obviously he is the one who chooses not to listen to the wisdom of God and seeks to direct his own path through life.
Although this passage is written to mankind on an individual basis, does it not seem applicable to the situation we find our world in right now? Many would argue this world is standing on the brink of divine judgment, and deservedly so considering some of the decisions that have been made in the recent past. Does it not seem prophetic from these words from Solomon that the reason this world is where it is today is simply a result of not allowing the God of this universe to direct our paths? Yet rather than recognizing guilt, and appealing to God for forgiveness and direction, this world stubbornly insists it knows what it is doing.
While the world seems bent on its own destruction, individually we can make the decision to do our part to follow the advice we find in this passage from Proverbs. A question which is heard quite often, especially in light of recent events, is “what can I do to make a difference”? I believe the answer to that question lies in the advice we are given in this passage from Solomon. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.”