A reading of Proverbs 16 gives us an opportunity to focus on the practical aspect of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility. The Sovereignty of God is one of the great doctrines of Christianity and an anchor for souls in the midst of trying times and troubling waters. God is Sovereign of heaven and earth. He is the Creator and Sovereign of nature, the Ruler of all nations.
Counselors will describe a troubled counselee as having “racing thoughts”, driven by emotions and lacking focus–often the result of fear. Some enslaving, paralyzing fears that come to mind are the fear of man; fear of failure; and fear of consequences. Racing thoughts, fears and emotions can consume our lives and erode our strength if we forget—God Is Sovereign!
So what is Solomon teaching in verse 1 regarding the Sovereignty of God and man’s responsibility?
Proverbs 16:1 – “The preparations [plans; blueprints; i.e. plan for battle] of the heart [mind; thoughts; emotions] in man [belong to; are the responsibility of man], and the answer [reply] of the tongue, is from the LORD.”
Lesson–The responsibility of planning, preparation and implementation is man’s; however, God is sovereign and man’s success or failure is determined by the Lord. Whether a king planning for battle or a cobbler pursuing the business of making shoes, wise men plan, but also acknowledge and accept the sovereignty of God. When our heart and emotions are aligned with the will of God we can rest in the knowledge that “the answer” (whether the outcome is favorable or unfavorable) is from the Lord.
The heart of man is the subject of Proverbs 16:2. The prophet Jeremiah confronted a heart condition that is the malady of all humanity in Jeremiah 17:9—“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked [perverse; corrupt]: who can know it [understand]?”
We tend to think higher of ourselves than we ought to think and are easily blind to our own motives and ambitions. Solomon writes:
Proverbs 16:2 – “All the ways [roads, courses, journey] of a man are clean [pure; clear] in his own eyes [sight; understanding]; but the LORD weigheth [pondereth; measures] the spirits [“thoughts and intents of the heart”].
Personal application: God sees and knows your heart. The Lord knows your thoughts and motives better than you know yourself. I close with a challenge of the heart from an earlier proverb:
Proverbs 3:5-6 – “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. 6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”