Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she smiles at the future. Proverbs 31:25
As we look at the excellent wife, we now turn to inner qualities in her life. These are discussed in verses 25-28 and once again represent a godly woman who takes her role seriously before God, before her family, and before the outside world around her. In verse 25 three things characterize the inner qualities of this godly wife.
First, she is a woman of strength. Keil and Delitzsch say this about the word strength here. "She is clothed with strength, which is the power over the changes of temporal circumstances, which easily shatter and bring to ruin a household resting on less solid foundations." Hers is an inner strength derived from a relationship with God - and from the Scriptures which guide those who know Him. Just as she would clothe herself daily with outward dress - she also turns each day to God for the inner strength she will need to face the world and love those in her family. When I think of what strength she functions from, Ephesians 6:10 comes to mind. "Be strong in The Lord and in the strength of His might." Any lady who has run a home knows that Keil and Delitzsch's comments are very true. The average home faces changing circumstances - especially when it comes to the people who live in it. The godly wife is a rock to her family - in that she faces the problems they face with the wisdom of God. The throes of a child's life - especially in the Junior and Senior High years are a roller-coaster of emotions, highs and lows, and wrestlings with the world seeking to influence them negatively. She faces every battle - every situation - every new trial with strength.
Secondly, we see that she faces these things with "dignity." The word here is "glory" which here points to a mindset that thinks above that which is low, little, or common. She does not look to life as just getting by or living for the things of this world. She thinks higher than that. She is clothed with a mind and a heart that reaches higher - that desires a life that glorifies God. Some live aspiring to no glory at all. They live in the mundane and think that is all that they will be able to do. But a godly woman knows that God wants to work in those around her - and she cooperates, knowing that in doing so a touch of glory will be on the lives of those around her as a result. She is both dignified - and lives with a dignity that has others look up to her.
Because of these things the godly wife smiles at the future. There is something that is needed today. Too many look at the future and grit their teeth as they await the devastation they figure is coming. The godly woman faces all things with God's strength seeking God's glory - and as a result smiles that although much may be wrong in the world - she sees things in light of growing closer to God and doing things that glorify Him. As a result, regardless of the circumstances, she smiles at the future knowing that getting closer to God - loving Him more - serving Him better - and selflessly giving herself for those around her is not governed by anyone other than herself as she responds to God Himself. That is why while all others seem to frown at the future - she stands smiling and looking to God for His work even in the midst of a crooked and godless generation.
The inner strength, character, and outlook of the excellent wife sets her apart from other women. She stands as a beacon of hope and joy in a world where too many struggle with depression and thoughts that everything stinks. Rather than let the world depress her - she seeks to live by God's purposes and designs - and then seeks to influence the world rather than let it influence her. What a delight it is to know such a woman - and an ever better one to have one blessing your home.
The fear of man brings a snare, But he who trusts in the LORD will be exalted. Proverbs 29:25
The proverb for today is one that I know quite well. It is one of the sins that is a very real stumbling block for me. Fearing man is something I've done too often in my life - and just as this proverb says, it is always a baited snare or trap that I trigger in the process. It is not hard to remember one of the very first principles of wisdom, which is that fearing God is how wisdom begins. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, fools despise wisdom and instruction." (Proverbs 1:8) With that as our backdrop, let's take a look for a few moments at the opposite, the fear of man - and the problems and traps that come with it.
The first thing we need to take note of here is that the word fear here is different than the one used in Proverbs 1:8. Proverbs 1:8 uses the Hebrew word "yirah" which is a positive word for fear beasue of its use in connection with fearing God. The word speaks of fearing to displease God and has with it the connotation of respecting and honoring Him. This fear acknowledges God's good intentions in His commandments and therefore motivates us to delight in them and in so doing Him. This fear is identified with wisdom, knowledge, discretioin, and understanding and helps the one who has it to judge things properly and most of all restrains us from sin and rebellion against God. The word for fear in today's proverb is the Hebrew word "haradah," which speaks of a trembling, quaking, or shaking with fear. The word was used to speak of a physical shaking of Israel's enemies when God began to fight for them. It is not a good fear - but rather a shaking and trembling that come before someone flees or surrender's to another.
The context in which this fear happens is men. Proverbs warns against trembling and shaking in fear of mere men this way. Scripture tells us that we are not to fear the ones who can kill the body, yet do nothing to our souls. The One we are to fear is the One who when our bodies are dead can take our soul and cast it into hell. That rules out ALL men. Yet we fear and tremble before men. What does this tell us? I will equate the things we are "falling for" as the bait of a trap. That is what the word "snare" here means in the Hebrew. It referred to the trap and the snare that caught animals - but the reference was to the bait that was in the trap more than the trap itself. The trap would never be effective unless the animal was deceived by the bait. So what "bait" are we being deceived by in stepping into the trap of the fear of man?
First, we take the bait that our life consists of our possessions. We fear man because we think that man can take away our stuff. We think that ultimately our stuff defines us. That was the case with the rich farmer - who thought his life consisted of his possessions. He did all he could to protect his bumper crop so that he could retire securely. The problem for him was that he would die that very night - and all his stuff was gone anyway. All he was left with was how he had prepared for his meeting with God - for which he was eternally unprepared. You are not defined by your stuff - but when men make you think they can control your stuff (or your ability to earn so you can buy stuff) you will be tampted to fear them instead of God. When you do that, you've taken the bait - and stepped into a snare.
Second, we take the bait that men control our lives rather than the sovereignty of God. Some fear man because they think men control their destiny. Here is where I was guilty of the fear of man. I thought men controlled whether I was pastor or not - and feared their power. The fact is that God is ALWAYS ultimately in control of our lives - and to fear men is to put yourself into a very dangerous position. You begin to listen to men more than God. You can wind up lifting the thoughts of man above the Word of God. These are the traps you fall into when you take the bait that men control your destiny rather than God.
I will only go into a third bait that we often take when we fear men instead of God. That is that how men think of us is what is important. That is a lie - and one that controls the behavior of billions. Fashions and all aspects of culture function off of this lie. Immoralty becomes acceptable because we fear what men will "think" of us if we hold to a biblical morality and standard. Our culture has embraced almost every and any kind of sin because they value what men think above what God thinks. We call sexual immorality - both heterosexual and homosexual - normal because we've valued what men think above what God says. We've embraced materialism, racism, as well as perverting sexual roles of men and women because we exalt current culture above God's eternal Word.
We are told that the cure to the fear of man is to trust in the Lord. That one, we are counselled, will be exalted. We trust the Lord when we read Scripture and value what God says, even if it has violent collisions with our current cultural norms. We trust the Lord when we realize that God moves the hearts of kings (and everyone else for that matter) wherever He wants them to go. We trust the Lord when we are willing to leave everything for the sake of God's will - knowing that the eternal eclipses the physcial and temporal in life. Trusting the Lord is simply valuing God's view of things above that of anyone else's. That, by the way, is also the definition of wisdom - seeing things the way that God sees. That view of things will bless us - and - protect us from buying the lie of the bait that blinds us to the trap in which it is sent.
The king's heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes. Proverbs 21:1
Who controls world history? That is a question that makes some people squrim in their seats. The reason it does is because it seems easier to say that history is at times in Satan's hands - or at least it is in no one's hands than it does to say that God is sovereign over all history. If God is sovereign over all history - then the questions about evil and about suffering become far more complicated to us. God is sovereign over all human history - and at all times the hearts of all kings and rulers of this world are like channels of water in his hands. This proverb is true - He turns the hearts of these kings wherever He wishes. If then this is true, what are we to do with the Hitlers and others like him in this world - and in the course of history?
What do we do with the Pharaoh's who oppressed and enslaved Israel for hundreds of years? What do we do with the kings who conquered Israel and Judah - and leveled the temple to the ground? If you have a God Who functions according to the health, wealth, and prosperity gospel, these things become very difficult to deal with in terms of the sovereignty of God. God is more than just a cosmic sugar daddy who has come to give us everything we want if we just claim it. He is a God Who is working toward His own purposes and plans. He is a God who is concerned with the manifestation of His grace - yet Who does it while maintaining justice and righteousness. These are deep issues that find their only final answer in the end when we gaze at God's beauty, glory, wisdom, and majesty for all eternity. Yet - there are whispers of His workings for us in Scripture while we live here on earth.
The way God moves kings is always in accordance with His eternal purpose in Christ Jesus. It always has been and it always will be. There are times when God moves the hearts of kings to deliver His people - much like He did with Esther and Mordecai. These are glorious times when we see God protecting His covenant people and showing that He is the One with the last word. There are other times when the king acts - and even in the king's wrath God delivers - as with Daniel and his three friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. In situations like these God does not move the king's heart until after that king has seen God's power and might. But there are other cases like that of Nebuchadnezzar destroying and carrying away God's people. These are times when a king is used for the purpose of disciplining and correcting God's people. Kings are used for a myriad of purposes by God for His ultimate plan and purpose. Even the ultimate worldly king, the antichrist, will serve God's ultimate purposes of bringing judgment on the earth and saving His covenant people, Israel.
Kings serve God's purposes and plans - even when they themselves do not know it. They serve God even though they may even deny His existance and rebel against Him. We must remember that even the New Testament tells us in Romans 13 that there is no authority except from God. Paul goes on to remind us that all authorities are established by God. Our problems come when we think that these authorities are here for our blessing alone - misonstruing Paul's admonition to Timothy which says, "First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity." (1 Timothy 2:1-2) Some mistakenly think this admonition is a carte blanche to us to always have kings and rulers who bless us. Yet Paul's own life was taken by an ungodly ruler when he died. Persecution came upon the church again and again in the early days of its existance. We are to pray for such things - and ask God to move the king's heart. But ultimately God's plans and purposes will prevail. Remember here we are told He moves the king's heart - wherever HE wants it to go. That will mean for both blessing and for discipline - for good and for bad - for times of peace and also times of conflict and yes, even persecution and great difficulty.
The one constant for us is not that everything goes well all the time. This is a recipe for spiritual disaster and a severely stunted spiritual growth rate. Our one constant is that God is working all things after the counsel of His will - His good purposes - and His glory. This is a constant becasue we know that He is good and in Him is no darkness, no sin, no evil, and no wrong. Therefore regardless of our current situation - and in light of today's proverb - regardless of our current leader here on earth - God is still sovereign. He is in control and all things are working toward His ultimate end of summing all things up in Christ Jesus. He WILL work whatever we think is good, bad, or anywhere in between toward His ultimate purpose for us as well. That purpose is not for us to be rich or live in perfect health - and to never have problems. His ultimate purpose for us? It is that we are conformed to the image of His Son. It is that our character and lifestyle look more and more like that of Jesus every day we live! To that end He will move kings and rulers, despots and even maniacal dictators to work with Him so that we, and all other believers in all ages and all places, will be to the praise of the glory of His grace!
Do not say, “I will repay evil”; Wait for the Lord, and He will save you. Proverbs 20:22
Revenge is something that is very dangerous. We are told by today's proverb not to say that we ourselves will repay the evil done to us. Instead we are to wait for the Lord to be the One who saves us. There are two interesting examples of this - and Solomon was well aware of both of them. These two examples were Saul and David. They were the opposite ends of this issue of taking our own vengeance and repaying the evil done to us. They are also the difference between blessing and destruction.
Saul started out his career being wise in this way. When he became king some scoffed at him - and did not bring him any kind of present - on a day when presents were in order. Shortly after this God allowed a situation where Saul proved his worth - and showed that he indeed was fit and called to be king. When some wanted to bring vengeance on these men who rebuffed Solomon, his response was wise. He said that no one was going to be put to death, because God was gracious and had been good to His people. Thus Solomon allowed the Lord to defend him. But later in life Saul no longer followed the Lord - and began to be rebellious to God's purposes. When he faced a supposed wrong by the priests of the Lord - he reacted violently. Even though the priests acted without any knowledge of any kind of rebellion, Saul had the entire city, men, women, and children put to death. Thus was his reign marred by a continual desire to repay any suspected slight or evil done to him.
David was much different. He was wronged repeatedly by Saul and by those who followed him. Yet twice David rejected the opportunity to kill Saul - even when God put the opporutnity to do so. He saw Saul as God's annointed and therefore a man to be honored. His statement to the men with him who desired to put Saul to death was that God would be the One to bring Saul down - but David would not take his own vengeance and repay the evils done to him. David was blessed greatly because of this -a nd God greatly prospered his kingdom. God also blessed David with deliverance after deliverance.
Saul . . . he experienced something much diffferent than David. Saul went crazy - he was mad - he lost his mind. This is what happens to us when we think we have to defend ourselves against every slight and every evil done to us. This is a responsibility and a weight on our minds that we cannot carry. Soon the world itself is against us - and everyone and everything is suspect. This will make you lose your mind - just like Saul did. The way to peace is through forgiveness.
When we choose to forgive the evils done to us we are blessed. We are adopting the mind and heart of God, Who chose to forgive even though it cost His Son His life to do so. Our minds, when we forgive, are loosed from the constant torture of remembering the wrongs done to us. They are set free from bitterness which will consume our sanity like a dry forest is consumed by a fire driven by dry winds. We are free to give all our slights to God and allow Him Who sits on the throne to determine how to measure out justice and righteousness. Since there is only one ultimate throne in this universe - with only One Who sits upon it - truly, only He can mete out perfect justice. We are liberated from decisions taht are beyond our ability to make.
As long as we live in a fallen world there are going to be slights, problems, evils, and injustices that come our way. The wisdom that God offers to us today recognizes these things and gives us a way to deal with them without losing our minds. In the process we are protected from the deeper damage these things can do to us - and we are given the glorious priviledge of forgiving others - which is when we reflect both His character and His glory most.
So that your trust may be in the LORD, I have taught you today, even you. Proverbs 22:19
The reason we need to heed the call to wisdom is because by living a life according to God's wisdom - we will be led to trust in the Lord in all that we do. Seeing life from God's perspective will inevitably lead us to a point where we trust His worldview rather than any other one that is put before us. This is what the father is seeking to teach his son. It is what the wise man is seeking to teach those who lack wisdom. They are trying to make it clear that God's ways are infinitely superior to those of man. They are attempting to show the young and the old that there is a radical difference between the ways of the world and the ways of God.
Trusting in God means having a confidence in Him. It means standing firm in the principles we see taught in Scripture - even when many others are turning to worldly principles. From what we've already seen in this section of verses - this is a far better way to live - one that is pleasant and good. But ultimately to live this way we will also have to be able to speak this way - even at times defending the way that we live to those who think it is foolish and stupid. This is why the father has taken the time to call his son to apply his heart to wisdom and knowledge. It is why he is trying to get his son to think and to reason according to what God says in His Word. It is why he is so adamant in getting his son to meditate and ponder the truth of God deep in his thoughts.
The man teaching either this son, or the unlearned one in God's wisdom - is teaching in a very concrete direction. When he tells his son that he has "taught" him each day - the word he uses means not just to impart information. He is teaching with a purpose. "Yada" is the Hebrew word he uses - and it means to know something. The knowledge though is not just information to pass a written test. It is to know so as to perceive, disciern, and eventually experience something. Thus this teaching is meant to bring his pupil to a point of experiencing God at work in his life. One of the things that this type of teaching moves toward is that people would consider what is said. This means they are doing far more than hearing and doing it. They are considering what is said - it makes them think and reason. They begin to perceive that God is at work in the world - and that He has specific wisdom for them which will teach them how to live in this world. They begin to discern things around them. They see that things are different - choices lead different directions - actions and attitudes lead to a way of living - a lifestyle. They see that God wants to meet them in their everyday experiences - that He is interested in ALL that they do.
God wants to move us from merely practicing a religion or holding religious views - to a life that considers God when they make decisions and live their lives. He wants us to see ALL of life in His way - which we will learn is the way of Life itself. He desires for us to see His way in the midst of all our choices - and to see His way as the very best way. Oh that we would teach our sons - teach those around us such wisdom. That we would call them to so much more than just a Sunday morning religion. We need to call them to see and experience God in all of life - all that they do - all that comes their way. This is the call to wisdom - in effect it is a call to know, love, and experience God in every day. May we not only heed such a call - but also learn wisdom so that we may call others as well.
All the days of the afflicted are bad, But a cheerful heart has
a continual feast. Proverbs 15:15
Your attitude often will make all the difference in how you experience the events of your life. For some, their mindset is that if anything bad can happen, it will. For others, they take everything that comes to them - and somehow make even the worst of things beneficial. Their mindset is to take the proverbial lemons and life and turn them into lemonade.
We first read of the pessimist. "All the days of the afflicted are bad." This is the person who not only sees the glass as half empty - but who also figures that there are people who are working to make sure that it eventually empties further. They consider themselves afflicted - CONSTANTLY! They see themselves as "the afflicted" - which here is the word "aniy." This word means to be poor, oppressed, miserable, in constant want and need. It is a sad thing to watch someone like this because like the proverb states - they see every day as a bad day. These are the constant complainers. In church we would be tempted to ask them to lead in a word of complaint or criticism - rather than to ask for them to lead in prayer. They always seem to have a sad story to share - a problem that seems overwhelming - a way that they have been treated horribly - or something they see wrong. Don't misunderstand, there is a place for these things - and we do not need to squelch people's ability to share in difficult times. But the "afflicted" here never ceases to have something like this. To find them content and grateful for their lives - is next to impossible. They are always ready to be the grand marshall in the bummer parade!
The second half of this proverb contrasts another person. This is the one who has a "cheerful heart." Hebrews called this a "good" heart. It was someone who was happy, who was glad. They often chose to be happy, glad, delightful, and pleased. Their choice to be this way was a matter of their own heart. This is the person who simply chooses to be happy in their lives. They will look at difficulties and problems as opportunities to grow - or even better ways that God is working to conform them to His image. They see every situation as a potential wonderful thing God is working in their lives. They grasp that not eveything in life is going to be pleasant - but they take the same hard knocks that make the afflicted see every day as bad - and turn them into a reason to be thankful, grateful, and filled with joyeous expectation of what God is going to do to glorify Himself in every situation. They truly do understand that, "all things work together for good to those who love the Lord, and who live according to His purposes."
The Bible says that these folks - the cheerful ones - have a continual feast. They tend to be happy no matter what happens to them. They see God's providential hand in everything that happens to them. They are thrilled to watch Him do what only He can do - and are willing to wait for Him to act - even if it means a prolonged period of difficulty and trial. They take whatever God's sovereign hand gives them - and make it into a gourmet feast.
To be a cheerful, grateful person is far better than to be one of the continually afflicted. People want to be around the first person - and honestly - struggle with the second. It is not hard to be around someone who genuinely needs encouragement because they are having a tough time, but when someone is always seeming to have a tough time it becomes hard to know what to say. What often needs to be said is that the "afflicted" needs to see God as sovereign in all their affairs. They need to hear that God does work these things out for good - if they will allow Him to conform them to the image of His Son. They need to hear from the book of James that they are to consider it pure joy when they encounter various trials. God wants us to be joyful people - not miserable ones. Paul admonished the Philippians to rejoice in the Lord - and that to say that same thing to them was not a burden to him - but was indeed a protection to them. Joy is part of the inheritance given to every believer. This does not mean that we can never have hard times - but it does mean that if we see ourselves as the continually afflicted whose every day is bad - something is wrong with our perspective. The Lord does not want us living on the scraps of misery - but wants us to enjoy His presence, His perspective, and the continual feast that comes by being in His presence.
"All the utterances of my mouth are in righteousness; There is nothing crooked or perverted in them. "They are all straightforward to him who understands, And right to those who find knowledge. Proverbs 8:8-9
Ah yes, that sticky doctrine of infallibility of Scripture rises again with a statement made by Wisdom. God is speaking in this passage as wisdom is personified. God is calling out to men and women everywhere to listen and to open their hearts to receive the wisdom that God wants to grant to them. Wisdom is awaiting them at home, in the workplace, in the market, where the two roads diverge in the wood (with thanks to Robert Frost). But the question should rightly be asked, "Can we trust what Wisdom says to us in all these situations?"
ALL the utterances of my mouth are in righteousness! Well there is an answer for us. Wisdom cannot lie to us - cannot mislead us - will not deceive us! Every utterance - every word from the mouth of God given in wisdom is righteous (that means they are all in a state of being RIGHT!). What is even better is that we next read, "There is nothing crooked or perverted in them." Crooked here means to twist something - and it speaks of those who are shrewd and cunning - those who are devious and who wrestle the truth in a direction that is to their liking. God does not work like this. Holiness means that God's motives are utterly transparent. He may speak things in a mystery - but He never speaks things with devious or cunning intent. What drives Him is His love - and His passion for righteousness and for His own glory. Perverted here is the Hebrew word "iqqesh" which means something crooked and perverse. It describes one with a deceitful, perverse, and evil heart. The person like this perverts morals, social graces, even religious things for underhanded purposes. Once again - God knows nothing of this kind of mindset or motive. We read further of His heart in verse 9.
All God's utterances - His Word - are straightforward. In the vernacular of our day - God shoots straight with us. The idea behind this word is honesty. It also has with it the idea of someone who is incapable of being perverted or being partial in their judgment. Something we all need to grasp is that ultimately God is worthy of all glory - therefore - what He does is ultimately to display His own glory. What we don't grasp is that God is not being in any way conceited by doing this. To be conceited, God would have to be gaining or seeking glory that is not rightfully His. The truth is - all glory is rightfully His - all the time - in every situation - and from every person that has ever lived or ever will live - period! Therefore God speaks the truth - and He does so with absolute honesty - and with a view to the absolute best at all times.
Now there is something that would be nice to have. Someone Who will never be partial to anything but the very best. Someone Who knows what needs to happen, what needs to be said, what needs to be addressed - and does so every single time with wisdom, with tact, and with razor sharp accuracy. But we need to note that this ability to see God in this way is for those who "understand." There is a discernment that takes us beyond fleshly, earthly wisdom that is necessary for men to understand the straightforwardness of God at all times. You see all the time in liberal circles men and women who don't understand - and who accuse God of the most horrific sins and the most terrible motives. The fact is that they DON'T udnerstand and are blind the true nature of God. This understanding comes from the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and minds. Without Him and without God's gracious work in us - we will never understand. Our minds and hearts are perverted and twisted by sin. It is only when God's grace is manifest to us that we are transformed - and that our sinful tendencies are no longer dominant in our thinking.
God is offering wisdom to us every day - in a myriad of situations where we need it. The truly wise man is the one who submits himself to God - and learns to listen at the crossroads as God instructs him in how to live and how to walk. May we be such men and women - and may we be blessed by the wonderful straightfoward words of God!
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6
Right choices and right paths - how to we make them and how do we stay on them? People always are interested in a study or a piece of wisdom that will help them know and walk in God's will. What we have before us in Proverbs 3:5-6 is one of the best nuggets of wisdom in the entire Word of God dealing with this subject.
It begins with trust. We come to the Lord and trust Him with all our heart. The word trust here is the Hebrew word "batach" and it means to trust or be confident. It speaks of someone with whom you feel safe and secure. When you trust someone in this way you are saying you can rely on them. In certain places this word even means to be bold and extremely confident in someone. Note that the one we trust in this way is the Lord. Here is an interesting yet very telling question, "Do you trust God?" Do you have a great confidence in Him? Is there a sense of great safety and security in placing yourself completely at His disposal - and putting your future absolutely in His hands? Do you approach the Scriptures and the things God says with a confidence so great that you boldly walk in whatever He says? That, dear saint, is trust. In order to trust someone in this way - you have to know them. A very godly man once said, "If you truly know God, you will love Him - and if you truly love Him, you will trust Him - and if you love and trust Him, you will obey Him."
Knowing and making right choices and decisions continues with distrust. I know this sounds contradictory, but it is true. The one you need to distrust is yourself. Do not lean on your own understanding. Understanding is an interesting thing to examine in the Scriptures. The word itself means the ability to have insight and discernment into things. It is derived from the base Hebrew word "bin" which means "between." Thus the idea here is to be able to distinguish between things. One example is to discern between good and evil. There is definitely a moral component to this word as it means to see the good and embrace it and shun the evil. When we truly have understanding - we will choose God's way. What is more fascinating is that in Proverbs 9:10 we read, The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. So if we want understanding - we need to know God as the Holy One. It is when we see Him and look to Him as the One who gives us true understanding as to what is holy and what is not that we gain understanding and can distinguish between what we should trust (trust Him) and what we should not trust (the working of our own minds).
Why should we distrust our own understanding? Scripture gives ample reasoning for this. Ephesians 4:17-19 tells us the following: "So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness." Walking in our own mind's eye is to walk in futility - to walk in a darkened understanding. We are ignorant and hardened in heart to God's ways - which results in giving ourselves over to sensuality and impurity. We are fallen, sinful creatures who have left the way of God. We will walk according to the course of this present world - according to the prince of the power of the air (a designation for Satan) and by the spirit that animates the sons of disobedience (Ephesians 2:2). Trust yourself and you are trusting a rebel who does not desire God's ways or paths. That is why we need to distrust our own understanding. Our own understanding will surely lead us astray of God's will.
Right choices continue as we acknowledge God in all we do. The word "ways" here refers to our life paths - the very lifestyle choices that we make. This does not refer to isolated choices here and there, but to the entire direction of our lives. In all those life choices we are to acknowledge God. The word for acknowledge is "yada" and it means to know someone. It means not just knowing them as an acquaintence, but knowing them intimately. It is the actual word used for sexual relations between a man and woman. This is considered the height of knowing someone and there is nothing casual about it. So the command here is to know God in all our ways. In all our lifestyle choices we are to know the Lord. This leads to another interesting question for us when it comes to our choices. When we make our life choices - every decision that makes up the direction of our lives - do we know God in the midst of it? Are our decisions made in the context of knowing God? Can we honestly say that our decisions were made as a result of an intimate, close relationship with God? And here may be the ultimate thought . . . Do our decisions help us know Him more intimately - or do they push us away from such an intimate knowing of God?
What is the payoff in all this? When we live this way, we have the assurance from God Himself that he will make our paths straight. The path mentioned here is the course of our lives. The word was used to describe the road taken by a traveler - the roads over which the caravans and troops travelled. There is a highway mapped out for our lives when we make our decisions in this way. That way is described as "straight." This is the word "yashar" and it means to be straight - to be smooth and pleasing. The road is a pleasing road because it brings us to our desired destination. There are some who might say, "I know those who chose God's path - and it led to persecution and trouble for them in the name of the Lord. How can you say that He makes our paths pleasing and smooth?"
My answer to this person would be to ask if they would consider a road pleasing and smooth if it led to a place where they would be destroyed in the end? Reardless of how marvelous the road and how wonderful the view - they would consider that a cursed road because of where it took them in the end. Yashar does not mean a road pleasing to our flesh, but a straight road. It is a road that is a good road because of where it leads. To walk in God's will - to please Him will bring about a desired end - not a destructive one. The payoff his pleasing God here and now - it is walking in His favor and blessing - it is knowing His presence and peace now and also for all eternity in heaven.
Right decisions and right paths - they are what we would all like to make daily. The way to make those right decisions is laid out for us perfectly by the writer of Proverbs. Trust God implicitly and do not trust your own darkened way of thinking and reasoning. Make it your goal in life to know God as intimately and closely as you can in everything you do and say. And as you walk in this way - realize that the destination to which you are being led is the most wonderful, pleasing, and marvelous one possible - even thought the ride there may get a little bumpy every now and then.