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.