Proverbs 16 is a wonderful explanation of where God and people will either collide with each other or follow in the ways of God. It is also a reminder that our thoughts and ideas cannot change facts. When a person plans the answer and outcome to those plans always come from the Lord v1, v3 and v9.
There is a comparison here between those who pay attention to the wisdom of God and those who don’t. When God reveals himself to us through his word we have a response, our response to the word of God shines light on our relationship with God. It is either one of love and faith or sin and rejection. People have plans in their hearts v1 but they also have an appetite which can force us at times to pursue paths that lead us astray from God. The issue here is that a person can feel one thing and know something different to be true. When a person is subject to their own appetites which change rather than the word of God which does not – his life is reflective of those changing appetites. In the same way some people can’t eat any more cake because they have had too much already it is also true that they eat more and more because they have an appetite for cake. The only way to stop then is either to know when to stop or to lose your appetite.
So people not only have plans and appetites which direct most of their choices and this is true. It is also true v1, v9, v32 that God always has the final decision and this is why we should pray to God to not withhold his grace from us and we should pray for this because God doesn’t owe any of us his grace. He loves, and gives and we can get use to him giving, blessing, but it would be a mistake to think that we are owed what he gives.
An important point
All of life contains this interaction between what we do and what God does, man’s plans and the decisions of God. Sometimes a man’s plan coincides with God’s plan for us and sometimes it does not. This is why we are called to commit our way to the Lord. In other words don’t try and go off with a plan and a direction without bringing it before the Lord. As you commit it to the Lord the Lord ways becomes apparent through one thing being blessed, profitable and the other coming to a dead end, or a pause or a new direction. A man by the name of William Perkins was a puritan back in the 15 hundreds (1500) and he had quite a lot to say on these issues. But he also pointed out the importance of God’s grace and our need for it. Let’s explain this with the last verse of this proverb “The lot is cast into the lap but every decision is from the Lord” v33. When a person is tempted to flip a coin to make a decision this may not be because they are happy with either outcome, but sometimes it because they would like the decision to be made for them. So you flip a coin and it lands of heads, now your real desires kicks in and you say let’s do two out of three. Let’s flip it again. So if you cast the lots because you want the decision made for you – then you have no problem with this proverb which teaches that every decision is from the Lord.
Walking in wisdom and grace
We need God’s grace to cause us to walk wisely with him rather than unwisely. If God was to withhold his grace in this way then we as v2, 25 and 26 points out that our ways always seem to seem right to us, it seems good in our own eyes and we are carried along by our appetite. In other words your appetite for whatever you have an appetite for causes you to pursue and work to the fulfilling of your appetite. We see this in people who are controlled by their appetites rather than being in control of their appetite. God’s grace is the grace we need to walk wisely, given the fact that our heart and minds can be inclined to sin, prone to wonder; come to a stop in a spiritual laziness.
What is it that keeps the Christian going, walking with God – it’s the grace that God gives to that person. The grace to not be captive to wrong appetites and the greed of a good appetite, as the grace of God’s wisdom is received by those who commit their way to the Lord, experience what it is to walk in the wisdom of grace.
When Perkins explained the fall of Adam into sin by Satan’s temptation, he explains brilliantly that God though in control of everything does not coerce or compel Adam in any way. God does shapes our wills but not through pre-programming them so that we can only do what God chooses for us to do and have no choice of our own. No we all have a choice.
He says that the devil and Adam were responsible for sin in this way – as the devil tempted Adam, Adam‘s will did not desire God’s assistance, but voluntarily bent itself to fall away. God did not compel Adam to sin but God’s grace was not extended to Adam to stop him from falling away, the grace to persevere under temptation. Now he says God cannot be blamed for withholding his grace from Adam as God owes no man anything and God always has good purposes behind all that he does.
Perkins says that in the same way an unsupported house will blow down in a strong wind, so man without the help of God falls. God not stopping something from happening even though he could is not the same as God making something happen. When God leaves a person to themselves as he does in Romans chapter 1, handing them over to their own desires, they sin all by themselves, they would sin less if they had the grace of God and turned to God through the Gospel.
There is an interaction between God and man that can never be avoided and this is why we can make sense of what is and what is not in the world. In short people will either collide with the will of God over their lives or keep instep with it. Christians know that God owes no man anything and neither is God in need of anything from us. Meaning that we understand that the grace of God is a free gift, we cannot blame God from withholding anything from us or giving us what he does. Like job we understand the lord gives and takes away. But he can also not give in the first place, all for the good reasons he has.
The response that this should produce is all of us, is a deep sense of gratitude for the grace that we have received from God and a continual prayer for God give us grace, we have this is Jesus. The prayer simply takes God seriously believing his promises but never treating God with presumption. Knowing that God remains faithful even when we are faithless, but also remembering that God owes no man anything.
How to live dependently on God comes with recognizing that we are dependent on God. To live wisely, is to live how God wants you to live and to live wisely to know the grace of God. As v20 says “whoever gives thought to the word will discover good, and blessed is he who trusts in the Lord”.