1 The plans of the heart belong to man,
but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.
2 All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes,
but the Lord weighs the spirit.
3 Commit your work to the Lord,
and your plans will be established.
4 The Lord has made everything for its purpose,
even the wicked for the day of trouble.
5 Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord;
be assured, he will not go unpunished.
6 By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for,
and by the fear of the Lord one turns away from evil.
7 When a man’s ways please the Lord,
he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.
8 Better is a little with righteousness
than great revenues with injustice.
9 The heart of man plans his way,
but the Lord establishes his steps.
10 An oracle is on the lips of a king;
his mouth does not sin in judgment.
11 A just balance and scales are the Lord’s;
all the weights in the bag are his work.
12 It is an abomination to kings to do evil,
for the throne is established by righteousness.
13 Righteous lips are the delight of a king,
and he loves him who speaks what is right.
14 A king’s wrath is a messenger of death,
and a wise man will appease it.
15 In the light of a king’s face there is life,
and his favor is like the clouds that bring the spring rain. – Proverbs 16:1-15 ESV
Notice how many times Solomon mentions a man’s ways, works, or plans.
We can make our own plans,
but the Lord gives the right answer. – Proverbs 16:1 NLT
Commit your actions to the Lord,
and your plans will succeed. – Proverbs 16:3 NLT
When a man’s ways please the Lord,
he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him. – Proverbs 16:7 ESV
We can make our plans,
but the Lord determines our steps. – Proverbs 16:9 NLT
Wisdom isn’t just about what you know, but it also entails what you do with what you know. Even a man blessed with great wisdom can end up living like a fool if he fails to put all that knowledge to use. Wisdom is meant to be applied to daily life so that impacts our attitudes and actions.
While this Proverb appears to be a collection of disjointed one-liners that cover a variety of topics; on closer examination, there are two themes that run throughout the entire Proverb. One has to do with the path of our life and the plans we make to get where we think we’re supposed to go.
The other theme has to do with our speech or the words that come out of our mouths, and the impact they have on our lives and the lives of all those around us. The path we walk will end up affecting our speech and conduct. Throughout the Proverbs, life is pictured as a journey. It has a beginning and an end. There is a destination to life. And we are always thinking about where it is we’re going, how we’re going to get there, and why are journey is not turning out quite as we expected.
We make plans for our lives and those plans are ALWAYS influenced by something going on the inside as well as outside of ourselves. Jealousy, pride, self-centeredness, and the longing for power, possessions, and prominence can lead us down the wrong path. And choosing the errant path can have a huge impact on the way we live and the words we say.
This Proverb talks about wise speech, kind words, gossip, destructive words, righteous lips, and honest speech. The content of our speech is directly related to the conduct of our lives. Where we go will influence what we say. Foolish life choices will result in foolish words. But following the wise path will result in wise words.
So, who gets to decide the path of our lives? According to Solomon, we spend a lot of time trying to make arrangements and plans for the direction of our lives, but at the end of the day, God is the one who determines our steps.
A man may make designs for his way, but the Lord is the guide of his steps. – Proverbs 16:9 BBE
We may think we know what’s best for our lives, but only God truly knows how to get where we really need to go. In verse one, we read, “The intentions of the heart belong to a man, but the answer of the tongue comes from the Lord.”
This verse reminds us that we may arrange the contents of our minds and plan out all our thoughts, but it is God who gives us the capacity to put our thoughts into words. Plans become deeds. Thoughts become words. And both are related to the path we have chosen for our lives. We can choose to live our way or we can decide to live God’s way, to follow His path for our lives.
Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed. – Proverbs 16:3 NLT
Turn over the direction for your life to God. Allow Him to determine your path and you will discover it always leads in the right direction. Following His path not only leads to the right destination, but it also produces a life marked by godliness, wisdom, and righteousness. When it comes to choosing the right path for our lives, most of us have a lousy sense of direction.
There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death. – Proverbs 16:25 NLT
We need a GPS system. We need navigational assistance, and only God can provide it. Our way may seem right, but it will always turn out wrong. God’s way is the best way.
The highway of the upright is to turn away from evil; the one who guards his way safeguards his life. – Proverbs 16:17 NET
But there is more to life than simply choosing the right path. If we’re not careful, we can end up believing that, as long as we follow God’s will, all will be well. If we do things God’s way, we’ll never have to experience any trouble, trials, or tribulations.
“Unfailing love and faithfulness make atonement for sin. By fearing the Lord, people avoid evil.” – Proverbs 16:6 NLT
The entire book of Proverbs is like a compendium of sins, providing a running list of character traits and actions that flow from a life lived apart from God. It’s easy to read the book and simply walk away thinking that it’s up to us to choose a life of sin or a life of righteousness. It’s our responsibility to make the right choices and not the wrong ones. But NOT sinning will NOT make us righteous in God’s eyes. Not only that, according to the Scriptures, attempting to do righteous things will not win us brownie points with God either.
We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. – Isaiah 64:6 NLT
The apostle Paul reminds us, “As the Scriptures say, “No one is righteous— not even one” (Romans 3:10 NLT). And where did he get that idea? From the pen of Solomon’s father, King David.
Only fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, and their actions are evil; not one of them does good! – Psalm 14:1 NLT
We can try and live a life marked by righteous deeds. We can attempt to say no to sin. But if we leave God out of the equation, we will inevitably fail. Man is incapable of living a righteous life on his own, and any attempts he makes to sin less will produce less-than-positive results. As is always the case throughout the book of Proverbs, the fear of the Lord is the key to avoiding sin and pleasing God. It all begins with our relationship with Him. In verse 6, we’re told that if we want to avoid sin, we have to fear God. It’s not about keeping a list of dos and don’ts. More good behavior and less bad behavior do not equal righteousness. That is NOT the formula for living a truly righteous, God-honoring life. But in this verse, we do get the answer or key to living a life that pleases God and allows us to avoid sin.
By fearing the Lord, people avoid sin. – Proverbs 16:6 NLT
But what does that mean? The NET Bible translates the first part of this verse, “Through loyal love and truth iniquity is appeased.” The word translated as “appeased” or “atoned for” in this verse means that God’s anger against sin is turned away and God views him as though he had not sinned.
God’s holiness and righteousness demand that he punishes sin. He is required by law to deal justly with sin, and the penalty for sin is death. But this verse tells us that if we come to God, expressing unfailing love and faithfulness to Him, which is another way of saying that we are repentant of our sin, the anger of God is appeased. Genuine repentance, demonstrated by loyalty and truthfulness, appeases the anger of God against one’s sin. But there is not a person alive who can truly atone for their own sin. Without the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, any attempt to atone for our own sins would be incomplete and insufficient to satisfy the just demands of God. Yet, because Jesus died in our place and took all our sins upon Himself, He was able to satisfy or appease God’s righteous wrath, so that God is now able to see us as righteous and sinless. Our sins were credited to Christ’s account and His righteousness was credited to ours.
Now, when we sin, we can repent by turning back to God in love and faithfulness, knowing that He will forgive any sin we commit because the debt has been paid in full by His Son on the cross. We can enjoy unbroken fellowship with God the Father simply by repenting of our sins and returning to Him. This attitude of humility and willing submission to Him is the fear of the Lord lived out in daily life, and it helps us avoid additional sin. Staying close to Him keeps us far from sin. When we stray from His presence, we get off the path He has determined for our lives and become easy prey for the enemy.
The Proverbs is not a list of righteous requirements we must keep in order to remain on good terms with God. It is a reminder that a life of holiness begins and ends with God. It begins and ends with a relationship with Him. He alone can make us holy. Recognizing our sins and repenting of them is how we show God we fear Him and acknowledge how much we need His help for staying on course. By fearing the Lord, people avoid sin. It all begins with God.
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
New English Translation (NET)NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2017 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. http://netbible.com All rights reserved.