“Trust in the LORD will all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6, ESV)
This passage is one of the most quoted bible verses when it comes to determining God’s will particularly in relationship to a specific item in your life. Usually, because of its longevity and former popularity, the KJV is quoted:
“Trust in the LORD will thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6, KJV)
The last phrase of verse six lends itself to the development of a mental picture of God actually leading someone onto and then down the correct path. We search for this “image” in regards to a particular decision that we need to make from time to time. These two verses are the “life verses” of a number of people. They believe very sincerely that God will lead them into a very specific answer when needed.
We all come to these dilemmas or crossroads in life when we need to make a tough choice. For example, at some point we had to decide to marry and then choose a person. Looking for the “one” is tough. Other decisions are just as tough such as what college or university to attend, what career to embark on, or which house to buy. Traditionally it has always been comforting to know that I could “whip out” this handy gem and “hold God to His Word.”
Well, sometimes good old fashioned and hard study destroys traditional Christian “good-luck” charms. Don’t get hyper or if you do grab a paper bag and hang on.
The first thing we have to do is discover what did the original author have in mind when he wrote this. In our case, the author was King Solomon, son of King David.
Hebrew lexicons and dictionaries state that the wording of 3:6b is “…and He shall make your paths strait, smooth, or successful.” The noun “path” is used in both Psalms and Proverbs. When used it signifies a general course of life or the “fortunes” of life. When the verb “make straight” or “make smooth” is used with the noun “paths,” the meaning is “He shall make the course of your life successful.” Now, hold on a minute, this is not a health and wealth prosperity pitch. Stay with me!
Proverbs 11:5 says, “The righteousness of the blameless keeps his way straight, but the wicked falls by his own wickedness.” This verse contrasts the righteous man who experiences true success in life with the wicked man who brings trouble upon Himself by his own wicked behavior. This is a common thread that runs through Proverbs.
The point of Proverbs 3:5-6 is those who trust in God and trust in His wisdom rather than their own humanistic understandings and they acknowledge God in each area of their life will reap a life that is successful by God’s standards.
You and I both know that God’s view of success is not the same as the world’s view. Therefore, when God promises you a harvest of “success” from His standards it may be that you have been laid off from your job and you may lose your home to foreclosure. The success is that you treasure God more than brick and mortar; you are trusting in God rather than your own ingenuity etc. This is not a blanket promise of basket full of goodies. It is not a promise that God will steer you in every specific decision you will ever make. As you mature in Christ, God gives more and more freedom to His children to make their own choices within His revealed moral will.
It is promise that trusting God rather than trusting yourself and surrendering every area of your life to Him is far better than living according to your own strategy.
It was a little disconcerting to me to find that I had misinterpreted and misapplied my “life’s verse” all these years. I was stunned to learn that this verse had nothing to do with guidance or direction. I am pleased that when I comply with the truth or principle in this passage God will bless me with His approval.
Sometimes it doesn’t pay to study so diligently, or does it?