Proverbs 16

Reading through this proverb exposes any whitewashing to our characters that we are prone to do for sure. The following is a sampling of verses that pricked a cord in my veins:

We might look pure in our own eyes, as well as our neighbor’s eyes, but guess what? God knows the motives and intentions of the heart! Nothing gets past him! And He’s the only one that counts (16:2)!

Pride is the downfall of Satan! And God detests the proud! You can be certain the prideful, self-sufficient one will not go unpunished (16:5).

Though unrepentant sin “will not go unpunished” (v. 5), God in His love and faithfulness has provided a way for sin to be atoned for. After a person’s sins have been atoned for by his trust in the Lord, he is not to continue in sin. He is to avoid evil (16:17) by fearing the Lord. (16:6).[1]

“We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps” (Proverbs 16:9).

The classic Old Testament example of this proverb is the story of Jonah. God told Jonah to go to the great city of Nineveh and stalk its streets proclaiming a message of impending doom. Jonah made up his mind at once to run away from God. He disobeyed not so much because he was afraid, although there was plenty to fear. The people of Nineveh were known to flay their enemies alive or impale them on sharpened wooden spikes and leave them there to scream away their last pain-tormented days. Yet Jonah was not so much afraid as he was astonished at the prophecy of Nineveh’s downfall.

The certain overthrow of Nineveh in forty days’ time was the best news he had ever heard! Jonah consulted his own heart, measured his stock of courage, and devised his own way. He would board a boat headed for Tarshish, a city located at the utmost boundary of the known world of his day. It would take God more than forty days to catch up with him. If he were shipwrecked and he drowned at sea, so much the better. Then he could never go to Nineveh and prevent God’s judgment from falling on that city—and perhaps his beloved Israel would be spared the horrors of a war with Assyria.

So, Jonah’s heart devised his way—but God directed his steps. God simply summoned the stormy wind and then “a whale” (the Old Testament version of Jaws) to pursue and punish Jonah. By the time God was through with Jonah, he was more than ready to do what he was told. God has His own way of getting His own way—which is just as well, for His way is always right.[2]

A wise person is careful about what he says for he wants to help, not hurt. He does not blurt out whatever comes to his mind (15:28b). As a result, his lips promote instruction (16:21, 23).[3]

In what areas do you find it easy to misrepresent yourself?

               [1] Sid S. Buzzell, “Proverbs,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985).

               [2] John Phillips, Exploring Proverbs 1–19: An Expository Commentary, vol. 1, The John Phillips Commentary Series (Kregel Publications; WORDsearch Corp., 2009), Pr 16:1–9.

               [3] Buzzell, 941.

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