Prov. 3:5-6; 28:25; 29:25
Yesterday we discussed one aspect of how the book of Proverbs wants us to respond to God: fear. Now we’re going to look at the other main response the author wants us to display, namely trust.
The first passage for today’s reading is one of the most familiar ones on this subject; in fact, I remember as a child singing these verses set to music. We shouldn’t let its familiarity, however, distract us from the profound meaning here. I think that this passage is one of the pivotal in the book of Proverbs, actually in all of Scripture. Let’s take a look at it.
There are three commands here, with a conditional promise attached to it. First we’re to trust in the Lord with all our heart. That means we do what he says, just like a child trusts his parents enough to follow their instructions even when he doesn’t fully understand them. It also means to rest on him and not worry about what we can’t control.
The second command is not to lean on your own understanding. As someone once pointed out to me years ago, it doesn’t forbid you from using your own understanding; we just aren’t to lean upon it. When God doesn’t give clear direction, then we go with what we know. But we’re always supposed to be flexible when he changes our direction or gives instructions which are counterintuitive.
The third command is to acknowledge him in all our ways. In everything we do, we’re supposed to acknowledge his goodness, his grace, his providence, and his ownership of us. This actually sanctifies, or sets apart, “normal” activities such as eating, sleeping, going to the movies, going to work, etc. When we do this, there is no such thing as the mundane. And if you can’t acknowledge him during a certain activity, then you probably shouldn’t be doing it.
And finally we have his promise at the end of vs. 6. The Hebrew could be translated either way (see the NIV footnote), but the meaning is still the same. We’re on this path of life, and he’ll remove the obstacles in front of us—if that’s the way we’re supposed to go. We don’t know what’s ahead of us, but we do know that he’s already ahead of us, so we have nothing to fear, including going in the wrong direction.
The other verses today deal with trust as well. In 28:25, greed is presented as the opposite of trusting in the Lord, which is a sobering thought. I think one of the main reasons why people give in to greed is because of a desire for security: They think (either consciously or unconsciously) that if they have enough money in the bank, then they’ll be secure against poverty. Au contraire! The route to true prosperity is through trusting in him, not by leaning on your own resources.
And finally we see in the last verse a stark contrast between the “fear of man” and trusting in the Lord. You can’t do both. If you’re overly concerned about what people think and are saying about you, then it’s a snare. How great a burden this is for a lot of people! As B. J. Hoff once put it, however,
It matters not if the world has heard,
or approves or understands;
the only applause we’re meant to seek
is that of nail-scarred hands.
Just to be repeat and clarify: Fear of the Lord and trust in him are not opposites or even in tension. They’re so similar in concept as to be almost synonyms, just with a different emphasis. As you fear him, you’ll trust him more. As you see more and more of his workings in your life that encourage trust, you’ll fear him more (in the Biblical sense). What an incredible God we serve!
Lord Jesus, I do trust you. I need to do better at it, though. You are completely worthy of trust, how could I do any different?