God Is in Control

Text: Proverbs 16:1-33

Man’s Plans and Moral Choices

(Proverbs 16:1-9)

Man has free will, granted to him by God. His plans are his own, you can say what you intend to do, but the outcome comes from God (James 4:13-17).

People have a strong tendency to assume that whatever they are doing is right (literally, “pure”), but we can’t judge ourselves – that belongs to God. He not only judges what we do, but He also considers why we do it (I Corinthians 4:5).

If we act committed to the Lord, then our plans will be established because the plans will not be contrary to God’s purpose (Psalms 22:8; 37:5; 119:5). “Commit” literally refers to rolling something onto God, like a weight; in other words, giving God your burdens.

Everything is made for God’s purpose, even the wicked who commit evil (Psalms 17:13-14; Romans 9:22). God doesn’t cause evil (James 1:13), but God does make use of everything He created to accomplish His goals.

Those who are proud will be punished because God finds pride disgusting. The second half starts literally with “hand to a hand”, which is translated as “yes,”, “yea,” or “assuredly” because the idiom is assumed to refer to sealing an agreement by the clasping of hands. It could also mean that even though the prideful join forces, they will not stop God from punishing them (Proverbs 11:21).

“Lovingkindness and truth” is a way to refer to the covenant and God’s plan for the salvation of man (Psalms 25:10; 40:9-11; 138:2). It is through God’s law that sin is atoned for (Romans 1:16). It is there that God promised a Savior to address the problem of sin (Zachariah 13:1). “Inquity” means acting without law, but God fixes the problem with law. It is by fearing God, which motivates you to obey God, that you can stay away from sin.

When a person lives by God’s laws, even his enemies are at peace with him (I Peter 3:13). This is not an absolute, but a general tendency. The best way to turn enemies into friends is by doing good.

Righteousness is better than injustice, even if it means living poorly (Psalms 37:16). Notice that injustice is not the true opposite of righteousness; thus, the cause of injustice is wickedness and it is the righteous who uphold justice.

Forming a bookend (Proverbs 16:1), we return to the point that a man makes plans, but it is God who determines what actually happens.

Rulers’ Plans

(Proverbs 16:10-15)

Kings are expected to make decisions as God’s representative (Romans 13:1-2), so they should be careful not to make mistakes in their judgments. Psalms 82 is a rebuke to judges (literally “gods”) who do not uphold the laws of God and a reminder that the judges will face the Judge of all the earth in the end. In these days, kings were the final appellate court. Kings need to be aware of the responsibility laid on their shoulders.

Merchants also need to be aware that they must be honest in their dealings (Leviticus 19:36; Proverbs 11:1). God is concerned about the honesty of business transactions. Since this verse appears among proverbs dealing with kings, it can be assumed to also be a reminder that kings should be concerned where God is concerned (Ezekiel 45:9-10).

A ruler not only administers justice but he is also expected to live by the same standards (Deuteronomy 17:18-20). God finds it disgusting for rulers to indulge in sin. The stability of a kingdom depends on righteous living (Jeremiah 22:2-5, 15-16).

Those who promote righteousness should be a king’s delight because it helps to stabilize his kingdom (combining with Proverbs 16:12). This proverb is similar to Proverbs 14:35. Notice that many of these verses are specific applications of more general proverbs to the needs of a king.

When a king gets angry, it is dangerous because he can order a person’s death. A wise man understands this and words his advice so as to keep a king calm (I Samuel 19:4-6). Thus, connecting it with the prior verse, a right answer doesn’t excuse a tactless answer; though it won’t always be successful (Daniel 3:14-20). In contrast, when a king is in a good mood, there is life and favor for those around him. In arid countries, rain is seen as a great blessing Deuteronomy 11:14; Zechariah 10:1).

The Wise

(Proverbs 16:16-20)

Wisdom and understanding have more value than money. One can lose money, but it can be regained with wisdom and reasoning. And you can gain things with wisdom and reasoning that cannot be gained with money. This idea was stated before in Proverbs 3:14; 8:11, 19.

The righteous take the fast way away from evil (I Thessalonians 5:21-22). By being careful where you go, you can preserve your life.

The opposite of the prior verse is that pride precedes downfall and ruin. A proud person doesn't watch where he is going. Often he doesn't think such care is necessary and won't listen to advice (Proverbs 1:25).

The prior two verses summarize that a person is better off with humility and being among the lowly than to be dividing ill-gotten gain with the proud. The proud won't last.

You find good when you go looking for it in God’s word and happiness comes when you trust God (Proverbs 3:5-8). You are happier when working with God instead of against Him. A similar passage is Proverbs 13:13.

Positive Persuasion

(Proverbs 16:21-26)

Those who are wise in heart are seen as discerning. That is because the wise put thought into their words, considering how to best say what needs to be taught.

Insight is a source of life to the person who has it (Proverbs 10:11; 13:14). It is a well that never goes dry. The second half can be either translated as that when fools try to correct, the result is foolishness and not true discipline, or attempting to correct fools is a foolish waste of time. Either way, the implication is that fools do not have access to the source of life.

The wise in heart teaches others and carefully considers how to express himself to be able to persuade others (Proverbs 15:23,28; 16:21). Well-worded, pleasant teachings are desirable and benefit the listener’s spirit and his physical health (Proverbs 12:18).

The wisdom we are talking about cannot be man’s wisdom. Men are too short-sighted. There are ways that look good to men, but whose ultimate outcome is death. Therefore, all decisions must be based on the wisdom of God who does know the outcome of all things. This is identical to Proverbs 14:12.

While no one likes to be hungry, that hunger does become a drive to put in effort to work. Thus, a self-motivated person accomplishes more than trying to talk a person into working (II Thessalonians 3:10).

For discussion:

  1. Proverbs 16:21 and Proverbs 16:23 are very similar. What is different?

Evil Persuasion

(Proverbs 16:27-30)

Corrupt men search out the evil others do and are quick to tell others about it. Like wildfire, it spreads from one person to another (James 3:5-6). The result is that a perverse man spreads strife between people. And purposeful lies can separate the closest of friends. The problem is that we tend to believe negative news, even when that news should be doubted.

A violent man entices his neighbor to go ways that are not good for him (Proverbs 1:10-19). He hides his true objectives from his victims. He winks, perhaps to draw others to join him in his mischief, but it isn’t fun that is planned but perversions. Compressing, pursing, or biting the lips would indicate being annoyed at another person or having a determined purpose (Proverbs 6:12-15; 10:10).

People Worth Listening To

(Proverbs 16:31-32)

Age and experience are signs of honor if the person lived a righteous life (Leviticus 19:32). A long life tends to be the result of following wisdom (Proverbs 3:2; 4:9-10; 9:11; Psalms 34:11-14; Ephesians 6:2-3).

The ability to control your anger makes you stronger than any strong man or conqueror. Physical power tends to decay and there will always be someone stronger. Self-control is something that tends to grow stronger as it is used.

God Controls

(Proverbs 16:33)

Random events may be used to make decisions, but the ultimate choice of what happens belongs to God (I Samuel 14:41; Acts 1:24). Wisdom, persuasion, and corruption will not alter the course God sets.

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