Direction For the Perplexed
James Smith, 1865
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him — and He shall direct your paths." Proverbs 3:5-6
In this book by King Solomon, God speaks to us as unto children, calling every believer, "My son." He presents truth in a proverbial form — that He may instruct the mind, affect the heart, and regulate the life — without burdening the memory. In the context, He is pointing out the road to honor, happiness, and safety — even the observance of His law, confidence in himself, and consulting Him at all times. He says, "Let your heart keep my commandments." Obey from the heart — the precepts I give. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart; and do not rely to your own understanding." Exercise strong confidence in God — but have no confidence in yourself. "In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths."
Here is counsel given.This implies that God is always present with us, is willing to be consulted by us, and will surely attend to us. This implies that our way is likely to be difficult, dark, and perplexing; a way in which we have never traveled before, and in which we are likely to be misled. This implies that only way to be safe, to walk securely — is to seek Divine direction; and this God is willing to give — but He will have us ask it of Him. We are dependents — and we must realize our dependence. We are but children — and we must feel it, and act as under the impression of it.
This is recognized in our text, "In all your ways acknowledge Him."
You have his Word — consult it; make it your counselor, your directory and your guide.
You have his promise — believe it; He says, "I will teach you and instruct you in the way which you shall go, I will guide you with my eye."
You have his throne of grace — flee to it, and plead with Him as a man pleads with his friend.
And, while you consult his Word, believe his promise, and pray for direction — watch his hand. Providence is God working; working to accomplish his purposes, to fulfill his promises, and answer the prayers of his people.
In his Word — He speaks to us;
on his throne — He listens to us,
by his providence — He works for us, and those who keep their eye open will be sure to see his hand.
While you watch his hand — seek grace to submit to his will. He wills to do you good, the greatest good; and if his will crosses yours, depend upon it — it is just because it is most for your benefit.
Gratefully acknowledge his favors as you receive them. Remember that, as sinful creatures, being criminals and traitors — we have no "rights". Consequently, everything short of hell — is a mercy, everything but eternal punishment — is a favor. How many favors you receive — and how few praises you render! How many mercies are given you — and how few acknowledgments you make!
He who habitually consults God's holy Word, believes his
faithful promises, pleads at his gracious throne for direction, watches his
working hand, submits to his righteous will, and gratefully acknowledges his
sovereign favors — will never be allowed to go far wrong, or to go wrong for
long; for —
Here is a PROMISE made."He shall direct your steps." Man cannot direct himself; hence, Jeremiah said, "O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man who walks, to direct his steps." And Solomon wrote, "Man's goings are of the Lord; how can a man then understand his own way?" Again, "A man's heart devises his way; but the Lord directs his steps." And God himself has added, "I am the Lord your God, who teaches you to profit, who leads you by the way that you should go." "Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying: This is the way; walk in it."
As man therefore cannot direct himself, he should seek direction from the Lord, who both can and will guide him right. Then would we prove the truth of David's testimony, "The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and he delights in his way." The Lord will preserve the prayerful soul — from going in wrong paths; He will shine upon the right path, and lead him step by step, as the kind parent leads his beloved child.
When our ways please Him, and God directs our steps:
we have peace of mind, and comparative freedom from anxiety and fear;
we increase in our acquaintance with God, as our covenant God, Father, portion, and everlasting all;
our confidence in Him grows and strengthens;
we live above the world, aim at the things which are not seen, and enjoy eternal realities.
See, then, the propriety of the direction: you are a child — only a child. Folly is bound up in your heart, you are prone to go astray, liable to be misled. But God is your Father, and He wishes to be your Guide. Attend, then, to his direction; consult Him at every turn; never make a change — until you have sought his guidance, and waited a reasonable time for it.
He is willing, yes, desirous to guide you — but He will be acknowledged, consulted, and trusted; in so doing, you honor Him, and secure your own best interests.
Israel was reproved, because they "waited not for his counsel;" and many have followed their example — to their cost. We naturally think well of our own judgment, or the judgment of our friends — and consequently fail to acknowledge God in our ways. The consequence is, we wander into the wrong path, get into difficulties, darkness, dangers, and sins; then we have to stop, mourn, pray, and repent of our folly.
Let us therefore be jealous of our own judgment, place no confidence in a human guide, cease to judge by appearances, and in every future stage of our pilgrimage, in every future step of our journey — strive to carry out the direction in our text to the full: "In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths!"