Proverbs 16:9

Divine Sovereignty and Man’s Will


A man’s heart deviseth his way:

A. A Man’s Heart

1. Heart Defined:

a. Strong’s: inner man; mind; will; heart; understanding; inner part.

b. Dict. of Bib. Languages: heart, mind, soul, spirit, self, i.e., the source of life of the inner person in various aspects, with a focus on feelings, thoughts, volition, and other areas of the inner life.

c. Zodhiates: it usually refers to some aspect of the immaterial inner self or being since the heart is considered to be the seat of one’s inner nature.

2. The heart includes intellect, emotion, and will.

a. As a man THINKETH in his heart, so is he.

b. Willing hearts…

c. Happy or sad hearts…

d. It is used as our whole inner life… where we think, plan, prepare, feel, chose, make decisions…

B. Deviseth His Way

1. Deviseth Defined:

a. Strong’s: to think; plan; esteem; calculate; invent; make a judgment; imagine.

b. Dict. of Bib. Lang.: thinking in a detailed, logical manner, with the focus on the formulation of an opinion.

2. Usage of the term:

a. Prov. 16:30 – violent men (vs.29) device evil things… and carries out those plans.

b. Ps. 10:2 – used of planning evil devices…

c. Ps. 119:59 – thinking and planning good things like turning back to God.

3. Way: road, distance, journey, fig: manner or way of life;

a. Prov. 4:19 – The way of the wicked

b. Prov. 5:21 – the ways of man in general: For the ways of man are before the eyes of the LORD, and he pondereth all his goings.

c. Prov. 9:6 – the way of the righteous… the way of understanding.

4. The proverb states that in GENERAL, men plan the WAY they want to go.

a. Solomon is not disparaging this idea. He is simply stating a fact.

b. It is GOOD to make plans… if the plans are good and in line with God’s Word.

c. Paul made plans for his missionary trips. That was wise.

d. We all make plans. Young people make plans for their future. They go off to school to help get prepared for what lies ahead.

e. Making plans are necessary and wise. It would be folly NOT to make plans… To simply stumble aimlessly through life is not wise.

f. Prov. 6:6-7 – for those who think they don’t HAVE to plan, Solomon refers them to the ant—
• Ants are wise enough to plan ahead for the winter by making the preparations in the summer.
• Ants have more wisdom than people who don’t make any plans… people with no vision.
• The point: we too should make plans for the future. Wisdom demands it.

g. Prov. 4:26 – we are COMMANDED to ponder (think about… and make plans for) the steps we take in life.
• Young people plan for their careers.
• Middle-aged people plan for their retirement.
• Parents make plans for their children when young.
• Children make plans for their parents when old.
• Businessmen make plans for their businesses.
• Elders make plans for the church.
• All believers are to plan for their spiritual edification.
• It would be irresponsible NOT to make good plans.

h. Luke 14:28-32 – in all areas of life men DEVISE their way. And that is a good and healthy thing.
• God has given us brains to think and plan.
• God has given us a will to make choices…
• All throughout life, we are to engage our brains and to make wise plans and wise choices.
• The consequences of NOT making wise plans and choices are severe! (bankrupt; defeated)

But the LORD directeth his steps

1. BUT!

a. This word puts the BRAKES on the thought in the first part of the proverb.

b. What has been said thus far is good BUT!

c. It’s good as far as it goes BUT it doesn’t go far enough!

d. Many statements might be TRUE as far as they go, but can be quite misleading if the other side of the coin is not mentioned.

e. All things are lawful for me… BUT all things are not expedient!

f. Without the BUT to explain, define, restrict, and limit, the first statement would be misleading… and could EASILY lead one astray…

g. The first part of his statement is TRUE… but is only HALF the truth. And a half-truth can be dangerous.

h. That is what this proverb addresses.

i. It IS good for men to make plans and to devise their ways, BUT in all your plans, don’t forget about God’s sovereignty!

2. The LORD DIRECTS our steps…

a. Directs: to be firm; be stable; be established; secures; prepares.

b. Used in Ps. 37:23 – The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD.

c. God ORDERS our steps… He establishes them and makes them firm…

d. When our plans are according to His will and in harmony with His word… God enables us to CARRY OUT those plans… by enabling us each step along the way!

e. So that at the end of a successful endeavor, we can look back and say, “Jesus led me all the way!” I made plans, but the increase is of the Lord. He directed and established each step!

3. It is good to make plans, BUT it is folly to leave God out of those plans.

a. God is the One who should be consulted FIRST.

b. Jas. 4:13-15 – James did not criticize these men for making plans, but for not thinking about the will of God!

c. They should have said, “IF the Lord will… we shall do this or that.”

d. We have such LITTLE time in this life (a vapor). What a shame to WASTE time running down rabbit trails that God never intended for us to run down!

e. Jer. 10:23 – O that we might learn that “it is not in man to direct his steps!” Realizing that will cause us to be dependent upon the Lord… as we should be for every step we take.

f. We can devise our way… make good plans to get there. BUT — we should be more concerned about DOING the will of God!

g. Leaving God out of OUR plans might make it necessary for the Lord to redirect our steps.

4. The point in Proverbs: GOD IS IN CHARGE OF OUR STEPS!

a. Because God is in charge of every step we take, He is also sovereign over where we end up!

b. It doesn’t matter how well thought out our plans are at reaching goals we have set for ourselves… God is sovereign over every step along the way!

c. What folly of man to think that achieving his goals in life were entirely in his own hands… when we cannot take one step or move one foot unless the Lord enables us.

d. We might make great plans and have it all planned out how to get there… what means… and when. But God might allow an unexpected tragedy in our lives… a disease… an accident… God controls our steps.

e. The point is that we are entirely dependent upon the Lord for every step in life… regardless of the plans and goals which we have set for ourselves.

f. If we plan a pathway God does not want us to travel, God has the power to build a WALL which makes it impossible for us to take another step down that pathway.

g. We might make great plans… but God is sovereign over each and every tiny factor needed to carry out our plans.

h. God is sovereign over the weather; our health; the stock market; war and peace; the laws of the land; — any one of which can stop our steps cold… and thus prevent our plans from coming to fruition.

5. And because God is gracious, there is another side to this coin.

a. We might make the best plans we can… but might overlook something that would have resulted in disaster.

b. We might make the best plans we can and have the best of intentions… but be following that pathway might not be good for us…

c. We might make the best plans our ability allows… and because God knows the end from the beginning… and knows that that pathway will lead us astray… God direct our steps to something much BETTER… something exceedingly abundantly above all we could ask or think!

6. It is good to make plans… BUT God has the right to CHANGE them and redirect our steps any time He sees fit! He is sovereign!

a. We can and ponder, think, and plan concerning goals and projects in life.

b. According to OUR calculations, reaching that goal means:
• It will take X number of days…
• It will cost X amount of money…
• It will require X amount of steps to get from point A to point B
• Those calculations might be the BEST humanly possible.

c. According to OUR calculations, we might determine that:
• Project X is good and worthwhile
• Project X is realistic and obtainable
• Project X is affordable
• Project X is not in violation of a Biblical principle
• Project X is beneficial

d. BUT… don’t forget the sovereignty of God.
• He is sovereign. He can direct our steps to a quick and successful completion of the project.
• He can also cause the best laid plans of mice and men to go astray.
• He can direct our steps away from that which might be physically prosperous to a direction that is spiritually prosperous.
• He can redirect our steps from an easy course to a much more difficult course… that might be better for us spiritually.
• God directs our steps for our good! Hence, we should always TRUST HIM and seek His will first and foremost.

7. The LORD is sovereign and providentially guides us where He wants us.

a. He wants us to make good plans…

b. He also wants us to TRUST Him for each step along the way.

c. He reserves the right to direct our steps in ANY direction He so chooses…

d. He opens doors and closes doors. If a door opens, our steps are free to continue. If a door closes, our steps are stopped.

e. It is the LORD who controls all that… and through an infinite variety of means.

f. It only makes sense to include God in ALL our plans… and to be dependent upon Him for each step along the way.

g. That is the way of success in God’s sight.

Back to Top

Back to Proverbs Ch. 16 Index

Back to Main Proverbs Index