Proverbs 19:21

Many Devices

This proverb is full of contrasts:



Divine Counsel

Human Devices

One Counsel

Many Devices

God’s Heart (mind – implied)

Man’s Heart (mind)

Stands Firm

Does Not Stand Firm (implied)

21a There are many devices in a man’s heart

A. Man’s Heart

1. Man

a. This term usually refers to a male.

b. However, it sometimes refers to mankind in contrast to other created beings, such as angels.

c. In that sense, it simply means any human being – an individual… male or female.

d. That seems to be the way it is used here.

2. Heart

a. This term is translated variously as heart, mind.

b. Strong’s: Inner man; mind; will; heart; understanding; thinking; reflection.

c. The source of life of the inner person in various aspects, with a focus on feelings, thoughts, the will, and other areas of the inner life.

d. Solomon is using the term here to refer to the whole inner self life… a man’s thoughts; imagination; reflection; emotions; passion; wishes; dreams; and desires.

B. Many Devices

1. Devices

a. Plans; thoughts; purposes; inventions; schemes.

b. It is used in both a positive and a negative sense.
• Positive: God gave men wisdom to “devise cunning works” in the building of the tabernacle and furniture… and also used of the skilful men who invented weapons which shot arrows and stones from the towers.
• Negative: Used of evil plots, schemes, and plans of men for wicked purposes. (Esther 8:3 – the evil device or plan which Haman plotted against the Jews)

2. Solomon doesn’t mention whether these are good or evil plans and devices.

a. It is stated generically enough to include BOTH.

b. What he says is true of both good and evil plans and purposes of men.

3. Solomon states here that there are MANY devices in a man’s heart.

a. He is speaking of an individual here.
• His point is not that there are many devices in the world because there are many people… say, with one device each.
• Rather, he is saying that in each and every individual human being, there are MANY devices… many plans.

b. This is true of EVERY single human being.
• We all think. We all have imaginations. We all have desires and wishes. We all have purposes we would like to see fulfilled.
• We all make plans and attempt to implement those plans… that they might be fulfilled.

c. Every one of us has devised plans that are evil!
• If you have ever stolen, you plotted out how to carry out that evil device.
• If you have ever smeared someone, you planned how to cast them in a bad light.
• Young people sometimes plan how to deceive their teacher… or fool their parents…
• Older folks may do the same to their boss…
• Think of all the planning and plotting that is taking place in our political scene right now: how to make the other candidates look bad; sound bad; how to cast them in a bad light; how to expose every failure from the 5th grade on…
• It is our NATURE to make plans.

d. Every one of us has devised plans that are good too.
• We make plans as to how we are going to serve the Lord in the local church.
• We make plans to help a neighbor (set aside time to help him fix his fence…)
• We make good plans for our children’s education.
• We plan for our retirement.
• We plan for our health; our finances; to take care of our house; our vehicles; etc.

4. In the first part of this proverb, Solomon is simply stating a fact: men make many plans throughout life.

a. He is NOT disparaging the making of plans.

b. He is certainly not saying that we shouldn’t make plans.

c. Life is FULL of the plans we make.

d. He simply states a fact. We all make plans. Sometimes they are good ones; sometimes not so good. Sometimes, they are outright evil.

e. We think of things. We imagine and dream things. We make plans. We seek to carry out those plans and purposes.

f. As long as we are walking with God and our hearts are right with God and one another, plans are a good and normal part of life.

21b Nevertheless the counsel of the LORD, that shall stand.

A. The Counsel of the Lord

1. Counsel

a. Purpose; counsel; advice.

B. Shall Stand

a. Stand: to stand; to stand up; to endure; to be fixed; to be valid; to be proven; to be fulfilled.

C. God’s Counsel Stands

1. Men can make all kinds of plans… but God is sovereign. He is in control of the outcome.

2. God sits on His throne ruling over all… and overruling over some of the plans of men.

a. HIS will will come to pass… no matter how hard men may try to thwart it.

b. Isa. 40:8 – His word stands forever.

c. In the long run, no human device or plan can prevent God’s will from coming to pass.

3. Before the fall, God’s purposes and man’s plans were one and the same… united.

a. Adam’s will was submitted to the will of God.

b. Adam was given a mind and a will and he was given liberty to think, to plan, and carry out his plans.

c. However, when sin entered the world, there was a huge gap between God’s purposes and plans, and those of men.

d. Man’s plans were often contrary to the will and plan of God.

e. Today there are 6 billion people in the world. Each one has MANY plans and devices in his heart and mind. Most of those plans have never even considered the plan and purpose of God.

f. Hence, those plans and purposes often conflict with the plans of other men AND with God.

g. It is all a recipe for disaster in the world. All you have to do to see the effect of this is to watch the 6:00 news.

h. At any given moment there are billions of plans being devised around the world… some good; some evil.

i. Unless those plans are governed somehow, the result is anarchy and violence.

j. One of God’s purposes was to govern those clashing wills and plans via human government.

k. One of the WORST things God could do would be to leave us to our own devices! (Prov. 1:31)

l. On our own, we would live in a world of 6 billion people… each one having MANY clashing and conflicting wills, plans, purposes, and desires brewing in his heart.

D. What a Contrast: God’s Counsel and Man’s Devices

1. Man has MANY purposes…

a. Our purposes and devices often conflict with those of other people. Hence, conflict—at the office; in church; at school; and among the nations!

b. God has ONE overarching purpose: to bring glory to Himself. God’s counsel shall stand.

2. Man’s devices and plans are vain.

a. Many of our plans never get off the ground. They are just passing thoughts, wishes… and never come to anything because we never DO anything about them. They are just dreams. (Ps. 94:11)

b. We may pour our heart and soul into other plans… and they too often come to nothing… or not much.

c. Ps. 32:10-11 – But God’s purposes never fail. They never fall to the ground. His counsel stands forever!

3. Men are often UNABLE to perform their plans and purposes.

a. Ps. 21:11 – The enemy here plans and imagines wicked devices… but it unable to perform it! (Either because of his inability or because God providentially intervenes.)

b. On the other hand, God’s counsel shall stand. He knows no limits in power or ability. God is omniscient and omnipotent.

4. Man’s plans are often full of anxiety and uncertainty.

a. However the counsel of the Lord shall stand.

b. Heb.6:17 – His counsel is immutable.

5. Man’s wisdom and ways are both weak and foolish.

a. We saw that in our study of I Corinthians.

b. God’s counsel is strong and wise.

c. God’s counsel and wisdom is able to bring to nothing the best laid plans of the wisest of men.

6. Man’s plans are usually short sighted and selfish.

a. We make plans that we think will be good for me, myself, and I.

b. Often those plans are designed to make us comfortable, happy, and prosperous in the here and now… like Esau.

c. Often our plans do not consider what is best spiritually… and from eternity’s perspective…

d. Often our plans do not consider God’s glory… but we like to put self interest before all.

e. We should be making plans with the Bema seat in mind.

f. Instead, we often plan as if this world was all there is.

g. But God’s counsel is not short sighted. It was planned before the world began… from heaven and eternity’s perspective…

7. Prov. 21:30 – Ultimately, there is no wisdom or counsel AGAINST the Lord that will ever stand.

E. God Uses Man’s Plans (Good and Evil) For His Own Purpose

1. Evil:

a. Consider the evil devices of Joseph’s brothers. God used it for good.

b. Consider the evil plot of Haman. God used it for good to protect His people that His counsel would stand. God made promises to that people!

2. Good:

a. God uses our plans.

b. He gave us minds and expects us to use our minds and think… plan… and carry out those plans…

c. God uses our plans… our prayers… our efforts… in carrying out HIS eternal plan.

3. This proverb is a two edged sword.

a. To evil men:
• You can plan and plot all you want.
• You can use the best minds on earth to carry out your evil designs.
• But God is sovereign. His counsel WILL stand in the final analysis… your plans will fail.
• What arrogance and folly for man who is but a worm to think that his puny plans could outwit or overturn God’s counsels!
• God can even bring good out of the evil plans of wicked men.
• Consider the cross – Acts 2:23; 4:26-28
• Consider Haman; Joseph

b. To good men:
• If our desire is to honor God, God will USE our plans and devices to carry out His purposes on earth.
• And even if we make a mistake… or make an unwise choice or decision… even if we unintentionally step out of His will… God can OVER RULE our errors.
• We cannot undermine God’s purposes by accident.
• God even incorporated our mistakes and failures in His eternal plan.
• He is able to work all things together for good… including our plans and devices… the good, the bad, and the just plain stupid!
• Thus we can REST in the One who is Sovereign and omniscient and omnipotent… whose eternal plan is all wise… and whose counsel shall STAND.

4. Wisdom demands that we respond in faith and obedience to God’s will and counsel when it is made known. (Prov. 19:20)

a. Job 23:11 – God’s plan for Job included much suffering.

b. Job’s wisdom lay in the fact that he learned to submit to it and learn from it.

c. No human device of Job could have reversed God’s plan for his life.