Trust in the Lord – Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. (Prov 3:5-6)

Proverbs 3=5-6Proverbs 3:5-6 is perhaps one of the best-known passages in all of Scripture. These words written by Solomon are found on many plaques, posters, and paintings that hang on home and office walls. Like any proverb, it encapsulates a big truth in a small phrase. The words are an exhortation to trust in God in everything we do (Prov 3:5-6a), with a promise that He will make our paths straight if we comply (Prov 3:6b). As believers who are called to “walk by faith” (2 Cor 5:7), we are to know God’s Word and rely on it more than our own inadequate understanding. As believers, our walk of faith requires a discipline of mind and will, for fear and pride—our perennial enemies of the heart—can derail our walk if we let them.

Solomon opens his instruction with the word trust, which translates the Hebrew verb בָּטַח batach, which means to “to trust, rely on, [or] put confidence in.”[1] According to John Oswalt, “batach expresses that sense of well-being and security which results from having something or someone in whom to place confidence.”[2] And John Kitchen notes, “This ‘trust’ is the sense of security and safety that comes from being under the care of another more competent than ourselves.”[3] God is our provider, and our faith is in Him and His directives and promises. And the Lord is completely reliable, for “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent; has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” (Num 23:19). Yes! Of course He will! God has integrity and always keeps His Word, for “it is impossible for God to lie” (Heb 6:18). And God is all-wise, which means He makes no mistakes in His directives. And His love is perfect, which means He always seeks our best interests.

Two WaysIf we turn away from the Lord and trust in mankind (or any created thing), then we place our confidence in something that is, by its very nature, weak and subject to failure. Elsewhere, Solomon wrote, “He who trusts [בָּטַח batach] in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like the green leaf” (Prov 11:28), and “He who trusts [בָּטַח batach] in his own heart is a fool, but he who walks wisely will be delivered” (Prov 28:26). And a psalmist penned, “Do not trust [בָּטַח batach] in princes, in mortal man, in whom there is no salvation” (Psa 146:3). I don’t think these verses are to be taken to mean we never trust in people at all, for practical living requires it. Rather, the idea is that we do not trust in things, self, or others to provide direction or meet needs that only God can provide.[4]

And Solomon’s instruction is that we are to trust in the Lord with all our heart (לֵב leb). The heart represents the inner person and refers to the mind and will.[5] These work together like a hand in a glove. Living in a fallen world, we are faced with tremendous external pressures to act in conformity with Satan’s values, which are promoted in all aspects of society (i.e., government, business, education, entertainment, etc.). Plus, we struggle with internal temptations from our fallen natures which seek to pull us away from the Lord. This is why renewing our minds is so critical for our spiritual life and health (Psalm 1:1-3; Rom 12:1-2), for we cannot live what we do not know, and learning God’s Word necessarily precedes living His will. When our minds are saturated with God’s Word, we have the capacity to operate from divine viewpoint, which directs the will into righteous living. Elsewhere, Solomon said, “He who gives attention to the word will find good, and blessed is he who trusts in the LORD” (Prov 16:20).

There is always a temptation to trust only in ourselves and our own understanding; but Solomon says, “do not lean on your own understanding” (Prov 3:5b). This statement does not exclude academic learning or suggest in the slightest way that God’s children turn off their brains. In fact, Solomon says, “Buy truth, and do not sell it, get wisdom and instruction and understanding” (Prov 23:23). Solomon himself was a prolific writer and composed 3,000 proverbs and a 1,005 songs (1 Ki 4:32). He also studied botany, zoology, ornithology, entomology, and ichthyology (1 Ki 4:33). Solomon’s statement (v.5b) means we should subordinate our reasonings to Scripture, so that where human knowledge is inadequate, or in conflict with God’s Word, it yields to divine revelation. Our understanding, at its very best, is but a thimble of knowledge compared to the infinite ocean of God’s wisdom, and we are fools to trust in ourselves in matters where God has spoken and gifted us with divine insights. John Kitchen states:

‘Understanding’ is a word that is generally given a positive spin by Solomon (cf. Prov 1:2; 2:3), but here is seen negatively. Here it is that human wisdom worked up from our natural selves as compared to the divine wisdom that God gives to those who seek Him (cf. Jam 3:15–18). This does not mean to imply that there is nothing to be trusted in ‘common sense,’ but simply that you don’t use it as your sole, or even primary, support in life. Rather, we should bank our all on God and the wisdom of His ways. His ways are above ours (Isa 55:8–9; Rom 11:33–34), and must be chosen when they seem to contradict our earthly, human wisdom.[6]

And in what areas of our lives are we to trust in the Lord? Solomon answers, “In all your ways acknowledge Him” (Prov 3:6a). The word ways translates the Hebrew noun דֶּרֶךְ derek, which commonly refers “to a path worn by constant walking.”[7] Here, the noun is used metaphorically to refer to one’s behavior, lifestyle, or way of life. Trying to capture the essence of the phrase, other translations read, “think about Him in all your ways” (Prov 3:6 CSB), and “in all your ways submit to Him” (Prov 3:6 NIV), and “seek His will in all you do” (Prov 3:6 NLT). God’s ways are much higher and better than our ways (Isa 55:8-9), and the wise look to Him in everything.

Bible With PenThe word acknowledge translates the Hebrew verb יָדָע yada, which means to know. But this is not merely an academic knowledge of God’s Word, but the experiential knowledge that one has by applying the truth of Scripture. Living by faith is a two-step process. First, it requires us to know God’s Word, which means studying it carefully and thoroughly on a regular basis (Psa 1:2; 2 Tim 2:15). Second, it means we make choices in the light of His revelation and follow His directives and cling to His promises, being “doers of the word, and not merely hearers” who deceive ourselves (Jam 1:22). To acknowledge the Lord is an intentional act, in which we consciously and purposefully set our minds upon the Lord and insert His Word into everything we think, say, and do. And “the LORD knows the way of the righteous” (Psa 1:6), as we walk with Him in the light of His truth. But this way of living can be risky business as we cast ourselves fully upon the Lord, trusting that His ways are best and that He will keep His promises to us, all in His time and way.

To the one who trusts in the Lord, not relying on human viewpoint, but acknowledging Him in every area of our lives, Solomon then gives the promise that “He will make your paths straight” (Prov 3:6b). Allen Ross points out, “When obedient faith is present, the Lord will guide the believer along life’s paths in spite of difficulties and hindrances. The idea of ‘straight’ (v. 6) contrasts to the crooked and perverse ways of the wicked.”[8] Elsewhere, Solomon tells us the wicked are those “who leave the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness; 14 who delight in doing evil and rejoice in the perversity of evil; 15 whose paths are crooked, and who are devious in their ways” (Prov 2:13-15). John Kitchen states:

The reward is more than the promise of simple guidance. It includes the removal of obstacles (Isa 40:3; 45:13) from the path of the wise and the surety of arriving at one’s destination. When you abandon yourself to God in trusting obedience, finding your entire support in Him and striving in every avenue of your life to know Him more intimately, He guarantees that the path before you will be clearer and smoother than otherwise it would have been, and that He will keep you in His will.[9]

Having a straight path does not mean we are exempt from the troubles of this life or that we will never experience injustice or poor health. Jesus epitomized a life of knowing and walking with the Father, yet He suffered great opposition and was rejected by the majority of those who heard Him speak and witnessed His miracles (John 3:19; 12:37). At every moment, we are faced with two paths, one that is marked by truth and righteousness, and one that is marked by falsehoods and evil. For each and every second of your life, I encourage you to “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight” (Prov 3:5-6).

Dr. Steven R. Cook

Related Articles:

[1] William D. Mounce, Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2006), 904.

[2] John N. Oswalt, “233 בָּטַח,” ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 101.

[3] John A. Kitchen, Proverbs: A Mentor Commentary, Mentor Commentaries (Fearn, Ross-shire, Great Britain: Mentor, 2006), 76.

[4] We see in the book of Jeremiah a contrasting use of בָּטַח batach. In the first situation we see a misplaced trust in mankind, as the Lord said, “Cursed is the man who trusts [בָּטַח batach] in mankind and makes flesh his strength, and whose heart turns away from the LORD. 6 For he will be like a bush in the desert and will not see when prosperity comes, but will live in stony wastes in the wilderness, a land of salt without inhabitant” (Jer 17:5-6). Choices have consequences, and spiritual health is starved in the one who trusts in measly mankind. But in stark contrast, we are told, “Blessed is the man who trusts [בָּטַח batach] in the LORD and whose trust is the LORD. 8 For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes; but its leaves will be green, and it will not be anxious in a year of drought nor cease to yield fruit” (Jer 17:7-8).

[5] Some would include emotions as part of the inner person. Maybe. I think it’s better to see emotions as responders to thought and action, as they never operate independently of the mind or will. Emotion follows thought and action like a trailer follows a truck. If we think and act as God directs, our emotions will follow and stabilize.

[6] John A. Kitchen, Proverbs: A Mentor Commentary, 76–77.

[7] Herbert Wolf, “453 דָּרַך,” ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 196.

[8] Allen P. Ross, “Proverbs,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 5 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1991), 917.

[9] John A. Kitchen, Proverbs: A Mentor Commentary, 77.

Walking with God

Enoch walked with God three hundred years after he became the father of Methuselah, and he had other sons and daughters. So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him. (Gen. 5:22-24)

       footstepThe genealogical record of Genesis chapter 5 is repetitious: men lived and died.  The repetition is broken with one man, Enoch, as Moses wrote, “God took him” (Gen. 5:24).  God decided His friend, the one who “walked” with Him, would not see death, so the Lord took him directly to heaven.  “The word walk implies a steady, progressive relationship and not just a casual acquaintance. To walk with God is the business of a lifetime, and not just the performance of an hour.”[1]  It is written in the New Testament, “By faith Enoch was taken up so that he would not see death; and he was not found because God took him up; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God” (Heb. 11:5). 

…“Enoch walked with God and he was not; for God took him.” The phrase is full of meaning. Enoch walked with God because he was His friend and liked His company, because he was going in the same direction as God, and had no desire for anything but what lay in God’s path. We walk with God when He is in all our thoughts; not because we consciously think of Him at all times, but because He is naturally suggested to us by all we think of; as when any person or plan or idea has become important to us, no matter what we think of, our thought is always found recurring to this favorite object, so with the godly man everything has a connection with God and must be ruled by that connection. When some change in his circumstances is thought of, he has first of all to determine how the proposed change will affect his connection with God—will his conscience be equally clear, will he be able to live on the same friendly terms with God and so forth. When he falls into sin he cannot rest till he has resumed his place at God’s side and walks again with Him. This is the general nature of walking with God; it is a persistent endeavor to hold all our life open to God’s inspection and in conformity to His will; a readiness to give up what we find does cause any misunderstanding between us and God; a feeling of loneliness if we have not some satisfaction in our efforts at holding fellowship with God, a cold and desolate feeling when we are conscious of doing something that displeases Him. This walking with God necessarily tells on the whole life and character. As you instinctively avoid subjects which you know will jar upon the feelings of your friend, as you naturally endeavor to suit yourself to your company, so when the consciousness of God’s presence begins to have some weight with you, you are found instinctively endeavoring to please Him, repressing the thoughts you know He disapproves, and endeavoring to educate such dispositions as reflect His own nature. It is easy then to understand how we may practically walk with God—it is to open to Him all our purposes and hopes, to seek His judgment on our scheme of life and idea of happiness—it is to be on thoroughly friendly terms with God.[2]

       Walking with God starts with a relationship.  It is a relationship in which we are rightly related to God by faith (John 3:16), and one that continues in faith (2 Cor. 5:7), trusting Him in all things (Prov. 3:5-6).  To “walk with God” is the ideal standard for a believer (Lev. 26:3-12; Gal. 5:16, 25; Eph. 4:1; Col. 2:6-7; cf. Rev. 3:4).  It does not mean a life of sinless perfection; rather, it means that when we sin, we handle it in a biblical manner with humility and confession (e.g. 2 Sam. 12:1-23; cf. 1 Kings 11:4; 1 Jo. 1:8-10).  Walking with God means we go in the same direction He is going, and like a friend, we are glad to share in His fellowship (1 Jo. 1:1-10).  It means God is regularly in our thoughts, and we live every day conscious of Him and His will for our lives (Rom. 12:1-2; Col. 3:16-17).  Walking with God means we are open and honest with Him about everything, and agree to let His light shine in our lives, not fearing what it exposes (1 Jo. 1:5-7).  It means being sensitive to what may offend Him, and making every effort to please Him through a life of faith (2 Cor. 5:9; Heb. 11:6).  May we all learn to walk with the Lord.

Steven R. Cook, D.Min.

Related Articles:

[1] William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments, ed. Arthur Farstad (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1995), 38.

[2] Marcus Dods, The Book of Genesis (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1893), 51-53.