“Your Plans Will Be Firmly Established”
IN A melody that he composed, the psalmist David prayed: “Create in me even a pure heart, O God, and put within me a new spirit, a steadfast one. Do restore to me the exultation of salvation by you, and may you support me even with a willing spirit.” (Psalm 51:10, 12) After his sin with Bath-sheba, a repentant David here pleaded with Jehovah God to cleanse his heart and put within him the spirit, or mental inclination, to do what is right.
Does Jehovah actually create in us a new heart, even putting within us a new and willing spirit? Or is a pure heart what we should strive to acquire and safeguard? “Jehovah is the examiner of hearts,” but to what extent does he involve himself in what goes on inside us? (Proverbs 17:3; Jeremiah 17:10) How much does he influence our life, motives, and actions?
Using God’s name eight times, the first nine verses of Proverbs chapter 16 show us how we can bring our life under God’s control so that ‘our plans will be firmly established.’ (Proverbs 16:3) Verses 10 to 15 focus on the responsibility of a king or a ruler.
“The Arrangings of the Heart”—By Whom?
“To earthling man belong the arrangings of the heart,” states Proverbs 16:1a. Clearly, “the arrangings of the heart” is our responsibility. Jehovah neither prepares our heart miraculously nor gives us a willing spirit. We need to put forth the effort to acquire accurate knowledge of his Word, the Bible, reflect on what we learn, and bring our thoughts into harmony with his.—Proverbs 2:10, 11.
David’s request for “a pure heart” and “a new spirit,” however, shows that he recognized his sinful tendency and the need for divine help to cleanse his heart. Being imperfect, we may be tempted to engage in “the works of the flesh.” (Galatians 5:19-21) To “deaden [our] body members that are upon the earth as respects fornication, uncleanness, sexual appetite, hurtful desire, and covetousness,” we need Jehovah’s help. (Colossians 3:5) How vital that we pray for his assistance in order to avoid yielding to temptations and to remove from our heart sinful traits!
Can we help others in “the arrangings” of their heart? “There exists the one speaking thoughtlessly as with the stabs of a sword,” states the Bible, “but the tongue of the wise ones is a healing.” (Proverbs 12:18) When does our tongue have a healing effect? Only when “from Jehovah is the answer of the tongue,” that is, when we speak spiritually correct words of truth.—Proverbs 16:1b.
“The heart is more treacherous than anything else and is desperate,” says the Bible. (Jeremiah 17:9) Our figurative heart is prone to self-justification and self-deception. Warning of this danger, King Solomon of ancient Israel says: “All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but Jehovah is making an estimate of spirits.”—Proverbs 16:2.
Self-love may cause us to justify our errors, camouflage bad personality traits, and be blind to our own badness. Jehovah, though, cannot be deceived. He is making an estimate of spirits. A person’s spirit is his or her dominant mental inclination and is connected to the heart. To a large extent, its development depends on the activity of the figurative heart, which involves such things as our thoughts, emotions, and motives. The spirit is what “the examiner of hearts” estimates, and his judgments are free from favoritism or partiality. We are wise to guard our spirit.
“Roll Your Works Upon Jehovah”
Making plans involves the thought process—an activity of our heart. Deeds usually follow plans. Will we succeed in our endeavors? Solomon says: “Roll your works upon Jehovah himself and your plans will be firmly established.” (Proverbs 16:3) To roll our works on Jehovah means to place our trust in him, to rely on him, to be committed to him—to roll the burden off our shoulders, as it were, onto his. The psalmist sang: “Roll upon Jehovah your way, and rely upon him, and he himself will act.”—Psalm 37:5.
For our plans to be firmly established, however, they must be in harmony with God’s Word, and they must stem from good motives. Moreover, we should pray to Jehovah for help and support and conscientiously do our best to follow the Bible’s advice. It is particularly important to ‘throw our burden upon Jehovah’ when we are faced with trials or difficulties, for ‘he will sustain us.’ Indeed, “never will he allow the righteous one to totter.”—Psalm 55:22.
“Everything Jehovah Has Made for His Purpose”
What else will result from our rolling our works upon Jehovah? “Everything Jehovah has made for his purpose,” says the wise king. (Proverbs 16:4a) The Creator of the universe is a God of purpose. When we roll our works upon him, our life becomes filled with purposeful and meaningful activity, void of futility or vanity. And Jehovah’s purpose for the earth and man upon it is eternal. (Ephesians 3:11) He formed the earth and created it “to be inhabited.” (Isaiah 45:18) Moreover, what he originally purposed for mankind on earth is bound to become a reality. (Genesis 1:28) A life devoted to the true God will be unending and have meaning forever.
Jehovah has made “even the wicked one for the evil day.” (Proverbs 16:4b) He did not create the wicked, for “perfect is his activity.” (Deuteronomy 32:4) However, he has allowed them to come into existence and continue living until he sees fit to execute his adverse judgment. For example, Jehovah said to Pharaoh of Egypt: “For this cause I have kept you in existence, for the sake of showing you my power and in order to have my name declared in all the earth.” (Exodus 9:16) The Ten Plagues and the destruction of Pharaoh and his forces in the Red Sea were indeed memorable demonstrations of God’s matchless power.
Jehovah can also make circumstances work out in such a way that the wicked unknowingly serve his purpose. The psalmist said: “The very rage of man will laud you; the remainder of raging you [Jehovah] will gird upon yourself.” (Psalm 76:10) Jehovah may allow his enemies to express their rage toward his servants—but only to the extent necessary to discipline his people and thus train them. What is in excess of this, God takes upon himself.
While Jehovah supports his humble servants, what about the proud and arrogant? “Everyone that is proud in heart is something detestable to Jehovah,” says the king of Israel. “Hand may join to hand, yet one will not be free from punishment.” (Proverbs 16:5) Those “proud in heart” may band together in mutual support, but they will not escape punishment. We are wise, then, to cultivate the spirit of humility regardless of how knowledgeable we are or how capable we may be or whatever service privileges we may have.
“In the Fear of Jehovah”
Born in sin, we are prone to err. (Romans 3:23; 5:12) What will help us to avoid making plans that will lead to a bad course? Proverbs 16:6 states: “By loving-kindness and trueness error is atoned for, and in the fear of Jehovah one turns away from bad.” While by his loving-kindness and trueness Jehovah atones for our sins, it is the fear of Jehovah that serves as a deterrent to committing sins. How vital it is that along with love for God and appreciation for his loving-kindness, we cultivate fear of displeasing him!
The fear of God enters into our heart when we develop reverence and respect for God’s awesome power. Just think of his power reflected in the creation! Being reminded of the manifestation of power in God’s creative works helped the patriarch Job to readjust his thinking. (Job 42:1-6) Are we not likewise affected when we read and reflect on the accounts of Jehovah’s dealings with his people as recorded in the Bible? The psalmist sang: “Come, you people, and see the activities of God. His dealing with the sons of men is fear-inspiring.” (Psalm 66:5) Jehovah’s loving-kindness is not to be taken for granted. When the Israelites ‘rebelled and made God’s holy spirit feel hurt, Jehovah was changed into an enemy of theirs; he himself warred against them.’ (Isaiah 63:10) On the other hand, “when Jehovah takes pleasure in the ways of a man he causes even his enemies themselves to be at peace with him.” (Proverbs 16:7) What a protection the fear of Jehovah is!
“Better is a little with righteousness than an abundance of products without justice,” says the wise king. (Proverbs 16:8) Proverbs 15:16 states: “Better is a little in the fear of Jehovah than an abundant supply and confusion along with it.” A reverential awe of God is certainly essential for staying on a righteous course.
“The Heart of Earthling Man May Think Out His Way”
Man was created a free moral agent, able to choose between right and wrong. (Deuteronomy 30:19, 20) Our figurative heart has the ability to consider different options and fix its aim on one or more of them. Indicating that making choices is our responsibility, Solomon says: “The heart of earthling man may think out his way.” Once this is done, “Jehovah himself does the directing of his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9) Since Jehovah can guide our steps, we are acting wisely if we seek his help in ‘making our plans firmly established.’
As we have already noted, the heart is treacherous and is capable of carrying out false reasoning. For example, a person may commit a sin, and his heart may resort to self-justification. Instead of abandoning his sinful course, the individual may reason that God is loving, kind, merciful, and forgiving. Such a man has said in his heart: “God has forgotten. He has concealed his face. He will certainly never see it.” (Psalm 10:11) However, it is improper and dangerous to presume upon God’s mercy.
“The Just Indicator and Scales Belong to Jehovah”
Shifting his focus from the heart and the actions of earthling man to those of a king, Solomon says: “Inspired decision should be upon the lips of a king; in judgment his mouth should not prove unfaithful.” (Proverbs 16:10) This will certainly be true of the enthroned King Jesus Christ. His rule over the earth will be in accordance with the divine will.
Identifying the source of justice and righteousness, the wise king says: “The just indicator and scales belong to Jehovah; all the stone weights of the bag are his work.” (Proverbs 16:11) Just indicators and scales are provided by Jehovah. Such standards are not for a king to come up with according to his preference. When on earth, Jesus said: “I cannot do a single thing of my own initiative; just as I hear, I judge; and the judgment that I render is righteous, because I seek, not my own will, but the will of him that sent me.” We can expect perfect justice from the Son, to whom the Father “has committed all the judging.”—John 5:22, 30.
What else can be expected of a king who represents Jehovah? “The doing of wickedness is something detestable to kings,” says the king of Israel, “for by righteousness is the throne firmly established.” (Proverbs 16:12) The Messianic Kingdom is governed by God’s righteous principles. It has no alliance with “the throne causing adversities.”—Psalm 94:20; John 18:36; 1 John 5:19.
Gaining the Goodwill of a King
How should the subjects of a majestic king respond? Solomon says: “The lips of righteousness are a pleasure to a grand king; and the speaker of upright things he loves. The rage of a king means messengers of death, but the wise man is one that averts it.” (Proverbs 16:13, 14) Jehovah’s worshippers today take to heart these words and busy themselves in the Kingdom-preaching and disciple-making work. (Matthew 24:14; 28:19, 20) They know that using their lips in this way brings pleasure to the Messianic King, Jesus Christ. Averting the displeasure of a powerful human king and seeking his favor was certainly wise. How much wiser it is to seek the approval of the Messianic King!
“In the light of the king’s face there is life,” Solomon continues, “and his goodwill is like the cloud of spring rain.” (Proverbs 16:15) “The light of the king’s face” means his favor, even as ‘the light of Jehovah’s face’ denotes divine favor. (Psalm 44:3; 89:15) Just as rain clouds are an assurance of water that will help to ripen crops, the goodwill of a king is an evidence of good things to come. Life under the reign of the Messianic King will be full of blessings and prosperity, just as the reign of King Solomon was on a small scale.—Psalm 72:1-17.
As we wait for God’s Kingdom to take control of every affair under the sun, may we seek his help in cleansing our heart. May we also place our trust in Jehovah and cultivate godly fear. Then we can be fully confident that ‘our plans will be firmly established.’—Proverbs 16:3.
[Picture on page 18]
In what sense has Jehovah made “the wicked one for the evil day”?