by Mark Hudson
Bruce Waltke organizes chapter 16 as follows:
- Collection IIb: The Lord and His King (15:30-22:22)
- Prologue: The Dance between humanity, the Lord, and His king (15:30-16:15)
- Introduction (15:30-33)
- The Lord’s rule (16:1-9)
- The Lord’s sovereignty and the human’s responsibility (16:1-4a)
- The Lord’s morality and the human’s accountability (16:4b-7)
- Conclusion (16:8-9
- The mediatorial King (16:10-15)
- The King’s authority (16:10-11)
- The King’s moral sensibility (16:12-13)
- The King’s power (16:14-15).
- Wise and Foolish Speech (16:16-30)
- Introduction: Security in wisdom (16:16-19)
- The wise speaker (16:20-24)
- The foolish speakers (16:25-30)
- The splendid crown of old age through righteousness (16:31-17:6)
The Biblical authors do not experience the existential problem we do with both God’s absolute sovereignty and human freedom. We posit that if God has complete sovereignty, we are robots, which is a theological straw man. We experience freedom when we choice things so absolute sovereignty must go. The authors in the Bible uphold the absolute sovereign will of God AND human freedom. We, however, do not have absolute freedom. For instance, v. 1 states, “The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.” We make plans and in that planning we are free. But the Lord can ratify or veto our plans – “the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.”
In verses 9, “the heart of man plans his way” by checking at an inn, looking at the stars, knowing the way from experience, or looking at GPS, checking with one’s schedule and checking the weather, “but the Lord establishes his steps.” God works in and through ancient or modern plans to establish His will. We are not told what His will is, but we are told His will is “most wise and holy” and “ordains whatsoever comes to pass” in such a way that “the liberty or contingency of second causes (man’s planning) [is not] taken way, but rather established.” Westminster Confession of Faith 3:1. His will alone determines who will be predestined to life, “according to his eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of his will. . .” (WCF 3:5).
Even in random occasions of life, God is in control. “The lot is cast into the lap” refers to a stone or stones that were used to reveal God’s will when there are several choices. The lot revealed God’s will in ancient times. The lot was hurled or thrown away from a person. Most people would say how the lot falls is random. But Proverbs 16:33 concludes, “but it’s every decision is from the LORD.” This does not mean we ought not to invest in thoughtful planning and careful decision-making processes since God will reveal himself in the casting of lots. Imagine if your session, did not deliberate, pray, listen, and reflect and just cast lots for every decision. The session meetings would be shorter, elder training would not be necessary nor would communication to or from the session. What this verse does teach is that God is not only sovereign when people pray, believe and live godly lives. God is sovereign over all whatever a person plans, says, or does. That person’s freedom is not violated. Every person does as they wish; but God is sovereign over all.
The Bible turns a spotlight on our speech, our words, and our tongue. The godly tongue or words of the godly are sweet, wise of heart, discerning and persuasive (v. 21). The tongue is connected to the heart so the wise “makes his speech judicious” (v. 23). But in the heart of the ungodly produces speech “like a scorching fire” and he “plots evil” (v. 27). The dishonest “man spreads strife and a whisperer separates close friends (v. 28). The tongue of the ungodly is not sweet, discerning or persuasive but hurtful, divisive, and destructive. This person does not unite people. Rather the ungodly spreads strife and separates close friends (v. 28). That sounds so painful. Imagine the distrust, the pain of betrayal, the consequences the ungodly leave in their wake.
You can become a godly person whose speech and words are healing, sweet, and persuasive. Watch others. Notice the dynamics of how people speak. You do not want to talk like some. Yet, there are others who have a way with others. Observe the dynamics. Watch how others react to your words. Ask God to help you be the godly person who listens more than speaks. Be the person who asks questions more than directs. Be the person who is kind-hearted, gracious, and loving.
Our Lord Jesus was a great listener. He watched people putting their coins in the coffer. He compared people who prayed, He noticed birds, flower, men sowing seeds and He reflected on those things to incorporate them into His teaching. I am sure Jesus saw pain in people’s eyes, even rescuing a woman caught in adultery while never once minimizing rebellion against God. His Holy Spirit prompts us to be kind and loving as He is.
Dear heavenly Father, how You direct us we will never fully comprehend until we are in glory. While we act freely, You make sure Your will is accomplished in ways we will only know in heaven. Your will is accomplished in and through the godly and even men and women who reject Your Son. Lord, teach us to be kind in our words to others. Teach us to direct our minds and hearts to Jesus Christ. We pray in the power of the Holy Spirit for the eternal glory of Jesus Christ. Amen.