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Summary: Proverbs has one primary “keep-in-mind” consideration that overhangs all its maxims. It is this: Keep in mind that God is in charge. Every proverb here specifically calls that truth to mind.

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Introduction

Here is a common phrase intended to make us pause – “keep in mind.” How many times have you said or it has been said to you?

“Keep in mind that you must be home before dark.”

“Keep in mind that your boss is keeping an eye on you.”

“Keep in mind what happened last time you tried doing that.”

There are the more philosophical “keep-in-minds”:

“Keep in mind that man has always wrestled over the problem of evil.”

“Keep in mind that some day you will die.”

“Keep in mind how insignificant we really are in the universe.”

The “keep-in-mind” stuff is meant to give us a proper perspective on what we actually do. It is a reminder that there is something more to consider than just the question of “would this be neat to do?” That before we react, we need to take into account other circumstances or higher principles.

Proverbs has one primary “keep-in-mind” consideration that overhangs all its maxims. It is this: Keep in mind that God is in charge. Every proverb this morning specifically calls that truth to mind.

The Text

To man belong the plans of the heart, but from the LORD comes the reply of the tongue.

What specifically is being stated here? Is it that we may plan in our hearts what we are going to say, but the Lord determines what we actually say? We have felt that experience before. “Where did I come up with that? I wasn’t planning to say that.” Or does the proverb mean this: we are given the freedom to inwardly plan our course of action or speech, but the Lord responds in such a way as to determine what will in the end take place? Thus, make what plans we may, God outwits us to carry out his will. Does it mean that though we make plans, we are to commit our plans to the Lord so that it is carried out? That is the message of verse 3. However specific we want to get, the simple (or profoundly complex) principle is this: though we experience freedom in making our plans, it is the Lord (in whatever manner he so chooses) who determines the outcome.

This matter of free will and God’s providence certainly is a complex one for mortal minds, but Scripture is consistent in proclaiming that man is responsible for his actions, and, yet, God as the Sovereign Lord directs all events to meet his ends for his glory.

Consider how Scripture presents Israel’s history. Here are two samples documenting resistance and rebellion against the Lord’s will by individuals.

To deliver the Hebrews out of Egypt, Moses had to contend against Pharaoh who stubbornly resisted even in as the ten plagues struck his country.

Afterward Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival to me in the desert.’”

2 Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD and I will not let Israel go” (Exodus 5:1,2).

The kingdom of Israel was divided into the northern and southern kingdoms because of King Rehoboam’s refusal to listen to wise counsel and follow foolish counsel. The son of Solomon, he rejected his father’s counselors who advised him to “lighten the yoke” of hard labor and taxation that Solomon had placed on the people, and thus win the allegiance of the people. Instead, he followed the counsel of his young friends and answered the people’s demands in this manner: “My father made your yoke heavy; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions” (1 Kings 12:14). Thus the people rebelled, splitting the covenant kingdom of Israel.

Now consider these verses:

The LORD said to Moses, “When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders I have given you the power to do. But I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go” (Exodus 4:21).

So the king did not listen to the people, for this turn of events was from the LORD, to fulfill the word the LORD had spoken to Jeroboam son of Nebat through Ahijah the Shilonite (1 Kings 12:15).

What are we to do with these verses? This is like stuff from the “X-Files.” Behold, there is a secret conspiracy behind the scenes manipulating the events! Evidently, God has some explaining to do! What do you mean hardening Pharaoh’s heart and then sending plagues because his heart was hardened? What do you mean being behind the breakup of your kingdom?

How does Scripture respond to such questions? We’ll let a pagan king, Nebuchadnezzar, give his answer as recorded in Daniel 4:34-35:

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