The most obvious Biblical truths must be taught as often as the most difficult and complicated. Perhaps they need to be taught even more, because we might assume that our neighbors understand them as clearly as we do, when that is not always the case. Sometimes a verse opens up one of those foundational doctrines so easily that the teacher can’t ignore it. We have that here.
This scripture compares God’s omnipotence to man’s impotence. We hear God’s sovereignty expressed in Solomon’s typical poetical style. It may be called “Hebrew parallelism” when in fact there is nothing parallel about this comparison. The flight of a Boeing 747 may be roughly the same direction as that of a bumble bee, but one is at 36,000 feet above the ground and the other is at one foot. One weighs 800,000 pounds and the other half a gram. One is nearly impossible to stop while the other can be squashed like a bug.
This verse suggests five areas of great difference between the devices of man and the counsel of God.
There is an obvious difference in the SOURCE of these devices and counsels.
“There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel of the LORD, that shall stand.” We are comparing men and God. A moment ago I mentioned a Boeing 747 and a bee. Doing the math, the aircraft is about 363 million times heavier than the Bumble bee. That doesn’t begin to properly express God’s “weight” above ours. “What is man that God should be mindful of him?” Man and God aren’t in the same universe let alone league. “LORD, what is man, that thou takest knowledge of him! or the son of man, that thou makest account of him!”
I probably shouldn’t make too much about the name of God which Solomon uses, but I am going to. This is not “Elohim” the Almighty, Triune name of God. This is “Jehovah” the covenant-making God. Moses tells us it was “Jehovah Elohim” – the Lord God – who came to Adam with the very human/divine arrangement. “Enjoy the blessings of this garden; eat whatever you like.” “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” Almost over night, the man broke the agreement. Solomon compares the covenant-making-God with the covenant-breaking-man.
And furthermore, “Jehovah” means “I AM” – Jehovah is the eternal One – the eternal God. He is not the “I was,” “I am,” and “I shall be again.” Jehovah is the perpetual “I AM” – the unchanging, eternal, consistent, covenant-keeping God. And what is man in comparison? Little more than a bug. Psalm 90:10 – “The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.” “There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel of the LORD, that shall stand.”
Solomon’s PRIMARY POINT is to compare man’s DEVICES and God’s COUNSEL.
Man has “devices” while God has His “counsel.” When I looked at the Hebrew word translated “devices” a little-used English word came to mind. As far as I know they aren’t linguistically related, but they became related in my mind. On paper the Hebrew word reminded me of “machination.” That English word speaks of plots or schemes. The Hebrew word is translated “thought” most often, then “device,” “imagination,” “cunning” and a few others used less often. I wouldn’t have been surprised to be told that it was translated “dream,” but it wasn’t. How many times have you had a vivid dream during the night, but the moment you awoke it was gone? Generally speaking, how substantial are your thoughts? Have your thoughts, dreams and wishes become reality simply because you thought them? What is man’s thought or device? “It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.”
But the Lord’s counsel is just like His decrees. The Lord has never had a plan which He didn’t set in motion and bring to fruition. He has never started something and not completed it. For example, He has never set out to save someone and had that soul slip through His fingers. Psalm 33:10-11 – “The LORD bringeth the counsel of the heathen to nought: he maketh the devices of the people of none effect. (However) the counsel of the LORD standeth for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations.”
The devices of men are like snowflakes falling onto a mountain-side hot spring pool. The counsels of God are like cannon balls falling into water, or atomic bombs falling on the cities of men. In regard to salvation, Paul said in Hebrews – “God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us.”
Solomon’s third comparison is not quite complete.
“There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel of the LORD, that shall stand.” The source of man’s device is not the same as the source of the Lord’s counsel. Man’s machination comes from his heart. And the Bible tells us that the heart is a treacherous place full of deception and problems. If it isn’t surrendered to the Lord, it is as worthless as a dry leaf in a windstorm. The Lord Jesus has told us – “That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.” The device which comes from the natural heart of man is not usually worth the air which our lungs use to express it.
But in contrast there is the counsel of the Lord. From where does that come? From the heart of God? Solomon doesn’t say. “The heart of God” is something we apply to the Lord because we don’t have a better term to use. God’s counsel comes from His innermost being – something eternal, holy, unfathomable to man. Solomon didn’t, and we still don’t, have a word to describe the source of God’s eternal counsel.
A fourth comparison involves NUMBERS.
“There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel of the LORD, that shall stand.” Man may have many or just a few devices, but no matter the number, they are no match for God’s single counsel. With this we might rise into flights of fancy about great spiritual mysteries. You and I take one step at a time throughout our lives to reach our destination. Does the God who is above time – He who knows the end from the beginning – need steps? When He determines to glorify Himself in the saving of a soul, every detail instantly becomes set in stone. There is one plan, decree, objective and counsel, with all the parts linking together in God’s providence.
Men, sometimes knowing their weaknesses, join hands and devices, in an effort to accomplish their will. But even if every man on earth, join himself to every other man on earth, “the counsel of the LORD, that shall stand” and their devices will fall. “Though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not be unpunished.”
The final comparison takes us to SOLOMON’S POINT.
“There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel of the LORD, that shall stand.” And the Lord’s will supercedes any man’s devices. Proverbs 16:9 is a bit more succinct – “A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps.”
Furthermore, men may band together with their devices, but no number of them can defeat God’s counsel. The hearts of a bunch of men may devise a philosophy of atheism, and convince millions of others. But the all the rhetoric and propaganda of science and education cannot eliminate God Himself. And it is the counsel of God to judge those who deny and reject the evidence of Him. Even if wicked men convince the world that evolution is the source of human life, it will never be true. And unbelieving men may try to prove their theory by creating life itself, but all their devices will fail. Science will never create life; it is the prerogative of God alone. Godless society may try to expunge the Bible from libraries and minds, but God’s word is eternal, and His counsel will stand. Jehovah is God, and the devices of feeble men cannot compete with the decrees and purpose of God. Proverbs 21:30 – “There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the LORD.”
If Solomon intended to bring these comparisons to a conclusion, it would have been with the exhortation – “surrender.“ Sinners cannot win their war against Elohim. Men do not have the means of bringing their devices into reality. The answer is to surrender – to “let God be God.” But not just that – to bow before Jehovah as their God.