Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not to thine own understanding. Proverbs 3:5.
This is the polar-star of a child of God —faith in his Father’s providence, promises, and grace. The unmeaning expression of trust on the lips of the ignorant and ungodly is a fearful delusion. What ground of confidence can there be when there is, everything to fear? Can the sinner’s God–a just, avenging God—be an object of trust? What owe we to that precious atonement, which has opened. up our way to a reconciled God (Rom. 5:11), and assured our confidence in him as our Friend and Counsellor! Nor is this the cold assent of the enlightened judgment. It is the trust of the heart, of all the heart. It is a child-like, unwavering (2 Chron. 16:11. Contrast (Jer. 1:6–8) confidence in our Father’s well-proved wisdom, faithfulness, and love. Any limit to this confidence is a heinous provocation. He is truth itself. Therefore he would have us take him at his word, and prove his word to the utmost extent of his power.
But our trust must not only be entire: it must be exclusive. No other confidence, no confidence in the flesh, can consist with it. (Comp. Phil. 3:3.) Man with all his pride feels that he wants something to lean to. As a fallen being, he naturally leans to himself, to his own foolish notions and false fancies. Human power is his idol. His understanding is his God. Many would rather be convicted of want of principle than want of talent. Many bring God’s truth to their own bar, and cavil (foolishly object) at it, as an excuse for rejecting it. In these and other ways, man “trusteth to himself, and his heart departeth from the Lord.” (Jer. 17:5.) This is the history of the fall; the history of man from the fall; the dominant sin of every unhumbled heart; the lamented and resisted sin of every child of God. Need we advert to it as the sin of youth? How rare is the sight of the “younger submitting unto the elder!” (1 Pet. 5:5.) If advice is asked, is it not with the hope of confirming a previously formed purpose? In case of a contrary judgment, the young man’s own understanding usually decides the course.
Great reason then is there for the warning—Lean not to thine own understanding. Once, indeed, it gave clear unclouded light, as man’s high prerogative, “created in the image of God.” (Gen. 1:26. Col. 3:10.) But now, degraded as it is by the fall, and darkened by the corruption of the heart (Eph. 4:18), it must be a false guide. Even in a prophet of God it proved a mistaken counsellor. (2 Sam. 7:2–5.) Yet though we refuse to lean to it, to follow it may be implicit trust in the Lord; because it is a trust in his Divine power, enlightening it, as his lamp for our direction. The Christian on his
knees, as if he cast his understanding away, confesses himself utterly unable to guide his path. But see him in his active life. He carefully improves his mind. He conscientiously follows its dictates. Thus practical faith strengthens, not destroys, its power; invigorates, not supersedes, exertion. (Comp. Gen. 32:9-20; Neh. 4:20).