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Proverbs 3:5-6 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
5 Trust in Jehovah with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
6 In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
Trust in Jehovah with all your heart: Trust means to rely on, depend on, have confidence in, to have a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone, and, in this case, Jehovah God. (2 Ki 18:5; 18:30; Ps 22:10; Isa 36:15; Jer. 28:15; 29:31) When we trust in God, this means that we know that he is our only true source of wisdom, strength, and power in everything that we think, feel, or do; therefore, we give him our complete trust. With all your heart means with all your mind, the element of a person that enables them to be aware of their Creator, the world and their experiences, to think, and to feel; the full force of the mental faculty of consciousness and thought, with no reservation.
And do not lean on your own understanding: Lean on renders a word (Heb. šā·ʿǎn) meaning to lean upon oneself or support oneself. Understanding (Heb. teḇû·nā(h)) is the ability to see how the parts or aspects of something are connected to one another. One who possesses understanding can see the big picture (comprehending the entire matter) and not just the isolated facts. In all your ways acknowledge him: Your ways are a reference to everything that you do. Acknowledge him is to know him, to have taken in knowledge and information about him, to have a personal intimate acquaintance with him, to be aware of him. Here in this context, knowing God goes beyond some intellectual awareness that he exists but rather accepting him for who he is and allowing him to guide and direct our lives.
And he will make straight your paths: Make straight renders a verb (Heb. yā·šǎr) that means to smooth out, make level, or remove the barriers to prepare a path, with a focus of our never wandering or turning from a course, inferring that we stay the course with purpose or ease. In this context, it can refer to our life and the different moral choices that we will have to make.
Certainly, there is not another person that we could ever trust more than Jehovah God himself. If we are trusting Jehovah with all of our heart, this means that we completely surrender ourselves to him. Imagine that we were on a safari in Africa when the vehicle breaks down, and we are now being led by a guide through grasslands, scrub, or open woodlands, a 50-mile trek back to safety. Would we offer him our advice at every turn, question his decision, complain to any who might listen? No, we would give this guide our complete trust, because he is the expert and our life depend up his decisions. Jehovah God has given us his word, as a guide through this difficult part of human history. He is the expert, and our everlasting life depends upon him. Abraham entered into a lifelong journey of 100 years of traveling with Jehovah God as his guide, and the lands he traveled were far more dangerous than some African safari mishap. Abraham became the father of true faith and trust.
However, when it says do not lean on your own understanding, does this mean that we cannot think for ourselves? No, it is Jehovah God himself, who gave man the capacity to think and reason, which he expects us to use them wisely, to serve and worship him. Verse 5 is contrasting our thinking ability with the of Jehovah, in which case if what we think, feel, and believe is not in harmony with his, we are to go with his direction. In other words, in that case, his thinking would guide our own. (Isa. 30:21) If we are a serious student of God’s Word, over time, we will become permeated with his way of thinking, and our decisions will reflect this.
Verse 6 is another if you do (A) you will get (B) situation. If we remember to trust Jehovah (A), he will make our paths straight (B). First, making our paths straight means that he will make our lives easier, as it is easier to follow a straight path. Of course, generally, if we completely trust Jehovah, life will be much easier, as we will avoid many pitfalls. However, in life in an imperfect world, full of imperfect people, there are bound to be some difficulties. Nevertheless, we can know that our direction and purpose will always be straight.
Albert Barnes says, “To confide in God’s will, the secret of all true greatness is to rise out of all our anxieties and plans and fears when we think of ourselves as the arbiters of our own fortunes, and so ‘lean to our own understanding.’ Not in acts of solemn worship or great crises only, but ‘in all thy ways;’ and then God will make the ‘path’ straight and even.”
Here is a phrase-by-phrase exegetical commentary on Proverbs 3:5-6:
Verse 5: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.”
- “Trust in the Lord with all your heart”: The Hebrew word translated as “trust” (batach) means to have confidence or to rely on. This verse is urging the reader to have complete trust or confidence in the Lord.
- “and do not lean on your own understanding”: This phrase is cautioning the reader against relying on their own understanding or wisdom, rather than trusting in the Lord.
Verse 6: “In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”
- “In all your ways acknowledge him”: This phrase means to recognize the Lord’s presence and authority in all aspects of one’s life.
- “and he will make straight your paths”: The Hebrew word translated as “straight” (yashar) can also mean level, right, or smooth. This phrase is saying that when a person recognizes the Lord’s presence and authority in all aspects of their life, the Lord will guide and direct their steps and make their path smooth and successful.
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