“The simple believe anything, but the prudent give thought to their steps.”
Proverbs 14:15 NIV
פֶּ֭תִי יַאֲמִ֣ין לְכָל־דָּבָ֑ר וְ֝עָר֗וּם יָבִ֥ין לַאֲשֻׁרֹֽו׃
Picture a seasoned team of seamen with years of sailing experience making a blunder that practically shipwrecked their vessel. Remarkably, the 19th century polar expedition of the USS Jeannette, commandeered by Lieutenant George De Long ended in complete failure.
Captain De Long and his crew became thoroughly disoriented on their trek—not because of a faulty compass, but because of a mistaken map. De Long’s quest rested on a picture of the North Pole laid out in the maps of Dr. August Heinrich Petermann.
Petermann’s maps proposed a “thermometric gateway” through the ice that opened onto a vast “polar sea” beyond the ice. As it turned out the ship was sailing to a world that didn’t exist.
Rather than an open polar sea, the crew observed the perilous ice surrounding the ship. Immediately, the erroneous maps were scrapped and replaced with a comprehension of the way the Arctic truly is
Most readers conclude from this account Christians need a foolproof map from God to navigate His will.
I share this dramatic story to explain this is NOT how to identify God’s will.
The Lord does not have a hidden, faultless map to lead us to a treasure chest of priceless doubloons, aka His divine plan.
If there isn’t a GPS to steer us to the Lord’s will, what does Solomon in Proverbs 14:15 instruct us to do or not do to remove the mystery attached to “finding the will of God”.
To believe everything is to live without exercising discernment
Solomon launches off Proverbs 14:15 with a warning that the “simple will believe almost anything.” Solomon chooses a word to describe the “simple” (פֶּ֭תִי), which stems from a root meaning “to open, to make roomy.” A simple person is one who is gullible and apt to trust anything.
Solomon warns about the undiscerning mind in Proverbs 1:22, “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge?” The simple follower of the Lord drops all commitments required by the Lord to sift out truth from error.
How can the clueless follower of Yeshua determine the will of God when he is so easily led astray and fooled?
Envision buying a previously owned car without exercising discernment. The simpleminded buyer believes all he hears without proof or examination. So when purchasing a vehicle, he is foolish enough to take someone at their word about the car’s mechanical condition and not have a mechanic provide a detailed examination.
Would you approach exploring God’s will this way? No discernment. No questions asked. A lack of using one’s thinking.
Here is what the undiscerning mind looks like when it comes to understanding God’s plan.
- they are eager to only heed the voice of others who agree with their preconceived ideas. When they encounter someone not speaking what they want to hear, they surmise that individual lacks spirituality.
- they are wired to follow the navigation of their emotions. Many believers in Yeshua are quick to conclude some experience is God’s will because of good feelings that well up within them.
- they are too open to believe spiritual leaders and friends who claim to “hear from God”. How many Christians have been shipwrecked by false utterances made by people who declare, “God told me”?
- they attempt to tune their dials to God’s voice by interpreting circumstances. Unfortunately, a person’s reading of events is based on a subjective opinion.
In contrast to these misleading ways of using external means to uncover God’s will, the Scriptures focuses our efforts to the development of inner spiritual character. Then we can experience God’s Spirit filling our sails to guide us to our destination.
The wise give careful thought to their steps
In the popular Christian workbook “Experiencing God” by Henry Blackaby, the author compares finding God’s will to climbing a ladder leaning against a wall. Blackaby teaches the believer ascends the ladder trusting it is placed against the right wall. If not, the Christian has inadvertently sidestepped God’s will.
This illustration used by Blackaby flies smack in the face of Solomon’s prescription for making careful choices.
Foremost, Blackaby’s scenario presupposes there is only ONE “wall” we can place our ladders against. Consequently, the potential of leaning your stepping stool against the wrong wall imposes fear into a person’s life. What if I miss God’s will? Could I spend my whole life following God and go astray?
Solomon writes, “but the prudent give thought to their steps”. Solomon uses a verb (יָבִ֥ין) to argue “discernment, perception or understanding” is necessary to make decisions in steering one’s life. In contrast, the simple person fails to use careful thought in his choices. However, the prudent person shows skill in thoughtfully selecting the wall he leans his ladder against.
And where does this “careful thought” come from? The development of inner spiritual qualities or living life skillfully.
As opposed to not planning and settling for a passive “trust in the Lord,” the wise person gives skillfully considers the decisions he makes. His thinking is in harmony with his inner spiritual life that stems from his relationship with God.
What does it mean to “give careful thought” to one’ steps?
First, making decisions puts responsibility on the decision maker. We bear a great obligation to make wise choices and not wait around for some sign from heaven in which God tells us what to do.
Second, making decisions requires planning as well as praying. Solomon does not look at decision making like the glib approach found in the words, “I’ll pray about it.” This often used phrase can be an excuse for procrastination and inactivity.
Third, making decisions involves a step-by-step approach. Solomon speaks of “steps” not “leaps”. When you take steps, you are careful because you have thought through your directions ahead of time. This is neither an act of blind faith nor an agonizing 6 month process of analyzing every detail bringing your life to a grinding halt.
The patriarch Joseph is viewed by Moses as a godly man. Yet the circumstances of Joseph’s life cause a person to wonder if he had missed God’s will. Hated by his brothers. Sold into slavery. Falsely accused of rape. Wrongfully imprisoned. Overlooked for a deserved “parole hearing.”
Looking at Joseph’s life, we could conclude his ladder was leaning against the wrong wall.
Yet Joseph was directly within the will of God; not according to his circumstances but according to his spiritual character. He remained true to God, which was all the Lord expected of the patriarch.
When God handed him an opportunity to serve Him with his ability to interpret dreams and his economic astuteness, Joseph took the “careful steps” the God of Israel expected him to take. Indeed, good choices derive from a heart that seeks to please God.
Taking an aerial view of Joseph’s life, we see the Lord overruled in his circumstances and brought him to the destination designed for Him.
Do we believe the Lord allows us to place our ladders against the wrong wall even though we diligently seek Him? Where is our trust in the sovereignty of God to overrule in our circumstances?
When we look under the hood of a wise person to check his decision making process, we find godly character as the engine that drives his life and careful thought as the drive shaft that transfers forward motion to his steps.