Charles Bridges—the great theologian and leader of the Evangelical Party in the Church of England during the 19th century—wrote an excellent commentary on the book of Proverbs that is still in print 172 years after its initial publication in 1846. C.H. Spurgeon described it as the best commentary on Proverbs, “Whilst explaining the passage in hand, [Bridges] sets other portions of the word in new lights.”
In this excerpt, Bridges beautifully expounds Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”
This is the [North Star] for the child of God—faith in his Father’s providence, promises, and grace. This trust is not the mere assent of enlightened judgment. It is trust . . . with all your heart. It is a childlike, unwavering confidence in our Father’s well-proved wisdom, faithfulness, and love. He is truth itself. Therefore, he wants us to take him at his word and to prove his word to the very limit of his power.
But our trust must not only be complete—it must be exclusive. No other confidence, no confidence in the flesh, can exist alongside it (Philippians 3:3). Man with all his pride feels that he wants something to lean on. As a fallen being, he naturally leans on his own understanding and on himself. Human power is his idol. His understanding is his God. Many people would prefer to have a lack of principle, rather than a lack of talent. This is the history of man from the Fall on; this is the lamentable sin of every person created by God. Do we need to call this the sin of youth? How rare it is to see the younger submitting to the elder (1 Peter 5:5). If advice is sought, is it not just to confirm what has already been decided?
Those who refuse to lean on their own understanding are those who trust in the LORD. For they are trusting in his divine power and are using it as a lamp, so they can find their way. The Christian on his knees, as if he throws away his own understanding, confesses that he is completely unable to find a way by himself. But observe how he behaves. He takes trouble to improve his mind. He conscientiously follows its dictates. In this way practical faith strengthens, not destroys, its power.
So it is our clear duty, not to neglect our understanding, but to cultivate it diligently. In a world where knowledge abounds, ignorance is the fruit of laziness. So lean not on your own understanding. Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Self-dependence is foolishness (28:26), rebellion (Jeremiah 2:13; 9:23), and ruin (Genesis 3:5-6; Isaiah 47:10-11). “The great folly of man in trials,” as Dr. [John] Owen has rightly remarked, “is leaning to or on his own understanding and counsels. What is the result of this? Whenever in our trials we consult our own understanding, listen to our own reason, even though they appear to be good, the principle of living by faith is stifled, and we will in this way be led down by our own councils.”
The next thing to note is that our trust should be constant: in all your ways acknowledge him. Take one step at a time, and make sure that each step is under God's direction. Always make your plans in total dependence on God. It is nothing short of self-idolatry to imagine that we can carry out even the ordinary matters of daily life without God's counsel. God loves to be consulted. Therefore, take all your difficulties to him. Before you consult your friends, consult God.
In all your ways. This includes the small things as well as the big things. In all your concerns, temporal or eternal, let God be supreme. Have we not all found the unimaginable peace of taking to God things that seem too small or personal to be entrusted to the most confidential ear? In this way, Abraham acknowledged God. Wherever he pitched his tent for himself, he always built an altar for God (Genesis 12:7; 13:18).
He will make your paths straight. If we go to the Lord every morning in true humility, knowing that we do not know how to order our day, light will come down to us. We're not looking for new revelations or visible signs. Study the Word with prayer, and note how God's Spirit sheds light on it. Make sure that your will is ready to move in the direction God indicates No step well prayed over will be bring ultimate regret.
(Proverbs by Charles Bridges, The Crossway Classical Commentaries, pp. 26-27.) Excerpt used with permission.
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