The Bible was divided into chapters in the 13th century, and into verses in the 16th century. Most of the chapters in Proverbs contain about 25 to 35 verses, and sometimes the opening verse is indicative of the chapter’s general theme.
Proverbs 16 is one such chapter. The first and last verses (vv. 1, 33) have the same theme: the sovereignty of God.
Unlike animals which are driven by instinct, human beings have the ability and reasoning to make plans (vv. 1, 9). But it is the Lord, who knows the motive behind our plans, and who determines their outcome (vv. 1-2); our plans will come through only if God allows it. God’s oversight is further emphasised in verse 4: ″The Lord works out everything to its proper end″, reminding us that it is wise to commit our plans to Him (v. 3).
In Old Testament times, God’s people often used the ″lot″ (v. 33) to discern God’s guidance. Small stones were cast, and the result was considered to be an answer from the Lord. To the people of Israel, it was God-and not chance-who ruled in all things. With the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, however, casting of the lot was no longer seen as necessary; it was last used to choose Matthias to replace Judas in Acts 1:26.
In Proverbs 16:10-15, Solomon continues on the subject of rule, but now speaks of earthly kings.
As the king of Israel, Solomon knew that kings were meant to be representatives of God, and their words were thus authoritative (v. 10). Kings therefore must not betray justice, but establish righteousness and honesty (vv. 12-13). As they have the ability to bring happiness or misery to their people (vv. 14-15), they have great responsibility. They should stand against the scoundrel (v. 27), the perverse (v. 28), the violent (v. 29), and the schemer (v. 30).
How happy Israel must have been to have such a wise king in Solomon! Unfortunately, the best of men are, ultimately, men at best. Solomon’s downfall came through his love of foreign women, showing that those who rule are subject to extraordinary temptation.
We may complain and criticise those in power, but do we pray for them? We need to pray regularly for those who rule us (see 1 Timothy 2:1-2). Pray for justice to be done through them (Proverbs 16:10); for them to be humble (v. 18), which can be difficult for those in exalted positions; and for them to recognise that the Lord reigns, even over kings (vv. 1, 33).
Earthly rulers are God’s servants (Romans 13:4, 6). Have you been praying for them? Commit them to the Lord in prayer today.
According to theologian John Calvin, the most important truth is ″that God governs the whole world by His care″. What evidence can you see of this truth each day? What plans do you need to submit to God’s providential care today?