|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
20:23. A bargain made by fraud will prove a losing bargain in the end. 24. How can we form plans, and conduct business, independently of the Lord? 25. The evasions men often use with their own consciences show how false and deceitful man is. 26. Justice should crush the wicked, and separate them from the virtuous. 27. The rational soul and conscience are as a lamp within us, which should be used in examining our dispositions and motives with the revealed will of God. 28. Mercy and truth are the glories of God's throne. 29. Both young and old have their advantages; and let neither despise or envy the other.
Verse 24. - Man's goings are of the Lord. In the first clause the word for "man" is geber, which implies "a mighty man;" in the second clause the word is adam, "a human creature." So the Septuagint has ἀνὴρ in one clause and θνητὸς in the other. The proverb says that the steps of a great and powerful man depend, as their final cause, upon the Lord; he conditions and controls results. Man has free will, and is responsible for his actions, but God foreknows them, and holds the thread that connects them together; he gives preventing grace; he gives efficient grace: and man blindly works out the designs of Omnipotence according as he obeys or resists. A similar maxim is found in Psalm 37:23, "A man's goings are established of the Lord," but the meaning there is that it is God's aid which enables a man to do certain actions. Here we have very much the same intimation that is found in Proverbs 2:6 and Proverbs 19:21; and see note on Proverbs 16:9. Hence arises the old prayer used formerly at prime, and inserted now (with some omissions) at the end of the Anglican Communion Service: "O almighty Lord, and everlasting God, vouchsafe, we beseech thee, to direct, sanctify, and govern, both our hearts and bodies, our thoughts, words, and actions, in the ways of thy laws, and in the works of thy commandments; that through thy most mighty protection we may be preserved both here and forever." If man cannot see all sides, as God does, cannot comprehend the beginning, middle, and end in one view, how then can a man (a weak mortal) understand his own ways. How can he find out of himself whither he should go, or what will be the issue of his doings (comp. Proverbs 16:25; Jeremiah 10:23)? St. Gregory, "It is well said by Solomon [Ecclesiastes 9:1], 'There are righteous and wise men, and their works are in the hand of God; and yet no man knoweth whether he is deserving of love or of hatred; but all things are kept uncertain for the time to come.' Hence it is said again by the same Solomon, 'What man will be able to understand his own way?' And any one doing good or evil is doubtless known by the testimony of his own conscience. But it is said that their own way is not known to men, for this reason, because, even if a man understands that he is acting rightly, yet he knows not, under the strict inquiry, whither he is going" ('Moral.,' 29:34).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Man's goings are of the Lord,.... In a natural and literal sense, the instruments of going are of the Lord; the act of motion from place to place is not without the concourse of his providence; as in him we live, and move, and have our being, so "in and by him we move"; he preserves our going out and coming in; and as the preservation, so the success and prosperity of journeying are owing to his providence, and the whole is under his care and direction: and so likewise, in a civil sense, all the civil concerns, business, and actions of life, are guided by his providence; there is a time for every purpose under heaven, and the success of all depends on a divine blessing; and things are with every man in civil life according to the providence of God, and as it is his pleasure they should be; and it is by him they are directed to take this and the other step, the issue of which is according to his will: and this may be applied to men's goings in a spiritual and religious sense; faith, which is properly a man's going to Christ as a perishing sinner for pardon and cleansing, for righteousness and life, for food and rest, and eternal salvation, is not of a man's self, it is of God; it is his gift, and of his operation; no man can go to Christ in this way unless it be given him of God, or he is drawn by his grace, John 6:35; and all spiritual actions which flew from hence are by the grace of God, and under his influence and direction; as walking in the path of truth, it is the Lord that teaches it, causes to choose it, leads into it, and preserves there; walking in the statutes and ordinances of the Lord, and in the ways of righteousness and holiness, is of him, and owing to his Spirit puts within his people; and indeed all good works done by them, which may be called their goings, he has foreordained that they should walk in them; it is by the grace of God, and in the strength of Christ, and with the assistance of the blessed Spirit, they walk on in them; and their perseverance in faith and holiness, or their going from strength to strength, is all of the Lord;
how can a man then understand his own way? even of a journey in a literal sense, what will be the issue and event of it, when or whether ever he shall return to his own house again, since all is under the direction and providence of God; and also of his civil affairs, he knows his beginning, and how he goes on for the present; but what will be the end he knows not; and a natural and unregenerate man knows not what way he is in, where he is going, and what his last end will be; being in darkness, in which he was born, brought up, and continues, he does not rightly understand what is his duty, what he should do, what is the good and perfect will of God, what the way is in which he should go, and which is for his good; nor the way everlasting, which leads to eternal life, few find this way. Or it may be understood of the way of the Lord, "how can a man then understand his way?" the Lord's way, not man's; the way of the Lord in providence, which is as the deep, and unsearchable; and the way of life and salvation by Christ, which is of the Lord's devising and resolving on; this way of peace, pardon, righteousness, and eternal life, is not known by the natural man; and when it is externally revealed in the word, and by the outward ministry of it, it is not understood so as to be approved of, but is despised, unless God gives a heart to know it, or a spiritual and experimental understanding of it.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
24. Man's goings—literally, "Stately steppings of a strong man."
a man—any common man.
Proverbs 20:24 Parallel Commentaries
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