Man's goings are of the LORD; how can a man then understand his own way?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Man’s goings are of the Lord.—Comp. Jeremiah 10:23 and the collect, “O God, from whom . . . all just works do proceed.”Proverbs 20:24. Man’s goings are of the Lord — All men’s purposes and actions are so entirely subject to the control of God’s overruling providence, and so liable to be frustrated or changed, as he shall see good, and to be directed to ends so far distant from those they thought of and intended, that it is impossible for any man to know what shall be the event of any of his undertakings. The intention of this proverb is, to show that the events of human life are neither ordered nor foreseen by man’s, but only by God’s providence; and therefore that men should only mind to do their duty, and then quietly depend upon God for a good issue to their endeavours.
a man—any common man.
understand—or, "perceive."Man’s goings, all men’s purposes and actions,
are of the Lord; are ordered and overruled by God’s wise and powerful providence to accomplish his own counsel and good pleasure, and not what men list or intend.
His own way; either,
1. What course he ought to take; which he cannot know without God’s direction and assistance: compare Proverbs 16:9 Jeremiah 10:23. Or,
2. What is the issue of his designs will be, whether they shall succeed or be disappointed; the way being taken for the end or event to which it leads, as it is in many other places. The scope of the proverb is to show that all the events of human life are neither ordered nor foreseen by man’s, but only by God’s providence, and therefore men should only mind the doing of their duty, and then quietly depend upon God for a good issue to their endeavours. 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.Man's goings are of the LORD; how can a man then understand his own way?
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)24. Comp. Proverbs 16:9; Jeremiah 10:23.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).
And with prudent government make war.
From the conception of a thought, practically influencing the formation of our own life and the life of the community, to its accomplishment there is always a long way which does not lead to the end unless one goes forward with counsel and strength combined, and considers all means and eventualities. The Niph. of כּוּן means, in a passive sense: to be accomplished or realized (Psalm 141:2). The clause 18a is true for times of war as well as for times of peace; war is disastrous, unless it is directed with strategic skill (vid., regarding תּחבּות, Proverbs 1:5). Grotius compares the proverb, Γνῶμαι πλέον δρατοῦσιν ἢ σθένος χειρῶν. In Proverbs 24:6, the necessity of counsel is also referred to the case of war. Ewald would read [the infin.] עשׂה, or עשׂה: with management it is that one carries on war. But why? Because to him the challenge to carry on war appears to be contrary to the spirit of proverbial poetry. But the author of the proverb does certainly mean: if thou hast to carry on war, carry it on with the skill of a general; and the imper. is protected by Proverbs 24:6 against that infin., which is, besides, stylistically incongruous.
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