Someone commented recently, asking if Proverbs 3:5 means that we should not rely on intellectual understanding of God, but rather, open ourselves to some new revelation of God. I fully reject this mystic notion of knowing God apart from intellect.
Proverbs has 32 verses that talk about ‘understanding.’ In 3:5 it says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.”
The key there is one’s own understanding. 3:13 expounds, “Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding,” And 15:14 says, “The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge…”
Of course anyone can play verse roulette with a concordance. It’s a dangerous and foolish game with a gun, and can be pretty precarious with the Bible.
It’s better to see what the word means in the context. It’s clear from the verse that there is one’s own understanding … elsewhere there is the understanding and wisdom of man, which cannot avail against God (Proverbs 21:30).
So, we shouldn’t trust our own understanding, and we should trust in the Lord. But, does that mean we shouldn’t think, or use our intellect in this process?
No, I don’t think so. I’ll explain.
Suppose a man and woman meet and they have that spark of attraction with each other. They don’t know each other’s history, character or any other meaningful information, but they love each other. In the world’s culture, those two should follow their feelings and let “nature take its course.” It’s a “beautiful thing,” according to the world’s romantics.
Unfortunately, that feeling doesn’t last. Sooner or later, each person’s character shines through, for better or worse. Suddenly, the image each had created for the other is replaced with pieces of that person’s actual personality, shattering their emotional bliss.
That would be trust minus intellect.
Rather, we are called to trust in the Lord on the basis of His character, His nature, His name!
Let’s get to the context of that verse:
My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you. Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man. Proverbs 3:1-4
Or the verse following it:
In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones. Proverbs 3:6-8
The passage calls us to abandon our foolish, worldly mind with all its rebellion and foolishness (being wise in our own eyes) and fear the Lord, turning from evil, being healed by God. We’re to keep God’s commandments!
God would never tell someone who has studied His word to forget or let go of everything they think they know in favor of some experience.
God is the author of wisdom and understanding. He calls us to ask for wisdom, and He’ll give it to us.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” James 1:5
“For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” Proverbs 2:6
“Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart.” Psalms 119:34
And with Psalms we’re back to trusting God and observing His law … with our whole heart!
I’m certain that no one comes to faith without a deep, heartfelt understanding of their sinfulness. Nobody repents until they are faced with the horror of their wicked condition and need for forgiveness which they don’t deserve.
The sinner must return to God, falling at His feet and offering to be as a servant, not a son. And the beautiful love of our Father is that He has paid the price of our rebellion so that we can be called sons and daughters.
The great cost paid, we should respond with eternal love and fear. Love at the thought of the character and nature of God is such that He bore our punishment, opening the door to us. Fear that we would do anything to dishonor that great payment.
We wouldn’t have that understanding without our intellect.