Streams of Water
Proverbs 21:1 (ESV) – The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.
We don’t always know why the LORD does what He does in the world. We can only appeal to His wisdom and recognize that He is God and we are not. Why does He allow a Hitler to be born and rise to power? Why does He permit the communist revolution in Russia and the rise of Lenin and Stalin? We could survey world history and ask a lot of “why” questions to God about His will in the world.
Many like to say that God is not over things like in my example above. But that creates quite the theological mess. The Scriptures teach that God is over all things. Nothing can come to pass without passing through the counsel of His will (Ephesians 1:11). That means whether He decrees it all or permits things to happen, He is still willing that things happen. In fact, our passage today serves as one of those texts that forces us to recognize that God is in control of it all. We read in Proverbs 21:1, “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.”
Notice it doesn’t say that the kings who serve the LORD are in His hands. No, it is every king. The hearts of kings are like channels of water. He can turn them wherever He wills. The point of the passage is to demonstrate God’s omnipotence. He is above the highest earthly power. The kings of the world are not independent or autonomous from God. He is over them. He can turn their hearts whatever direction He chooses.
This naturally raises the question: why does He turn them one direction over another direction? God can turn their hearts, so why does He allow kings to rule with wickedness instead of righteousness? Why doesn’t He turn all of their hearts towards good? We cannot answer these questions with any particular conclusions other than God’s ways and plans are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8). We don’t know what God knows. We don’t see what He sees. He knows the beginning from the end. We see only what is in front of us.
How do believers respond to a passage like today’s? We should humbly resign ourselves to God’s wisdom and goodness. We don’t need to know, understand, or even approve of God’s ways in order to trust Him.
Faithfulness as a believer doesn’t stem from approving of the LORD’s ways in the world. It comes from recognizing that He has divine prerogative to do all He pleases. Submit to Him. Never lose heart. Our God rules over all, even the kings.
Reflection & Journal:
- Why does this passage comfort some and disturb others?
- What is the most difficult thing about this text for you to wrestle with?
- How should faithful believers see this text and reconcile their difficult questions?
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