Today the world is dominated by information producers and seekers. We live in an information age where data and intellectual content are valued commodities (property). Valuable information consists of organized thoughts and ideas that often express a plan or procedure necessary for producing something.
When Solomon compiled and wrote the book of Proverbs most employment was agriculturally oriented. It was manual labor. Only the wealthiest experienced the luxury of contemplating philosophy and theology. Few books were written compared with today’s publishing endeavors. Speaking your thoughts was not commonly considered work (unless you were a Greek philosopher or a teacher). Actions constituted work. Thoughts expressed in hopeful plans were considered only works yet to be done.
Yet, this verse strikes at the very heart of a man of action in any age.
Proverbs 16:3 is translated in the New King James Version of the Bible as, “Commit your works to the LORD, And your thoughts will be established.” Let me provide an original translation that slightly expands the meaning of the Hebrew words. This fresh translation is designed to highlight the primary ideas behind the Hebrew terms.
“Commit to the LORD the works you hope to accomplish,
and your future thoughtful plans will come about.”
Commit Your Plans to the LORD
Solomon was communicating the importance of committing one’s thoughts, works, and plans to Yahweh. He uses God’s personal name in this proverb. The LORD is the individual to whom men are to commit their future activities. And, this is a command—not a suggestion. The word “commit” (“gol” in Hebrew) is in the imperative form. And the Hebrew word “el” is a preposition indicating to whom that commitment is required. It is necessary that a man commits his works “to the LORD” if he wants those works to have lasting effects.
Oddly, in a manual-labor culture, the word works doesn’t always refer to things a man has completed. In this case, it refers to plans he has yet to accomplish. And, there is a future sense to this proverb. It refers to what a man is about to do, or what he is planning to accomplish in the near future. God is interested in what a man is willing to commit to so he can accomplish what his heart desires.
The word commit (“gol”) carries with it a word picture of rolling a great stone over a cave so that it entraps a person (Josh 10:18). Joshua experienced a great military victory over five Amorite kings. They hid in a cave hoping Joshua’s men wouldn’t find them. They were found and Joshua told his soldiers to roll (“gol”) large rocks up to the mouth of the cave to seal them in and to post guards so no one would release them.
Rolling the stones in front of the cave committed the kings to their doom. The kings were committed to the cave as they couldn’t escape. While the kings were confined, their armies were without leadership and quickly destroyed by Joshua’s forces. The five king’s military hopes of success and plans to subject Israel to slavery were foiled.
This story is one of the few Old Testament accounts connected to a miracle. Joshua prayed to the LORD to give him time to defeat Israel’s enemies. He asked God to cause the sun to stand still and the moon to stop circling the earth. They did, producing an extra full day for the battle. This allowed Joshua’s army time to win the war. After the battle, the kings were brought out of the cave and executed for their crimes.
This story typologically illustrates the battle Jesus experienced when it appeared he was unable to save himself or anyone else from death as he suffered on the cross. He died and was placed in a tomb. A large rock was rolled over the entrance committing him to death and defeat. And, a Roman guard was posted so thieves wouldn’t come and steal the body. The devil hoped to do to Jesus what Joshua had done to the five kings.
Joshua told his army commanders to place their feet on the necks of the kings as a sign of humiliation and total defeat. The victory was ultimately a display of God fulfilling his promise to Israel that he would defeat their enemies. The humiliation of the kings encouraged faith, strength, and courage in Joshua’s leadership that when military plans are committed to God they will succeed.
In the case of Jesus, the opposite was true. The devil failed to be a Joshua (savior figure). Instead of the devil winning the battle over redeeming humans he was banished. He wanted Jesus’ death on a cross and burial in a tomb to show he was greater than Christ. He wanted to place his foot on the neck of Jesus to humiliate him before the cosmos. He thought he had won the battle and that Jesus was now a failed savior. But none of that happened.
Jesus, being committed to a “cave,” resulted in the humiliation of Satan. Jesus rose from the dead. The devil might have bruised Jesus’ heal, but Jesus fulfilled the ancient prophecy of crushing the devils head with his resurrection (Gen 3:15b). Jesus didn’t hide in the tomb to escape death. He willingly entered the realm of the dead to defeat it. When the stone was rolled away by an angel Jesus had already robbed death of its victory. Jesus’ salvation plan was committed (“gol”) to his Father and for that reason, it succeeded.
Work Includes Planning
There is a parallel structure in this proverb using two words: works and thoughts. The Hebrew word for works is “ma’aseh” and the word for thoughts is “machashabah.” A “ma’aseh” generally refers to a deed or work, while “machashabah” usually means a plan or purpose. Although the two words refer to two different ideas, they are used in parallel in this proverb indicating they refer to the same thing. Works are the future hopes and plans a man wants to accomplish.
Provers 16:3 also has a future sense to it. It’s a command to commit the works of future plans (“machashabah”) to God and when we do this success is assured. The Hebrew word translated succeed (“koon”) is in the Hebrew Niphal tense indicating a passive sense to the verb. Works committed to God will succeed with the same assurance that, just as Jesus was sealed in the tomb and would rise and defeat demonic adversaries because God ensures the victory, so, our plans to honor and obey the LORD will happen because God will cause them to succeed.
This promise extends to our plans and goals, and what we think and hope, too. When they belong to God they have assured success. Peter encouraged the Church to “cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Pet 5:7). Our anxious thoughts, our fears of failure, our trepidation that bad is around the corner are to be placed on the strong shoulders of the risen Christ who is able to carry them (Mt 11:30).
The man who delights in God’s law is firmly planted with ample resources for accomplishing God’s will (Ps 1:3). He will yield fruit and prosper. A man’s concerns and burdens must be cast (Heb. “shalak”), that is, thrown down, given up, surrendered to God, if he hopes that God will sustain him so he doesn’t fall (Ps 55:22). When God’s favor (grace) rests upon a man, the works of his hands are established (“koon”). They will become lasting and meaningful accomplishments (Ps 90:17).
God establishes what he wants to be accomplished. Our responsibility before God is two-fold: 1) we are to commit our works and thoughts to him and 2) we are to make our works and thoughts his works and thoughts. When this happens, results are guaranteed.
Contrasted with the wicked person who is unstable, his thoughts, works, and plans can’t be established and will not last because they originated from wickedness (Pr 12:3). Wickedness (Heb “resha”) is the doing of wrong, especially referring to morally bad behavior. It’s wrong because it’s contrary to God’s thoughts, works, and plans.
Proverbs 16:3 is a typical two-part proverb. It first mentions a man’s responsibility before God regarding his thoughts, works, and plans. We are to commit them to our personal Savior God. Second, if we do, the consequences brought about by that commitment will be the doing of God’s will and God’s will always succeeds—even against huge demonic forces.
Pray in Jesus’ Name
Don’t use this verse to baptize your personal desires and dreams. The promise is for those thoughts, works, and plans that are for the glory of God and align with his thoughts, works, and plans. The promise does not assure selfish desires will be fulfilled.
Jesus taught there was a qualifier that made plans and goals successful. We are to pray in his name (Jn 14:14). Praying in Jesus’ name means asking the Father for what Jesus wants. It’s the same thing Solomon taught when he commanded that we commit our works to Yahweh. It means aligning our hopes and desires with the LORD’s. We are to ask God for Jesus’ ministry to be successful in us as it was in him (Rev 2:13).
Commit everything you do to the Lord. Make his plans your plans, his actions what you are engaging, his thoughts what drives your thinking, and his desires what you long for. When you do, those thoughts, works, and plans will succeed because they are solidly grounded in God’s promise to accomplish his will in and through you (Psalm 40:8; Jn 14:12).