Our Ways Before the Lord
“For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the Lord, and he ponders all his paths.”- Proverbs 5:21
In our study of the various biblical proverbs that promise success for the righteous and destruction for the wicked, we have emphasized the need to be careful to read these sayings as general principles that are usually—but not always—fulfilled on this side of glory. In other words, there are exceptions. The righteous suer and the wicked seem to enjoy great blessing. Ultimately, those proverbs that promise great rewards for the righteous and great punishment for the wicked are fulfilled, for in the new heaven and earth, all of those who have been declared righteous in Christ will enjoy eternal life in the renewed creation while the wicked will suer eternal death in the lake of fire (Rev. 20:11–21:27).
To the extent that the book of Proverbs points to the fulfillment of its sayings in the afterlife, it does so somewhat indirectly, for it does not explicitly reveal the nature of heaven and hell. Instead, Proverbs bears more of an implicit witness to the life that is to come and the final realization of God’s blessing in the new creation through an emphasis on God’s attributes of omniscience and omnipresence. For example, Proverbs 15:3 tells us that the eyes of the Lord are everywhere in order to watch over those who do evil and those who do good. This indicates that even when no one else sees our actions, God remains fully aware of our every step and keeps a record. Today’s passage makes much the same point, reminding us that our ways are always “before the eyes of the Lord” (Prov. 5:21).
Proverbs 5:21 shows us that our Creator’s watchfulness does not consist merely in passive observance. God actually “ponders” all of our paths. In a manner similar to how we consider and evaluate what we see, the Lord thinks on and judges all that He sees. What we do, say, think, and feel are not matters of passing concern for the great Judge of the universe. Instead, He considers all of these things with a focused intent. The tense of the verb ponders in Hebrew suggests constant, ongoing action. God never ceases to scrutinize us, so there is no chance that He will overlook anything.
Much of Proverbs 5 is concerned with adultery, a sin that is committed in secret, so v. 21 stresses that even what we think we are doing in secret is seen by the Lord. This is bad news for sinners, and so we are doomed unless we turn to Christ for forgiveness and justification (Rom. 3:21–26). Yet it is good news for God’s faithful servants. It means that on the last day, the Lord will not forget any of the good things we have done in Christ.
The good that we do will not save us; only the perfect righteousness of Christ can do that. However, the Lord is still pleased to reward His people for what they do in serving Jesus. Since God ponders our paths, we know that He sees all of the good that we do in Jesus’ name, so even if it is not recognized now, it will be recognized on the last day. We can be content to let much of our service remain secret because we know the One who sees in secret will reward us (Matt. 6:4).
Passages for Further Study
1 Corinthians 4:5