There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand.
As another year dawns upon us, many devices will be found within our hearts. Solomon, of course, is not talking about devices of the medical kind, but of the scheming kind. People devise many schemes. Some of them seem almost certain to materialize, while others will almost certainly not do so. Who can tell what will become of our plans?
Although the plans of men are uncertain, this coming year holds no uncertainty whatsoever from God’s perspective. That is because the New Year, Anno Domini 2014, like every year before it and every year to follow, is the year of our Lord Jesus Christ, who bought us with His precious blood. We belong to Him, and A.D. 2014 belongs to Him.
His unchangeable plan, based on His infinite wisdom, and brought to pass by His Sovereign rule, shall certainly stand. That is our comfort as we contemplate the future!
Many are the devices in a man’s heart! The number of plans and purposes are at least as many and varied as the people who make them. Everyone devises plans.
As the year 2014 stands before us, we might have all kinds of plans in our hearts: plans to marry and have children, plans to move house, plans to expand the business, plans to add to the retirement account, plans to take a vacation, or plans to graduate from high school or college. Like the man in the epistle of James, we might say, “To day or tomorrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain” ().
By contrasting man’s devices with God’s counsel, Solomon purposes to show that our plans are uncertain. It is not at all sure that our plans will come to pass.
In the first place, our plans are not at all certain because circumstances change. Many plans will not come
to pass at all because of obstacles that stand in the way. There can never be any certainty about our plans because, ultimately, we do not have control over our circumstances. Any number of emergencies might sidetrack the best laid plans.
In the second place, even if there were no obstacles standing in the way of our plans, we might still decide to alter or abandon them. That’s because, in our limited wisdom, we often fail to give adequate attention to all the facts. A new piece of information may present itself, or we may simply have failed to give proper attention to some of the particulars.
In the third place, our plans often fail to materialize because they are carried out in our human weakness. Even mighty Nebuchadnezzar could not guarantee that he would remain in power over Babylon. In one day God took him down from his mighty position and drove him from society to eat grass like an ox (cf.). As strong as we imagine ourselves to be, we are not strong enough to control our future.
We simply do not know what a day will bring, much less a year. All our plans can be demolished in a moment. We could be involved in a car accident today. Our house could burn down tonight. We could be diagnosed with terminal cancer tomorrow. “Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away” (). As thoughtful and diligent as we might be in the pursuit of our plans, nothing is guaranteed.
In stark contrast to the many and uncertain plans of men stands the one absolutely certain plan of God: “nevertheless the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand.”
God’s counsel is His careful deliberation in eternity, according to which He governs the universe and everything in it. Central to God’s counsel is His plan to gather a people for Himself in Jesus Christ. From His act of creating all things, to His preservation of the creation, to His bringing history to the final day, everything hangs on God’s counsel in Christ.
God’s counsel shall stand!
To “stand” in the original literally means to rise up—the idea being that God’s counsel will not be frustrated. It will not be kept down. It will certainly come to fruition. “Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure” (). God does not say, “I will try to do my pleasure”; rather, He says, “I will do my pleasure.” Nor will God simply do part of His pleasure; He will do all of it.
How can we be so sure about the accomplishment of God’s counsel? We can be sure that God’s counsel shall stand, in the first place, because it is the counsel of the Lord, who never changes. Jehovah, the Great I AM, is completely independent of the creature. He is not a God who reacts to the creature, changing from one minute to the next; rather, He governs the creature. He never changes His will, but He wills changes to occur. Thankfully, Jehovah changes not; otherwise the church of Jesus Christ would have been consumed long ago (cf.).
In the second place, God’s counsel shall stand because He has formed it in His perfect wisdom. God knows all things, and He knows exactly how to accomplish His plans. Nor is He ever surprised by new developments such that He needs to alter His plans. Notice, in that connection, that Solomon does not speak of many counsels (plural) in God’s heart. Instead, he refers to the singular “counsel.” God doesn’t have contingency plans; He doesn’t try to accomplish plan A, and if that fails, go to plan B. The fall of Adam into sin did not force God to follow an alternative counsel that brought Jesus Christ into the picture. Rather, God’s wisdom saw the end from the beginning and every point in between.
In the third place, God’s counsel shall stand because He carries it out by His almighty hand. No man or angel or any force or phenomenon in all creation is able to thwart God’s counsel. Nothing is too hard for God (). If God by His mighty power created the heavens and the earth, if He commands the winds and the waves to obey Him (cf. ), if He turns the hearts of kings wherever He desires (cf. ), then Jehovah is certainly able to accomplish His counsel.
God’s counsel shall stand! What a contrast to the changeable, weak, and ignorant devices of men.
Solomon speaks of man’s devices and God’s counsel. By speaking of them, as it were in the same breath, he means to indicate that there is a certain relationship between the two. What is that relationship? Just this: man’s devices serve God’s counsel! Or to put it another way, God’s counsel includes and makes use of man’s devices.
A good example of that truth is found in the history of Joseph. The child of God rejoices to hear how God used the wickedness of Joseph’s brothers, the wickedness of Potiphar’s wife, and so many other circumstances to give Joseph the rule over Egypt. When Joseph speaks of that history he freely testifies that, “ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good” ().
Even more significant is God’s counsel with regard to Jesus Christ. The Jews meant evil against Jesus. Judas betrayed Jesus in wicked greed. Jesus was crucified and slain by wicked hands. But behind these wicked actions was “the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God” (). Such horrible wickedness, and yet it was used by God for our salvation.
Although the wicked will continue their schemes against God and His church, and although the Antichrist himself will someday establish his earthly kingdom, nevertheless God rules over all things in order to accomplish His glorious counsel. The devices of the wicked serve the overarching counsel of God. Not a creature can stir without God’s will.
As regards our particular circumstances this coming year, we must know that God’s counsel shall stand. God will use the most difficult of trials to draw us, to loosen our grip on the things of this world, and to bring us closer to Himself. He will overrule even the smallest of circumstances to accomplish our sanctification. Whether we meet with riches or poverty, health or sickness, peace or turmoil, the counsel of Jehovah shall stand. God will turn all things for the good of His church.
In His singular counsel, God leaves nothing to chance. He determines how much rain and snow will fall; He determines when and where the next war will occur; He determines the economy of nations. Of course, men’s devices enter into the picture. But God’s counsel reigns supreme.
Knowing the certainty of God’s counsel ought to give us great comfort in the circumstances of this coming year. What a comfort to confess, “Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory” (). What a comfort to know, “the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand.”