5Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
6In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
The proverb to end all proverbs: this covers really what it means to know and serve God and what living by faith really means.
The first section is itself made up of two quatrains (vv. 5–6, 7–8). Garret in the “The New American Commentary” series states the connection well, “The command to trust God ‘with all your heart’ means that the total personality is to be committed to God’s care, although it emphasizes the mind and volition. The prohibitions against depending on one’s own understanding and against intellectual pride (vv. 5b, 7a) implicitly reject a ‘secular’ search for wisdom and look back to the thesis of the book (1:7).” (*see below) Much like the Shema of Deuteronomy 6:4-5, loving God is always reflected in what you do. The “trust in the Lord” section is revealed in acknowledging Him in all your ways and by “faith” you believe He will make your ways straight. This is the theme throughout Scripture (Old and New Testaments) but culminating in Hebrews 11 in those who walked by faith. The “trust” mentioned by the author is usually revealed in those who “are trusting” in difficult circumstances. In Ecclesiastes 7:13, Solomon defines all circumstances in that God makes the times of prosperity and the times of adversity, so we really can’t get a read on what’s going on just because of our current situation. The point is, God normally usually uses adversity to get our undivided attention. This exposes what it really means to “walk by faith”. It is easy to say “we are trusting God, we are walking by faith” when we are living in prosperity but in the times of adversity…not so much. Our poster children in Hebrews 11 lived in caves, destitute and the Author states they were commended by “being sure of what they hoped for and certain of what they could not see” (11:1). The Author of Hebrews states “they all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.”(11:13) This, as in the case of our proverb would call into question the “leaning on our own understanding”. Why would we live lives of destitution, not receiving what we have been promised and call that living by faith? The Author of Hebrews answers your question in verse 40. “since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.” They knew their true reward would be given when they were glorified. The Author continues as He uses the perfect Example, Jesus (Heb 12:1-2), who is “the Founder and Perfecter of our faith”.
So with all Scripture we ask 2 questions: What have I done and what do I need to do? So are we not leaning on our own understanding? Are we acknowledging God in all our ways? Are we walking by faith in difficult situations? Then I’m convinced based on the Surety of His Sovereign hand that we will be living lives that are pleasing to Him.
*Garrett, D. A. (1993). Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of songs (Vol. 14, pp. 80–81). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.