[...] and they say, “The Lord does not see; the God of Jacob does not perceive.”
Understand, O dullest of the people! Fools, when will you be wise?
He who planted the ear, does he not hear? He who formed the eye, does he not see?
He who disciplines the nations, does he not rebuke? He who teaches man knowledge -
the Lord - knows the thoughts of man, that they are but a breath.
Many people think that their actions don’t have any consequences beyond what they immediately see. They think that they can do whatever they want as long as they properly “manage the risks”, or prevent others from finding out. We know that God clearly says the opposite: He who planted the ear, does he not hear? He who formed the eye, does he not see? (v. 9) God hears, God sees, God knows. This isn’t that surprising - after all, he repeats it over and over.
The more interesting (and frightening) verse is this: […] the Lord knows the thoughts of man, that they are but a breath. (v. 11) Not only does he know everything that we think about, he knows that we cannot ponder, plan, achieve anything meaningful! The Septuaginta uses
futile to translate “a breath”. We are his creatures and he allows or disallows our thoughts and actions by his will. Any attempt to overrule the Lord of hosts is bound to fail, as the Bible keeps showing us. A lot of time passed between the tower of Babel and the Cross, but Satan himself never got his will - why then should we, who are much less than Satan, get ours?
This seems depressing at first, but it’s really just humbling (and we hate being humbled, right?). This passage doesn’t stop here, it continues with the acknowledgement of a very heartening promise:
Blessed is the man whom you discipline, O Lord, and whom you teach out of your law,
to give him rest from days of trouble, until a pit is dug for the wicked.
While all our thoughts are futile, our Lord and saviour disciplines us and instructs us through his word. If we humble ourselves unto him, kneel at the cross in desperation, he will raise us up. The good news is that all our trouble, every battle we face and every hardship we suffer serves the purpose to lead us to the cross. The promises about discipline are a common theme in the bible, as the very idea of educating our sons mirrors the heavenly discipline:
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” (Hebrews 12:6)
It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? (Hebrews 12:7)
For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:11)
Once we embrace that God humbles us, he leads us, renews our hearts and uses us for his glory. We won’t regret letting ourselves be filled by his grace! When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul. (v. 19)
Be warned, however: If we refuse to humble ourselves and grumble, attacking the Lord and his superior wisdom about our lives, or simply go on to live our lives like he doesn’t exist, he has more to say still:
He will bring back on them their iniquity and wipe them out for their wickedness; the Lord our God will wipe them out. (v. 23)
Take heed, lest you will perish in the end… It really isn’t worth it!