33 The lot is cast into the lap,
But its every decision is from the Lord.
21 There are many plans in a man’s heart,
Nevertheless the Lord’s counsel—that will stand.
It always seems to be the small stuff that will make or break you. Married couples know this, as they struggle to get along on a day-to-day basis. Sure, “big” issues, such as money, sex, and the raising of children can cause moments of friction, but Married couples relate to each other in a ballet of small things:
How can she possibly like this show?
Why won’t he put his laundry in the hamper?
Can she not replace the trash bag properly?
Why doesn’t he use a coaster?
Hey brother, that was her mother’s table, so you had better grab a koozie for that sweaty can, because right now she is mentally dividing your possessions.
There is a saying (a proverb, if you will) that has entered the phraseology of western culture during the last century:
The devil is in the details.
It is a phrase uttered during long, tedious board meeting discussions concerning the development of policies. It is the anthem of the wedding planner, the event coordinator, and the crime scene investigator.
It evokes an image of Old Scratch, himself, in his red long johns, bifurcated tail, carrying his hay fork, and going over the font size on 800 wedding invitations. Judging by the number of wedding ceremonies gone wrong on “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” there may be some truth to this.
However, this proverb, curiously, may have had a very different origin from which it developed. When German-born architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe passed away in 1969, his obituary in the New York Times contained a description of the style of his work, and a phrase that Mies often used:
Apart from simplicity of form, what struck students of Mies's buildings was their painstaking craftsmanship, their attention to detail.
"God is in the details," Mies liked to say.
Mies architectural style was stark, simple, and painstakingly planned out. Along with fellow architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies was a pioneer in the Modernist style that captivated the western world after the destructiveness of World War One.
Chased out of Germany in the early 1930’s by the Nazis because of his “non-aryan style,” Mies emigrated to America, where he designed numerous buildings, homes, and skyscrapers, fitting in to the progressive wave of architecture flowing out of the Chicago School style.
Is the “devil in the details”–or is God sovereign over little things? Solomon considers this and in Proverbs, chapter 16, he reveals that while it may be entertaining to think of the “father of lies” tripping you up over whether the color of wedding ribbon was pink- or fuscia-colored, it is your Heavenly Father who is truly the God of details:
33 The lot is cast into the lap,
But its every decision is from the Lord.–Proverbs 16:33
“The lot” here is a reference to an ancient practice of using small implements of using random chance to determine the outcome of an event or reaching a decision. The phrase is used over seventy times in scripture, from the Israelites partitioning of land (Numbers 26:55), to Jonah’s shipmates trying to determine who had brought God’s wrath on their vessel (Jonah 1:7).
Casting lots was even used to determine God’s will (I Chronicles 24:5), and in the New Testament Jesus’s garments were divided by Roman soldiers (Matthew 27:35). Later His disciples cast lots to determine who would replace the betrayer, Judas:
23 And they proposed two: Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias.–Acts 1:23
Matthias was chosen, of course, and I have often wondered what it must have been like to have been Barsabas. For the rest of his life he may have had to explain to people that he was the disciple who was “almost one of the twelve.”
Close, but no cigar. If only the coach would have put me in.
Actually, early Christian tradition holds that Joseph called Barsabas, may have been Joseph Justus, a cover for “James the Just”–the brother of Jesus. Either way, Barsabas was one of many close disciples of Jesus, who would have doubtless been witness to His great works, heard His teachings, and to whom Jesus would have appeared along with many others, after His resurrection.
Barsabas would have been one of those remarkable, humble, and steadfast servants of Jesus during those early days. He likely rejoiced with Matthias and prayed for him, and the rest of the Twelve, for the remainder of his days. For there was work to do, and God was on the move.
Proverbs 16:33 reminds you that God, יהוה, I AM, is the determiner of destiny. As you make your plans and move through life, your heavenly Father selects out of many possibilities, and reveals His will. This means that God plans not only for the big things in your life, He also plans for the small things–even the seemingly inconsequential. As Solomon teaches further on:
21 There are many plans in a man’s heart,
Nevertheless the Lord’s counsel—that will stand.–Proverbs 19:21
This may sound fatalistic, or even scary, but Tim Keller explains how this can actually provide comfort to you as a believer:
Christians want God’s guidance, that is, we want help with what decisions to make. But these verses remind us that He is already guiding us.–Tim Keller, “God’s Wisdom for Navigating Life”
"God can help you, but God also has a plan for your life and history, and is already working it out.” You see the testimony of this in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians:
11 In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will,–Ephesians 1:11
And the truth of it in Paul’s words to the church in Rome:
28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.–Romans 8:28
When Paul says “all things,” he means ALL THINGS, not just the big events like politics, war, or your career choices. God is sovereign over the small decisions you make too.
Commentator Bruce Waltke explains this as the “deed-destiny nexus” of God. Human plans may or may not occur, but God is still sovereign. So what can you do? Now is a time to exercise some of the wisdom you are learning through Proverbs:
The wise can trust God to bring about their promised destiny regardless of human machinations.–Bruce Waltke, “Proverbs”
When you remember that God is sovereign regardless of what people may plan and do–or even when plans fail–it gives you hope and peace that God is in control.
Jesus doubtless knew this as He made His way through the lives of those to whom He ministered during His time on earth. The seeming “randomness” of the background of the woman at the well when Jesus and His disciples came into the Samaritan village [John 4]. The convenient tree that Zacchaeus chose to climb before He walked by [Luke 19].
Jesus was sovereign over even these small details, and through His providence He ministered to their hearts to bring about His Father's will.
Do you feel that the “devil is in the details” of things in your life, or is a sovereign God in the details of your day-to-day life? As a christian, it is easy to think that God can take the big stuff, while you handle the rest. This is perhaps the “American way” or maybe just the way of us all. But you can find immense comfort in laying ALL of your plans, large or small, at His feet.
Contemporary Christian artist Lauren Daigle has a wonderful song entitled, “Trust In You,” where she reveals her desperation as she lays her plans at the foot of the cross:
Truth is, You know what tomorrow brings
There's not a day ahead You have not seen
So in all things be my life and breath
I want what You want, Lord, and nothing less
Do you want what the Lord wants for your life? Or do you want to fret over your control of little things that ultimately may have no bearing on eternity?
Oh, and use a coaster. Seriously. It was her mom’s table.
The Monday—Friday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay and this Saturday Deep is written by Matt Richardson. To subscribe to all the DEEPs click here:
The weekly study guides, which include the Monday–Friday devotionals plus related questions for discussion or meditation, are available for download here:
Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.