When it comes right down to it, many of us are pragmatists. That is to say, we do what works. Often, that is born out of personal experience, or what we have seen others do. It’s what Proverbs 3:5 calls our “own understanding.” Sometimes a pragmatic approach can work, but we are urged in Proverbs 3 not to depend on it.
David and Saul were both faced with situations in which a pragmatic approach seemed logical, but they approached those situations differently. Observe first, in 2 Samuel 5, how David handles the 2 encounters with the Philistines. David has fought them many times before, most notably when he conquered their hero, Goliath. In 2 Samuel 5:19, David prays and asks God if he should go out and fight against the Philistines. God says, “Go up: for I will doubtless deliver the Philistines into thine hand.” David obeys, and is given the victory. The next time the Philistines come, David could have just said, I know from personal experience that we will win. However, rather than relying on his “own understanding,” he again prays and asks for God’s guidance. God gives a different response this time. Again, David obeys, and again, the victory is won.
What would have happened if David had relied on what he knew from personal experience rather than seeking God’s wisdom? Fortunately, we don’t know. However, look in 1 Chronicles 10 and you see Israel’s first king taking a different approach. Again, in a battle with the Philistines, he sees that the battle is not going well, so he asks his armor bearer to kill him so that the Philistines would not abuse him if they captured him. The armor bearer refuses to kill him, so Saul takes his own life. In verses 8-10, we see that the body of Saul was still abused by the Philistines. Did Saul’s pragmatic approach have its desired outcome? No. What would have happened if Saul had sought God’s counsel instead of his “own understanding?” Unfortunately, we’ll never know.
Psalm 116: 1-7 encourage us to pursue God in prayer and supplication because He will hear. He will guide. He will deliver. It’s amazing how often we like to lean on our own understanding, rather than “trust[ing] in the Lord with all thine heart.” Instead, in everything we do, we should do like David and seek for God’s counsel, because he WILL direct our paths.
Which approach will you take today? Pragmatism or prayer?