5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
6 In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
Heart – the whole inner person is in view – not just sentiment as in English. Compare to two other verses in context. Among the range of meaning is: inner man, mind, will, heart, understanding, conscience, soul (Step Bible).
3:1 My son, do not forget my teaching,
but let your heart keep my commandments
3:3 Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you;
bind them around your neck;
write them on the tablet of your heart
Understanding – one of the meanings of this word is the capacity to understanding. If you read it as “information” it can sound as if one should not know anything. but the Wisdom theme of Proverbs is very much about learning wisdom and discernment. We are not, in the words of Psalm 32, to be like a pack mule that needs constant external direction by a bit in our teeth, but we are to be instructed so we can make wise decisions. (Psalm 32:8-9). If we accept the word as “capacity to understand” it speaks of not finding our wisdom only from ourselves.
Notice that Heart and Understanding are somewhat parallel words on the inner person.
I have summarized this line of thought:
Trust with your heart; Don’t trust in your heart.
That is, the object of trust and direction is the Lord, not the inner life.
All – With all of your heart (v. 5) and in all of your ways (v.6) live by faith. There is no room here for holding back a reserve of non-trust. That is, the verses does not permit us to think that one part of our life is spiritual and the other is going along to get along in life. We are to live a categorically faithful life, not life of categories.
Path/Way – Two words are used for path, both can be literal or metaphorical. “In all your paths acknowledge him” this word for path is “derek” which is used over 700 times in the OT. “and he will made straight your paths” this word for path is “orak” which is used about 70 times. The idea of a path or way is commonly used in Wisdom literature, the prophets and in Deuteronomy to talk metaphorically about the course or direction of your life in a moral and spiritual sense.
Smooth/Straight – the translations divide evenly on translating this word. Smooth suggests straight in a vertical dimension, and similar to Isaiah 40 on making a smooth path. This is the path that is easy. Straight suggests straingt in a horizontal direction and fits with the frequent command that one turns neither to the left or to the right. This is the path that is true.
I wonder if this “straightening” of our path is a rescue operation:
“So you find your way in life hard? Are you lost? Is it because you are divided in your faith and selective in your willingness to be instructed? Trust him fully and he will remove the potholes and direct you out of your lost condition.”
see Isaiah 40:3-5; Psalm 1; James 1:2-8; Matthew 5:8; Deuteronomy 6