The alarm on your device goes off and tells you it is time to get up. If the sleep is still too sweet, you ignore it and remain in your comfort zone. Later on, you get up and the planning begins. You project what you are going to do that day. Perhaps you will complete an assignment at work (then relax). Afterwards you will meet with someone and finally purchase an article from a shop. You have this idea of how the day will go and hope it matches your expectations.
When you later return home and review what transpired however, you realize it was much different from what you anticipated. Perhaps you did not meet the person you intended to, you did more work than expected but bought what you wanted. That is what the proverb means: we make our plans but God ultimately determines what happens.
If you have been a believer for a while you know by now that the direction your life takes does not always match your ideal path. This shouldn’t be a problem because if you follow God’s direction, you will be happy and content in the end.
Jacob in the Scriptures was one who had his life all planned out. The Lord had prospered his father Isaac greatly; he had many servants, plenty of land and was rich in silver and gold. He often spent time meditating and was much respected among the people with whom he dwelt. The man always prevailed whenever a challenge manifested. This is what Jacob wanted for his own life but there was a problem. He was not the firstborn and therefore by tradition would not have the birthright. The blessing given by a father to the firstborn determined their destiny in life.
So what was Jacob to do? The only solution available was to somehow get that birthright from Esau. An opportunity presented itself when his elder brother—who was a hunter of wild game—came home tired and empty handed. He found Jacob at the tent cooking some delicious stew of lentils and because he was starved, the food was irresistible. He asked for some and Jacob quickly took advantage.
This is how their conversation went (Genesis 25:30-34):
Esau: “Feed me some of the red stew – yes, this red stew – because I’m starving!”
Jacob: “First sell me your birthright.”
Esau: “Look, I’m about to die! What use is the birthright to me?”
Jacob: “Swear an oath to me now.”
So Esau swore an oath to Jacob and sold his birthright. The Bible then says, “Esau despised his birthright.”
Jacob had planned his way and he must have been so pleased with himself, however God would be the one to direct his steps. He later told his parents that Esau sold him the birthright but Isaac disregarded it. Rebekah however took it seriously because God earlier informed her— even before the brothers were born, that the older would serve the younger (Genesis 25:23).
Many years later when Isaac was old and wanted to pronounce his blessing on the firstborn, Rebekah advised Jacob to trick his nearly blind father so as to receive the blessing that was rightfully his. Jacob listened and after disguising himself in Esau’s garments, after serving his father goat meat in place of his brother’s game, he indeed received the blessing.
He was planning his way and God directing his steps. Ideally, Esau should have returned with his hunted meat and on finding out about Jacob’s trickery, would not really care. But this did not happen, instead the man was filled with wrath and started plotting to kill Jacob.
Long story short, Jacob had to flee from home and stay with a shrewd uncle of his. For twenty years he served this man called Laban. In time he got married and had children but remained under the authority of his uncle. Eventually God delivered him with great wealth and gave him a new name, He called him Israel. You can read the details of his life experiences in Genesis chapters 27-32.
Jacob’s family ultimately became of the nation Israel and although God did not do things the way he expected, by the end of his life he was more than satisfied. He reconciled with his brother Esau and returned to his Isaac’s dwelling place. He had the son he always wanted in Joseph and God took care of him all his life.