Friday, June 12, 2009

Proverbs 4: 20-27

Today's Thought Question:
  1. Verses 20-27 focus on the heart, speech, focus and direction. What actions are we to take regarding these things? Why?

As we bring chapter 4 to a close, we come across another verse that is likely a familiar one:

"Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life." (vs 23)

The heart. We know that we cannot have physical life without the blood-pumping action of the heart. The rest of our body depends upon it. Medical science has learned so much about what can go wrong with the heart and how to prevent such issues. Even after heart attacks, doctors can prescribe new medicines to restore functioning and wholeness faster.

In Biblical terms, 'heart' carries weight beyond the physical. The heart involves our mind--what we're thinking and how we reason based on that knowledge; our emotions--what we're feeling; our will--why we act the way we do and under what driving force. It's fair to say that any impact to those areas of our life may also have a physical impact. For instance, how about stress?

Solomon says that we are to watch over our hearts. The NIV says "guard." Why? "For from it flow the springs of life." This wisdom that he has been describing for verse after verse, carefully explaining how to acquire it, the need for understanding it and the blessings of having it, this wisdom is kept in our hearts! (vs 21) If we have wisdom in our heart, then wisdom should flow out of our heart through a variety of means.

"From this it appears, in the words of [John] Owen, [Puritan theologian]: “The heart in Scripture is variously used, sometimes for the mind and understanding, sometimes for the will, sometimes for the affections, sometimes for the conscience, sometimes for the whole soul. Generally, it denotes the whole soul of man and all the faculties of it, not absolutely, but as they are all one principle of moral operations, as they all concur in our doing of good and evil.”

--International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, emphasis mine

This equation would thus work with different variables, because if we don't have wisdom in our heart, then our spring would yield something foolish.

That would suggest to me that the remaining verses call to our attention ways in which we can know that our heart is not right. A "deceitful mouth" and "devious speech" are audible indications that something inside is not in tune with God's wisdom, as He would find such things detestable. If our gaze is fixed upon something evil, or if we veer off "the road to righteousness" as we talked about in yesterday's post, we can't possibly believe that we are acting out of the wisdom of God.

What hits me most about these verses is that fixing the situations with speech or actions is not going to fix the problem of the heart. Even if I vow to stop saying certain things that are offensive, if I don't bring my heart problem to God, then nothing's fixed. Because of the intricate connection between all these bodily attributes, something is not going to function properly. (I might stop talking, but I might also experience some depression in not being in relationship with someone.) It's not enough to fix the means, because the source is still active (and broken!). If there's a problem with the spring, it is beyond my ability alone to fix.

Are Solomon's words difficult to understand? I don't think so. Are they overwhelming? Really, even though he says many things, there is really only one key principle:

"In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He [through His wisdom] will make your paths straight." (3:6)

* * *

Tomorrow's Scripture Focus and Thought Questions:

Proverbs 5: 1-6
  1. Do you believe we all have the potential to fall in this area? Read Romans 3:23, 24.
  2. Do you think that we should stay away from an adulterer/adulteress? Why or why not?

* * *

Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation, specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB). I will quote other sources if used in a post.
I also use Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (with notes from the King James Version).


KelliGirl said...

I agree that the most impactful verse in this section is v. 23, which in my NIV says, " Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life."

Our heart is the essence of who we are (body, mind and soul). In its purest form I think you can say our heart is God in us. God is the source of life, the living water that sustains.

Maybe this is why the first and greatest commandment is to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength." God is telling what is necessary to survive.

Then, when Jesus meets the woman at the well He says, "Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

Because of this water, the woman receives wisdom and sees the error of her ways (with the five husbands). She also goes off to tell others.

In Jesus we find our wellspring.

Once cool the way all of Scripture ties together. One passage illuminates others.

Have a great weekend, Sue!


Carmen said...

I used Prov. 4:23 in my post today too, then saw this. Mine is a take on living in simplicity.

What stood out to me today is the fact that we can't 'fake' having wisdom. Really good post!