Proverbs 4:23

A Steadfast Heart

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Proverbs 4:23

Not many of us can say that our father spouted great wisdom to us like that of the father in Proverbs 4:20-27. Even if we had heard such wisdom, we probably would also have needed the frequent warning, “Pay attention! Listen to me. Don’t forget my words. Keep them within your heart” (4:20-21).

 We are usually bad listeners—our minds may be on what we want to say next or on something else entirely. Even if we hear, we forget very quickly: “in one ear and out the other.” But the Proverbs 4 father says to put his words into our hearts and guard them, for everything we do flows from our hearts” (v. 23). In Solomon’s time, the heart was not just the center of our emotions, but also our inner man, mind, will, and understanding; our consciences, our appetites.[1] What we believe, what we choose, our goals and intentions–these things matter.

D. A. Carson put it this way: “If your religion is merely external, while your ‘heart’ is a seething mass of self-interest, what good is the religion? If your heart is ardently pursuing peripheral things (not necessarily prurient things), then from a Christian perspective you soon come to be occupied with the merely peripheral. If what you dream of is possessing a certain thing, if what you pant for is a certain salary or reputation, that shapes your life.”[2]

How do we guard our hearts? Our mouths, ears, and eyes have been called gates that let things in or keep them out. We must watch what we say or listen to (v. 24). Be careful where we look (v. 25). Think about where we’re going—not just with our feet but also with our thoughts (v. 26). “Don’t go there!”

We’re encouraged to be steadfast (v. 27). This Hebrew word, kuwn, means “to be firm, stable, established, fixed, prepared, ready.”[3] We’re not to float through life, taking occasional side trips into areas that displease God.

The reward for having the right heart contents is life and health to our whole bodies (v. 22).  The contrasting heart knows perversity, corruption, and evil. Jesus said, “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him” (Matthew 12:35).

En Garde! What are you putting into your heart? Are you guarding your heart above all else?

DIG DEEPER:

According to Psalm 119:4, what can we put into our hearts and what will be the results?

The NIV 1984 translation uses the word wellspring: “for [your heart] is the wellspring of life.” This word means “the source of a stream or spring, a fountainhead, a source of supply.[4] According to John 7:38-39, what do we also have as a source of supply?

What does Deuteronomy 4:9 say is our responsibility as parents or teachers?

What’s the difference between guarding our hearts and trusting them as described in such scriptures as Proverbs 28:26 and Jeremiah 17:9-10?

Nancy J. Baker

[1]*Hebrew Lexicon :: H3820 (KJV).” Blue Letter Bible. Accessed 15 Sep, 2014. http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H3820&t=KJV

[2] **Carson, D. A. “Proverbs 4.” 16 Mar. 2014. Accessed15 Sep. 2014. http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/loveofgod/page/4/?s=proverbs

[3] ***Hebrew Lexicon :: H3559 (KJV).” Blue Letter Bible. Accessed 15 Sep, 2014. http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H3559&t=KJV

[4] ****The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1981, 1454.

 

 

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