Series: Digging Deeper into Proverbs
..[learn_more caption=”Proverbs 4″] 1 Hear, O sons, a father’s instruction,
and be attentive, that you may gain insight,
2 for I give you good precepts;
do not forsake my teaching.
3 When I was a son with my father,
tender, the only one in the sight of my mother,
4 he taught me and said to me,
“Let your heart hold fast my words;
keep my commandments, and live.
5 Get wisdom; get insight;
do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth.
6 Do not forsake her, and she will keep you;
love her, and she will guard you.
7 The beginning of wisdom is this:Get wisdom,
and whatever you get, get insight.
8 Prize her highly, and she will exalt you;
she will honor you if you embrace her.
9 She will place on your head a graceful garland;
she will bestow on you a beautiful crown.”
10 Hear, my son, and accept my words,
that the years of your life may be many.
11 I have taught you the way of wisdom;
I have led you in the paths of uprightness.
12 When you walk, your step will not be hampered,
and if you run, you will not stumble.
13 Keep hold of instruction; do not let go;
guard her, for she is your life.
14 Do not enter the path of the wicked,
and do not walk in the way of the evil.
15 Avoid it; do not go on it;
turn away from it and pass on.
16 For they cannot sleep unless they have done wrong;
they are robbed of sleep unless they have made someone stumble.
17 For they eat the bread of wickedness
and drink the wine of violence.
18 But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn,
which shines brighter and brighter until full day.
19 The way of the wicked is like deep darkness;
they do not know over what they stumble.
20 My son, be attentive to my words;
incline your ear to my sayings.
21 Let them not escape from your sight;
keep them within your heart.
22 For they are life to those who find them,
and healing to all their flesh.
23 Keep your heart with all vigilance,
for from it flow the springs of life.
24 Put away from you crooked speech,
and put devious talk far from you.
25 Let your eyes look directly forward,
and your gaze be straight before you.
26 Ponder the path of your feet;
then all your ways will be sure.
27 Do not swerve to the right or to the left;
turn your foot away from evil
(Proverbs 4:1-27 ESV)
It is always what I love most, which will win out.
Proverbs 4:23 “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.”
Man’s wisdom says: Find out what you love, and pursue it. God’s wisdom says: Find out if what you love is worthy of pursuit. If not – get a new love.
Guard and govern what you let yourself love. Moths are attracted to the flame, and often so are we. We can be intrigued with brazen sin, and with diversions in study and even religion. With our mates, careers, hobbies, etc. Enjoy them, we are supposed to enjoy them – but do not love them the same.
The Worlds’ wisdom and God’s are ever at odds. And when you stumble across passages like this one, the differences are highlighted with stunning clarity. For there is probably no place where the very core of what it means to live – to live life – is better unfolded than in examining the loves of our own hearts. Who and what we love speaks volumes.
In fact, it is those loves which set the entire course for our lives and determine how and what we do.
We decide what to do and when based upon what we love.
Yes, sometimes those loves are competing and complex – but the main thought here runs true. I may not “love” the idea of having my body cut open and parts removed while I am asleep and helpless, but if I love the idea of remaining alive, I’ll subject myself to the surgeon’s knife anyway.
Love of one thing will make me forsake other things I love – like love for health making me forsake a diet of nothing but ice cream cakes. But in the final analysis, it is always what I love most, which will win out. This holds the key to each of us analyzing the decisions we make. Hence, we have this admonition from the writer of Proverbs 4 to “keep” our hearts, guard them with all “vigilance”. Because the waters of your life and mine, flow out from that place. What we love, will determine how that river flows. Violently after certain loves; Purely after others; Consistently after still others, and Refreshingly to those around us out of other loves yet.
If we were to contrast the World’s wisdom at this point most clearly against the backdrop of God’s wisdom – we could perhaps do it this way: Man’s wisdom says: “Find out what you love, and pursue it.” It is the mantra not only of career counselors, but also of the Church at times. But the wisdom from above says instead: “Find out if what you love is worthy of pursuit. And if it isn’t – get a new love.” This is what it means to guard or keep you heart – to govern what you allow it to love.
In our day of people literally being victims of “falling in love” as though it is utterly involuntary, the Bible bids us to live higher, and infinitely free-er. So my friend – what are the things you love? Are they worthy? If not – get new ones. You’ll find that will ALWAYS lead you to the most worthy One of all. And there – you can love and pursue with utter abandon and joy.
Proverbs 4:23 “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.”
Keeping the heart is a call of dire need. The heart of the human being – is the core of life. Of course the organ that pumps blood is not being referred to here – but the organ of the soul that communicates life and purpose and passion to the whole being is intended. It is what the old theologians used to refer to as inward “inclination” – what each of us is inclined toward as the governing direction of our life’s pursuit – the gravitational pull of our inward man. What, when all else is stripped away, drives and motivates us.
The truth is, many of us never even take the time to find out what exactly DOES motivate us above all else. We often flit from thing to thing still looking for an all consuming passion. But in reality, we already have one. It is at the bottom of all the choices we make in life. We simply haven’t identified it yet. For some it is safety. For others, pleasure. Still others seek meaning above all else, or a sense of accomplishment, approval, validation or simply to consume what seems most desirable at the moment.
So how does one then “keep” or guard the heart, so that we are walking in wisdom and in fellowship with God and His eternal plans and purposes? What am I to be “vigilant” over for that to happen – so that the “springs of life” – the fountain of true joy and refreshment and sustenance remain unpolluted by the poisons of the Fall?
Our Teacher points out four things.
1. (24) One must cultivate honesty with themselves, and with others. If we are willing to entertain duplicity – to have secret lives, to live dishonestly with others, we will inevitably be habitual hypocrites. We must be brutally honest with ourselves about our own sinfulness and unwilling to seem better than we are to others – even if that invites rebuke. Passing ourselves off as Mr. or Ms. Altogether-Christian for the public consumption of others will lead us to hide, and at the same time to live in constant judgment of others. If you are constantly avoiding letting people see who you really are, or pointing the finger at other’s sins – this is probably your area of need.
2. (25) We must be actually aimed at the goal of Heaven and Christ’s likeness. If that is not our goal and aim in life – if that is not where we are traveling to in life – then we are headed somewhere else. No one stumbles into Heaven – we go there intentionally or not at all. There will be no accidental tourists there. Those who have no clear destination will wander – emotionally, spiritually and in every other area of life. Are you on your way to meet the King? Are you actually plotting a course there? If not, you will not arrive.
3. (26) We must examine and re-examine our decisions to see if they are commensurate with our stated goal and direction. The heart is distracted and polluted when our decision making practice does not at least include (at SOME point) the question as to how this decision fits with where I am going and who I am becoming in Christ. Countless woes would be avoided if we would ask this of ourselves before we entered into things. How does X fit with my journey to see Jesus? Does it help? Does it hinder? Is it compatible?
4. (27) We cannot move off of the path that the Scripture has given us, and still get there. Isaiah calls it a “highway of holiness.” There is only one way to follow Christ – I must walk the same way He does, I must go WITH Him. And He is not going certain places. He is not heading into sexual immorality. He is not moving toward theft, or lust, or dishonesty, or coveting this world’s goods, or fame or pleasure. He is headed home to His Father. And there but one road there – Him. He Himself IS the truth, the life and the way.
So my friend – where are you off to today? And how will you be getting there?
Next week: Chapter Five
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Reid serves as the pastor for preaching and vision at Evangelical Church of Fairport in Fairport New York. A native of Rochester, N.Y., he has served in various ministry areas during his life, including: a founding member of the former Mark IV Quartet, Youth Pastor at ECF, former board member of the Fellowship of Independent Reformed Evangelicals (F.I.R.E.), and author of The Little Book of Things You Should Know About Ministry (Christian Focus Publications, 2002). Pastor Reid blogs regularly at Responsive Reiding.