Today we will dive into the seventh lesson of Solomon given to his son to help him learn about the importance of wisdom for all of life. Last week, in lesson six, we heard about how important it is for us to stay on the path of wisdom and to avoid at all costs stepping foot on the path of the wicked. Though there are many opportunities that look inviting and exciting, if they are not God?s ?path,? then they will get ugly the longer we stay on them.
Today, we are going to learn about the importance of keeping godly wisdom in our hearts and protecting, or guarding, our hearts from influences that would try to lead us astray from God?s wisdom.
In the challenge of raising our children today we tend to focus on setting rules and disciplining our kids. We have rules that have been set in place and if the rules are broken then punishment will be handed out. It goes something like this: ?If you lie to me then you will be grounded for one week. If you aren?t home by the time I tell you to be home then you will have your privileges taken away.? How many of you parents have those rules for your kids? I?m sure Solomon and Bathsheba had the ?rules of the palace? while they were raising their son as well, but there was one thing that was more important than the rules of the palace and it was the training of the heart. Let?s take a look at our Scripture for today and then we will talk about some of the specific applications of this passage for our lives.
20 My son, pay attention to what I say; listen closely to my words. 21 Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; 22 for they are life to those who find them and health to a man?s whole body. 23 Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. 24 Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. 25 Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you. 26 Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm. 27 Do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil. (Proverbs 4:20-27 NIV)
I?m sure you noticed a ?house rule? in Solomon?s counsel to his son. Solomon told his son to ?put away perversity from your mouth? and ?keep corrupt talk far from your lips.? That?s a good rule?A rule that I?m sure most of you parents have in your own home. It is also a much needed rule to lead our children away from the cultural slide we see happening in our day. It seems to me that the language of our society is becoming increasingly coarse and lewd. I?m not just referring to cursing, even though I sometimes wonder if there was not a law passed while I was sleeping that legislates the use of foul language. In addition to cursing I?m also referring to the sexually explicit language and sexual innuendo that is so prevalent all around us. You can?t watch a television program or go to the movie without sex making its appearance. Listen to the radio stations that are most popular with teenagers and young adults in our city and you will hear more graphic language than we ever had available to us when we were their age.
As a parent you have to ask, ?How can I battle the lewd lessons that society is teaching my children?? That?s a great question and the automatic answer is??Don?t allow it! Don?t tolerate it!? I would agree that this is part of the answer, but Solomon lays down the foundational answer for us. The training of the heart, for Solomon, is the basis, the very foundation, for the ?house rules? that are given to his son. Notice verses 20-23.
20 My son, pay attention to what I say; listen closely to my words. 21 Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; 22 for they are life to those who find them and health to a man?s whole body. 23 Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. (Proverbs 4:20-23 NIV)
In this section of Scripture we see that Solomon once again stresses the importance of absolute devotion and unyielding dedication to keeping wisdom at the center of our hearts. There is a lot of attention paid to the heart in our day, but the counsel we receive concerning our hearts is altogether different than that offered by Solomon.
Today, we talk about feeling things in our hearts. For many of us, how we feel in our hearts directs our decisions. You may have heard the phrase, ?Let your heart lead you.? You hear people say that they have never felt ?this way? about anyone before so they get married. You see the same person three or four years later and you ask them, ?How?s the married life?? They answer in the words of that great blues theologian, B.B. King, ?The thrill is gone!? You see them one year later and they?re divorced. Where did the feelings go? What happened to never feeling ?this way? about anyone before? Feelings are a horrible basis for making decisions, but we do it time and time again.
Another way we pay attention to our hearts today is making sure that they don?t get hurt. We talk about guarding our hearts, not from ungodly influences, but from intimacy so that we don?t get hurt. Our hearts have been broken in the past and we don?t want that to happen again so we build an impenetrable wall around them and refuse to let anyone in. This does not guarantee us from getting hurt, but it does guarantee that we will not live in the fullness of life that God desires for us since we were created to be in relationship with one another.
Solomon never mentions either of the ways that we understand the importance of our hearts. The sermon he preaches over and over again to his son is to store wisdom, godly wisdom, deep in his heart and then guard it with all of his life. Solomon also teaches his son to guard his heart against ungodly people and ungodly influences that will seek to lead him away from God.
Solomon says that his son should not allow the words of wisdom out of his sight and above all else ?guard your heart.? The word that Solomon uses for ?guard? means ?to guard, watch over, keep, to preserve, guard from dangers, or observe.? We get the picture of an army guarding a well fortified city from the attacks of the enemy or a parent keeping watch over their small children so that they do not fall victim to those who seek to hurt them. We see the same word used in Deuteronomy 32 as God guarded His people the Israelites. Read along with me.
9 For the LORD?S portion is his people, Jacob his allotted inheritance. 10 In a desert land he found him, in a barren and howling waste. He shielded him and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple of his eye, 11 like an eagle that stirs up its nest and hovers over its young, that spreads its wings to catch them and carries them on its pinions. 12 The LORD alone led him; no foreign god was with him. (Deuteronomy 32:9-12 NIV)
Isn?t that a beautiful picture! God stood guard over His people because they were the ?apple of His eye.? Again in Psalms 31 we see the same word once again used in the context of God guarding the faithful.
23 Love the LORD, all his saints! The LORD preserves the faithful, but the proud he pays back in full. 24 Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD. (Psalms 31:23-24 NIV)
Along with God standing guard over those who seek to walk in His ways we are also encouraged to stand guard. Turn with me to Proverbs 13:3 and let me give you an example.
3 He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin. (Proverbs 13:3 NIV)
If we stand guard over our lips, the things we say, then we are standing guard over our lives. On the other hand, the verse tells us that if we say whatever is on our mind, then we will come to ruin. How many times have you seen that happen in your own life? In a moment of anger, frustration, or heartache we say things we really don?t mean, things we wish we could take back, but the damage is done.
In Proverbs 16:17 we are told that those who guard their way, their steps, will guard their very life. Read along with me.
17 The highway of the upright avoids evil; he who guards his way guards his life. (Proverbs 16:17 NIV)
So we see the importance of standing guard over our hearts. The command to stand guard is really a two-fold stand. We are to passionately seek to gain godly wisdom by reading, meditating upon, and studying God?s Word. As we do this we are to retain God?s wisdom, not letting it out of our hearts. Secondly, we are to stand guard over the influences that would seek to turn our hearts away from God.
For the Hebrews the heart was the seat and center of everything that came out of a person. The word for ?heart? means, ?the inner man, mind, will, heart, soul, understanding, mind, knowledge, thinking, reflection, memory, as seat of appetites, as seat of emotions and passions, as seat of courage.?
Do you see how far-reaching the influence of the heart is for you and me? For the Hebrews the heart was the engine of the mind, passions, will, and emotions. Let me show you some of the variety of activities that the Bible attributes to our hearts.
In 1 Samuel we read the story of David and Goliath. Goliath was a mammoth of a man. He was an adversary of God?s people and the Israelite soldiers melted as they stood and looked at him. There was not one Israelite soldier who was willing to take him on until a shepherd boy showed up. David told King Saul,
32David said to Saul, ?Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.? (1 Samuel 17:32 NIV)
In 2 Samuel 6:16 we read about David?s wife despising her husband in her heart as she watched him worshipping the Lord.
16As the ark of the LORD was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD, she despised him in her heart. (2 Samuel 6:16 NIV)
In Psalm 34:18 we see that the Lord is close to the ?brokenhearted.? This is one of my favorite verses because I don?t need a preacher to explain to me what it means to be ?brokenhearted.? I?m sure that most of us here, when we hear the word, ?brokenhearted,? can automatically recall a time in our life when we experienced an overwhelming heaviness on our hearts. Let?s read the verse together.
18 The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18 NIV)
In Proverbs 23:17 we are cautioned against allowing our hearts to envy sinners. There are a myriad of ways that this can happen without our even noticing what is happening. A high school guy watches a friend spiral out of control and yet it seems like the more out of control he becomes, the more attention he gets and the more popular he becomes. He?s the life of the party and his social calendar is always full while his friend sits home on the weekends. Envy begins to replace the strong bonds of friendship.
A committed Christian, a godly businesswoman who works in middle-management, prays daily for the Lord to guide her as she leads her group of employees within the corporation. She refuses to cut corners, she demands the highest ethical standards of herself in her business practices, and yet she sees others around her compromise their integrity and still get promoted and recognized by her superiors. Envy begins to entice her to loosen her grip on integrity so that she can gain a little recognition.
It is so easy to ?envy? those who have no regard for God and yet they seem to always get ahead, to always land on their feet, and always be three rungs ahead of us on our quest to lay hold of the golden rung on the ladder of success. God speaks to our hearts and says, ?Don?t do it! Keep your heart free of all that will lead you away from Me.?
I want to show you one more characteristic that God?s Word attributes to our hearts. In Proverbs 19:3 we read,
3 A man?s own folly ruins his life, yet his heart rages against the LORD. (Proverbs 19:3 NIV)
We go out and sow our wild oats and pray for crop failure. When the crop comes in and disaster looms on our doorstep then we become angry at God. We stomp around, refuse to bow in humility and confess our sins to the Lord, and we shake our fist at the heavens. God?s Word reveals to us the root of our problem?it is our heart. Our hearts are full of folly which leads to ruin, which leads to rage, which leads to a break in our relationship with God.
You see guarding our hearts is a two-fold endeavor. First, we must gain and keep God?s Word at the very center of our lives, in our hearts. If we will do this then those things that the Israelites attributed to the heart?the mind, will, and emotions will be shaped and led by God?s Word and wisdom. Second, we must shield our hearts from outside influences that will bring us down and drown out God?s wisdom. I had an experience this week that beautifully illustrates this two-fold effort.
Nate and I have been mowing yards together this summer?he has his mower and I have mine. Well, last week my mower died. It sputtered for awhile, but eventually died. I checked the gas and it was full. I checked the oil and it was clean. I tried all kinds of things to get it started, but it just wouldn?t start. I loaded the mower in my truck on Monday and on my way to the church I dropped it by Bear?s Garage. He called me later in the day and said, ?It?s running like a new one.? When I went to pick it up he said, ?Let me show you what was wrong.? Bear then took out a little cardboard box and it was filled with grass, dirt, little pieces of leaves, and an assortment of other things. Bear said, ?Your mower couldn?t breath. All of this stuff was choking it down.?
It was later in the week when the Lord brought that experience back to mind and I knew that my mower is a picture of our hearts. My mower had fuel and oil in the engine, but the lack of oxygen prevented the fuel and oil from keeping my mower from doing what it was designed to do. Please don?t miss this: We can go to church, attend Bible study, and go to the ?Sweet Hour of Prayer,? but if we allow the garbage of the world to filter in it will choke out God?s Word, it will drown out the wisdom of God given to us so that we can be the people He has created us to be.
My friend, we will either yield our hearts wholly to the Lord, seek His wisdom for all of life, and then follow His counsel by living in obedience to His Word or we will allow the influences of the world to divide our heart?that will lead to our ruin. I was listening to a sermon this past week by Charles Haddon Spurgeon called, ?The Divided Heart.? The sermon was preached in 1859, but I?m certain that we will find Pastor Spurgeon speaking directly to all of us this morning as we consider the war that the enemy of our souls wages against us daily.
Their heart is divided. I have called it a fearful disease, and this will very readily appear if you observe, first of all, the seat of it. It affects a vital part, it is not merely a disease of the hand, that reformation might cure; it is not merely a disease of the foot, that restraint might sometimes mollify; it is not merely a disease of the eye which hath but to be couched to let the light stream in upon it. It is a disease of a vital region?of the heart; a disease in a part so vital that it affects the whole man. The utmost extremity of the frame suffers when once the heart becomes affected, and especially so affected as to be divided. There is no power, no passion, there is no motive, no principle, which does not become vitiated, when once the heart is diseased. Hence it is that Satan, who is always crafty, endeavors to strike at the heart. He will give you the hand if you please; you may be honest. He will give you the eye if you please; you shall be outwardly chaste. He will give you the foot, if you please; you shall appear to run in the way of righteousness Only let him keep the heart, only let him rule in the citadel, and he will be well content to give up all the rest. (Charles H. Spurgeon, A Divided Heart, Hosea 10:2, September 25, 1859)
It is at the heart where the enemy will strike at our walk with God. Will you be ready for the attack? It is coming every day, in a myriad of ways, but the real question this morning is, ?Are you ready?? Is your heart undivided? Are you hiding God?s wisdom deep in your heart, guarding it like a precious jewel, or are you neglecting the wisdom of God and leaning on your own understanding? Are you protecting your hearts from the influences that come before your eyes, your hearts, across your path each day, or are you like a sponge taking everything in and never giving any thought to what it is doing to your heart?
For those here this morning who have never accepted Jesus as Lord of your life then I pity you. You have no filter to keep your heart from being polluted and your very life choked down like a lawnmower whose filter is plugged with junk and gunk. Your hearts are hardened to the wisdom of God as you reject it time and time and again. I would urge you this very morning to run into His arms of grace, open wide your heart to His wisdom, and cry out for His mercy.
For those who have accepted Christ?we have no excuse. We have been given everything that we will ever need to walk in obedience with our King and Savior. Peter wrote these powerful words of assurance.
3His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. (2 Peter 1:3-4 NIV)
God?s wisdom is watching over our lives as we watch over our hearts. God has done this. He alone has given us what we need?we need only to utilize what He has provided.
Titus wrote to the people of his day and shared a similar truth. In Titus 2:11-14 he writes,
11For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. 12It teaches us to say ?No? to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13while we wait for the blessed hope?the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. (Titus 2:11-14 NIV)
Do you see my friends? It is not simply reading the Bible that teaches us to say, ?No? to ungodliness, to the influences of the world that will lead us away from living in intimacy and obedience to the Lord. It is God?s glorious grace that causes His Word to come alive, for us to be able to see the intrinsic, inestimable value for living life to its full! As we see the beauty of God?s wisdom and drink deeply of its thirst quenching waters, then we will be empowered to say ?No!? to those things that would seek to lead us away from God. Why would anyone want to miss out on God?s glorious, life-giving grace?
I want to invite you this morning to allow the Lord to search your hearts. Does He hold the deed to its every part or does the enemy of your soul stand strong in some quarter? If the Lord is speaking to your heart this morning and urging you to come clean in His presence then I want to invite you to come forward and pour your heart out before the Lord. If you have never accepted Jesus as Lord of our life, then I want to encourage you this morning. He stands willing and ready to purify your heart and fill you with a glorious desire to walk with Him from day to day. Jesus gave His life so that we, who are guilty of sin and suffering from a hard heart, might be cleansed through His shed blood on Calvary?s cross. Won?t you invite Him in?