Summary: Solomon knows the treacherous world that his son is about to encounter and he counsels him to guard his heart against all that would seek to lead him away from God.
Guard Your Heart
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.