“Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life”. Proverbs 4:23
The key word for us to understand in this verse is “heart”. What does Scripture mean when it uses the word heart? It’s not just speaking of a muscle that pumps blood around our body! ‘Leb’ in Hebrew, ‘kardia’ in Greek (where we get the word cardiac from), the word heart in the Bible speaks of our inner most being, it encompasses our thoughts, our emotions and our will. It’s where we deploy wisdom and where we discern the difference between right and wrong. Our heart is the very essence of who we are as individuals and in this sense can be likened unto our soul.
Why does Solomon exhort us to “guard our heart will all diligence”? The answer can be found when we read the second half of the verse, “for out of it spring the issues of life”. Quite simply the heart is the control centre of who we as individuals, the place where we make decisions about how we will live our lives. In Matthew 15:17-20 we read; “those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man”. Similarly in Jeremiah 17:9 we are told that “the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked”. Scripture makes it clear that the heart of man is set against God and in desperate need of help. Only no amount of surgery can heal its wicked ways. Repair is not the answer but replacement! By God’s grace we have been given a new heart, He has taken out our heart of stone and given us a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26). Hallelujah!
Ultimately the reason why Solomon urges us to guard our heart diligently is because it is our heart which God is most interested in; “for the Lord seeth not as man seeth, for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart”. We can be busying ourselves in the work of the Lord all the day long but if our heart is not in line with His then we are not pleasing Him. God is not interested in outward signs of holiness or grandiose acts of “religion”, He is interested in the state of our heart towards Him; “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise” (Psalm 51:17). Barry’s teaching today gave us an insight into what can happen when man turns his heart away from God. Scripture is littered with the names of people (Adonijah, Joab, and Abiathar all just from the first chapter of 1 Kings!) who thought that there way was better than God’s way, we know that this is not the case (Proverbs 14:12). A well-known maxim of the world is that we should learn from our own mistakes, but it is far less painful if we learn from the mistakes of others! Let the demise of those people who turned their heart against God stand as a warning to us.
What is the best way for us to go about “guarding our heart with all diligence”? David provides us with the answer in Psalm 119:11; “Thy word have I hid in mine heart that I might not sin against thee”. Filling our hearts with God’s Word is the best way for us to guard our heart and ensure that it remains fixed on pleasing Him. Because David did this he has the honour of being called a man after God’s own heart (1 Sam 13:14). This should serve as a great encouragement to us all. David was just like us in that he transgressed God’s law, but God still said he was a man after His own heart. Are you reading your Bible every day without fail? It is so important that we be feeding on the Word of God every day (Psalm 119:105). A good thing to remember is “no read-no feed”! Just as you need your physical food, so also you need your spiritual food. If this is not something that you are not already doing then now is the perfect time to start.