Amplified: Keep and guard your heart with all vigilance and above all that you guard, for out of it flow the springs of life. (Lockman)
CEV: Carefully guard your thoughts because they are the source of true life. (cp 2Co 10:5) (CEV)
Darby: Keep thy heart more than anything that is guarded; for out of it are the issues of life.
ESV: Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. (ESV)
GWT: Guard your heart more than anything else, because the source of your life flows from it. (GWT)
ICB: Be very careful about what you think. Your thoughts run your life. (ICB: Nelson)
KJV: Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.
Knox: Use all thy watchfulness to keep thy heart true; that is the fountain whence life springs.
MLB (Berkley): Above all that you guard, watch over your heart, for out of it are the sources of life.
NAB: With closest custody, guard your heart, for in it are the sources of life. (Pr 2:1, 4:10)
NEB: Guard your heart more than any treasure, for it is the source of life.
NET: Guard your heart with all vigilance, for from it are the sources of life. (NET Bible)
NIV: Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. (NIV - IBS)
NKJV: Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.
NJB: More than all else, keep watch over your heart, since here are the wellsprings of life. (NJB)
NLT: Above all else, guard your heart, for it affects everything you do. [Hebrew for from it flow the springs of life. ] (NLT - Tyndale House)
TEV: Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts.
Young's Literal: Above every charge keep thy heart, For out of it are the outgoings of life.
|In my experience the Septuagint (LXX) can often serve as somewhat of a "mini-commentary" on the Hebrew passage that it translates. One has to use discretion as the Septuagint translation of some passages are strikingly different from the corresponding Hebrew. In the case of Pr 4:23, the Greek translation of the Hebrew is illuminating. Below is the Septuagint with brief comments for amplification.
Brenton's English translation of the Septuagint reads
My translation of the Septuagint
Here are some other paraphrases of Proverbs 4:23…
The Pulpit Commentary says that one interpretation of this verse is that
As Wiersbe wisely observes…
D Paul Montague has an interesting paraphrase of Pr 4:23…
Pastor Greg Allen has a pithy introduction to his sermon on Pr 4:23…
WATCH OVER YOUR HEART (Mt 26:41 1Pe 1:13, 5:8, 9, 10, Pr 22:5; 23:19; 28:26; Dt 4:9; Ps 139:23,24; Jer 17:9; Mt 15:18,19 Mk 14:38; He 12:15)
Here are a few suggested observations you will want to make on this text - It would make a great sermon text (perhaps even a sermon series!). When does a person die? In medical terms, it's when the heart ceases to beat. If that's true in physical life, how important is the "heart" in our spiritual life? Pr 4:23 is the answer to that vitally important question! Solomon begins with a command to watch over! Remember that if God gives us a command, He will enable us to carry out the command, so don't make excuses that this is too difficult a thing for you to accomplish! (E.g., don't start blaming your parents, your horrible social background, even your depraved past [assuming you are a new creature - 2Co 5:17-note, cp Php 3:13-note remembering that Paul was at one time in agreement with Stephen's murder! Acts 7:58, 59). The point is that God says “Watch over” then we can watch over it. It is not optional. You are responsible. You need to determine what specific vulnerabilities you need to "watch over" because we each have different besetting sins (cp Heb 12:1-note). So like the Nike commercial says "Just Do It"! Why is it so vital? As someone has said our heart is like the “kernel of a nut” or like the internal citadel of our soul. Our heart controls all of our life, serving as the well spring of all our actions, and the center and seat of all the principles that undergird how we behave. In short, the heart controls our actions, our actions determine our habits and our habits are "warp and woof" (the foundation) of our character not our reputation (reputation being what others think about us, character being what God knows to be true about us). Why do we need to be constantly on guard? Clearly the implication is that the citadel of is one which can be easily taken by crafty adversaries like Satan (Recall Ge 3:1!) who prowls around (1Pe 5:8-note, 1Pe 5:9-note) continually looking for a "chink" in our armor with his goal being to take back lost ground (cp Ep 4:26, 27-note where "opportunity" is topos = territory, land, a defined place, an area = a foothold from which to launch further attacks as is true in real warfare!). We must not forget that our heart is easily deceived (cp Jer 17:9, cp Jesus' warning = Mt 26:41, cp deception of Ananias and Sapphira = Acts 5:3) and when the citadel of the heart is "overrun" or taken by the enemy (the world, the flesh or the devil), our whole man suffers defeat! So we need to be diligent with all keeping and before all else we must give priority to the protecting our heart. Most of us who are over 50 are careful to watch our cholesterol intake so that we might decrease our chances of heart attack. We need the same sober, serious approach to guarding our spiritual heart, even as one would protect a precious source of drinking water in the arid middle east so that it does not become polluted or poisoned by enemies! In short, we need to guard our heart, because our spiritual heart is the starting point for every spiritual aspect of our life. Don't be deceived by sin (See The Deceitfulness of Sin), for all of us, even the most godly among us, has some residual, innate propensity toward moral failure, some weak point, some potential opening for sin to pierce our moral armor. The solution? Continually watch over your heart!
In the Pentateuch we see a similar charge…
Solomon is giving us one of the most important practical duties of the Christian life. All other duties pale in comparison to guarding our hearts, for our heart affects everything we are, everything we say and everything we do.
The Dictionary of Biblical Imagery writes that…
John Angell James has a nice devotional summary of Proverbs 4:23…
Can I ask you a candid question? Is the seductive, deceptive lure of some sin such as anger, bitterness, unforgiveness, sexual immorality, etc, knocking at the door of your heart, dear saint? Are you getting ready to be captured by your own iniquities, bound by the cords of your own sin (Pr 5:22)? If so, than prayerfully, meditatively, take just a few moments (3' 43") and…
LISTEN TO "GUARD YOUR HEART"
Click here to listen to Steve Green's soul piercing rendition of Guard Your Heart. Dear brother (or sister), if you are "toying" (an oxymoron for this is not "child's play"!) with and making provision for an "affair" (A euphemism which is far too kind! Cp Ro 13:14-note, Gal 5:16-note; Gal 5:17-note), then take just a few moments and please listen carefully to the words of Steve's song and as you listen ponder the consequences in David's life - notice especially the last 2 verses in the following passages! (David's sin with Bathsheba and some of the consequences = 2Sa 11:1,2, 3, 4, 5, 12:7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 13:1, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 20, 22, 28, 29, 30, 31). As Steve Green rightly and passionately sings
"As a payment for pleasure it is a high price to pay "!
Remember that when sin comes in at the door of a person’s life, it eventually moves to the inner chambers and takes over.
If King David could speak to us today (and of course he is in one sense for the word is living and active, Heb 4:12-note, 1Pe 1:23-note), I have no doubt he would say that he would gladly forgo that 15-30 minutes of pleasure he had with Bathsheba on that fateful night, if the terrible consequences of his sin could be erased. O, dear beloved brother (or sister!) in Christ, if you are being tempted in this area, as you read this note, know that I have prayed for you that the Spirit would quicken your heart, renew your mind and empower your will to turn around and away from the potential devastation you are about to enter into to because of the deceitfulness (Heb 3:13-note) of this pleasurable (Heb 11:25-note) but tragic sin of porneia. Guard your heart --- for your God, for your wife and children, for your reputation, for the Lord's reputation, and remember that one day we will all stand before the Lord of Glory and give account for the deeds in the body (for believers at 2Cor 5:10 or unbelievers at Rev 20:11, 12, 13, 14, 15-see notes). See a related topic - Covenant: As It Relates to Marriage
Watch (command, not a suggestion) (05341) (natsar) means to guard, keep, observe, hide, preserve, hide. Many of the uses of natsar are nuanced by the object that is being watched or guarded. The first use in Ex 34:7 speaks of God keeping His faithfulness! Natsar is used with a similar sense of keeping faithfulness in “keeping” the covenant (Dt. 33:9); “keeping” the law (Ps. 105:45); “keeping” the rules of parents (Pr. 6:20).
Scripture uses natsar to describe men guarding truths about God. For example…
Baker - The word (natsar) refers to people’s maintaining things entrusted to them, especially to keeping the truths of God in both actions and mind (Ps. 119:100, 115). God’s Word is to be kept with our whole hearts (Ps. 119:69); our hearts, in turn, ought to be maintained in a right state (Pr. 4:23). The word also refers to keeping speech under control (Ps. 34:13 ; 141:3); the maintenance of a tree (Pr. 27:18); the work of God’s character (Ps. 40:11); its reflection in humans as preserving them (Ps. 25:21; Pr. 2:11). Sometimes the word refers directly to God’s preservation and maintenance of His people (Pr. 24:12; Isa. 49:8). The passive participle form of the verb describes an adulteress’ heart as guarded or kept secret (Pr. 7:10). It also describes a city as guarded or besieged (Isa. 1:8). The active participle is used to signify a watchman (2Kgs. 17:9; Jer. 31:6). (Complete Word Study Dictionary- Old Testament - recommended)
Vine - Natsar is frequently used to express the idea of “guarding” something, such as a vineyard (Isa. 27:3) or a fortification (Nah. 2:1). “To watch” one’s speech is a frequent concern, so advice is given “to watch” one’s mouth (Pr. 13:3), the tongue (Ps. 34:13), and the lips (Ps. 141:3). Many references are made to God as the one who “preserves” His people from dangers of all kinds (Deut. 32:10; Ps. 31:23). Generally, natsar is a close synonym to the much more common verb, shamar, “to keep, tend.”
TWOT - Examination of the objects protected assists in assigning to it a proper semantical range. First material things such as agricultural or military installations (e.g. a vineyard, Job 27:18; a fig tree, Pr 27:18; fortifications, Nah 2:2) are guarded. Those who are employed in these functions are called watchmen (Qal active plural participle nōsĕrîm, Jer 31:6; 2Kgs 17:9; 18:8). The Lord himself is regarded as a keeper or watchman over his vineyard Israel and over all men in general (Isa 27:3; Job 7:20). Secondly in an ethical sense, the mouth (Pr 13:3; Ps 141:3), one’s path in life (Pr 16:17), the heart (Pr 4:23), and the tongue (Ps 34:14) are guarded. Thirdly, there is the concept of “guarding with fidelity.” It usually centers around observing the covenant or the law of the Lord. The Lord himself is the one keeping loyal love (hesed) to thousands of generations (Ex 34:7). But mortal men are also responsible for observing the covenant (Deut 33:9; Ps 25:10) and the precepts or law of God (Ps 78:7; 105:45; 119:2, 22, 33, 34, 56, 69, 100, 115, 129, 145). Even the commands of parents (Pr 6:20; 28:7) and the discipline of wisdom (Pr 3:1, 21; 4:13; 5:2) require the same kind of faithful observance. God is spoken of as guarding from danger or preserving a man’s life (Ps 25:20; 40:12; Pr 24:12), the king (Ps 61:8), peace (Isa 26:3), Israel (Deut 32:10; Isa 42:6; 49:8), the faithful and their lives (Ps 31:24; Pr 2:8), and knowledge (Pr 22:12). The Lord also protects the righteous from this generation (Ps 12:8), trouble (Ps 32:7), the secret plots of the wicked (Ps 64:2), and violent men (Ps 140:2, 5). Wisdom keeps those who do not forsake her (Pr 4:6). So discretion watches over her children (Pr 2:11) and righteousness watches over her (Pr 13:6). In three instances, nātsar is used of guarding in the sense of “keeping secret.” In Isa 48:6 it refers to hidden things previously not revealed by God. In two other passages the meaning is negative. The “secret places” of sin where rebellious Israel spends her nights incubating (i.e. sleeping with the idols in order to receive dreams about the future, Isa 65:4) and the secret or crafty mindedness of a seductress (Pr 7:10). Another meaning is of keeping closed or blockaded cities under attack. In Jer 4:16, the Qal plural active participle seems to refer to the blockaders themselves, while in Ezek 6:12(?) and Isa 1:8 it points to the besieged or blockaded city. Taken altogether, it is no wonder that Isaiah calls the revived tribes of Israel in that eschatological era the preserved of Israel (49:6), for they surely have experienced the constant protection and preservation of the Lord. (Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament- R Laird Harris, Gleason L Archer Jr., Bruce K Waltke- Recommended)
Natsar - 57x in the OT- Ex 34:7; Deut 33:9; Job 7:20; 27:18; Ps 12:7; 25:10, 21; 31:23; 32:7; 34:13; 40:11; 61:7; 64:1; 78:7; 105:45; 119:2, 22, 33-34, 56, 69, 100, 115, 129, 145; 140:1, 4; 141:3; Pr 2:8, 11; 3:1, 21; 4:6, 13, 23; 5:2; 6:20; 7:10; 13:3, 6; 16:17; 20:28; 22:12; 24:12; 27:18; 28:7; Isa 1:8; 26:3; 27:3; 42:6; 48:6; 49:8; 65:4; Jer 4:16; 31:6; Ezek 6:12; Nah 2:1. NAS Usage: besieged(2), Besiegers(1), cunning(1), guard(2), guarding(1), guards(2), hidden things(1), keep(7), keep watch(1), keeper(1), keeps(3), kept(1), man(1), observe(10), observed(1), observes(1), preserve(10), preserves(1), reserve(1), secret places(1), tends(1), watch(4), watcher(1), watches(1), watchman(1), watchmen(1). For example…
Men will only guard what is valuable. There are not many guards posted at the local city dump, but there are armed guards and security measures at the bank or the expensive jewelry store, because of the great value in these places. This basic human principle says something about God’s view of the heart. He knows that the heart is of great value to Him and to the one who possesses it. And thus the command to watch our heart as one would the wealthiest bank in the world. The integrity and vitality of our spiritual lives depend on it!
Are you guarding your heart 24/7?
In short, the Hebrew word natsar is a command calling for continual watching and can even refer to a watchman on security duty. Note also that watching includes two things, one, that you keep noxious pollutants from coming in, and secondly, that you keep anything good from being stolen. Both are relevant when it comes to guarding one's heart.
William Cowper gives us an example of how something good is stolen from our heart…
UBS Handbook on Proverbs says that "In some languages this is expressed as “Watch your mind,” “Keep a hand on your head,” or “Take care of your thoughts.” NJB translates “More than all else, keep watch over your heart,” and NJPSV (New Jewish Publication Society Version) has “More than all that you guard, guard your mind.” We may also say, for example, “The most important thing you can do is be careful what you think” or “The most important … is to think good thoughts.” (Reyburn, W. D., & Fry, E. M. A handbook on Proverbs. The United Bible Societies' New Testament Handbook Series)
Toy writes that "The Hebrew in first line reads: more than all guarding ( = “with more vigilant guarding than in any other case”) watch thou over thy heart, = “watch thy heart (or, thyself) more than anything else”; the same general sense is given by the rendering: above all that thou guardest, etc. (De., RV. marg.), but this signification (“the thing guarded”) the word has not elsewhere in OT. A better sense is given by the Greek reading: with all watching guard etc., that is, in every way, with all possible vigilance and diligence (so AV., RV.).(Toy, C. H. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the book of Proverbs. 1899)
Watch over (05341) (Qal Imperative = Command) means to watch, preserve, guard from dangers; guard with fidelity; keep secret and close, blockade. This verb is related to a word which describes a prison guard keeping watch over a prisoner in a cell (posting a guard, a guard-house, a guard post). As noted, in Hebrew (and in Greek) this injunction is in the form of a command. If God commands it, then we can carry it out (in His power, Zech 4:6, Gal 5:16-note, Eph 5:18-note) and therefore we have no excuse to not comply! What is your excuse? Solomon sadly failed to carry out the very command the Spirit of God inspired him to pen! (see the following section). Watching over our heart is not an addendum or elective for those who are called to be holy as He is holy (1Pe 1:15, 16- notes)! It speaks of the exercise of serious, vigilant, careful diligence in "keeping an eye on" and protecting the heart.
Our heart is in the center of our inner man (phrase found in NASB in Ro 7:22, 2Co 4:16, Eph 3:16), so how can we possibly watch over something we cannot envision? What comes into the inner man? Input especially from the eyes but also from the ears. It follows that we watch over our heart by watching over these strategic entry points, in the following practical ways…
What happens when we don't guard our heart and the head waters so to speak become polluted by moral filth, anger, unforgiveness, envy, greed, bitterness, etc? Jesus gives us the answer in His explanation of what truly defiles a person (cp Mk 7:15) declaring…
In a parallel passage as Jesus condemned the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, He declared…
If our heart is right with God, our lips and our feet will be what He wants them to be. On the other hand when our heart is defiled, everything is defiled. Have you had a spiritual checkup lately? You can remain healthy by keeping the Word of God in your heart (cp Ps 119:9, 10, 11). The Word of Truth and Life will spread to the other parts of your body. Do you glorify God with your mouth, feet and heart? What is in your heart will direct your life.
The NET Bible notes explain that the literal reads…
Jerry Bridges writes that…
A W Tozer spared no words in his warning for saints to guard their hearts…
The Puritan writer John Flavel in his book "Keeping the Heart (online book)" writes that…
To keep the heart then, is carefully to preserve it from sin, which disorders it; and maintain that spiritual frame which fits it for a life of communion with God. This includes in it six particulars:
1) “frequent observation” of the state of the heart (self-examination, cp 2Cor 13:5)…
Take a moment to listen to this song, one of my favorites from Craig Smith, entitled Single Heart...
He had only one aim
May You find in us,
Here is another song Pure Heart -- take a moment to ponder your life in light the words sung by Craig Smith and make it your prayer to the Father today:
Over and over I hear it again
Search ever chamber, expose them to me
My only ambition is to stand before You
Phil Johnson (See Wisdom Guards the Heart) outlines several "bullet points" regarding how we are to guard our heart which are summarized (and paraphrased) as follows…
How Solomon would have profited by following his own advice! The writer of first Kings (1Ki 11) records the tragic example of Solomon's failure to guard his heart and should serve as a warning that should make us all shudder (!!!, cp 1Co 10:6, 11, 12)…
Heart (03820) (leb - note that this discussion also includes the closely related noun lebab -03824) sometimes refers to a literal heart (Ex 28:29, 1Sa 25:37, 2Ki 9:24), but most often is used figurative to refer to what I term the "control center" of our being. Think of an Air Traffic Controller and how dysfunctional, even destructive it is when the controllers fail to function as they should. (Note - see notes above for additional discussion of the heart).
Just as a healthy human heart is at the center of the body and absolutely essential for physical life and health, so too a healthy spiritual heart (intellect, emotion, will) is at the center of one's inner being (soul) and is vital for a healthy soul, serving as the "fountain" of all moral attitudes and actions. Our spiritual heart thus controls out actions and our actions determine our habits, which in turn determine our character. When God measures the ''worth'' of a man's life He puts the measuring tape around his heart, not around his head. Be a man after God's Own heart (Acts 13:22) We must continually "post a guard" at the doorway of our heart, so that every avenue for sin's entry is blocked.
John MacArthur - The “heart” commonly refers to the mind as the center of thinking and reason (Pr 3:3; 6:21; 7:3), but also includes the emotions (Pr 15:15, 30), the will (Pr 11:20; 14:14), and thus, the whole inner being (Pr 3:5). The heart is the depository of all wisdom and the source of whatever affects speech (Pr 4:24), sight (Pr 4:25), and conduct (Pr 4:26, 27). (MacArthur, J.: The MacArthur Study Bible Nashville: Word )
John Kitto - All the phrases, more or less metaphorical, in which this word occurs, are rendered intelligible, without detailed examples, when we are told that the heart was, among the Hebrews, regarded poetically not only as the seat of the passions and emotions, as of love, pleasure, and grief, but also of the intellectual faculties—the mind, the understanding. In the original Scriptures, as well as in the English and other translations, the word 'heart' therefore, constantly occurs where 'mind' is to be understood, and would be used by a modern English writer. We say modern, because the ancient usage of the English word 'heart' was more conformable than the present to that of the Hebrews. (Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature)
Richard Watson - The Hebrews regarded the heart as the source of wit, understanding, love, courage, grief, and pleasure… The heart is said to be dilated by joy, contracted by sadness, broken by sorrow, to grow fat, and be hardened by prosperity. The heart melts under discouragement, forsakes one under terror, is desolate in affliction, and fluctuating in doubt. To speak to any one's heart is to comfort him, to say pleasing and affecting things to him. The heart expresses also the middle part of any thing: "Tyre is in the heart of the seas," Ezekiel 27:4; in the midst of the seas. "We will not fear though the mountains be carried into the heart (middle) of the sea," Psalms 46:2 .The heart of man is naturally depraved and inclined to evil, Jeremiah 17:9 . A divine power is requisite for its renovation, John 3:1-11 . When thus renewed, the effects will be seen in the temper, conversation, and conduct at large. Hardness of heart is that state in which a sinner is inclined to, and actually goes on in, rebellion against God.
Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Both Old and New Testaments speak repeatedly of the heart as the centre of a person’s inner life. An examination of the hundreds of references to the heart in the Bible will show that the word is not limited in its meaning to one particular part of a person. ‘Heart’ may refer to a person’s whole inner life – what the person really is (1 Samuel 16:7; Psalms 22:26; Proverbs 4:23; Matthew 22:37; 1 Thessalonians 2:4); or it may refer to attributes of human personality such as a person’s understanding (1 Kings 3:9; Proverbs 2:10; 1 Corinthians 2:9; Ephesians 1:18), desires (Deuteronomy 24:15; Proverbs 6:25; Matthew 6:21; Romans 1:24), feelings (Judges 19:6; Proverbs 14:10; Proverbs 15:30; John 14:27; James 3:14), determination (Exodus 8:15; 1 Kings 8:58; Romans 6:17; Colossians 3:22), or character (1 Samuel 13:14; Jeremiah 5:23; Romans 2:29; 2 Thessalonians 3:5; 1 Peter 3:4). Sometimes ‘heart’ is used as another word for a person’s spirit (Psalms 51:10; Psalms 51:17; Ezekiel 36:26), soul (Deuteronomy 4:29; Proverbs 2:10; Acts 4:32) or mind (1 Samuel 2:35; Ephesians 1:18; Hebrews 8:10; cf. Matthew 22:37). The heart is what is sometimes referred to as ‘the inner being’, and is the source of all the wrong that a person does (Proverbs 6:14; Proverbs 6:18; Jeremiah 17:9; Mark 7:21-23; Romans 1:24-25; Ephesians 4:18; see SIN). Therefore, the heart must be cleansed to bring forgiveness; or, to use another picture, it must be re-created to bring new spiritual life. Only God can bring about this cleansing or re-creation (Psalms 51:10; Ezekiel 36:26; Acts 8:21-22; Ephesians 3:16; Hebrews 10:22). Since the heart determines actions, a person must be careful to have right attitudes of heart at all times (Leviticus 19:17; Psalms 4:4; 1 Timothy 1:5; James 3:14). God sees the inner condition and judges the person accordingly (1 Samuel 16:7; Psalms 44:21; Matthew 5:8; Revelation 2:23 (Bridgeway Bible Dictionary)
The heart is the source of whatever affects life and character (Mt 12:35;15:19).
See Also Related Resources:
The Dictionary of Biblical Imagery writes that "In the Bible heart encompasses more than what we mean by mind (for which there is no word in biblical Hebrew). The heart is the center of the being, where the will, affections, thoughts, purposes and imagination reside. Human emotions are more frequently associated with the lower organs."
In the context of Proverbs 4, watching over one's heart involves guarding what is said (Pr 4:24, and the heart affects what is said, Mt 12:34), what is seen (Pr 4:25, Job 31:7, Mt 5:28), and what is done (Pr 4:26, 27).
Charles Wood writes that "In Hebrew the heart is the “kernel of the nut;” the internal citadel of the soul."
Oswald Chambers has an interesting thought on heart explaining that "The Bible term “heart” is best understood if we simply say “me,” it is the central citadel of a man’s personality. The heart is the altar of which the physical body is the outer court, and whatever is offered on the altar of the heart will tell ultimately through the extremities of the body. “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” (Chambers, O. The moral foundation of life : A series of talks on the ethical principles of the Christian life. Hants UK: Marshall, Morgan & Scott)
Leb and its synonym lebab (03824) appear 860 times in the OT. The law, prophets, and Psalms often speak of the heart. Heart is used first of man in Ge 6:5. In Ge. 6:6 leb is used of God. “Heart” may refer to the organ of the body (Ex. 28:29, 2Sa 18:14; Ps. 38:10). Leb may also refer to the inner part or middle of a thing (Ex 15:8; Dt. 4:11; Pr. 23:34).
Lebab (03824) means heart, mind or the inner man, contrasted to the outer man (See Dt. 30:14: Joel 2:13; 1Sa 16:7). Lebab is often compounded with “soul” for emphasis, as in 2Chr 15:12 (cf. 2 Chr 15:15). Baker writes that lebab primarily "describes the entire disposition of the inner person that God can discern (1Sa 16:7); be devoted to the Lord (1Kgs 15:3); seek the Lord (2Chr 11:16); turn against people (Ex. 14:5); be uncircumcised (Lev. 26:41); be hardened (1 Sam. 6:6); be totally committed to the Lord (Deut. 6:5; 2 Chr. 15:15). It is also used to describe the place where the rational, thinking process occurs that allows a person to know God’s blessings (Josh. 23:14); to plan for the future (1 Kgs. 8:18); to communicate (2 Chr. 9:1); and to understand God’s message (Isa. 6:10). Like our English usage, it often refers to the seat of emotions, whether it refers to joy (Deut. 28:47); discouragement (Josh. 2:11); comfort (Judg. 19:8); grief (1 Sam. 1:8); sorrow (Ps. 13:2); or gladness (Isa. 30:29). (Ibid)
Leb can be used of the man himself or his personality: (Ge 17:17 Eccl 1:16). Leb is also used of God in this sense (Jer. 3:15).
The seat of desire, inclination, or will can be indicated by heart (Ex. 7:14); (Ex. 35:5; 21, 29); (Ps. 86:12). Leb is also used of God in this sense "with my whole heart and with my whole soul” (Jer. 32:41). Two people are said to be in agreement when their “hearts” are right with each other (2Ki10:15). In 2Chr 24:4 Joash “had in his heart”.
The “heart” is regarded as the seat of emotions: (Deut. 6:5; Ex 4:14; 1Sa 2:1). So there are “merry” hearts (Jdg. 16:25), “fearful” hearts (Isa. 35:4), and hearts that “trembled” (1Sa 4:13).
The “heart” could be regarded as the seat of knowledge and wisdom and as a synonym of “mind.” This meaning often occurs when “heart” appears with the verb “to know” (Dt. 8:5;. 29:4). Solomon prayed, “Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart” (1Ki 3:9;. 4:29). Memory is the activity of the “heart,” as in Job 22:22.
The “heart” may be the seat of conscience and moral character. How does one respond to the revelation of God and of the world around him? (Job = Job 27:6, David = 2Sa 24:10).
The “heart” is the fountain of man’s deeds (Ge 20:5-6). David walked “in uprightness of heart” (1Ki 3:6) and Hezekiah “with a perfect heart” (Isa 38:3) before God. Only the man with “clean hands, and a pure heart” (Ps. 24:4) can stand in God’s presence.
Leb may refer to the seat of rebellion and pride (Ge 8:21; Tyre in Ezek. 28:2). They all become like Judah, whose “sin… engraved upon the tablet of their heart.” (Jer. 17:1).
God controls the “heart.” Because of his natural “heart,” man’s only hope is in the promise of God to receive a new heart (Ezek. 36:26 = New Covenant). So David the sinner prays “Create in me a clean heart (Ps. 51:10), "unite my heart [give me an undivided heart] to fear thy name” (Ps 86:11).
God tries the heart (1Chr 29:17). Hence God’s people seek His approval: test "my heart” (Ps. 26:2).
The “heart” stands for the inner being of man, the man himself. As such, it is the fountain of all he does (Pr 4:4). All his thoughts, desires, words, and actions flow from deep within him. Yet a man cannot understand his own “heart” (Jer. 17:9). As a man goes on in his own way, his “heart” becomes harder and harder. But God will circumcise (cut away the uncleanness of) the “heart” of His people, so that they will love and obey Him with their whole being (Dt. 30:6).
Leb - 545v NOTE FREQUENCY IN PSALMS & PROVERBS! (THIS WOULD MAKE AN INTERESTING STUDY OF THE "HEART") - Gen 6:5f; 8:21; 17:17; 18:5; 24:45; 27:41; 34:3; 42:28; 50:21; Exod 4:14, 21; 7:3, 13f, 22f; 8:15, 19, 32; 9:7, 12, 21, 34f; 10:1, 20, 27; 11:10; 14:4, 8, 17; 15:8; 25:2; 28:3, 29f; 31:6; 35:5, 10, 21f, 25f, 29, 34f; 36:1f, 8; Num 16:28; 24:13; 32:7, 9; Deut 4:11; 28:65; 29:4, 19; Josh 11:20; 14:8; Judg 5:9, 15f; 16:15, 17f, 25; 18:20; 19:3, 5f, 22; Ruth 2:13; 3:7; 1 Sam 1:13; 2:1; 4:13, 20; 6:6; 9:20; 10:9, 26; 17:32; 24:5; 25:25, 31, 36f; 27:1; 28:5; 2 Sam 6:16; 7:21, 27; 13:20, 28, 33; 14:1; 15:6, 13; 17:10; 18:3, 14; 19:7, 19; 24:10; 1 Kgs 3:9, 12; 4:29; 8:23, 47, 66; 9:3; 10:24; 11:3; 12:26f, 33; 18:37; 21:7; 2 Kgs 5:26; 6:11; 9:24; 12:4; 14:10; 23:3; 1 Chr 12:33, 38; 15:29; 16:10; 17:19; 28:9; 29:9; 2 Chr 6:14, 38; 7:10f, 16; 9:23; 12:14; 17:6; 24:4; 25:19; 26:16; 30:12, 22; 32:25f; Ezra 6:22; 7:27; Neh 2:2, 12; 4:6; 6:8; 7:5; Esther 1:10; 5:9; 6:6; 7:5; JOB - Job 1:8; 2:3; 7:17; 8:10; 11:13; 12:24; 15:12; 17:4; 23:16; 29:13; 31:7, 9, 27; 33:3; 34:14; 36:5, 13; 37:1, 24; 41:24;
PSALMS - Ps 4:7; 7:9f; 9:1; 10:6, 11, 13, 17; 11:2; 12:2; 13:5; 14:1; 16:9; 17:3; 19:8, 14; 21:2; 22:14; 26:2; 27:3, 8, 14; 28:7; 31:12; 32:11; 33:11, 15, 21; 34:18; 35:25; 36:1, 10; 37:4, 15, 31; 38:8, 10; 39:3; 40:10, 12; 41:6; 44:18, 21; 45:1, 5; 46:2; 48:13; 49:3; 51:10, 17; 53:1; 55:4, 21; 57:7; 58:2; 61:2; 62:10; 64:6, 10; 66:18; 69:20; 74:8; 76:5; 78:8, 37; 81:12; 83:5; 84:2; 94:15; 97:11; 102:4; 105:3, 25; 107:12; 108:1; 109:22; 112:7f; 119:2, 10f, 32, 34, 36, 58, 69f, 80, 111f, 145, 161; 125:4; 131:1; 138:1; 140:2; 141:4; 143:4; 147:3;
PROVERBS - Pr 2:2, 10; 3:1, 3, 5; 4:4, 23; 5:12; 6:14, 18, 21, 32; 7:3, 7, 10, 25; 8:5; 9:4, 16; 10:8, 13, 20f; 11:12, 20; 12:8, 11, 20, 23, 25; 13:12; 14:10, 13f, 30, 33; 15:7, 11, 13ff, 21, 28, 30, 32; 16:1, 5, 9, 21, 23; 17:3, 16, 18, 20, 22; 18:2, 12, 15; 19:3, 8, 21; 20:5, 9; 21:1f, 4; 22:11, 15, 17; 23:7, 12, 15, 17, 19, 26, 33f; 24:2, 12, 17, 30, 32; 25:3, 20; 26:23, 25; 27:9, 11, 19, 23; 28:14, 26; 30:19; 31:11;
Eccl 1:13, 16f; 2:1, 3, 10, 15, 20, 23; 3:11, 17f; 5:2, 20; 7:2ff, 7, 21, 25f; 8:5, 9, 11, 16; 9:1, 3, 7; 10:2f; 11:9f; Song 3:11; 5:2; 8:6; Isa 6:10; 15:5; 24:7; 29:13; 32:6; 33:18; 35:4; 38:3; 40:2; 42:25; 44:18ff; 46:8, 12; 47:7, 10; 51:7; 57:1, 11, 15, 17; 59:13; 61:1; 63:4, 17; 65:14, 17; 66:14; Jer 3:10, 15ff; 4:9, 14, 18f; 5:21, 23; 7:24, 31; 8:18; 9:14, 26; 11:8, 20; 12:3, 11; 13:10; 14:14; 16:12; 17:1, 5, 9f; 18:12; 19:5; 20:9, 12; 22:17; 23:9, 16f, 20, 26; 24:7; 30:21, 24; 31:21, 33; 32:35, 39, 41; 44:21; 48:29, 36, 41; 49:16, 22; Lam 1:20, 22; 2:18f; 3:21, 33, 65; 5:15, 17; Ezek 2:4; 3:7; 6:9; 11:19, 21; 13:2, 17; 14:3ff, 7; 18:31; 20:16; 21:7, 15; 22:14; 27:4, 25ff; 28:2, 6, 8, 17; 32:9; 33:31; 36:26; 40:4; 44:5, 7, 9; Dan 1:8; 10:12; Hos 2:14; 4:11; 7:6, 11, 14; 10:2; 11:8; 13:6, 8; Amos 2:16; Obad 1:3; Nah 2:10; Zeph 3:14; Zech 7:12; 10:7; 12:5; Mal 2:2; 4:6
Usage of Leb: accord(1), attention(4), attention*(1), bravest*(1), brokenhearted*(3), care*(2), celebrating*(1), chests*(1), completely*(1), concern*(1), concerned*(1), conscience(1), consider*(2), considered*(2), courage(1), decided*(1), determine*(1), discouraged*(1), discouraging*(1), doing*(1), double heart(1), encouragingly*(1), heart(396), heart's(2), hearts(40), Himself(1), himself(6), imagination(1), inspiration(2), intelligence(1), kindly(5), life(1), merry-hearted*(1), middle(2), midst(1), mind(36), minds(3), myself(6), obstinate*(2), planned*(1), presume*(1), pride*(1), recalls*(1), reflected*(1), regard*(1), self-exaltation*(1), sense(10), senseless*(1), seriously(1), skill*(1), skilled*(1), skillful man*(1), skillful men*(1), skillful persons*(1), skillful*(3), spirits(1), stouthearted*(1), stubborn-minded*(1), tenderly(2), thought(3), understanding(7), undivided*(1), well(2), willingly*(1), wisdom(2), yourself(1), yourselves(1).
Lebab (03824) NOTE FREQUENCY IN DEUTERONOMY! - 228v - Ge 20:5-6; Ex 14:5; Lev 19:17; 26:36, 41; Num 15:39; DEUTERONOMY - Deut 1:28; 2:30; 4:9, 29, 39; 5:29; 6:5-6; 7:17; 8:2, 5, 14, 17; 9:4-5; 10:12, 16; 11:13, 16, 18; 13:3; 15:7, 9-10; 17:17, 20; 18:21; 19:6; 20:3, 8; 26:16; 28:28, 47, 67; 29:18; 30:1-2, 6, 10, 14, 17; 32:46; Josh 2:11; 5:1; 7:5; 14:7; 22:5; 23:14; 24:23; Jdg 19:8-9; 1Sa 1:8; 2:35; 6:6; 7:3; 9:19; 12:20, 24; 13:14; 14:7; 16:7; 17:28; 21:12; 2Sa7:3; 19:14; 1Kgs 2:4, 44; 3:6; 8:17-18, 38-39, 48, 58, 61; 9:4; 10:2; 11:2, 4, 9; 14:8; 15:3, 14; 2Kgs 10:15, 30f; 20:3; 22:19; 23:25; 1Chr 12:17, 38; 17:2; 22:7, 19; 28:2, 9; 29:17-19; 2Chr 1:11; 6:7f, 30, 37; 9:1; 11:16; 13:7; 15:12, 15, 17; 16:9; 19:3, 9; 20:33; 22:9; 25:2; 29:10, 34; 30:19; 31:21; 32:6, 31; 34:27, 31; 36:13; Ezra 7:10; Neh 9:8; JOB Job 1:5; 9:4; 10:13; 12:3; 17:11; 22:22; 27:6; 34:10, 34; PSALMS - Ps 4:4; 13:2; 15:2; 20:4; 22:26; 24:4; 25:17; 28:3; 31:24; 62:8; 69:32; 73:1, 7, 13, 21, 26; 77:6; 78:18, 72; 84:5; 86:11-12; 90:12; 95:8, 10; 101:2, 4-5; 104:15; 109:16; 111:1; 119:7; 139:23; PROVERBS - Pr 4:21; 6:25; Eccl 9:3; ISAIAH - Isa 1:5; 6:10; 7:2, 4; 9:9; 10:7, 12; 13:7; 14:13; 19:1; 21:4; 30:29; 32:4; 47:8; 49:21; 60:5; JEREMIAH - Jer 4:4; 5:24; 13:22; 15:16; 29:13; 32:40; 51:46, 50; Lam 3:41; Ezek 3:10; 28:5f; 31:10; 36:5; 38:10; Daniel 8:25; 11:12, 25, 27-28; Hosea 7:2; Joel 2:12-13; Jonah 2:3; Nah 2:7; Zeph 1:12; 2:15; Hag 1:5, 7; 2:15, 18; Zech 7:10; 8:17.
NAS Usage of Lebab: anger(1), breasts(1), conscientious*(1), consider*(5), courage(1), desire(1), encouragingly*(1), fainthearted*(3), heart(185), heart and the hearts(1), heart's(1), hearts(27), hearts like his heart(1), intelligence(1), intended(2), mind(8), purpose(1), thought(1), timid*(1), understanding(2), wholehearted*(1), wholeheartedly*(1), yourself(1).
Adam Clarke writes ""Above all keeping," guard thy heart. He who knows any thing of himself, knows how apt his affections are to go astray.
Spurgeon writes that "Some of your hearts are not worth keeping. The sooner you get rid of them the better. They are hearts of stone. Do you feel today that you have a stony heart? Go home, and I pray the Lord hear my desire that your polluted heart may be removed. Cry unto God and say, “Take away my heart of stone, and give me a heart of flesh;” (Ezek 11:19, 36:26) for a stony heart is an impure heart, a divided heart, an unpeaceful heart. It is a heart that is poor and poverty–stricken, a heart that is void of all goodness, and you can neither bless thyself nor others, if your heart be such. (Proverbs 4:23 The Great Reservoir)
J Vernon McGee writes that…
Spurgeon wrote that…
Guthrie writes that…
Mark Water writes that we watch over our hearts in two ways
The Puritan John Flavel has the following discussion on Proverbs 4:23 in his introductory chapter…
J W Miller explains that…
Cohen writes that in Solomon's day the heart was considered to be…
The BKC adds that in Pr 4:23…
Murphy observes that
Charles Bridges writes that…
Thomas Constable explains that the Hebrew concept of…
Harry Ironside comments on Solomon's figurative use of heart noting that…
The IVP Bible Background Commentary (OT) notes that…
Conrad Mbewe has an article entitled Pastoral Purity in which he addresses guarding our hearts…
Davis Huckabee writes that in this verse Solomon..
Peter Marshall former chaplain of the US Senate tells the following story “The Keeper of the Spring” which illustrates the importance of constantly guarding our heart…
A W Pink has an entire chapter entitled Heart Work (click for entire chapter - recommended), writing that keeping of the heart with all diligence…
SELF-WATCH! by F B Meyer
SAID PETER to our Lord, "Spare Thyself this death of which Thou speakest--this bitter suffering and anguish shall never be Thine!"
These words are continually spoken still, and many are the voices that bid us spare ourselves--the voices of our friends who love us; the voices of prudence and worldly wisdom; the voices of our own wayward hearts.
Do not spare your judgment of yourself. Never permit yourself to do things which you would be the first to condemn in others. Never suppose that there are reasons for you to do a wrong, which, under no circumstances would you tolerate in your neighbour.
Do not spare yourself in confessing your sins and mistakes. Confession is one of the tests of nobility. Not a few are willing to confess to God, who never attempt to confess to men. It is a serious question whether that sorrow for sin is genuine and deep enough which does not lead the offender to ask his fellow-man for pardon, even as he asks his God. Nothing could be clearer than Christ's words, that whenever we remember that our brother has aught against us, we are to leave our gift at the altar, and go first to seek reconciliation with him, before we offer our sacrifice to God.
The supreme test of goodness is not in the greater but in the smaller incidents of our character and practice; not what we are when standing in the searchlight of public scrutiny, but when we reach the firelight flicker of our homes; not what we are when some clarion-call rings through the air, summoning us to fight for life and liberty, but our attitude when we are called to sentry-duty in the grey morning, when the watch-fire is burning low. It is impossible to be our best at the supreme moment if character is corroded and eaten into by dally inconsistency, unfaithfulness, and besetting sin.
You cannot really help people without expending yourself. The only work that tells must cost you something. Gold, silver, and precious stones can never be built into the new Jerusalem unless you are willing to part with them from the stores of your own life.
PRAYER - Most loving Father, may love fill and rule my heart. For then there will spring up and be cherished between Thee and me a likeness of character, and union of will, so that I may choose and refuse what Thou dost. AMEN. (F. B. Meyer. Our Daily Walk)
F B Meyer - THE FORTRESS OF THE HEART
KEEP THY HEART CLEAN
First, let us look at Pr 4:23, where the wise man says: "Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life," or as the revised version puts it: "Keep thy heart above all things that thou keepest."
You keep your wealth, you keep your home, you keep your health, you keep your character, but above all these things keep your heart. Why? Because out of it are the issues of life.
When Bunyan depicted the character of Ignorance, he made him say:
"I think my heart is as good as anybody's heart, and as for my thoughts, I take no notice of them."
He shows at once that he does not know himself, and that he is exposed to every temptation that crosses his path. If you have never before noticed your thoughts you will find before I am done that the first suggestion of wrong comes through the doorway of the mind.
Turn again to Pr 23:7, and read: "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he."
The thoughts lay down the tram lines upon which presently the tram car makes its way. Just as the tram car will pass up and down the rails in a great city, so does the act follow along the track of the thought.
I know there are men who say, "I must not do that act, but I may indulge the thought of doing it." There are those who dare not act impurely, but during the hours of darkness they allow their thoughts to wander where they will, and such men and women think they have escaped wrong; but let them understand that those thoughts are all noted by God, and they will have to account for them at the day of judgment. Let them also know that the thoughts they have entertained in their hearts will find an issue, and there will be some act in their life, perhaps ten years hence, as a result of these unholy thoughts. Sometimes it seems rather terrible that a life should be blasted by one act, and you may be disposed to pity the man and say that it is hard for him to be judged and crippled for the rest of his life by the passionate act of a single moment. But remember that an act is never alone. It really sums up trains of unholy thought in which the man has been indulging, and therefore you do not judge him for the one act, but for the process of which it is the result. The tree was eaten through before it crashed to the ground in the storm. (See "Tiny Evils, Big Fall")
As a contrast to that verse in Genesis, I quote Phil 4:8: "Whatsoever things are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report, think on these things."
Up to the doorway of your heart are always coming hundreds and thousands of thoughts, and you must be careful to reject the evil ones and let into your soul only those that are of good report. If these are the tenants of the inner life, you need have no fear about your character. I am prepared to say that if you think right, you need not take much care about your life.
Butler in his Analogy says there are three steps in the formation of character--act, habit, character. The act makes the habit, the habit or the bundle of habits form the character. Thackeray amplified this saying thus: "Sow a thought, reap an act; sow an act, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap character; sow character, reap destiny."
I illustrated this not long ago to an audience of children by showing a thread, and attached to it a piece of twine, then a rope, then a chain, and padlock. I tied the thread around a boy, and he broke it easily. But I gradually wound the twine and rope and chain about him to show the power of habit. The thread was the thought leading to the act, the rope was the habit, the chain was character, ending in the padlock of destiny.
Our Lord announces the same truth in Mark 7:21: "For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts." Then He names some of the sins--adultery, fornication, murder, thefts, covetousness. They all begin in the evil thoughts. In Ep 2:3 we are told: "Among whom also we all had our conversation in time past in the lusts of the flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind." The Greek says "the desires of the flesh and the thoughts." I want you to notice that, "'fulfilling the desires of the flesh and the thoughts." Desire is not in itself wrong. The affections and propensities of our nature are not wrong in themselves. God gave these to us to pull along the chariots of our lives. He put within us all manner of appetites and propensities which are His own beautiful gifts. The wrong comes in two ways: if we desire too much of the right thing, and if we desire gratification in a wrong way. Whenever desire oversteps the bounds, or seeks gratification in a wrong way, it becomes lust.
You cannot help the bad thoughts coming. As one of the Puritans said: "You cannot help the birds flying over your head, but you can keep them from building their nests in your hair." Some are part of us by heredity. Then the papers and books we read, the pictures which are exhibited in store windows and in art galleries, the conversations we overhear,--all around us there are many things exciting and appealing to us, and we are having unholy desires constantly presented to our mind. But we must not fulfill them. We may have the temptations to lust presented to us, but there is a vast difference between that and having the lust gratified. The evil thought may come to your door and knock, and you may keep your door locked. You sin when you open your heart and let the thought in and gloat over it. Then desire becomes lust.
In James 1:14, 15 we read: "Every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lusts, and enticed. For when the lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin, and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death." Let me illustrate by the use of botany. You know that flowers have their sex, and the bees gathering honey in one flower carry the pollen to another, and the result is flower and fruit. Precisely in the same way the heart of man is always open, and bees of all kinds seem to bring the pollen of unholy thoughts; when these are sown in the desires of our nature, there is at once the result of which St. James speaks. As soon as you allow the evil thought to mingle with your nature, it bringeth forth the act of sin, and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.
I am not speaking now of the sinful state which we have inherited from Adam, but of the act of sin. Lust, when it hath conceived, bringeth forth this child of sin, and its grandchild, which is death. There you have the parent, child and grandchild.
Now we may say that bad thoughts fly about like microbes. Our system of surgery has been entirely transformed in Great Britain by the recent discovery of the influence of microbes. We are now taught that the air is filled with microbes. The surgeons always keep their instruments in a solution of carbolic acid, so that when an instrument makes an incision in the flesh it will not carry microbes with it. This is to prevent suppuration, which is only the multiplication of microbes in an open wound.
What microbes are to the body, bad thoughts are to the soul. As you have to use antiseptics to check microbes, so you must live in the Spirit, walk in the Spirit, who is the antiseptic to bad thoughts. These thoughts come from Satan. "Lest Satan should get an advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices," (2Co 2:11). The Greek is, "We are not ignorant of his thoughts." Satan is always starting evil thoughts.
To use a simile that anybody can understand, the soul is like a castle with a great gateway. Many people leave the gateway of their soul open, so that every vagrant, truant evil thought may come pouring in and do as it likes. At the gateway of your soul there are many thoughts apparently innocent, but really great traitors. If you keep your gateway unguarded, unsentinelled, these thoughts pour in and out, backwards and forwards, and presently blow up your whole soul with passion.
Therefore, in dealing with our thoughts, two things are necessary: First, discernment; and second, keeping power.
We read in Is 28:5,6: "In that day shall the Lord of hosts be for a spirit of judgment to him that sitteth in judgment, and for strength to them that turn the battle to the gate." The Lord of hosts shall be two things: first, a spirit of judgment, and secondly, strength. Are not these what we need? (For the rest of this chapter see - Back to Bethel by F B Meyer = plain text version or download the PDF Version) (Alternative Site)
Today in the Word
Matthew Henry wrote
OT References on the Hebrew noun leb = heart - Gen. 6:5, 6; 8:21; 17:17; 18:5; 24:45; 27:41; 34:3; 42:28; 50:21; Ex 4:14, 21; 7:3, 13, 14, 22, 23; 8:15, 19, 32; 9:7, 12, 21, 34, 35; 10:1, 20, 27; 11:10; 14:4, 8, 17; 15:8; 25:2; 28:3, 29, 30; 31:6; 35:5, 10, 21, 22, 25, 26, 29, 34, 35; 36:1, 2, 8; Nu 16:28; 24:13; 32:7, 9; Deut. 4:11; 28:65; 29:4, 19; Jos. 11:20; 14:8; Jdg. 5:9, 15, 16; 16:15, 17, 18, 25; 18:20; 19:3, 5, 6, 22; Ruth 2:13; 3:7;
1Sa 1:13; 2:1; 4:13, 20; 6:6; 9:20; 10:9, 26; 17:32; 24:5; 25:25, 31, 36, 37; 27:1; 28:5; 2 Sam. 6:16; 7:21, 27; 13:20, 28, 33; 14:1; 15:6, 13; 17:10; 18:3, 14; 19:7, 19; 24:10; 1 Ki. 3:9, 12; 4:29; 8:23, 47, 66; 9:3; 10:24; 11:3; 12:26, 27, 33; 18:37; 21:7; 2 Ki. 5:26; 6:11; 9:24; 12:4; 14:10; 23:3; 1 Chr. 12:33, 38; 15:29; 16:10; 17:19; 28:9; 29:9; 2 Chr. 6:14, 38; 7:10, 11, 16; 9:23; 12:14; 17:6; 24:4; 25:19; 26:16; 30:12, 22; 32:25, 26;
Ezra 6:22; 7:27; Neh. 2:2, 12; 4:6; 6:8; 7:5; Esther 1:10; 5:9; 6:6; 7:5;
Job 1:8; 2:3; 7:17; 8:10; 11:13; 12:24; 15:12; 17:4; 23:16; 29:13; 31:7, 9, 27; 33:3; 34:14; 36:5, 13; 37:1, 24; 41:24;
Ps. 4:7; 7:9, 10; 9:1; 10:6, 11, 13, 17; 11:2; 12:2; 13:5; 14:1; 16:9; 17:3; 19:8, 14; 21:2; 22:14; 26:2; 27:3, 8, 14; 28:7; 31:12; 32:11; 33:11, 15, 21; 34:18; 35:25; 36:1, 10; 37:4, 15, 31; 38:8, 10; 39:3; 40:10, 12; 41:6; 44:18, 21; 45:1, 5; 46:2; 48:13; 49:3; 51:10, 17; 53:1; 55:4, 21; 57:7; 58:2; 61:2; 62:10; 64:6, 10; 66:18; 69:20; 74:8; 76:5; 78:8, 37; 81:12; 83:5; 84:2; 94:15; 97:11; 102:4; 105:3, 25; 107:12; 108:1; 109:22; 112:7, 8; 119:2, 10, 11, 32, 34, 36, 58, 69, 70, 80, 111, 112, 145, 161; 125:4; 131:1; 138:1; 140:2; 141:4; 143:4; 147:3;
Pr 2:2, 10; 3:1, 3, 5; 4:4, 23; 5:12; 6:14, 18, 21, 32; 7:3, 7, 10, 25; 8:5; 9:4, 16; 10:8, 13, 20, 21; 11:12, 20; 12:8, 11, 20, 23, 25; 13:12; 14:10, 13, 14, 30, 33; 15:7, 11, 13, 14,15, 21, 28, 30, 32; 16:1, 5, 9, 21, 23; 17:3, 16, 18, 20, 22; 18:2, 12, 15; 19:3, 8, 21; 20:5, 9; 21:1, 2, 4; 22:11, 15, 17; 23:7, 12, 15, 17, 19, 26, 33, 34; 24:2, 12, 17, 30, 32; 25:3, 20; 26:23, 25; 27:9, 11, 19, 23; 28:14, 26; 30:19; 31:11; Eccl. 1:13, 16, 17; 2:1, 3, 10, 15, 20, 23; 3:11, 17, 18; 5:2, 20; 7:2, 3, 4, 7, 21, 25, 26; 8:5, 9, 11, 16; 9:1, 3, 7; 10:2, 3; 11:9, 10;
Song 3:11; 5:2; 8:6
Isa 6:10; 15:5; 24:7; 29:13; 32:6; 33:18; 35:4; 38:3; 40:2; 42:25; 44:18, 19, 20; 46:8, 12; 47:7, 10; 51:7; 57:1, 11, 15, 17; 59:13; 61:1; 63:4, 17; 65:14, 17; 66:14;
Jer 3:10, 15, 16, 17; 4:9, 14, 18, 19; 5:21, 23; 7:24, 31; 8:18; 9:14, 26; 11:8, 20; 12:3, 11; 13:10; 14:14; 16:12; 17:1, 5, 9, 10; 18:12; 19:5; 20:9, 12; 22:17; 23:9, 16, 17, 20, 26; 24:7; 30:21, 24; 31:21, 33; 32:35, 39, 41; 44:21; 48:29, 36, 41; 49:16, 22; La 1:20, 22; 2:18, 19; 3:21, 33, 65; 5:15, 17;
Ezek. 2:4; 3:7; 6:9; 11:19, 21; 13:2, 17; 14:3, 4, 5, 7; 18:31; 20:16; 21:7, 15; 22:14; 27:4, 25, 26, 27; 28:2, 6, 8, 17; 32:9; 33:31; 36:26; 40:4; 44:5, 7, 9;
Dan. 1:8; 10:12; Hos. 2:14; 4:11; 7:6, 11, 14; 10:2; 11:8; 13:6, 8; Amos 2:16; Obad. 1:3; Nah. 2:10; Zeph. 3:14; Zech. 7:12; 10:7; 12:5; Mal. 2:2; 4:6
NT References on Greek noun kardia = heart - Matt. 5:8, 28; 6:21; 9:4; 11:29; 12:34, 40; 13:15, 19; 15:8, 18, 19; 18:35; 22:37; 24:48; Mk. 2:6, 8; 3:5; 6:52; 7:6, 19, 21; 8:17; 11:23; 12:30, 33; Lk. 1:17, 51, 66; 2:19, 35, 51; 3:15; 5:22; 6:45; 8:12, 15; 9:47; 10:27; 12:34, 45; 16:15; 21:14, 34; 24:25, 32, 38; Jn. 12:40; 13:2; 14:1, 27; 16:6, 22; Acts 2:26, 37, 46; 4:32; 5:3, 4; 7:23, 39, 51, 54; 8:21, 22, 37; 11:23; 13:22; 14:17; 15:9; 16:14; 21:13; 28:27; Ro 1:21, 24; 2:5, 15, 29; 5:5; 6:17; 8:27; 9:2; 10:1, 6, 8, 9, 10; 16:18; 1 Co. 2:9; 4:5; 7:37; 14:25; 2 Co. 1:22; 2:4; 3:2, 3, 15; 4:6; 5:12; 6:11; 7:3; 8:16; 9:7; Gal. 4:6; Eph. 1:18; 3:17; 4:18; 5:19; 6:5, 22; Phil. 1:7; 4:7; Col. 2:2; 3:15, 16, 22; 4:8; 1 Thess. 2:4, 17; 3:13; 2 Thess. 2:17; 3:5; 1 Tim. 1:5; 2 Tim. 2:22; Heb. 3:8, 10, 12, 15; 4:7, 12; 8:10; 10:16, 22; 13:9; Jas. 1:26; 3:14; 4:8; 5:5, 8; 1 Pet. 1:22; 3:4, 15; 2 Pet. 1:19; 2:14; 1 Jn. 3:19, 20, 21; Rev. 2:23; 17:17; 18:7
Healthcare for the Heart - If you're over 40 years old, your heart has already beat more than 1.5 billion times. I know that when my heart stops, it will be too late to change my ways. So I've been trying to control my weight, get exercise, and watch not only what I eat but also what's eating me.
Have you checked your heart lately? — Mart De Haan
O Lord, You see what's in the heart—
To keep spiritually fit, consult the Great Physician.
Spiritual Heart Care - You're up at the crack of dawn, doing your exercises. You're not going to let your heart get weak! You've trimmed the fat from your diet. You get regular cholesterol checks. And you're exercising four times a week to keep your cardiovascular system in peak condition.
Dear Jesus, take my heart and hand,
The Secret Garden - The Secret Garden, a novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett, tells the story of Mary, a young girl who goes to live with her wealthy uncle Archibald on his estate in England. Mary gets to know Dickon, a working-class boy who loves nature. The two children discover a fenced-in garden that Mary’s uncle has locked up because it reminds him of his deceased wife. The garden looks dead because of neglect, but Dickon assures Mary that, with proper tending, it will recover with new life. With the children’s help, “the secret garden” eventually bursts forth with colorful, fragrant blooms.
Think not alone of outward form;
The Cost Of Neglect - I read about a Detroit man who couldn't find his house. He had gone to the right address but all he found was an empty lot. Completely baffled, he asked the Detroit Free Press to help him figure out what was going on. A newspaper reporter learned that not only was the house gone, but the deed to the empty lot was in someone else's name.
Unless we're occupied with Jesus
Hostile Heart - Beware the hostile heart. That's the warning of Dr. Redford Williams from Duke University's Behavioral Medicine Research Center. He has been saying for years that having a hostile personality can kill us--most often by heart disease but also by injuries and accidents. Anger speeds the heart rate, raises blood pressure, and disrupts the coronary arteries.
I want my heart to be in tune with God,
WITH ALL DILIGENCE: (Pr 4:7; 3:21; 11:16; 13:3; Eccl 5:13)
John MacArthur writes that…
Speaker's Bible Commentary (1873) says that with all diligence is…
All (03605) (kol) means the whole of something.
Diligence (04929) (mismaat) literally means a guarding as in the state of confining a prisoner (eg, Neh 4:9, 22). The basic idea of the root verb (shamar) is to exercise great care over.
Darby's translation remains fairly true to the original meaning of this Hebrew word…
The ESV and NET use the word vigilance in place of diligence. More literally this reads "above all guarding" and thus several other translations attempt to convey this idea with the phrase "above all else" or "more than anything".
Solomon's point is that the guarding of one's heart will not be an easy task. Neither is it to be a passive letting go and letting God, but instead it calls for persistent effort and perseverance. The implication is that this guarding will entail a struggle. Why? Because our old nature (which remains even in those who have been born again) still indwells our mortal bodies and manifests "heart trouble" (cp Je 17:9, Ge 8:21, Eccl 9:3), despite the fact that we have been given a new heart (2Co 5:17, Ezek 11:19, 20, 18:31, 36:26, 27).
Wiersbe observes that "Diligent hands are directed by a diligent heart, and this means the discipline of the inner person. “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it springs the issues of life” (Pr 4:23, NKJV). When we cultivate the inner person through prayer (Ed: cp Mt 26:41), meditation on the Word (Ed: Ps 1:1, 2, 3 -notes; Josh 1:8-note; see Biblical Meditation), and submission to the Lord (Ed: Jn 14:21), then we can experience the joys of a disciplined and diligent life. “The fruit of the Spirit is… self-control” (Gal 5:22, 23-notes). (Wiersbe, W. W. Be Skillful. An Old Testament Study. Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books)
If we would "keep" our hearts "with all diligence", we wouldn't be careless, for example, about what gets into our hearts through the "eye-gate". We'd "censor" our own television viewing out of a greater concern to "watch" our own heart. And we'd even be willing to get rid of our television if it's affecting us negatively. We would rid our homes of any visual images or literature that incline us toward sexual immorality or sin of any kind.
We'd not only guard what might come in; but also what might come out. We would keep our own attitudes in check, so that the words that come out of our mouths aren't reflective of evil in our heart. We'll be like David, when he prayed (Psalm 141:3).
John Angell James (1853) in his chapter entitled "The Means of Christian Progress" wrote that…
Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote that…
O child of God, guard well your eyes
FOR FROM IT FLOW THE SPRINGS OF LIFE (Mt 12:35, 15:18,19)
For - Here the conjunction introduces the explanation or reason for the importance of guarding our hearts.
From it - From our heart (mind, will, emotion), our "master control". Solomon's point is that what occupies our minds and determines what and how we think, will work its way out in how we behave and what we say and do (see the schematic above notes). What is in the heart eventually comes out in the life.
Solomon has a similar thought in Ecclesiastes 10…
Jesus emphasized the importance of diligently guarding the heart for it is intimately related to our behavior (in thought, word, deed - good or bad) declaring that…
If you effectively protect your car from theft, your home from burglary, your property from damage, your financial interests from failure, and your body from personal illness and injury, and even our borders from terrorist attacks - and yet fail in protecting your heart, this one failure will effect every other area of your life. The thought is that a person’s life is somehow determined by or affected by the thoughts stored in one's heart. In other words, “Everything we do comes out of our heart.”
The Dictionary of Biblical Imagery writes that…
Springs (08444) (towtsa'ah, totsa'ah, tosaa, tosaah or tosa'ot from the root verb yasa = to cause to go out, bring out, lead out) means a border, extremity or end point. The Semantic Domains says that it means a…
Gesenius writes that this word describes…
Life is the ability to exercise all one's vital power to the fullest. Death is the opposite. The Hebrews viewed man holistically, i.e., body, mind, and spirit were a unified whole. Life was associated with health, prosperity, vitality, etc., while death was the very opposite.
This verse relates to something D L Moody once said…
UBS Handbook on Proverbs says that…
D Paul Montague has an interesting paraphrase of flow the springs of life…
D A Carson writes that…
The KJV Bible Commentary add that..
A person's moral attitudes and resultant actions in their life are intimately connected with and influenced by the condition of one’s heart or mind (cf. Mt. 12:34, 35; Lk 6:45). Check your attitudes and actions this past week and you have a good sense of the spiritual condition of your heart!
Warren Wiersbe comments on springs of life noting that…
The Pulpit Commentary explains that…
Garrett writes that the heart…
Adam Clarke commenting on from it flow the springs of life (For out of it are the issues of life) writes that it literally speaks of…
Roehrs writes that…
John Flavel very wisely observed that,
Issues of life are out of -Proverbs 4:23
Tries -1 Chronicles 29:17; Jeremiah 12:3
Knows -Psalms 44:21; Jeremiah 20:12
Searched -1 Chronicles 28:9; Jeremiah 17:10
Understands the thoughts of -1 Chronicles 28:9; Psalms 139:2
Ponders -Proverbs 21:2; 24:12
Influences -1 Samuel 10:26; Ezra 6:22; 7:27; Proverbs 21:1; Jeremiah 20:9
Creates a new -Psalms 51:10; Ezekiel 36:26
Prepares -1 Chronicles 29:18; Proverbs 16:1
Opens -Acts 16:14
Enlightens -2 Corinthians 4:6; Ephesians 1:18
Strengthens -Psalms 27:14
Establishes -Psalms 112:8; 1 Thessalonians 3:13
Prepared to God -1 Samuel 7:3
Given to God -Proverbs 23:26
Perfect with God -1 Kings 8:61
Applied to wisdom -Psalms 90:12; Proverbs 2:2
Guided in the right -Proverbs 23:19
Purified -James 4:8
Single -Ephesians 6:5; Colossians 3:22
Tender -Ephesians 4:32
Kept with diligence -Proverbs 4:23
Believe with -Acts 8:37; Romans 10:10
Serve God with all -Deuteronomy 11:13
Keep God’s statutes with all -Deuteronomy 26:16
Walk before God with all -1 Kings 2:4
Trust in God with all -Proverbs 3:5
Love God with all -Matthew 22:37
Return to God with all -Deuteronomy 30:2
Do the will of God from -Ephesians 6:6
Sanctify God in -1 Peter 3:15
Love one another with a pure -1 Peter 1:22
No man can cleanse -Proverbs 20:9
Faith, the means of purifying -Acts 15:9
Renewal of, promised under the gospel -Ezekiel 11:19; 36:26; Hebrews 3:10
When broken and contrite, not despised by God -Psalms 51:17
The pure in, shall see God -Matthew 5:8
PRAY THAT IT MAY BE
Cleansed -Psalms 51:10
Inclined to God’s testimonies -Psalms 119:36
United to fear God -Psalms 86:11
Directed into the love of God -2 Thessalonians 3:5
Harden not, against God -Psalms 95:8; Hebrews 4:7
Harden not against the poor -Deuteronomy 15:7
Regard not iniquity in -Psalms 66:18
Take heed lest it to be deceived -Deuteronomy 11:16
Know the plague of -1 Kings 8:38
He that trusts in, is a fool -Proverbs 28:26
Keeping the Heart
"one of the greatest Christian books of all time"
Ron Maness comments on John Flavel's book…
This book has been called by some one of the greatest Christian books of all time.
It is another of the excellent reprints of Puritan books from Soli Deo Gloria. The book, which was originally entitled “A Saint Indeed”, is based on Proverbs 4:23, which exhorts us to “keep our heart, for out of it are the issues of life”. And Flavel carefully and exhaustively unfolds all that is involved in “keeping” the heart, and how that should be the “great business” of every Christian. Keeping the heart, Flavel would have us to understand, involves the “diligent and constant use and improvement of all holy means and duties to preserve the soul from sin and maintain its sweet and free communion with God” (page 2 - Ed note: Pages listed do not correspond to the online version but the printed version from Soli Deo Gloria publishing.). At the beginning, Flavel sets forth the doctrine: “The keeping and right managing of the heart in every condition is the great business of a Christian’s life” (page 3). He lists six acts to help keep the heart carefully: 1) “frequent observation” of the state of the heart (self-examination, self-conferences, etc.), 2) “ deep humiliation for heart-evils and disorders” (page 7), 3) “earnest supplications and instant prayer for heart-purifying and rectifying grace” (page 7), 4) “imposing strong engagements and bonds upon ourselves to walk more earnestly with God and avoid the occasions whereby the heart may be induced to sin” (page 8) (including for example vows, or Job’s “covenant with mine eyes”), 5) “a constant holy jealousy over our own hearts” (page 8), and 6) the “realizing of God’s presence with us and setting the Lord always before us” (page 8).
He cautions that heart-work is not easy work: “Heart-work is hard work, indeed. To shuffle over religious duties with a loose and heedless spirit will cost no great pains. But to set yourself before the Lord, and tie up your loose and vain thoughts to a constant and serious attendance upon Him, will cost you something” (page 9). Not only is it hard work, but it is also a constant work, as it is “never done till life is done” (page 10). Nevertheless, it is an essential work, for without it, Flavel says “we are but formalists in religion; all our professions, gifts, and duties signify nothing” (page 10). Then he sets out six reasons why Christians should make this the great business of their lives: 1) the glory of God, 2) the sincerity of our profession, 3) the beauty of our conversation (conduct of life), 4) the improvement of our graces, 5) the comfort of our souls, and 6) the stability of our souls in the hour of temptation (pages 11-22). Among other applications of the doctrine, he discusses 12 special “seasons” in the Christian’s life, which call for special diligence in keeping our hearts. The book is full of wonderful applications, expositions, and exhortations. And yet, it is not a long book, as his actual writing only covers 130 pages. The remainder of the book consists of a 19-page outline, and a 33-page study guide, both by Maureen Bradley, which greatly add to the book’s usefulness. I’ll close this review with the quote of an exhortation from Flavel:
Oh study your hearts, watch your hearts, keep your hearts! Away with fruitless controversies and all idle questions; away with empty names and vain shows; away with unprofitable discourse and bold censures of others. Turn in upon yourselves, get into your closets, and now resolve to dwell there. You have been strangers to this work too long; you have kept others’ vineyards too long; you have trifled about the borders of religion too long; this world has detained you from your great work too long. Will you now resolve to look better at your hearts? Will you hate and come out of the crowds of business and clamors of the world and retire yourselves more than you have done? Oh, that this day you would resolve upon it…All that I beg for is that you would step aside a little more often to talk with God and your own heart…(and) demand this of your own heart, at least every evening, ‘Oh, my heart, where have you been today? Where have you made a road today?’” (pages 118-119).
This is a book to be read or consulted frequently. (Keeping the Heart Bible.org)
|Alexander Maclaren's Sermon…
KEEPING AND KEPT
‘Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.’— Proverbs 4:23
‘Kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.’— 1Peter 1:5
The former of these texts imposes a stringent duty, the latter promises divine help to perform it. The relation between them is that between the Law and the Gospel. The Law commands, the Gospel gives power to obey. The Law pays no attention to man’s weakness, and points no finger to the source of strength. Its office is to set clearly forth what we ought to be, not to aid us in becoming so. ‘Here is your duty, do it’ is, doubtless, a needful message, but it is a chilly one, and it may well be doubted if it ever rouses a soul to right action. Moralists have hammered away at preaching self-restraint and a close watch over the fountain of actions within from the beginning, but their exhortations have little effect unless they can add to their icy injunctions the warmth of the promise of our second text, and point to a divine Keeper who will make duty possible.
We must be kept by God,
I. Without our guarding our hearts, no noble life is possible.
The Old Testament psychology differs from our popular allocation of certain faculties to bodily organs. We use head and heart, roughly speaking, as being respectively the seats of thought and of emotion. But the Old Testament locates in the heart the centre of personal being. It is not merely the home of the affections, but the seat of will, moral purpose. As this text says, ‘the issues of life’ flow from it in all the multitudinous variety of their forms. The stream parts into many heads, but it has one fountain. To the Hebrew thinkers the heart was the indivisible, central unity which manifested itself in the whole of the outward life. ‘As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.’ The heart is the man. And that personal centre has a moral character which comes to light in, and gives unity and character to, all his deeds.
That solemn thought that every one of us has a definite moral character, and that our deeds are not an accidental set of outward actions but flow from an inner fountain, needs to be driven home to our consciences, for most of the actions of most men are done so mechanically, and reflected on so little by the doers, that the conviction of their having any moral character at all, or of our incurring any responsibility for them, is almost extinct in us, unless when something startles conscience into protest.
It is this shrouded inner self to which supreme care is to be directed. All noble ethical teaching concurs in this—that a man who seeks to be right must keep, in the sense both of watching and of guarding, his inner self. Conduct is more easily regulated than character—and less worth regulating. It avails little to plant watchers on the stream half way to the sea. Control must be exercised at the source, if it is to be effectual. The counsel of our first text is a commonplace of all wholesome moral teaching since the beginning of the world. The phrase ‘with all diligence’ is literally ‘above all guarding,’ and energetically expresses the supremacy of this keeping. It should be the foremost, all-pervading aim of every wise man who would not let his life run to waste. It may be turned into more modern language, meaning just what this ancient sage meant, if we put it as, ‘Guard thy character with more carefulness than thou dost thy most precious possessions, for it needs continual watchfulness, and, untended, will go to rack and ruin.’ The exhortation finds a response in every heart, and may seem too familiar and trite to bear dwelling on, but we may be allowed to touch lightly on one or two of the plain reasons which enforce it on every man who is not what Proverbs very unpolitely calls ‘a fool.’
That guarding is plainly imposed as necessary, by the very constitution of our manhood. Our nature is evidently not a republic, but a monarchy. It is full of blind impulses, and hungry desires, which take no heed of any law but their own satisfaction. If the reins are thrown on the necks of these untamed horses, they will drag the man to destruction. They are only safe when they are curbed and bitted, and held well in. Then there are tastes and inclinations which need guidance and are plainly meant to be subordinate. The will is to govern all the lower self, and conscience is to govern the will. Unmistakably there are parts of every man’s nature which are meant to serve, and parts which are appointed to rule, and to let the servants usurp the place of the rulers is to bring about as wild a confusion within as the Ecclesiast lamented that he had seen in the anarchic times when he wrote—princes walking and beggars on horseback. As George Herbert has it—
‘Give not thy humours way;
Then, further, that guarding is plainly imperative, because there is an outer world which appeals to our needs and desires, irrespective altogether of right and wrong and of the moral consequences of gratifying these. Put a loaf before a starving man and his impulse will be to clutch and devour it, without regard to whether it is his or no. Show any of our animal propensities its appropriate food, and it asks no questions as to right or wrong, but is stirred to grasp its natural food. And even the higher and nobler parts of our nature are but too apt to seek their gratification without having the license of conscience for doing so, and sometimes in defiance of its plain prohibitions. It is never safe to trust the guidance of life to tastes, inclinations, or to anything but clear reason, set in motion by calm will, and acting under the approbation of ‘the Lord Chief Justice, Conscience.’
But again, seeing that the world has more evil than good in it, the keeping of the heart will always consist rather in repelling solicitations to yielding to evil. In short, the power and the habit of sternly saying ‘No’ to the whole crowd of tempters is always the main secret of a noble life. ‘He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down and without walls.’
II. There is no effectual guarding unless God guards.
The counsel in Proverbs is not mere toothless moral commonplace, but is associated, in the preceding chapter, with fatherly advice to ‘let thine heart keep my commandments’ and to ‘trust in the Lord with all thine heart.’ The heart that so trusts will be safely guarded, and only such a heart will be. The inherent weakness of all attempts at self-keeping is that keeper and kept being one and the same personality, the more we need to be kept the less able we are to effect it. If in the very garrison are traitors, how shall the fortress be defended? If, then, we are to exercise an effectual guard over our characters and control over our natures, we must have an outward standard of right and wrong which shall not be deflected by variations in our temperature. We need a fixed light to steer towards, which is stable on the stable shore, and is not tossing up and down on our decks. We shall cleanse our way only when we ‘take heed thereto, according to Thy word.’ For even God’s viceroy within, the sovereign conscience, can be warped, perverted, silenced, and is not immune from the spreading infection of evil. When it turns to God, as a mirror to the sun, it is irradiated and flashes bright illumination into dark corners, but its power depends on its being thus lit by radiations from the very Light of Life. And if we are ever to have a coercive power over the rebellious powers within, we must have God’s power breathed into us, giving grip and energy to all the good within, quickening every lofty desire, satisfying every aspiration that feels after Him, cowing all our evil and being the very self of ourselves.
We need an outward motive which will stimulate and stir to effort. Our wills are lamed for good, and the world has strong charms that appeal to us. And if we are not to yield to these, there must be somewhere a stronger motive than any that the sorceress world has in its stores, that shall constrainingly draw us to ways that, because they tend upward, and yield no pabulum for the lower self, are difficult for sluggish feet. To the writer of this Book of Proverbs the name of God bore in it such a motive. To us the name of Jesus, which is Love, bears a yet mightier appeal, and the motive which lies in His death for us is strong enough, and it alone is strong enough, to fire our whole selves with enthusiastic, grateful love, which will burn up our sloth, and sweep our evil out of our hearts, and make us swift and glad to do all that may please Him. If there must be fresh reinforcements thrown into the town of Mansoul, as there must be if it is not to be captured, there is one sure way of securing these. Our second text tells us whence the relieving force must come. If we are to keep our hearts with all diligence, we must be ‘kept by the power of God,’ and that power is not merely to make diversion outside the beleaguered fortress which may force the besiegers to retreat and give up their effort, but is to enter in and possess the soul which it wills to defend. It is when the enemy sees that new succours have, in some mysterious way, been introduced, that he gives up his siege. It is God in us that is our security.
III. There is no keeping by God without faith.
Peter was an expert in such matters, for he had had a bitter experience to teach him how soon and surely self-confidence became self-despair. ‘Though all should forsake Thee, yet will not I,’ was said but a few hours before he denied Jesus. His faith failed, and then the divine guard that was keeping his soul passed thence, and, left alone, he fell.
That divine Power is exerted for our keeping on condition of our trusting ourselves to Him and trusting Him for ourselves. And that condition is no arbitrary one, but is prescribed by the very nature of divine help and of human faith. If God could keep our souls without our trust in Him He would. He does so keep them as far as is possible, but for all the choicer blessings of His giving, and especially for that of keeping us free from the domination of our lower selves, there must be in us faith if there is to be in God help. The hand that lays hold on God in Christ must be stretched out and must grasp His warm, gentle, and strong hand, if the tingling touch of it is to infuse strength. If the relieving force is victoriously to enter our hearts, we must throw open the gates and welcome it. Faith is but the open door for God’s entrance. It has no efficacy in itself any more than a door has, but all its blessedness depends on what it admits into the hidden chambers of the heart.
I reiterate what I have tried to show in these poor words. There is no noble life without our guarding our hearts; there is no effectual guarding unless God guards; there is no divine guarding unless through our faith. It is vain to preach self-governing and self-keeping. Unless we can tell the beleaguered heart, ‘The Lord is thy Keeper; He will keep thee from all evil; He will keep thy soul,’ we only add one more impossible command to a man’s burden. And we do not apprehend nor experience the divine keeping in its most blessed and fullest reality, unless we find it in Jesus, who is ‘able to keep us from falling, and to present us faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy.’
|A sermon by Charles Simeon
If you don't know who this great brother in Christ is, you need to take a moment and listen to the Mp3 Audio of John Piper's survey of Simeon's life entitled "Brothers, We Must Not Mind a Little Suffering" (to download to desktop or Ipod right click and select "Save Target As… ") - you will be as riveted to your seat as I was when I first heard the powerful and convicting testimony of this saint of old. You can also read a summary but the audio is better - Transcript…
KEEPING THE HEART
Pr 4:23. Keep thy heart with all diligence,
IT is certainly of infinite importance that we be deeply convinced of our utter inability to do any thing that is good, and of our entire dependence upon God for the effectual aids of his Holy Spirit. But we must not imagine, that, because we have no sufficiency of ourselves to do the will of God, we are not bound in duty to do it, or not to be exhorted and stimulated to the performance of it. Our duty is the same, whatever be the circumstances to which we have reduced ourselves; and it is in, and by, our personal exertions, that God has promised to “work all our works in us.” Hence, in the Scriptures of Truth, we are continually exhorted to serve our God in the way of his commandments. It is obvious that we cannot preserve the life of our bodies for one single moment; yet God expects, that we keep ourselves from those things which would destroy life, and use all proper means of preserving it: so neither can we, of ourselves, preserve the life of our souls; yet are we bound to “keep our heart with all diligence; since out of it are the issues of life.”
It is indeed supposed here, that a new heart has been given to us; because from the unregenerated heart no good thing can issue: but inasmuch as even the renewed heart has still innumerable corruptions within it, we must keep it with all diligence.
To impress this duty on our minds, let us consider,
I. The duty enjoined—
“To keep the heart” is indeed an arduous task. To assist you in the performance of it, we will offer such suggestions as appear suitable to the occasion:
1. Fortify it with good principles—
A city unfortified is open to assault on every side: and so is the heart, if not duly fortified by the principles of true religion. As a sinner redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, and sanctified by his Spirit, I am the Lord’s peculiar property: I live by him; and I must live for him: “having been bought with a price, I am not my own, but his” who bought me: and I have nothing to do but to “glorify him with my body and my spirit, which are his.” When therefore any thing attempts to gain possession of my heart, I must keep it for Him; for Him wholly; for Him alone. Nothing is to break in upon this principle. Let earth and hell assault me, I must oppose them in this impregnable bulwark; “Depart from me, ye evil-doers; I will keep the commandments of my God.” The Christian is furnished by God with armour for this contest; and, clothed in this panoply, he must maintain the conflict even unto death.
2. Watch all its most secret motions—
A citadel, however strong, if filled with traitors waiting for an occasion to open it to the enemy, needs to be guarded with peculiar care: the professed defenders of it must themselves be watched. So it is with the heart, notwithstanding it be at present garrisoned for the Lord. It is inconceivably difficult in many instances to distinguish between the loyal and the treacherous. They are both habited in the same uniform; and both make the very same professions: both too appear actuated by the same holy zeal. The Apostles, when disputing with each other who should be the greatest, and forbidding others to cast out devils, because they followed not with them, and desiring to call fire from heaven to avenge their Master’s cause, appeared as faithful as men could be: yet were they in reality actuated by pride and envy, in the garb of zeal and love: and, had not these corrupt passions been checked at first, who can tell, “how great a matter this little fire might have kindled?” There is not a motion of the heart but must be strictly marked: its associates must be carefully noticed; its tendencies examined; its professions scrutinized; lest Satan himself be found there, under the semblance of an angel of light.
3. Combine all its energies in the service of your God—
The Psalmist has a remarkable expression on this subject; “Unite my heart, O Lord, to fear thy name.” If the powers of the soul be scattered, they will be as inefficient as soldiers that are dispersed. It is by a combination of efforts for a preconcerted end, and by simultaneous movements for its accomplishment, that success is attained. The various powers of the soul must act in unison: the understanding, the will, the affections, the memory, the conscience, must all have the same object in view, each defending its proper post to the uttermost, and ready to succour the other with all its might. If, whilst the understanding is occupied about spiritual and heavenly things, the will and the affections are running after earthly and carnal things, what can be expected, but that the enemy shall soon gain undisguised and permanent possession of the soul? Every one knows, that “a house divided against itself, falleth;” and a divided heart must become a prey to the great adversary of God and man. All its powers must center in God, if God is to inhabit it as his temple, and to possess it as his inheritance.
4. Call in for it the most effectual aid—
Human efforts, unassisted by God, will be of little avail. Indeed we can do nothing but as we are assisted by “the Captain of our Salvation.” To him then must we look to “strengthen us with might by his Spirit in our inward man:” we must go forth against our enemies, as David did against Goliath, not in dependence on an arm of flesh, but in the name of the Lord God of Israel: we must “be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.” Then we may defy all our adversaries: we may boldly ask the greatest amongst them; “Who art thou, O thou great Mountain? Before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain.” See how Paul taught the first Christians to triumph, whilst yet in the midst of all their conflicts: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? No: in all these things we are more than conquerors:” so then may the weakest of us triumph, if we call in our blessed Lord to our aid: for “through Christ strengthening us, we can do all things.”
But to form a right judgment of our duty, we must yet more distinctly notice,
II. The particular instruction relating to it—
We must keep our heart “with all diligence.”
Our attention to it must be,
It is not a slight or superficial attention to it that will suffice. The work is too great to be effected in such a way. To keep the heart from sin amidst so many temptations on every side, and to keep it in the exercise of all holy and heavenly graces, from every one of which it is by nature alienated; this is a great work indeed, and requires the utmost possible exertion on our part. The metaphors by which the Christian’s life is set forth, sufficiently shew what efforts are called for on our part. A race is not to be won without straining every nerve: an adversary, whether in fight or in wrestling, is not to be overcome without putting forth all our strength. Can we then suppose, that, when our contest is not with flesh and blood only, but with all the principalities and powers of hell, the victory can be gained without the most strenuous exertions? No; it cannot: and our Lord plainly tells us that it cannot: “Strive,” says he, “to enter in at the strait gate: for many shall seek to enter in, and not be able.” Know then, that whatever you have to do in the keeping of your heart, you must “do it with all your might.”
The work which we have to do, is not like that of a painter or a statuary, who may leave his work for a time, and find it afterwards in the state in which he left it: it is rather like that of one who is rolling up hill a stone, which will return upon him, as soon as ever he intermits his labour. Our hearts of themselves are “bent to backslide from God,” ever ready to “start aside as a deceitful bow:” and Satan is ever on the watch to draw us aside. If he intermit his labours, it is in appearance only, and not in reality: for he is ever “going about, as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” His wiles and devices are innumerable: and, if once he can find us off our guard, he will assuredly avail himself of the occasion to deceive and, if possible, to destroy us. We therefore must be always “on our watch-tower,” according to that direction of our blessed Lord, “Watch and pray; lest ye enter into temptation: and, what I say unto you, I say unto all, Watch.”
There is no state at which we can arrive in this world that supersedes the necessity of continued vigilance and care. Were we as eminent as Paul himself, we must still, like him, “keep our body under and bring it into subjection, lest by any means, after having preached to others, we ourselves become castaways.” Let our circumstances be ever so favourable, we know not but that we shall fall the very next moment. Hezekiah was but just recovered from a dangerous illness, and that by miracle; yet when the Babylonish ambassadors came to offer him their master’s congratulations, he fell, and offended God by “the pride of his heart.” Peter also was but just descended from Mount Tabor, where he had beheld his Lord transfigured, and shining forth in all his glory, when he acted Satan’s part in dissuading his Lord from completing the work assigned him: so that he drew forth from his Divine Master that just reprimand, “Get thee behind me, Satan.” We may add too, that there is no wickedness so great, but we may be drawn to the commission of it. Who can reflect on David’s adultery and murder, or on Peter’s denial of his Lord with oaths and curses, and not see reason to cry continually to God, “Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe!”
Thus then we see, it is not enough to keep our hearts, but we must “keep them with all diligence,” engaging in the work with earnestness, and maintaining it with constancy and perseverance to the latest hour of our lives.
Let us now attend to,
III. The reason with which both the one and the other are enforced—
The heart may in some respects be considered as the seat of vitality in the human body, because from thence issues the blood that circulates through the whole frame. But still more may it be said of the heart in a spiritual view, that out of it are the issues of life. For,
1. It is the proper source of all evil—
There are many evils to which our corrupt nature is apt to yield: some are spiritual, and some are fleshly: but the womb where all are generated, and from whence they proceed, is the heart. Adultery, and murder, and theft, with many other evils, might be supposed to arise rather out of external circumstances connected with our outward man: but they are all traced by our blessed Lord to the heart: “From within, out of the heart of man, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: all these things come from within.” Now, if the heart be the fruitful spring of such evils, ought it not to be watched? ought it not to be kept with all diligence? It is evident that, without continual care, the whole man would soon be inundated with evil: should we not then watch the sluices? should we not guard the banks, and keep them in good repair? In other words, should we not do all in our power to prevent such fatal effects? Let it never be forgotten, that the smallest breach in a bank will soon yield to the torrent, and, by its extension, bid defiance to any remedy that can be applied: consequently, if we would not be overrun with all manner of evil, we must guard against the irruption of any. “A little leaven will soon leaven the whole lump.”
2. It is the proper seat of all good—
Grace is planted in the heart: it has no other residence: it may operate by the members: but its seat is in the heart. Repentance flows from thence, even from “the broken and contrite heart.” Faith has there its first formation. “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness.” Love combines and concentrates all its powers: “We are to love God with all the heart;” yea, “Christ himself dwells in our hearts by faith.” Whatever then proceeds not from the heart, is of no value: all our best services for God are no other than hypocrisy, if the heart be far from him. Must we not then keep the heart with all diligence, to see that it be duly influenced by divine grace, and that all which we do is the result of gracious principles implanted there? Truly, if “a man may give all his goods to feed the poor, and his body to be burned, and, after all, be no better than sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal,” because his actions proceed not from a principle of love in the heart, we are called upon to watch over our hearts with all imaginable care, that they be duly stored with all that is good. This is the plain and obvious inference from what our Lord himself hath distinctly affirmed in those memorable words. “The evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil; and the good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good:” in both cases the produce is “from the abundance of the heart:” and “the tree is known by its fruits.”
3. By it shall our state be determined in the last day—
Even in courts of judicature amongst ourselves, it is not so much the act, as the heart, that is the object of investigation. Murder itself is not accounted murder, if it was not attended with a purpose of heart to injure and destroy. Much more therefore may it be expected that God will inquire into the designs and purposes of our hearts: “He looketh not on the outward appearance, but at the heart:” and “he searcheth the heart, and trieth the reins, on purpose to give to every man according to the fruit of his doings.” For this end “he will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the heart.” To our hearts then must we look, if ever we would give up our account with joy: for, as our hearts are, so shall we appear in his sight. Let us then not only search and try ourselves, but beg of God also to “search and try us, and to see if there be any wicked way in us, and to lead us in the way everlasting.”
1. Grudge not your labour in the way to heaven—
You cannot make any attainments in this life without labour: how then can you hope to attain without it the glory and felicity of heaven? True it is, that heaven is a gift of God; a gift altogether of his free and sovereign grace: but it is also true, that we must labour for it, according to that direction of our Lord; “Labour not for the meat that perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you.” Labour then with all earnestness, and constancy, and perseverance. If you be frequently foiled, still return to your post, and increase your vigilance in proportion as you discover the deceitfulness and wickedness of your hearts: and be assured, that, however great your toil may be, heaven will be an abundant recompence for all.
2. Doubt not but that your labour shall at last be crowned with success—
Were your success dependent on an arm of flesh, you might well despond: but your God and Saviour is pledged to “carry on in you the work he has begun,” and to “perfect that which concerneth you.” Your enemies may renew their assaults as often as they will; but they shall not prevail: for God has said, that “No weapon that is formed against you shall prosper:” and again. “The law of God is in his heart: his footsteps shall not slide.” Go on then: “watch ye: stand fast in the faith; quit you like men: be strong:” and know for your comfort what the all-gracious and unchanging God hath spoken: “Be not weary in well-doing: for in due season ye shall reap, if ye faint not.” (Simeon, C. 1832-63. Horae Homileticae Vol. 7: Proverbs to Isaiah 26)
A Reflective Lifestyle
CONSCIENTIOUS HEART - Pr 4:23
CONTROLLED MOUTH - Pr 4:24
CONSECRATED EYES - Pr 4:25
CONSIDERED PATHS - Pr 4:26-27