Guarding the source of life

The Proverbs provide a template for guarding our hearts against wickedness.

Vigilance in the believer’s life takes intentional thought and effort, which is why it is likely so rarely witnessed. GK Chesterton is quoted as saying “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.”

Proverbs 4:23 – Keep your heart with all vigilance; for from it flow the springs of life.

“Keeping” of one’s heart means to guard, watch and observe. The word for vigilance implies confinement and custody as if imprisoned with a posted guard.

In the Bible, the heart has extreme value; it is the inmost person, the repository of all influence and insight. According to Solomon throughout his Proverbs, the qualities surrounding the heart demonstrate why it is so important to guard and watch over it.

  • 2:2 the heart can be pointed to understanding
  • 3:1 the heart keeps commandments
  • 3:3 instruction is written on the heart
  • 3:5 the heart is the root of trust in Yahweh
  • 4:4 the heart holds onto instruction
  • 6:21 instruction is to be bound and tied to the heart
  • 7:3 instruction can be engraved there
  • 23:12 the heart is the place of discipline
  • 23:15 the heart is the place of wisdom
  • 23:17 the heart can envy sin
  • 23:19 the heart can be directed
  • 23:26 the heart can be given (submitted to truth)
  • 24:17 it is the place of secretive emotion
  • 27:23 the heart is the source of attention

With the centrality and potential influence of the heart in all of these things, it is little wonder that the heart is something to be guarded, confined, and watched over with all vigilance. 4:23 sums up the essence of the heart when it says, “from it flow the springs of life.”

A clean spring is an enviable source of fresh water in a culture of the desert. If the heart is the source of this type of refreshing and nourishing life, then all of the things mentioned in the context of the heart must be central to ensuring the righteous life experience: instruction, commands, discipline, wisdom, truth, focus, and trust in Yahweh.

Proverbs 25:26 – Like a muddied spring or a polluted fountain is a righteous man who falters or slips before the wicked.

The vigilance required in keeping the heart safe and pure is a safeguard against the wickedness that is encountered in this world. If one gives in to the destructive perversions around them, they have relinquished the safe-guarding of their heart. In that instance, their heart then becomes as a muddy spring or a polluted fountain, good for nothing but casting up mire and dirt. It no longer has the ability to refresh or nourish anyone or anything.

If we treat the commands and instruction of our heavenly Father as Solomon asked of his own son to follow his parents’ commands, we have a template for guarding our hearts against all wickedness we may encounter.

Proverbs 6:20-23 – My son, keep your father’s commandment, and forsake not your mother’s teaching. Bind them upon your heart always; tie them about your neck. When you walk, they will lead you; when you lie down, they will watch over you; and when you awake, they will talk with you. For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life…

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