GUARD YOUR HEART, THE WELLSPRING OF LIFEProverbs 4:1-4:27
Key Verse: 4:23
When you think about the life, what do you think we need? Starting from our birth to finish the life, what do you think we need? I can say three things "goal, direction, commitment" We can compare this to driving. In driving, we need to know clear destination. When we know destination, we need to know route. When we know a correct route, we also need to make commitment to reach the destination. Proverbs 4 shows these three things to lead us to the very right life before God.
Part I. Wisdom is supreme, Get it.
Solomon said in verse 1-2 "Listen, my sons, to a fatherâ€™s instruction; pay attention and gain understanding. I give you sound learning, so do not forsake my teaching." He said "my sons" He used to say "my son". His sons could be all audiences whom he taught. But it also can be interpreted as his descendants including his sons, grandsons, great grandsons and more. He wanted to give a very important message to his children generation after generation. He said "listen to a fatherâ€™s instruction; pay attention and gain understanding." He gives them sound learning. He also learned the sound learning from his father. V3-9 shows the message that his father taught him when he was young. "When I was a boy in my fatherâ€™s house, still tender, and an only child of my mother" Solomon was a precious son to his parents. Normally, when parents love their children; they want to say "Son, ask me. Iâ€™ll give you anything you want" But David taught his beloved son what he needs most during his life. David spoke to him a very important message "Lay hold of my words with all your heart; keep my commands and you will live."
What is the very important message? V5 "Get wisdom, get understanding" In this section, "get" and "gain" were repeatedly used. It shows Davidâ€™s greatest wish and direction for his son. We get something throughout our life. It is also related to our life goal. What do people want to get? "Get money, Get power, and honor, get sweet husband or wife, get knowledge." David was a king with honor, power, and wealth, which are things that people desire most. However, he did not say these things. He said "get wisdom". He emphasized this in various expression. "do not forsake wisdom, love her, esteem her, embrace her"
Why is this important goal and direction of his sonâ€™s life? He said in verse 7 "Wisdom is supreme" MSG translation says "Above all and before all, do this: Get Wisdom! Write this at the top of your list: Get Understanding!" Wisdom is supreme because it is from God not man. The nature of wisdom is wonderful. Wisdom existed before creation (Pr 3:19-20; 8:22-24). "By wisdom the LORD laid the earthâ€™s foundations, by understanding he set the heavens in place;" (3:19) "I was appointed from eternity, from the beginning, before the world began." (8:23). All things were made by wisdom. Wisdom also protects and saves us (Pr 2:11-12). Wisdom is more valuable than silver and gold (Pr 3:14). Wisdom resolves all our fundamental problems. Wisdom teaches about fear of God and knowledge of God. Jesus is the exact representation of wisdom. All the nature of wisdom show that the wisdom is he. Hence, get wisdom and get understanding means that having Godâ€™s words with personal understanding and also knowing Jesus very personally and learning of him. Understanding his words is a vital in our life.
David said in V7b "Though it cost all you have, get understanding." It shows that one should pay cost to have wisdom. We may need to cost all we have. Any cost is worthwhile. The cost can be our time, heart, money, even life. On Sundays, we are coming to hear his words. Some may need to postpone other schedules to put it first. This is paying cost. Students come to the bible study in their busy schedule. People also deny their personal plan and thoughts to hear the wisdom. Young people deny the desire of youth in order to follow the word of God. Jesus also challenged people to pay cost if they wanted to follow him. To a rich young man, he said "sell everything you have and give it to a poor and follow me" He also said to his disciples "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters--yes, even his own life--he cannot be my disciple." (LK 14:26) Apostle Paul was the best example. He said "I consider everything the loss to gain Christ" Moses was a prince of Egypt but gave up everything to participate in the sufferings of Christ. It is because Jesus is the very goal of our life.
V8-9 "Esteem her, and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honor you. She will set a garland of grace on your head and present you with a crown of splendor." Wisdom esteems those who honor her. Those who esteem and embrace Jesus will be exalted and honored by him. He treats us like prince and princess and gives us honor and glory.
Solomon obeyed his fatherâ€™s command. When he became a king, he asked God for wisdom. Definitely, Davidâ€™s teaching influenced his choice. God gave him honor and wealth as well. In this section, we see how wisdom should be valued generation after generation. Wisdom is not naturally given or inherited from past generation. One should set this as his/her life goal and struggle to get it before God. We can also see that parents are to teach a right goal to children. In our days, many families are broken and canâ€™t teach their children this important teaching. Young people do not know what to seek and get. It should be our earnest prayer that God may raise godly families who sets wisdom and understanding as their supreme goal. Thank God for sending new life Abigail to Ian and Jemmieâ€™s family. They are excited to pass this wisdom to her. We all may positively get supreme wisdom through selling our lesser supreme things.
Part II. The path of the righteous, the way of the wicked.
V10-11 Solomon said "Listen, my son, accept what I say, and the years of your life will be many" "I guide you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths." In this section, Solomon gave another command to lead his son to the path of the wisdom and also gave warning about the path of the wicked. People may think the ways of living are countless as many as the number of people. But there are only two ways; the way of the righteous and that of the wicked. Look at V12. We can see the wonderful promise when we walk in the way of wisdom. "When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; when you run, you will not stumble." There are times to walk and also times to run. When do you walk and run? We run sometimes because we are late for school and work and important meetings. But this meaning could be more than that. We run when we are busy with things to be taken care of. We also run due to urgent situations. When fires break out or hurricane approaches, people run to escape. Students also walk faster during exam times. Likewise, when we face unexpected troubles and when we have sudden burdens to bear, this verse promises that we will not stumble. How is it possible? It is because we follow wisdom. When we have a right goal in life, we donâ€™t get easily lost. When Jesusâ€™disciples did not have him in their hearts, they were stumbled in their troubles. In a stormy sea, they were fearful to death because they lost Jesus in their heart. But when they had him and his words, they became so courageous and confident. Their life was so secured in him.
To have this blessing, what should we do? Solomon said "hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life" "Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evil men." When we hold on to instruction and guard it well, we can have life. We can understand this verse in light of Jesusâ€™ words in John 8. Jesus said to the Jews who believed him "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples, then you will know the truth." He also clearly stated that the religious leaders who opposed him belong to the devil. He also gave his disciples constant warning "Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy." (Luke 12:1). He clearly differentiated the way of the righteous and the wicked without middle ground. It is obvious that throughout the history, there have always been ways of the righteous and evil as we see in Abelâ€™s way and Cainâ€™s way; Jacobâ€™s way and Esauâ€™s way; Samuelâ€™s way and Eliâ€™s way; Davidâ€™s way and Saulâ€™s way. We are subjected to belong to either one or the other.
Solomon warned the son about the path of the wicked. What are the characteristics of the evil? V16-17 "For they cannot sleep till they do evil; they are robbed of slumber till they make someone fall." "They eat the bread of wickedness and drink the wine of violence." They are hunger for evilness and violence. These verses show the power of darkness that makes people seek something against God and his people all the time. The violence and evil seem very powerful and the way of the righteous seemed weak. But the path of the righteous has bright future. V18 "It is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day." But the path of the evil has no future. V19 "But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble."
How contrast is the two ways? The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn. Have you seen the first gleam of dawn? When you think the moment of the sun rising out of the sea in deep darkness, there is a glow in the sky. The sun spills its red rays, coming up from the far horizon. The darkness gradually goes away as the sun becomes brighter and brighter. This is the path of the righteous, which is manifested in the life of Godâ€™s people. While Abraham was living in the darkness without faith in God, God called and gave him his vision and promise. Abrahamâ€™s initial stage of his life of faith did not seem to be influential and impressive. But when he held on to his promise, his life of faith became brighter and brighter and shone the unbelieving world. His faith became like full light of day throughout generation. David also lived in such a way. He lived before God from his young age. He had a personal experience of faith while protecting his sheep from the beasts. With faith, he later defeated Goliath. He was anointed as a king who served the nation with fear of God. He became like the light of morning as 2 Samuel 23:4 says. His kingdom is a foreshadow of Messiahâ€™s kingdom. Zechariah described Jesus as the rising sun from heaven shining on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death. Anyone who is shone by Jesus can live life ever brighter. Isnâ€™t it wonderful life compared to the path of the evil who disappears suddenly? We need to let Godâ€™s words shine our hearts and live with faith in him each day. God will indeed bless path of such people like full light of day.
Part III. Guard your heart, the wellspring of life
V 20-21. "My son, pay attention to what I say; listen closely to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart." Solomon again encouraged the son to pay attention to his words and keep them within his heart because they are life to those who find them and health to a manâ€™s whole body (V22). The words give spiritual and physical life. When we digest his words and make our own, we can have new strength physically and spiritually. It is the power of the word. Look at verse 23 "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life." Above all else means with all vigilance. With all vigilance, we need to guard our heart. We can have three questions here. Why do we guard it? What do we guard it against? How do we guard it?
Firstly, why do we guard it? It is the wellspring of life. Wellspring of life means that joy, love, happiness, peace, and hope come from heart. Our life is truly influenced by what comes from heart. When joy, love and faith come from heart, our life becomes pleasant, bright, dynamic, hopeful. But when anxiety, hatred, bitterness, grumbling and unbelief come from heart, our life becomes dark, gloomy, and fatalistic, which none desires. Heart conditions are truly important. When people have hell in their hearts, even though they live in a heaven-like-place, they donâ€™t feel happiness. But when people have heaven in their hearts, even though they stay in hell-like-place, they are happy. For example, when apostle Paul served the gospel work, he was flogged and thrown into a prison. But in that prison, he prayed and sang hymns to God rather than became sorrowful and fearful. "Amazing Grace, How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me I once was lost, but now am foundâ€¦" How was is possible? It was because he had heaven in his heart. In contrast, when king David sinned, his heart was very heavy and guilty, and life of palace and good food did not help him at all. Likewise, we should keep our hearts as the wellspring of life. So, when people looked for kingdom of God outside, Jesus said "the kingdom of God is in you". Jesus also helped Samaritan woman who was agonized with fearful, fatalistic, helpless life with very dark and sorrowful heart. When she met Jesus as her Messiah personally, her heart was dramatically changed. Joy and happiness began to flow from her heart like Niagara Falls. Throwing her water bucket away, she ran back to her town and shared grace of Jesus with others. Heart is truly the wellspring of life. Jesus also said that our heart is soil and his words are wonderful seed containing all elements of Godâ€™s kingdom. When his words are planted in our hearts, we can produce fruits and good characters. Furthermore, heart is the very special place where God, his words and Spirit dwell and have fellowship with us.
Secondly, what do we guard against? In very important places, there are always vigilant guards. People also use surveillance cameras to protect their stores and houses. You can see vigilant guards and systems at the airport to thoroughly scan passengers and luggage. It is part of national defense or security system to protect citizens. "Guard your heart" We must have heart security systems. Why should we guard our heart? It is because there is thief. Heart thief, young couples say each other you stole my heart. The thief is the devil. [1Pe 5:8] "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." How does the devil devour us? First, he targets our hearts to get in using various ways including temptation and plucking the words of God out of heart. According to 2 Corinthians 4:4 "The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers." Our heart becomes dull and blinded. Especially, in our generation, we live in a very strong stream of pop-cultures, containing more and more secular ideas, humanism, and ungodly messages and these things definitely influence our hearts. Pastor John Piper said "Christians should swim against cultural tides like a dolphin not a jelly fish because a jelly fish just goes with the flow and dolphins can cut through the tidal currents and swim toward the truth and swim toward holiness and heaven in spite of cultural tides." Few day ago, Hugh Hefner who is known as radical hedonist and brought sex into the mainstream of American media, the founder of one adult magazine died at the age of 91. He claimed sexual revolution and devoted his whole life to it. One bible scholar commented about his life "the sexual revolution promised freedom but produced bondage. It promised excitement but produced emptiness. It promised thrills but produced diseases." Under the influence of his life, the heart and life of so many people were devastated. It is obvious that in the pleasure-seeking life, the devil is always behind trying to enslave us. Heart is the very place where the devil wants to come in and close up the wellspring of life. The devil tempts people in various ways. Jesus also received temptations many times. Joseph was a handsome and well-built young man. He received a very strong temptation of a woman. When she caught him by his cloak, he left it and ran away. In this way, he could guard his heart. In contrast, the devil finally entered Judahâ€™s heart to betray Jesus. Judah ended his life miserably.
Lastly, how do we guard our heart? There is one Americaâ€™s best-known evangelist in the early 1900s, Billy Sunday. He preached to more than one hundred million people in his life. One time, he said about his struggling. "Iâ€™m against sin," "Iâ€™ll kick it as long as I have a foot. Iâ€™ll fight it as long as I have a fist. Iâ€™ll butt it as long as I have a head. Iâ€™ll bite it as long as Iâ€™ve got a tooth. And when Iâ€™m old and fistless and footless and toothless, Iâ€™ll gum it till I go home to Glory and it goes home to perdition." This should be the right mind to vigilantly guard our heart. What is the way of guarding our heart? First of all, we need to know our heart conditions. Jeremiah 17:9 "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure." Jesus said that our heart is not clean. Mt 15:19 "For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander" Knowing this, our hearts should be cleansed. Last month, when I tried to park my car on the street, I could not do it quickly due to a condition of the street and made a car behind me wait little bit longer. The car driver yelled at me "do you know how to drive?" It irritated my feeling momently and I felt anger burst in me. I did not respond to him and it took some time for me to calm down. I also became jealous and my heart was troubled when others had something that I wanted. Through preparing this message, I could think that my responses to life events show that unclean things are in the deep part of my heart and come to the surface, seizing me severely. I did not guard my heart properly. How can you and I guard it? 1 John 1:9 says "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" we need to come to Jesus and repent our sins and receive his forgiveness and purification. In addition, we need to have the word of God in our heart. Psalm 119:11 "I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you." I pray that God may help you and me to guard our heart with his word.
V23-27 teaches three things that we need to practice in our daily life to guard our heart. Mouth, eyes, feet control is needed. Perverse, corrupt talk should be avoided. These days, US and North Korea leaders did a war of words through exchanging harsh words each other. To guard our heart, we should be careful with talking topics. Rather than unbelieving corrupt talk, we should speak words of faith and encouragement like Caleb and Joshua. Eyes should look straight ahead and ignore all sideshow distractions. "Look straight ahead" shows living in vision with faith. Look straight is opposite to look back. By heart, we need to see Godâ€™s vision and move forward. V26 talks about the use of our feet "Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm." We should watch our step and take only ways that are firm. We need to have eyes of faith and walk by faith. Talking, looking, walking is our daily activity. But spiritually, we need to talk and look and walk in a way that God wants. V 27 "Do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil." Even though many people go to other ways, we should not go that way if it is not right. Remember Jesusâ€™ word "Enter through the narrow gate." (MT 7:13)
Thank God for teaching his clear message "get wisdom, walk in the way of wisdom, guard your heart" In our life, we may have Godâ€™s wisdom, Jesus, follow his way, and guard our heart to make a commitment to him.