This post is not about taking the law into our own hands but at the heart of the dynamic of a vigilante is a sense that something has to change and someone should do something about it. Their frustration with the ruling authority’s inability or reluctance to act drives them to action. These thoughts are all contained within the 23rd verse of Proverbs 4 –
“Keep vigilant watch over your heart; that’s where life starts!” The Message
The ruling authority, God, is informing us that He is not going to do what only we can do – it’s ‘our heart!’
The short three-word sentence; keep vigilant watch, translates this way –
keep with more vigilance than you would use for anything else. Barnes commentary.
The NIV puts it this way – “above all else!”
The number one priority and discipline is to guard our heart as if it were the most valuable resource, commodity or treasure. The language of this verse seems over the top but actually, it is the language of a very concerned Father, who is seeking to help a beloved child, as they take their place in this world. Chapter four starts with this counsel – listen and pay attention to a father’s instruction. God as our Father, is trying to get us in the loop and see what’s vital and important, as we start out into adulthood – Guard your heart.
The last part of the verse – for that’s where life starts, carries the idea of the fountainhead or spring, i.e. the starting point of a river. Just as the spring of a river has its starting point deep within the ground, so too does the ‘downstream of our lives!’ The state and condition of the river are directly affected by the state and condition of the source, that is the spring. Making sure the spring was fenced off and protected from debris and dead animals would result in the downstream river quality being at its best. So, it is with the heart!
I have learnt, the hard way, that I cannot change me or my circumstances without first making the effort to go to the source and see if I have allowed anything in into my heart, that is directly affecting what it is I am seeking to change. This is vitally important because if I take new actions but still hold the same heart attitude, eventually my heart will win and my actions will wane and I will be discouraged.
Life, literally in the Hebrew, means boundaries and they are set within our heart and so, real transformations have to begin in the heart!
The context of verse 23 is from verse 20 to 25 and contains hints and warnings about how debris and death will try to get into the heart, so as to affect the downstream –
- Ears – Pay attention, to what it is our ears are listening closely to v 20
- Eyes – The words we continually focus on will get into our hearts
- His Words are life & health to our downstream life v 22
- Lips – put & keep far away perverse & corrupt speech v 24
God, as ruling authority, as our Father, is letting us into how He set up the system and informing us of our part. How vigilant we are, is our decision because love does not insist on its own way. However, love desires the best for us and as a father, He is not a passive observer regarding our life. Therefore, He will try to influence us for good and for change.
His influence centres around the event that lead to the ongoing discipline called self-discipline. The event is to show and reveal any perceptions, thoughts & attitudes that are in our heart. The saying is often true: the way we see the problem is the problem! Biblical transformation begins and only happens by the entire renewal of the mind. Roms 12:2.
After event number one comes to the ongoing process which will regularly lead to more of event number ones, and that is self-discipline or self-control. This is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit and He longs to help us through this ongoing event and process of transformation.
When the spring that’s producing our downstream is cleared of debris and death, the water and flow of our lives will run clearer.
Cardiology is the medical study of the structure, function and disorders of the heart. In this mini-series of four blogs I want to share some thoughts around the importance of the heart, as revealed in scripture. The state of our hearts, is right up there as a subject matter to our Father, in fact it is His number one subject – above all else, guard your heart! Prov 4:23.
God the Father is a committed and highly proficient cardiologist!
The heart has the ability to have affections, to think, to guide and set our life’s boundaries. It also has an overflow; the mouth which in turn has the power of life and death attached to it, namely the tongue.
The heart is so strategic to all of life, we are commanded to guard it, (Prov 4:23) as if it contained the crown jewels. The thought behind the word is to show vigilance more than over anything else we have or own. One commentator refers to it as the master-controller!
One man in Scripture understood this and that was David. He was after all, described as a man after God’s own heart! Acts 13:22. This king, warrior and minstrel penned these words –
“search me O God and know my heart…Ps 139:23”
David had the confidence, prior to Christ and Calvary’s grace, to ask God to know his heart. This is high level trust and a little risky but is the kind of prayer Father loves and will answer. David was asking His God and creator to know his heart through observing, experiencing and reflecting. All of these are the core dynamics of what the word know depicts. David was also saying “let me in,” on your observations, experiences and reflections.
For David, there were two aspects of his heart that he wanted His Father’s feedback on – the thoughts and the ways within his heart and that through these reflections Father would lead him in the way everlasting. This word everlasting means the old path and is made of two words that differ slightly. One means the right way, the way a man should go and the other, the way a man goes by habit. David’s son would learn this from his father and his own experiences –
“there is a way that seems right to man but its end is the way of death. “Prov 16:25
Here’s my attempt at paraphrasing David’s request from within this verse Ps 139:23
“I want you God to test through observation and experiences the thoughts and ways within my heart and reflect back to me, any habits that are not leading me in the well-established path of life which is Your desire for me!”
David’s prayer would be answered, numerous times and some of these were not good feedback but every time God spoke into David’s life about the state and condition of his heart, David responded with humility, transparency and faith! It is for this reason I believe God defined David as a man after my own heart, who will do my will.
David was far from perfect, however, he always, apart from sixteen months of complete madness, went after and stayed after God’s heart! Like David I have prayed his prayer and invited God to search and try my heart and give me feedback because I want what David had and I can only have that, if I do what he did!
God is a proficient cardiologist understanding the hearts structure and function like no other, he designed it but He also knows the disorders of the heart and these fall into six categories –
- unclean heart Ps 51:10
- proud heart Prov 21:4
- hard heart Prov 28:14
- cold heart Matt 24:12
- double heart Ps 12:2
- unbelieving heart Heb 3:12
The beginning of the answer to that part of us described as deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? Jer 17:9 NIV Is to humble asks God to do in us what He did in David – search me and try me and give me feedback!
The next three blogs I’ll take two disorders from the list and share some thoughts.