Keep Thy Heart—Proverbs 4:23

Evaluating what is put in the mouth is a practice that is done by many. No one—I hope—goes to a restaurant and tells the waiter “I’ll have whatever you have.” Instead, we sit and analyze the menu in search of something that is familiar to us. At other times we choose based on our ability to identify a meal by the wording on the menu. We are careful with our taste buds and our tummies, but what about our hearts?

The book of proverbs is full of practical wisdom concerning this issue; one verse will do. The KJV rendering of Prov. 4:23 says “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” God placed this verse in the scriptures, therefore we would do well if we heed the counsel.

The focus is on the heart, how we should be concerning it, and why. The heart that is spoken of here is not the blood pumping muscle in the human body. It is leb לִבֶּ  meaning “inner man, mind, will, heart, understanding.” Thus, the meaning and the context provide ample evidence showing why the word can’t be understood as referring to the physical heart.

However, the metaphoric value is retain in the reason—“for out of it are the issues of life.” The NASB captures the feel when it says “For from it flow the springs of life.” Just like the heart pumps out life giving blood to the body (cf. Lev. 17:11, 14), the mind pumps out what is within it. What is coming out of you?

Since this is the case, one needs to be careful about what influences and what goes in the mind. We are told to “keep” it—the mind—“with all diligence.” This is a command that places the owner of the mind in the position of the doer of the action. The command is stating that preventive measures need to be taken.

The Hebrew words natsar נְצֹר (meaning “to watch, guard, keep”) and mishmar מִשְׁמָר  (translated “diligence” in the KJV, means “place of confinement, jail, prison, guard, watch, observance”) gives the preventive measures. The mind needs to be guarded as if it is the most important possession you own.

Think about it. What are some of the things that we should be concerned about? Maybe it is the books that we read, or the movies and T.V. shows that we watch, the music we listen to, or the type of conversations we get into. It is better to be safe than sorry, so “keep thy heart.”


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