Summary: The first 7 chapters In the book of Proverbs in our Bible are teachings from King Solomon. In each of them he speaks to his son (or possibly sons) giving them life-living advice. What he tells them is advice for living that we can use in our lives today.
If you look back at the beginning of each of the first 7 chapters, you will find that Solomon begins with the words, “Listen, my sons….”
As I read through this passage, I pictured a father gathering his sons around so they can have a serious talk. In this passage, it is King Solomon having a talk with his sons. We’re not really told when or where it happened. He may have been sitting on his throne and summoned his boys together. Maybe they were out in the palace garden under a shade tree. It could have been at bedtime as he tucked them in for the night. It may have even been on his deathbed when he brought the boys in to have this talk.
I can picture King Solomon telling his boy, “Sons this is important so listen up carefully. You need to give me your full attention. I have taught you many things already, but make sure you hear this, and store it away in your memory bank. Never forget it. Hear me now and hold on to these words because they give life and healing.”
If he was having this talk today, he’s probably begin with, “Set your phone down, put your tablet to the side, turn off the radio and TV, keep your eyes on me, and listen to what I have to say.”
So, what was so important that King Solomon stressed the life-giving nature of his words? He tells his sons, and by extension as he wrote these words down, he tells us to guard our hearts. Read Proverbs 4:23 again.
Let’s look at three reasons we must guard our hearts.
1. Your heart is extremely valuable. We don’t guard worthless things. Every Monday night, I make sure my trash bin is set out on the curb to be emptied out. I don’t give it another thought. I don’t watch to make sure no one messes with it or tries to take anything out of the bin. . Why? Because it’s garbage, it’s rubbish, it is trash. Its value is zero.
But your heart is the very essence of who you are, the core of your being, where you hold your dreams, desires, and passions. So, we are to guard our hearts because they are valuable.
2. Your heart is the source of everything you do. King Solomon says the springs of life flow from the heart. If you plug a spring, the water stops. If you poison the spring, the water becomes toxic. Not only is the spring impacted, but all of life downstream is affected. It’s the same way with your heart. If your heart isn’t healthy, it impacts everything around you - your family, friends, ministry, career, even your legacy. So, as a life source, the heart is everything to us.
3. Your heart is under constant attack. King Solomon tells us to guard our hearts because we are daily in the middle of a combat zone. Our enemy, Satan, is determined to cause our destruction. He is not only opposed to God, but he hates anything remotely aligned with him, including us. That’s why when Paul told us to put on the armor of God, he included the breastplate of righteousness. Ephesians 6:14 – Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place.”
It is essential that we guard our hearts, but how?
King Solomon begins by telling us to watch our mouths. Read Proverbs 4:24 again. Jesus says it this way.
Read Luke 6:45 - The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.
Matthew 15:18. The things we speak from our mouth reveal what’s in our heart.
Read James 3:10-11 – Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?
If we are praising God as we do when we gather on Sunday mornings, we shouldn’t be cursing those who were made in His image during the rest of the week.
Read Ephesians 4:29 – “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only that which is helpful for building others up…”
When we have a problem with someone, rather than tearing them down, find a way to build them up. Sometimes that’s constructive criticism, sometimes it means choosing to say nothing. If we want to guard our hearts, we need to watch our mouths.
The next thing King Solomon tells us is to protect our eyes. Read Proverbs 4:25 again.
Jesus describes the eyes as the lamp of the body. Read Matthew 6:22-23
“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness.”
What is the significance of this? You take in the sights through your eyes. What is significant is where your focus is. Are you looking to things that bring in the light of God or are you filling your heart with darkness?
Too many times we have fooled ourselves into thinking we can hide the darkness we’re taking in. But, you know God! He has a way of bringing those things to light. And when our dark deeds are exposed, they are open for all to see.
We have all seen the guardrails placed along our highways. Some may have had an intimate, close up experience with one at some time. Guardrails are erected on the side of the road for a purpose. That is to minimize damage to a vehicle that strays from the road. The guardrail could prevent you and your vehicle from plunging down a steep bank, or into a creek or other body of water. In the same way, we need spiritual guardrails set in our lives so that we have an accountability structure. These guardrails help us to not stray past the point of no return, into destruction and eventually separated from God. The guardrails help us to be able to get back up and keep striving in our faith.
King Solomon continues by telling us to direct our feet. Read Proverbs 4:26 again.
We need to pay attention to where we’re going, to be aware of what we’re exposing ourselves to. God provides some tools to help us do so.
Read Proverbs 3:5-6. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.
I believe King Solomon refers to prayer in this passage. We can talk to God. He many not answer with an audible voice. Sometimes He doesn’t even speak directly to us about our need. Rather, He speaks through fellow believers. At other times the circumstances make His answer clear.
Read Psalm 119:105. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.
King David is speaking here. He rightly points to the scriptures as a tool to guide us. God has given us His word so we can know Him and to know how He wants us to live.
Read John 14:25-26. Jesus speaks here – “All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things, and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
Jesus has promised the Holy Spirit to all believers. When we are baptized, not only are our sins forgiven, but we are also given the Holy Spirit to counsel, guide, and comfort us.
Isn’t it interesting that Jesus said the Holy Spirit would “remind” us of everything Jesus taught? He knows we forget sometimes. There is a Gospel song which includes these words,
Roll back the curtain of memory now and then.
Show me where you brought me from and where I could have been.
Just remember I'm a human and humans forget.
So remind me, remind dear Lord.
And, as He reminds us, He guides our feet in paths that we should take.
Finally, we need to focus on Jesus.
Read Proverbs 4:27 again.
King Solomon encourages his sons to stay on the straight and narrow, not to swerve to the right or to the left. I’m reminded of the time the disciples had gotten into a boat and left ahead of Jesus, going out into the middle of the sea. A storm swept in with enough wind that even the seasoned fishermen were terrified at the waves crashing into their boat.
And then they saw what looked like someone walking on the water in the middle of the storm. They were afraid of what they were seeing until Peter realized that it was Jesus.
He called out to Jesus and asked Jesus to let him come to Him, walking on the water. Jesus tells him to come and Peter steps out of the boat and begins to walk on the water also. But then he took his eyes off Jesus. He let the wind and the waves distract his focus, and he began to sink. Jesus caught him up and returned him to the boat. He sank because he took his eyes off Jesus. His focus was on the water and the waves. But, even then, Jesus didn’t abandon Peter. He rescued him, and restored him to safety.
Read Hebrews 12:1-2. Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders, and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
We have a race called life that is set before us. Do you want to win the race? Focus on Jesus. Jesus will help you watch your mouth. Jesus will help you protect your eyes. Jesus will help you direct your feet. Jesus will guard your heart. It all begins by giving your life to Him through belief, repentance, confession and baptism. That is where you begin that new life guided by a loving God who wants you with Him in eternity.