Peter Misselbrook's Blog
May 23 2019 - Proverbs 4 – Guard your heart

Proverbs chapter 4 continues with the exhortation to listen and learn. But the learning that is advocated is not academic. It is not a matter of learning and remembering four new facts before breakfast each day – or learning one unusual English word each morning and trying to inject it into your conversations. It is learning the pattern of life that is pleasing to God, the pattern of life designed for human flourishing, and then living that life. It is mastering the art of living a righteous life more fully every day.

Such a life begins in the heart: "Above all else," says Solomon, "guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it" (v. 23). This theme runs throughout the chapter: "Take hold of my words with all your heart; keep my commands, and you will live" (v. 4); "My son, pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart" (vv. 20-21). Solomon may be writing instruction for his son and successor but we also need to ensure that there is no part of our heart and affections which is not fully surrendered to the Lord. If he does not reign there, he does not reign at all.

Such a life is displayed in the words we speak: "Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips" (v. 24). The tongue is an unruly member which it is more difficult for us to tame than a wild animal (see James 3:1-12). But wisdom given by the Spirit of God, accompanied by the indwelling life and power of the Spirit can bring our tongues into captivity to the service of Christ.

Such a life is characterised by careful walking in the way mapped out for us by Jesus who walked this path before us:

Let your eyes look straight ahead;
   fix your gaze directly before you.
Give careful thought to the paths for your feet
   and be steadfast in all your ways.
Do not turn to the right or the left;
   keep your foot from evil. (vv. 25-27)

Such a life, proceeding from a heart that is centred upon Christ and lived for the glory of God, becomes second nature; we habitually and increasingly turn away from what displeases God and become more and more conformed to the image of Christ: "The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day" (v. 18).

This is the good life – the life that is pleasing to God, brings pleasure and blessing to the one living it and shows the world something of the beauty and glory of Christ. This is the life that has power to heal and bless a broken world.

O for a heart to praise my God,
a heart from sin set free;
a heart that's sprinkled with the blood
so freely shed for me:

A heart resigned, submissive, meek,
my great Redeemer's throne;
where only Christ is heard to speak,
where Jesus reigns alone.

Righteous Father, teach me your way and help me to listen to your call upon my life. Help me by your Spirit to guard my heart, watch my tongue and take care to follow closely in the way of Christ my Saviour, for I know that I cannot live such a life by my own strength. May my life always be pleasing to you and a blessing to those around me. May it point others to Jesus our Saviour.

Peter Misselbrook