Proverbs 4:23

Proverbs 4:23 "Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life."
Church Elma NY
Proverbs 4 holds two of the greatest verses in all of Scripture.  In verse seven, Solomon identified the most important virtue of the spiritual dimension and in so doing, he instructed his son to get wisdom.  Here in verse twenty-three, Solomon identified the most important component of man’s being and in so doing, he counseled his son to guard his heart.  It could be argued that there isn’t a chapter in the Bible with two greater and more important verses within it.  Heeding these two verses alone could propel a person to success.  Heeding these two verses alone could prevent a great deal of hardship and sorrow.  There is no greater virtue in life than wisdom and there is no greater component in the being of man than the heart.

The heart that Solomon wrote about is not the physical organ beating within our chests.  He is speaking about that invisible seat within our soul from which our emotions, desires, affections and intents flow.  Solomon and all Biblical authors refer to this unseen cockpit of the soul as the heart because it mirrors the importance and influence of the physical heart.  The organ within our bodies is centrally located to impact the rest of our body equally.  Because it is so valuable, it is protected by bars of bones.  The human heart dictates how we feel and what we do.  Every moment of every day, our heart pumps blood to the rest of our body.  We are entirely dependent on our heart.  If our heart fails to pump blood or inconsistently pumps blood, we will feel the ill effects of that weak heart.  The ancient authors of Scripture understood that we possess a moral and intellectual heartbeat that has a similar effect on us.  At the core of the human being – in the center of the soul – exists an unseen influence greater than any physical component housing it.  Like the visible organ, this invisible heart consistently pumps emotions, feelings, desires and intents into our lives.  This undetectable heart influences our decisions, actions and words in the same way that our detectable heart influences our liver, kidney, brain and limbs.

Just as our physical health hinges on our detectable heart, our spiritual, emotional and mental health hinges on our undetectable heart.  Solomon’s call to diligently manage the undetectable heart is based on the same reason one should diligently maintain his or her detectable heart.  Failure to maintain a healthy physical heart by eating properly, exercising regularly and managing stress will eventually be catastrophic to the body.  Why?  Because the rest of the body relies on a healthy physical heart.  In the same way, failure to diligently maintain a healthy spiritual heart by spiritual disciplines will eventually be catastrophic to the soul.  Why?  Because the rest of the soul relies on a healthy spiritual heart.  

The call to “keep thy heart with all diligence” is due to the importance of the heart, that “out of it are the issues of life.”  By ISSUES of life, Solomon is not referring to the topics or subjects of life.  When we use the word, “issue” today, most of the time we’re referring to a topic or a problem.  When Biblical authors used the word, “issue,” they were referring to that which protrudes from something.  For example, in the Hygiene Law within Judaism, an “issue” is something that is “running out of the flesh” (Leviticus 15:2).  This is why the Luke, who was a physician, described the woman in Luke 8 as having “an issue of blood.” This woman had a bleeding problem, not just a blood problem.  In Joshua 8, an army came out of a city and the Bible describes it being issued out of the city.”  2 Kings 20:18 uses the word within the context of offspring, reading that Hezekiah’s children, issued from him.  In Daniel 7:10, the Bible uses the word when describing God’s throne as it reads, “a fiery stream issued and came forth from before Him.

Biblically-speaking, an ISSUE is something that comes out of another thing.  Therefore, Solomon identified the heart as the source from which activity in our lives originates.  He wasn’t telling his son to guard his heart because that is where the issues of life would be managed.   He told his son to guard his heart because that is where things, or issues, would come from in his life.  Rehoboam’s life would be defined by his behavior, decisions, words, responses, actions and reactions.  All of these things come from his heart.  The issues of life are those things that define our lives and they are those things that come from our heart.  Jesus Christ taught the same thing in Matthew 15 when addressing the Pharisees’ emphasis on the washing of hands.  In Matthew 15:19-20, He said, “For OUT of the HEART proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man.”  Earlier in Matthew, Jesus told the same group of people that their evil words came from their evil hearts.  In Matthew 12:34-35, He said, “O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for OUT of the abundance of the HEART the mouth speaketh. A good man OUT of the good treasure of the HEART bringeth forth good things: and an evil man OUT of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.”

In Proverbs 4:23, the issues of life are those things that flow from our hearts and ultimately define our lives.  If evil things come out of our heart, then the issues, or decisions of our life will be evil decisions.  The result will naturally be an evil life.  If good things come out of our heart, then the issues, or words of our life will be good words and the result will be a good life.  Solomon was essentially identifying the unseen heart of man as the well from which the life of man takes shape.  If the well is corrupt, then that which issues from it will be corrupt.  If the well is pure, then that which issues from it will be pure.  That which issues from the heart of a soul defines the life of that soul.  Therefore, keep thy heart with all diligence!  Diligently protect it from the polluted waters of the world.  Diligently protect it from the vile refuse of the world.  Once profane words get into a heart, profane words can issue from that heart.  Once perverse images get into a heart, perverse desires can issue from that heart.  Once the love of money takes root in a heart, all evil will issue from that heart.

People like to blame their environment for the state of their lives.  People blame their parents, their employer, their spouse, their neighbor, their co-workers, their classmates and even their government for the state of their lives.  While people and outside influence certainly contribute to the state of our lives, there is nothing more influential to our lives than the invisible undetectable heart within us.  What happens to us is far less influential than what happens in us.  What happens in us is what eventually comes out of us.  What eventually comes out of us is ultimately what defines us.  Pay far more attention to what is in you because that is what will come out of you.  What comes out of you will determine what happens to you and what people think of you.

“Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.”

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