By Austin Mobley
In Proverbs four we see the earnestness and tenderness of the father’s instructions and entreaties as he urges his son to ever keep before his eyes and in his heart the word of God. The great physical blessings of life and health are promised if the son will follow the father’s good teachings throughout life (Prov. 4:10).
This sage advice is also good for both young and old today (Rom. 15:4). It pleased God to have Solomon lay out a course that will not only enhance our physical welfare, but our spiritual lives as well, if we will give diligent heed to the words of the wise monarch. Here is the prescription for “health” in Proverbs 4:20-27.
An Inclined Ear
“My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings. Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart” (Verses 20-21).
An inclined ear is one that hears and obeys. We are blessed as long as we lend a listening ear to the commands of God, and then do our best to practice everything that will make us “. . . strong in the Lord and the power of His might” (Eph. 6:10-18). But it does little good merely to hear the sayings of Jesus and do them not (Matt. 7:21-27). We deceive ourselves when we hear only. The man is blessed when he is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the word (Jas. 1:21-25). Even a good seed planted in the soil will bear no fruit until it becomes active. It is not enough to hear a lesson taught or a sermon preached, we must put the lesson into practice. While a man is standing before a mirror he is seeing himself in reflection, but if something is out of order it will not change until he does something about it. Likewise, when one reads the Bible he is seeing his duties portrayed, but must do them to receive the blessings promised.
A Guarded Heart
“Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life” (Verse 23).
Hearts should be guarded as a man guards a treasure placed in a bank vault for safe keeping. The heart is here pictured as an active fountain, from which flows the issues of life. As physical health depends upon the action of the physical heart, even so spiritual health depends upon the spiritual heart. The heart is hard to manage and often gets us into trouble because we let down our guard. When this happens evil enters, and that which enters the heart will eventually find its way out (Prov. 23:7). “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” (Matt. 15:19). That is quite an evil potential. Few hearts are free from bitterness, anger, covetousness, hypocrisy and evil surmisings, so the heart must be guarded.
“Put away from thee a froward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee” (Verse 24).
A “froward mouth” is one that issues fraudulent deceitful speech; that which twists, distorts, perverts, or misrepresents the truth. Our speech is but an index of our mind. Now the tongue is hard to control. Most of the third chapter of James is devoted to instructions concerning the use, and misuse of the tongue. Small as it is, it is capable of controlling the rest of the body. With it we say “Yes” or “No” to the temptations of Satan. With it we help or hurt friends and loved ones. With it we speak the truth or lie. With it we teach the word of God or the doctrines of men. With it we bless God or curse men. It is true that no man can tame the tongue (Jas. 3:8), but he can control it. The black panther can never be tamed, but he can be controlled.
“Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee” (Verse 25).
A favorite expression among young people today is, “Right on,” meaning that which has their approval. God wants our eyes to be “right on” heaven. We cannot serve two masters, keeping one eye on the pleasures of the world and the other on the glories of heaven. There is but one way for the Christian to look-toward his Christ! Thus we “seek those things which are above where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God” (Col. 3:1). When we take our eyes off the strait and narrow way, we veer into the ditch of condemnation.
“Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: Remove thy foot from evil” (Verses 26-27).
A pondered path is one that is carefully thought out. Before obeying the gospel of Christ one should first sit down and count the cost (Lk. 14:28). The road is narrow, sometimes rough, and long. It will take much courage and perseverance to reach the end. Pondering well our next step will prevent many a heartache and keep us from making shipwreck of our faith. A little pondering over Matt. 19:9 would stop any God-fearing person from entering into a marriage contract that involved an unscriptural divorce. Pondering over 1 Cor. 15:33 should cause Christians to be selective of the company they keep.
There are no short-cuts to heaven; once we have begun to travel there is but one way to go-ON! If one is not allowed to turn to the left or the right, his way is mapped out for him. The great tragedy of religion is the fact that so many do not want to remain within the limits of divine authority. So many prefer to turn to the left or to the right and see what men have to say rather than accept the authority of Christ.
Suppose for a moment that God would place in your hands a massive, priceless diamond, then ask you to inscribe some brief sentence upon it which would be read at the judgment. What caution you would exercise in the wording of that sentence! But He has placed in your hands something far more precious than diamonds; your soul. Guard it well by heeding this advice of Solomon.
Truth Magazine XIX: 51, pp. 811-812
November 6, 1975