Keep your heart with all diligence for out of it proceed the issues of life. Proverbs 4:23
The Hebrew on the word ‘Issues’ shows its various meanings as 1. limit, end, extremity, i.e., the furthest-most point of space (Nu 34:5); 2. starting point, source, wellspring, i.e., the source of an event or activity from the figurative extension of the beginning limit of a space (Pr 4:23); 3. exit, i.e., the way or path out from a city (Eze 48:30); 4. an escape, i.e., the act. of deliverance from a dangerous situation (Ps 68:21) Swanson Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament) (electronic ed.). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
The heart holds the beginning of a thing, the limitations of it and an escape. Amazing and true;
life flows from the content of the heart. Because of sin and its effects, our hearts also contain our own limitations. It’s a paradox: we seemingly sabotage the very thing we know to pursue. All of us are a composite of experiences and words that have shaped our inner man; even our born again inner man. Left to ourselves we would be constantly starting, hindering and stopping the dreams of our hearts from being achieved. That’s why it’s so wonderful to remember that our kept hearts also contain and show us the wisdom for our next steps forward.
The phrase issue of life is translated by both the ESV and NASB as flow the springs of life, which paints a picture of something moving forward.
NIV ~ for everything you do flows from it.
NLT ~ for it determines the course of your life.
NET ~ for from it are the sources of life.
All painting this picture which shows us how important what we carry in our heart is to the well being of our lives. Solomon wrote, Guard your heart. Again, in the following definition, we have a series of meanings to the word guard that give us a vivid picture of what guarding looks like.
preserve, keep, maintain, protect, i.e., cause to be safe from danger, implying a relationship with the protector (Ps 40:12), spared, kept safe, i.e., pertaining to being free from danger, as an extension of keeping a valuable hidden (Isa 49:6; Eze 6:12+); keep, observe, comply, i.e., obey a command (Ps 78:7); 4. secret, be hidden, i.e., pertaining to things not readily known (Isa 48:6; 65:4+); 5. be crafty, i.e., pertaining to being evil and damaging, with a focus that the actions are secretive or underhanded (Pr 7:10+) Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament) (electronic ed.). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
Adam was placed in the garden to guard it and keep it. We are told from the New Testament to keep watch, stay awake, guard our hearts. There are things we must be attentive to and when we drop our guards, just like Eve engaged with the serpent, we begin to entertain the subtle conversations that will lead us astray from what God has really said.
As David and I face the next season of our lives, I find that I am challenged with certain heart issues ~ most of which come down to two simple thoughts;
Those things where I say, ‘I won’t do’ and those that I say, ‘I can’t do’. I see where “I won’t” is simply pride because it involves my will. I can’t is my own place of unbelief that prevents me from trying. Both are equally wicked in the sight of God and require repentance. We know its the evil heart of unbelief that prevented the children of Israel from entering into the promise of God and kept them in the wilderness, wandering around for 40 years. For me to guard my heart requires me to make sure my boundaries are secure and nothing is breaking through; which is always, ultimately about my thought life and where the unbelief is lurking.
If Joshua was told to meditate on God’s word day and night, Joshua 1:8, so he was able to do all that was written in it, don’t you know that if we meditate on a lie day and night we will ultimately “do” the lie. Solomon wrote, over and over again in the book of Proverbs the need to attend to the word.
There are some things in life that you feel powerless to change, yet in all circumstances we do have sovereign right and control over us. I can lean into God and be strong in His grace. I can encourage myself in the word. I can establish my heart and quiet my soul. We might not be able to naturally change what is happening but we are not powerless. To say we are denies the very existence of God working in our life and our need to believe.
The greater the press, the greater the stuff pressed out. Peter wrote in his first epistle, don’t think it’s strange that these fiery trials are here to try you. Jesus has a baptism of fire and the purging of all dross (unbelief) must take place to be shaped and fitted for His use. We might not have all the answers today, it’s a stretch and challenge for the soul, but we must be committed to the process and be determined to endure to the end. Wherever that leads, whatever the process, we must guard our hearts so the issues flowing from us are found rooted in the fullness of God.