Proverbs 4:23
Keep your heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.
Jump to: BarnesBensonBICambridgeClarkeDarbyEllicottExpositor'sExp DctGaebeleinGSBGillGrayGuzikHaydockHastingsHomileticsJFBKDKellyKJTLangeMacLarenMHCMHCWParkerPoolePulpitSermonSCOTTBWESTSK
EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(23) Keep thy heart with all diligence.—Rather, above all things that are to be guarded.

For out of it are the issues of life.—That is, from it comes life (and also death). From it proceed “all holy desires, all good counsels, and all just works,” signs of the life with God within the soul; or, “evil thoughts, murders,” &c. (Matthew 15:19), “the end of which things is death” (Romans 6:21).

Proverbs

KEEPING AND KEPT

Proverbs 4:23
. - 1 Peter 1:5.

The former of these texts imposes a stringent duty, the latter promises divine help to perform it. The relation between them is that between the Law and the Gospel. The Law commands, the Gospel gives power to obey. The Law pays no attention to man’s weakness, and points no finger to the source of strength. Its office is to set clearly forth what we ought to be, not to aid us in becoming so. ‘Here is your duty, do it’ is, doubtless, a needful message, but it is a chilly one, and it may well be doubted if it ever rouses a soul to right action. Moralists have hammered away at preaching self-restraint and a close watch over the fountain of actions within from the beginning, but their exhortations have little effect unless they can add to their icy injunctions the warmth of the promise of our second text, and point to a divine Keeper who will make duty possible. We must be kept by God, if we are ever to succeed in keeping our wayward hearts.

I. Without our guarding our hearts, no noble life is possible.

The Old Testament psychology differs from our popular allocation of certain faculties to bodily organs. We use head and heart, roughly speaking, as being respectively the seats of thought and of emotion. But the Old Testament locates in the heart the centre of personal being. It is not merely the home of the affections, but the seat of will, moral purpose. As this text says, ‘the issues of life’ flow from it in all the multitudinous variety of their forms. The stream parts into many heads, but it has one fountain. To the Hebrew thinkers the heart was the indivisible, central unity which manifested itself in the whole of the outward life. ‘As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.’ The heart is the man. And that personal centre has a moral character which comes to light in, and gives unity and character to, all his deeds.

That solemn thought that every one of us has a definite moral character, and that our deeds are not an accidental set of outward actions but flow from an inner fountain, needs to be driven home to our consciences, for most of the actions of most men are done so mechanically, and reflected on so little by the doers, that the conviction of their having any moral character at all, or of our incurring any responsibility for them, is almost extinct in us, unless when something startles conscience into protest.

It is this shrouded inner self to which supreme care is to be directed. All noble ethical teaching concurs in this-that a man who seeks to be right must keep, in the sense both of watching and of guarding, his inner self. Conduct is more easily regulated than character-and less worth regulating. It avails little to plant watchers on the stream half way to the sea. Control must be exercised at the source, if it is to be effectual. The counsel of our first text is a commonplace of all wholesome moral teaching since the beginning of the world. The phrase ‘with all diligence’ is literally ‘above all guarding,’ and energetically expresses the supremacy of this keeping. It should be the foremost, all-pervading aim of every wise man who would not let his life run to waste. It may be turned into more modern language, meaning just what this ancient sage meant, if we put it as, ‘Guard thy character with more carefulness than thou dost thy most precious possessions, for it needs continual watchfulness, and, untended, will go to rack and ruin.’ The exhortation finds a response in every heart, and may seem too familiar and trite to bear dwelling on, but we may be allowed to touch lightly on one or two of the plain reasons which enforce it on every man who is not what Proverbs very unpolitely calls ‘a fool.’

That guarding is plainly imposed as necessary, by the very constitution of our manhood. Our nature is evidently not a republic, but a monarchy. It is full of blind impulses, and hungry desires, which take no heed of any law but their own satisfaction. If the reins are thrown on the necks of these untamed horses, they will drag the man to destruction. They are only safe when they are curbed and bitted, and held well in. Then there are tastes and inclinations which need guidance and are plainly meant to be subordinate. The will is to govern all the lower self, and conscience is to govern the will. Unmistakably there are parts of every man’s nature which are meant to serve, and parts which are appointed to rule, and to let the servants usurp the place of the rulers is to bring about as wild a confusion within as the Ecclesiast lamented that he had seen in the anarchic times when he wrote-princes walking and beggars on horseback. As George Herbert has it-

‘Give not thy humours way;

God gave them to thee under lock and key.’

Then, further, that guarding is plainly imperative, because there is an outer world which appeals to our needs and desires, irrespective altogether of right and wrong and of the moral consequences of gratifying these. Put a loaf before a starving man and his impulse will be to clutch and devour it, without regard to whether it is his or no. Show any of our animal propensities its appropriate food, and it asks no questions as to right or wrong, but is stirred to grasp its natural food. And even the higher and nobler parts of our nature are but too apt to seek their gratification without having the license of conscience for doing so, and sometimes in defiance of its plain prohibitions. It is never safe to trust the guidance of life to tastes, inclinations, or to anything but clear reason, set in motion by calm will, and acting under the approbation of ‘the Lord Chief Justice, Conscience.’

But again, seeing that the world has more evil than good in it, the keeping of the heart will always consist rather in repelling solicitations to yielding to evil. In short, the power and the habit of sternly saying ‘No’ to the whole crowd of tempters is always the main secret of a noble life. ‘He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down and without walls.’

II. There is no effectual guarding unless God guards.

The counsel in Proverbs is not mere toothless moral commonplace, but is associated, in the preceding chapter, with fatherly advice to ‘let thine heart keep my commandments’ and to ‘trust in the Lord with all thine heart.’ The heart that so trusts will be safely guarded, and only such a heart will be. The inherent weakness of all attempts at self-keeping is that keeper and kept being one and the same personality, the more we need to be kept the less able we are to effect it. If in the very garrison are traitors, how shall the fortress be defended? If, then, we are to exercise an effectual guard over our characters and control over our natures, we must have an outward standard of right and wrong which shall not be deflected by variations in our temperature. We need a fixed light to steer towards, which is stable on the stable shore, and is not tossing up and down on our decks. We shall cleanse our way only when we ‘take heed thereto, according to Thy word.’ For even God’s viceroy within, the sovereign conscience, can be warped, perverted, silenced, and is not immune from the spreading infection of evil. When it turns to God, as a mirror to the sun, it is irradiated and flashes bright illumination into dark corners, but its power depends on its being thus lit by radiations from the very Light of Life. And if we are ever to have a coercive power over the rebellious powers within, we must have God’s power breathed into us, giving grip and energy to all the good within, quickening every lofty desire, satisfying every aspiration that feels after Him, cowing all our evil and being the very self of ourselves.

We need an outward motive which will stimulate and stir to effort. Our wills are lamed for good, and the world has strong charms that appeal to us. And if we are not to yield to these, there must be somewhere a stronger motive than any that the sorceress world has in its stores, that shall constrainingly draw us to ways that, because they tend upward, and yield no pabulum for the lower self, are difficult for sluggish feet. To the writer of this Book of Proverbs the name of God bore in it such a motive. To us the name of Jesus, which is Love, bears a yet mightier appeal, and the motive which lies in His death for us is strong enough, and it alone is strong enough, to fire our whole selves with enthusiastic, grateful love, which will burn up our sloth, and sweep our evil out of our hearts, and make us swift and glad to do all that may please Him. If there must be fresh reinforcements thrown into the town of Mansoul, as there must be if it is not to be captured, there is one sure way of securing these. Our second text tells us whence the relieving force must come. If we are to keep our hearts with all diligence, we must be ‘kept by the power of God,’ and that power is not merely to make diversion outside the beleaguered fortress which may force the besiegers to retreat and give up their effort, but is to enter in and possess the soul which it wills to defend. It is when the enemy sees that new succours have, in some mysterious way, been introduced, that he gives up his siege. It is God in us that is our security.

III. There is no keeping by God without faith.

Peter was an expert in such matters, for he had had a bitter experience to teach him how soon and surely self-confidence became self-despair. ‘Though all should forsake Thee, yet will not I,’ was said but a few hours before he denied Jesus. His faith failed, and then the divine guard that was keeping his soul passed thence, and, left alone, he fell.

That divine Power is exerted for our keeping on condition of our trusting ourselves to Him and trusting Him for ourselves. And that condition is no arbitrary one, but is prescribed by the very nature of divine help and of human faith. If God could keep our souls without our trust in Him He would. He does so keep them as far as is possible, but for all the choicer blessings of His giving, and especially for that of keeping us free from the domination of our lower selves, there must be in us faith if there is to be in God help. The hand that lays hold on God in Christ must be stretched out and must grasp His warm, gentle, and strong hand, if the tingling touch of it is to infuse strength. If the relieving force is victoriously to enter our hearts, we must throw open the gates and welcome it. Faith is but the open door for God’s entrance. It has no efficacy in itself any more than a door has, but all its blessedness depends on what it admits into the hidden chambers of the heart.

I reiterate what I have tried to show in these poor words. There is no noble life without our guarding our hearts; there is no effectual guarding unless God guards; there is no divine guarding unless through our faith. It is vain to preach self-governing and self-keeping. Unless we can tell the beleaguered heart, ‘The Lord is thy Keeper; He will keep thee from all evil; He will keep thy soul,’ we only add one more impossible command to a man’s burden. And we do not apprehend nor experience the divine keeping in its most blessed and fullest reality, unless we find it in Jesus, who is ‘able to keep us from falling, and to present us faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy.’Proverbs 4:23. Keep thy heart with all diligence — The Hebrew is, Above all keeping, keep thy heart, that is, thy mind and thoughts, thy will and affections, which are the more immediate cause of men’s actions. Out of it are the issues of life — The life or death of the soul proceeds from the heart: an upright, enlightened, renewed, devout, and watchful heart gives birth to those holy dispositions, words, and actions, which manifest spiritual life, and lead to eternal life: on the contrary, a heart insincere, unenlightened, unrenewed, and corrupt, without knowledge, without grace, produces those tempers, words, and works, which imply spiritual death, and lead to eternal death. From the heart proceeds all evil, Matthew 15:11-19. Guard it therefore most carefully, with every kind of diligence, and above all other cares.4:14-27 The way of evil men may seem pleasant, and the nearest way to compass some end; but it is an evil way, and will end ill; if thou love thy God and thy soul, avoid it. It is not said, Keep at a due distance, but at a great distance; never think you can get far enough from it. The way of the righteous is light; Christ is their Way, and he is the Light. The saints will not be perfect till they reach heaven, but there they shall shine as the sun in his strength. The way of sin is as darkness. The way of the wicked is dark, therefore dangerous; they fall into sin, but know not how to avoid it. They fall into trouble, but never seek to know wherefore God contends with them, nor what will be in the end of it. This is the way we are bid to shun. Attentive hearing the word of God, is a good sign of a work of grace begun in the heart, and a good means of carrying it on. There is in the word of God a proper remedy for all diseases of the soul. Keep thy heart with all diligence. We must set a strict guard upon our souls; keep our hearts from doing hurt, and getting hurt. A good reason is given; because out of it are the issues of life. Above all, we should seek from the Lord Jesus that living water, the sanctifying Spirit, issuing forth unto everlasting life. Thus we shall be enabled to put away a froward mouth and perverse lips; our eyes will be turned from beholding vanity, looking straight forward, and walking by the rule of God's word, treading in the steps of our Lord and Master. Lord, forgive the past, and enable us to follow thee more closely for the time to come.Better, as in the margin, i. e., with more vigilance than men use over anything else. The words that follow carry on the same similitude. The fountains and wells of the East were watched over with special care. The heart is such a fountain, out of it flow the "issues" of life. Shall men let those streams be tainted at the fountain-head? 23. with all diligence—or, "above," or "more than all," custody (compare Margin), all that is kept (compare Eze 38:7), because the heart is the depository of all wisdom and the source of whatever affects life and character (Mt 12:35; 15:19). Thy heart; thy mind and thoughts, and especially the will and affections, which are the more immediate and effectual cause of all men’s actions.

Out of it are the issues of life; from thence proceed all the actions, as of the natural, so of the spiritual life, which lead to eternal life and happiness; as, on the contrary, all evil actions tending to death spring from thence, which is here implied. Keep thy heart with all diligence,.... The mind from vanity, the understanding from error, the will from perverseness, the conscience clear of guilt, the affections from being inordinate and set on evil objects, the thoughts from being employed on bad subjects; and the whole from falling into the hands of the enemy, or being the possession of Satan: great diligence had need be used in keeping it, since it is naturally so deceitful and treacherous; a strict eye is to be kept upon it; all the avenues to it to be watched, that nothing hurtful enters, or evil comes out; it is to be kept by all manner of means that can be thought of, by prayer, hearing, reading, meditation; and, above all, by applying to Christ for his grace and Spirit to sanctify, preserve, and keep it. Or, "above all keeping, keep thine heart" (b); though other things are to be kept, and care taken of them, as kingdoms and cities, and towns and families, and treasures and riches; yet the heart above all:

for out of it are the issues of life; of natural life: it is the seat of it, from whence all actions of life are derived; it is, as philosophers say, the first that lives, and the last that dies; and it is the seat of spiritual life the principle of it is formed in it; from whence all spiritual and vital actions flow, and which lead unto and issue in eternal life: as is a man's heart, such is his state now, and will be hereafter; if the heart is quickened and sanctified by the grace of God, the man will live a life of faith and holiness here, and enjoy everlasting life hereafter: and if the heart is right, so will the actions of men be; they are regulated and denominated by it; they will then spring from right principles, and be directed to right ends, and performed with right views; great care therefore should be taken of the heart, since so much depends upon it, and it is so well known to God the searcher of it.

(b) "prae omni custodia", Vatablus, Baynus, Mercerus, Gejerus, Michaelis, Schultens; so Aben Ezra and Ben Melech.

Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of {k} life.

(k) For as the heart is either pure or corrupt, so is the whole course of man's life.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
23. with all diligence] Lit. above all keepings, that is bestowed on aught beside. πάσῃ φυλακῇ, LXX. Omni custodia, Vulg. Others, with R.V. marg., above all that thou guardest; “præ omnibus rebus custodiendis,” Maurer.

“It is very strange that Judaism should ever have sunk into a formal religion of outward observance, when its own wisdom was so explicit on this point … ‘Keep them in the midst of thy heart … Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life.’ The Greek version, which was very generally used in our Lord’s time, had a beautiful variation of this last clause. [It is really of Proverbs 4:21, where by a slight change in the Heb. punctuation they read ‘fountains’ for ‘eyes’]: ‘In order that thy fountains may not fail thee, guard them in the heart’ [ὅπως μὴ ἐκλίπωσί σε αἱ πηγαί σου, φύλασσε αὐτὰς ἐν καρδίᾳ, Proverbs 4:21, LXX.]. It was after all but a new emphasis on the old teaching of the Book of Proverbs, when Jesus taught the necessity of heart purity, and when He shewed that out of the heart came forth evil thoughts and all the things which defile a man (Matthew 15:19).” Horton.Verse 23 - Keep thy heart with all diligence; properly, above all things that have to be guarded, keep or guard thy heart. So Mercerus, Gescnius, Delitzsch, Zockler. This seems to be the right meaning of the phrase, mikkol-mish'mar, rendered in the Authorized Version "with all diligence," mish'mar, from shamar, "to guard," being the object of guarding; that which is to be guarded. It is as if the teacher said, "Guard riches, property, health, body, everything, in short, in which you have a legitimate interest, or which is advantageous; but before and above everything else, keep a guard on your heart." The rabbins Jarehi, Ben Ezra, Rashi, however, give a different rendering, "From everything which is to be avoided (ab omni re cavenda) guard thy heart;" but the objection to this is that it ignores the radical meaning of the verb shamar, from which mish'mar is derived, as stated above, which is not that of avoiding, but of guarding. A third rendering is," Keep thy heart with all keeping;" so the Vulgate, omni custodia serva cor tuum; and the LXX., πασὴ φυλακῇ τήρει σὴν καρδίαν; on which the Authorized Version seems to be based. Another rendering, similar to the first, except that it gives mish'mar the active signification of guarding instead of the passive one of being kept or guarded, is, "Keep thy heart more than any other keeping (prae omni custodia)." Origen, 'Hex.;' Field. Again, Aquila and Theodotion render, "Keep thy heart by reason of every commandment (ἀπὸ παντὸς φυλάγματος)," thus bringing into prominence the occasion and the obligation of keeping the heart, which is that we are so commanded. Heart (lev); here the affections and the moral consciousness. For out of it are the issues of life. The conjunction "for" introduces the reason. The fact here stated is that the moral conduct of life, its actions and proceedings, are determined by the condition of the heart. If the heart is pure, the life will be pure; if the heart is corrupt, the life will be corrupt. The heart is here compared with a fountain. The same idea which is affixed to it in its physical sense is also assigned to it in its ethical or moral sense. Physically, it is the central organ of the body; morally, it is the seat of the affections and the centre of the moral consciousness. From this moral centre flow forth "the issues of life;" i.e. the currents of the moral life take their rise in and flow forth from it, just as from the heart, physically considered, the blood is propelled and flows forth into the arterial system, by which it is conveyed to the remotest extremities of the body. And as the bodily health depends on the healthy action of the heart, so the moral health depends on and is influenced by the state in which this spring of all action is preserved. Issues; tots'aoth, from yatsar, "to go forth," are the place from which anything goes forth, and hence a fountain. For "the issues of life," the LXX. reads, ἔξοδοι ζωῆς, the Vulgate., exitus vitae. With this passage compare our Lord's teaching (Matthew 15:19; Mark 7:21-23; Luke 6:43-45). The second כּי introduces the reason of their bodily welfare being conditioned by evil-doing. If the poet meant: they live on bread which consists in wickedness, i.e., on wickedness as their bread, then in the parallel sentence he should have used the word חמס; the genitives are meant of the means of acquisition: they live on unrighteous gain, on bread and wine which they procure by wickedness and by all manner of violence or injustice. On the etymon of חמס (Arab. ḥamas, durum, asperum, vehementem esse), vid., Schultens; the plur. חמסים belongs to a more recent epoch (vid., under 2 Samuel 22:49 and Psalm 18:49). The change in the tense represents the idea that they having eaten such bread, set forth such wine, and therewith wash it down.
Links
Proverbs 4:23 Interlinear
Proverbs 4:23 Parallel Texts


Proverbs 4:23 NIV
Proverbs 4:23 NLT
Proverbs 4:23 ESV
Proverbs 4:23 NASB
Proverbs 4:23 KJV

Proverbs 4:23 Bible Apps
Proverbs 4:23 Parallel
Proverbs 4:23 Biblia Paralela
Proverbs 4:23 Chinese Bible
Proverbs 4:23 French Bible
Proverbs 4:23 German Bible

Bible Hub
Proverbs 4:22
Top of Page
Top of Page