Your Greatest Treasure

As we examine Solomon’s counsel on the importance of guarding one’s heart, note that he again directs his words to “my son.” Because the Holy Spirit preserved this passage for us, we now benefit from Solomon’s wise fatherly advice. Observe his comment about inclining your ear to his sayings and keeping them “in the midst of your heart” (v. 21). Very interesting! For the next few minutes, I want us to direct our full attention to this whole idea of guarding the heart. This is how Solomon put it:

Watch over your heart with all diligence,
For from it flow the springs of life. (4:23)

Note three important aspects of this important verse:

1. This is a command: “Watch over!”

2. There is an intensity to this command: “with all diligence.”

3. The reason for the command is stated in the last part of the verse—“for. . . . ”

Notably, the Hebrew text of this verse begins “with all diligence.” As we’ve seen, Hebrew writers used word order to emphasize an idea, usually placing the most important point first in the sentence. Normal structure places the verb first, followed by the subject, then the object. But Solomon switched this up to stress the importance of his counsel—which, of course, means that God considers the advice crucial. The Hebrew phrase rendered “with all diligence” could also be translated “more than all else” or “above all else.”

Solomon created an intricate wordplay with the Hebrew term for “diligence,” a term that originally comes from a noun meaning “a place of confinement,” a place to be closely observed, protected, preserved, or guarded, such as a walled city. The term alludes to the duty of a gatekeeper or a guard on a watchtower, whose role was invaluable. The lives of everyone in the city depended upon his diligence. Solomon redoubled his emphasis by combining this idea with the command “watch over.”

The main Hebrew verb translated “watch over” is natzar, meaning “to preserve, keep.” This same word occurs in Isaiah 26:3: “The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You” (emphasis added). The word is used frequently in wisdom literature to describe God as the Shepherd of His people. A shepherd watches over his flocks to keep them from harming themselves, to protect them from predators, and to supply their needs. In the literal sense, natzar describes the duty of a guard in a watchtower. He continuously scans the horizon for approaching armies or nighttime raids. He discerns who may enter the city. And he’s authorized to use deadly force to prevent illicit entry. Perhaps a good paraphrase would read, “More than all else to be closely watched and protected (like a city or a bank vault), protect your inner self—your mind, your emotions, your character, your discernment—like a sentry at the gate watches over a city from his watchtower.”

From Living the Proverbs by Charles R. Swindoll, copyright © 2012. Reprinted by permission of Worthy Inspired., an imprint of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

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