Above All Things
Friday January 14, 2020
BEFORE ALL THINGS: that was the title of last week's reflection.
“The primary thing (or before all things) is wisdom: acquire wisdom …” (Proverbs 4:7a) If we prize her in our lives, she will exalt us – if we embrace her, she will honor us – she will give us grace and beauty (4:7-9). If we do not forsake her, she will protect us – if we love her, she will watch over us (4:6). If we seek her and accept her, the years of our lives will be many (4:10). If we walk in her ways, our steps will not be hampered, and we will not stumble (4:12). “The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.” (4:18)
According to King Solomon, who wrote the book of Proverbs in the Bible, in order to live a full and blessed life the primary thing is to acquire wisdom. But he also wrote the following words:
“Above all else (above all things),
guard your heart,
for everything you do flows from it.”
BEFORE ALL THINGS: acquire wisdom …
ABOVE ALL THINGS: guard your heart …
Wise King Solomon said that holding on to the teaching and the instruction of God are “life” and “health to one’s whole body”. Our ears ought to be turned to His words. Our eyes ought to keep constant sight of them, and ought always to be looking straight ahead. We ought to keep our mouths free of perversity, and keep corrupt talk far from our lips. We ought to give careful thought to the paths of our feet, so that all our ways might be steadfast and kept from evil. (4:20-27)
But, “above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
Yes, we must guard our ears and our eyes, our mouths and lips and feet. But, above all things, we must learn to guard our heart. The “heart” in the biblical sense goes much further than just the emotional and sentimental aspect that we think of today. The “heart” in Hebrew is also the center of all our thinking and reasoning, our remembering and our projecting forward. All this, all that is implied in the word “heart”, we must guard above all else. Because all of life is birthed and flows from it – because it is our heart that determines the direction and movement of our lives. If we guard and watch over our heart, we will live organized and blessed lives – if we ignore and scorn it, we will be miserable and forsaken. Therefore, “above all else, guard your heart.”
Awhile ago, a friend shared a Bible verse with me that also speaks of the heart. In the English Standard Version, Psalm 86:11 says: “Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.” The New International Version translates the verse this way: “Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.” And the New Living Translation reads: “Teach me your ways, O Lord, that I may live according to your truth! Grant me purity of heart, so that I may honor you.”
In this prayer of David’s, the Psalmist is asking for a strengthened heart, a unified heart, a pure heart of integrity – an undivided heart. A divided heart is a heart that has various longings and desires at the same time, a mixture of intentions and actions all at once. A non-unifed heart pulls first this way and then that way, and is never sure and firm. But a heart of integrity is a heart that is totally committed to God and only to God – a heart that is strengthened and strong, that is then able to walk faithfully in God’s way of truth.
Dear friend: this undivided, unified and pure heart of integrity is the heart that we must guard above all things.
And finally, I think of another Bible verse addressing the heart that has always encouraged and challenged me, which says = “For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth, that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.” (2 Chronicles 16:9)
Oh Lord: give me an undivided and strengthened heart of integrity – and help me to guard it and watch over it above all else. May your eyes, which wander over all the earth, rest upon me with strength and power because I have a heart that is completely committed to You. Amen.
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