My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings. (21) Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart. (22) For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh.Proverbs 4:20-22
Let’s remember the context of these verses. The father continues to speak to the son, pleading with him to stay on the right paths and to avoid the evil paths of evil men.
In these verses I want to point out three categories of terms that will help us make a right interpretation and application.
1. Ownership words- “my” and “thine”. The father uses the term “my” two times. These are possessive nouns talking about the fathers words and the fathers sayings. He also uses the word “thine” two different times. This term he uses in regards to his sons eyes and his sons heart. The matter at hand is the complete ownership of the way of wisdom by the son. The father states his ownership of the way of wisdom. He calls them “my words” and “my sayings”. Ownership means hearing and attending to these words. In other words, the wisdom is to be heard and to be obeyed.
2. Body Words- “eyes” and “heart”. He points to the eyes and the heart of his son. For the son to own his father’s words he has to take responsibility for his own eyes and his own heart. Our eyes will see something. Something will be in the midst of our hearts. The father is pleading for his words and his sayings to be the object of that kind of visual, intellectual and emotional ownership.
3. Result Words- “life” and “health”. The ownership of the way of wisdom is passed on from the Father to the son by the words and sayings kept before the son and valued internally. When this happens the probability is “life” and “health”. Notice that the words are “life to those that find them”. I love the idea of the picture of finding here. The imagery is that these wise words are like treasure that has been found. It is like the father has found a treasure that he is trying to give to his son. He is pleading with his son to steward this treasure well because of the life and the health that the treasure can give.
To pass along the way of wisdom it takes three proactive values:
1. It takes ownership. If we want our kids and those we influence to follow us, we must own the direction we are taking them ourselves. From a development perspective, you cannot truly take someone to a place that you have never been. We must treasure the Word and the wisdom of God if we want the next generation to treasure and steward it well.
2. It takes effort. The hymnwriter wrote, “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love. Here’s my heart, Lord. Take and seal it. Seal it for thy courts above.” The father says similarly to the son “keep them in the midst of thy heart.” We’ll read tomorrow that the out of the heart flow the issues of life. So many things demand attention of our eyes and affection from our hearts. We must guard it diligently.
3. It takes vision. We must keep before ourselves and those we influence a vision of the results (life and health) of the way of wisdom. We must also envision and avoid the potential consequences of the way of evil. We get distracted and we forget. So much is at stake.
What can you do to keep wisdom in front of your eyes and in the middle of your heart today?