(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)
Proverbs is an amazing book! Its 31 chapters contain 915 verses, and while King Solomon is the main author, he is not the only contributor to this collection of proverbs. There are about 800 of Solomon’s (‘about’ 800, because many of the proverbs are in two parts and could be considered as either one or two), but the book is supplemented by “The words of Agur the son of Jakeh…” (Proverbs 30:1) and “The words of King Lemuel…” (Proverbs 31:1), both of whom wrote several more proverbs. So practical is the wisdom in this book that The New Open Bible, New King James Version, Thomas Nelson Publishers, in the explanatory page on “Wisdom”, tells us:
Biblical wisdom is practical, not theoretical. Hence, the Book of Proverbs is filled with specific details on how to be a wise person. Wise people through the centuries have meditated upon this book and have practiced its precepts. Since there are thirty-one days in many months and thirty-one chapters in this supreme book of everyday wisdom, it is a helpful dis- cipline to read a chapter a day until, after years of study, one knows the book thoroughly.
I will begin today to share several Gems from the Book of Proverbs. And the first one (in two parts) that comes to mind is one I memorized years ago, Proverbs 14:30: “A sound heart is the life of the body, but envy is rottenness to the bones.”
In Hebrew thinking, the heart was more than the blood pumping organ of the body, also more than the seat of emotions (as when we say, “I love you with all my heart ”). Eerdmans’ The New Bible Dictionary, tells us:
The Hebrews thought [the heart]…was essentially the whole man, with all his attributes, physical, intel- lectual, and psychological…the heart was conceived of as the centre of all of these. It is the heart which makes a man… what he is, and governs all his actions….
What does it mean to have a heart that is sound? Authors Brown, Driver, and Briggs, in their Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament explain the Hebrew word sound, מַרְפֵא (pronounced “mar-pay’ ) means “health, healing, cure…profit, sound (of mind).” It is to have correct thinking that results in proper actions before God and toward others!
So why do we need a sound heart? It is because, as Jeremiah 17:9 so succinctly puts it, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? ” Sin entered into the human race through our first parents, and sin has infected every human being since then! (See Romans 5:12). And, as it says in Isaiah 59:2, “…your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear.” God, in Ezekiel 36:26 calls such a sin-infected heart a “…heart of stone….”
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.
This miraculous change is accomplished by the new birth! As Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:3, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” This happens when we open our hearts to the Lord, confess that we are lost sinners, and ask Him to be our Savior. But the new birth is only the beginning! A sound heart results from our daily development (growth) in our Christian faith – regular intake of the Bible, prayer, fellowship, worship, witness – obediently following the Lord Jesus Christ!
Why does the heart need to be sound? Because, as it says in Proverbs 4:23, “Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.” What issues?
- Jesus said in Mark 7:21 and 22, “…out of the heart of [unregenerate] men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness.” (See also Galatians 5:19-21).
- But the one who is born again has the potential of manifesting “…the fruit of the Spirit…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” (Galatians 5:22, 23).
The Lord told His listeners in Luke 6:45:
A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.
And He could have added, “…out of the abundance of the heart his hands move, his feet walk, his whole person functions!” But words especially reflect what is the heart. No wonder Jesus warns us in Matthew 12:37, “…by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
But we have explored only half of our featured Scripture: “A sound heart is the life of the body….” What about the second half? “…but envy is rottenness to the bones.” We shall examine that on Friday.