2007-10-13 - Heart Watching
Proverbs 4:23, "Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life."
Of great concern to the Christian is his/her heart. By this I do not mean the physical organ of the body that is the center of life, but rather the inner principle of the soul that is the center of the spiritual life of us all. It is a principle of all gracious souls - souls that have been transformed by the love, mercy, and redemption in Christ - to guard their hearts. The heart is the spiritual center of us all. It is a mark of a Christian to guard this precious faculty with diligent care. The great Reformer Luther once said, "I more fear what is within me than what comes from without." The hardest, but also the highest work of a Christian consists in heart work. It is from the heart that higher spiritual life and experience originates and flows.
The word "watch," in the above verse is very instructive to us respecting what the Lord is calling us to do when we are told to watch over our hearts. Watching our hearts is here stated to us to be a duty. In some other translations, the word "keep" is used for "watch." The Hebrew word used for this concept of watching or keeping is natsar. We are to natsar our hearts with all diligence. We are to keep our hearts in safe custody, under lock and key, so that this noblest part of our spiritual life is consecrated to the Lord.
To gain a better idea of what is in mind in Scripture by watching or keeping our hearts, let us look at some other places in Scripture where this very word natsar is used. It is used in 1 Kings 20:39, "Guard this man." Here it is used, as it were, to keep someone under protection. The same word, natsar, is used in Genesis 39:21-23, where Joseph is the keeper, or natsar, of the prison. Consider how diligent men are when they are watching over their prisoners. This is what is in view here. The same word is used in Habakkuk 2:1, where the guard is standing guard at his post, keeping watch. We are to keep watch over our hearts as a guard watches over a garrison. Assaults may come on every side against the heart, but we are to watch over our hearts, that Satan may not gain any advantage over us.
This is also the responsibility of the Levites and priests keeping the sanctuary of God (Ezekiel 44:8, 15, 16). The holy things were under their charge, and they were to keep watch over them. They were to protect the holy things of the Lord from anything that might render them impure or defiled. Our hearts are the temple of the Holy Spirit. We are not to grieve the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30), and part of this means that we carefully guard our hearts from any sin that might defile us. All of our spiritual riches are in our hearts, just as the Jewish Temple housed the holy objects of the Israelites. So also, in our hearts, we hold those things that are most precious and sacred. We must watch over our hearts, and keep them.
God's eye is mainly on the heart. We are prone to look at the externals. Our propensity is to look at the shell, and the outer works that we or others do. It is not uncommon when we focus our thoughts upon the externals, that the inner life may suffer. The heart is command central for everything external that goes on. It is the commanders' fort, and here we are told to keep it, or watch it, with all diligence. It is a daily, even hourly work to look to our hearts. It is easy to shift our affections to the more obvious, but the inward principle is primarily where the Lord looks. The best works, when done to self, and not unto the Lord, are but filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).
At the end of his life, a pastor named Paul Baynes was showing some people around his library, which was quite extensive. One of those in his company commented on all his books, and Baynes replied, "Ay, there stand my books, but the Lord knows that for many years last past, I have studied my heart more than books." His studies were studies of his heart, and in this, he has left us a healthy example. We become more ready for Heaven, the more our hearts are watched over and prepared for residence there. Our greatest business is to prepare our hearts, our inward spiritual principle, for glory. We all really are that what we are on the inside. Our defining nature, that which will, and does, come to the surface most readily, is what we are inwardly (Romans 2:28, 29). We are not nearly as constant in our heart duties as we should be, but may the Lord help us to keep diligent watch over our hearts, to the end that we might subdue the temptations of the world and forsake the sin that so easily entangles us.
Soli Deo Gloria,