Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life. – Proverbs 4:23 (NASB)
Most of us have heard this verse (or some version of it) before. It sounds beautiful and conjures up pictures of a precious heart with a bubbling stream of water flowing from it.
We see the words, “watch over” and think that they mean “be careful” with our hearts. It’s a pretty and wise-sounding Bible verse, but is that all that it is?
Of course not. Like many verses from our modern translations, this verse has a much stronger meaning than it may seem to at first glance.
When I see the words “watch over,” I think back to when I used to babysit. Yes, when you babysit, you’re responsible for someone else’s children, but ultimately they aren’t your children. Before you even arrive at the house to care for them, a lot of the work is done for you.
The children know the rules of the house; they’ve already been taught what time “bedtime” is, so as far as actually teaching and training the children, the work is usually done for you. All you have to do is feed them, play with them, put them to bed and prevent any catastrophic disasters from happening, right?
That is how we normally treat ourselves. We think our only job is to keep anything catastrophically disastrous from happening. So we let ourselves get used to the pain of breakups and to the pain caused by bad friendships, etc.
Let’s see if that matches up with the Hebrew version of this verse, shall we? There’s a lot of important Hebrew in this, so bear with me.
- “Watch” – this is the Hebrew word “natsar.” Natsar is a verb (action word!) that means “to keep watch over, guard from dangers, blockade or keep secret.” So far, so good, right?
- “Heart” – in Hebrew, this is kind of a tricky concept. The word is “leb” (pronounced “labe”). It means “inner man; mind; will; heart; soul; memory and understanding.” So the more accurate translation of “heart” is “heart / emotions, mind, and will.”
- “All” – is the Hebrew word “kol” and it means “the whole of; totality.” So not just pieces of our heart, mind and will but every bit of them. If your feelings have ever been hurt because someone made fun of you for being you, then you understand the importance of this word.
- “Diligence” – this is where this verse takes an interesting turn. The Hebrew word is “mishmar” and it means “a place of confinement like a prison;” this word also describes the act of guarding such a place. Think of how closely prison guards watch prisoners and how seriously they take their jobs. That’s how seriously the Bible tells us to take the job of watching over our hearts and minds.
- “Springs” – the Hebrew is “towtsa’ah” and it describes both the source and outflow of something; like a brook or a stream.
- “Life” – finally, this is the Hebrew word “chayay” (pronounced khaw-yah-ee). I think this word is so cool, it has many meanings, but they are have to do with life. Chayay means “to live, to sustain life, to live prosperously, to be alive, be refreshed or restored to life or health, to revive and to give life.” I don’t know about you, but I feel like I’ve either needed this or needed to do this for someone else many times in my own life.
So here’s my version of what this verse would look like in light of these Hebrew definitions:
Keep all of your innermost self separated and safe from the rest of the world with the same seriousness and purpose with which a prison guard keeps prisoners from endangering the public because it is both the source of your life and that which brings life and health to others who need it.
This doesn’t mean don’t share yourself with other people. It simply means that we need to be very serious about identifying the kind of people we surround ourselves with and not just allow anyone open access to the very deepest places within us. Those places are for God and for the people whom God leads there.
Let your eyes look directly ahead and let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you. – Proverbs 4:25.
Girls, do you need to rethink the way your “watch over your heart”?
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