Proverbs 9) Wisdom for the Heart

9) Wisdom for the Heart

Text: Proverbs 3:1-12

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We started off this series by looking at how the book of Proverbs isn’t just secular wisdom, it isn’t just about making smart choices that will get you ahead in life, rather it’s about how you live out your relationship with God, it’s about spiritual wisdom. We’ve spent the last 7 weeks unpacking what living out your relationship with God looks like in different spheres of life. For example, we looked at how a wise woman is in fact one who fears the Lord; how families function best when parents and children invest in their relationship with God and each other; how the wisest words are Jesus’ words, the words of life, the gospel; how our best friend is Jesus and people who love and follow Jesus, and encourage us to do the same; how our attitude towards work flows out of Christ’s work for us on the cross; how our attitude towards anger flows out of God’s character, the fact that he is patient and slow to anger; and last week how we need to make decisions, not on what works for us, but on what brings glory to God. The truth is the only difference between secular wisdom, what works for us, and spiritual wisdom, what flows out of our relationship with God, is the state of our hearts. It’s not always what we do that sets us apart from non-believers, but the reasons why we are doing them.

This morning we’re going to look at wisdom for the heart. Proverbs 27:19 says, ‘19 As water reflects a face, so one’s life reflects the heart. (Prov 27:19 NIV2011)’ Proverbs is intensely concerned, not just with smart choices in life, but with the condition of our hearts. Jesus makes the same connection, he says, ‘8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. (Mt 5:8)’ And later he quotes Isaiah, ‘8 ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. (Mt 15:8)’ And finally, according to Jesus, the greatest commandment is to ‘37 …Love the Lord your God with all your heart... (Mt 22:37a)’ When we think about our heart we think of our emotions, our feelings, but in Hebrew the heart stood for the core of your being, it included your thoughts, as well as your character, your values, and your motivations. There are around 90 proverbs that mention our hearts.

 

1) Types of Hearts

And the first thing you notice when you read the book of Proverbs is that there are different types of hearts. There are glad hearts, and proud hearts, and pure hearts, and hearts that lack judgment, but this morning I just want to look at three types of hearts.

a) Evil Hearts

The first type is probably the most serious, the evil heart. Proverbs 11:20 talks about how, ‘20 The Lord detests men of perverse heart… (Prov 11:20a; 12:8; 17:20)’ And Proverbs 26:23 talks about people who have ‘23 …an evil heart. (Prov 26:23c)’ Both of those words, ‘perverse’ and ‘evil’ refer to hearts that are full of sin. They are hearts that are filled with deceit (6:14; 12:20; 26:24) and lust (6:26; 7:25). They are hearts that devise wicked schemes (6:18), and plot violence (24:2). They are hearts that rage against God, that blame God for their own stupid choices (19:3). And it’s so easy to say, ‘At least my heart is okay,’ but according to the book of Proverbs to a certain extent we all struggle with evil hearts. Proverbs 20:9 says, ‘9 Who can say, “I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin”? (Prov 20:9)’ And the answer is no one, we all have evil in our hearts, we all struggle with sin, we are all unclean in God’s sight. This issue of evil, deep down at the core of our being, is one that affects all of humanity. This issue of hearts filled with sin is an issue that affects all of us, it affects us sitting here this morning. We struggle with evil in our hearts.

b) Broken Hearts

The second type of heart I want to look at this morning is broken hearts. Sometimes we struggle with sin in our hearts, but at other times we struggle with the effects of sin in our lives, which can lead to anxiety and grief and hurt. Proverbs 12:25 talks about how ‘25 An anxious heart weighs a man down… (Prov 12:25a)’ And Proverbs 13:12 how ‘12 Hope deferred makes the heart sick… (Prov 13:12a; cf. 14:13)’ And Proverbs 15:13 talks about how ‘13 …heartache crushes the spirit. (Prov 15:13b; cf. 17:22)’ And Proverbs 25:20 talks about having ‘20 …a heavy heart. (Prov 25:20c)’ These verses all speak about the pain we experience in life. Proverbs 14:10 says, ‘10 Each heart knows its own bitterness… (Prov 14:10a)’ Living in a broken world will often result in broken hearts. Even the Apostle Paul writes about the ‘2 …great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. (Rom 9:2)’ Maybe this morning you have an anxious heart, or a heavy heart. Maybe you are sitting here this morning with a broken heart – a family member is sick, you’re under financial stress, your marriage isn’t going well, your kids aren’t walking with the Lord. As Christians we can be so good at hiding a broken heart. As Christians we can be so good at hiding a broken heart. We sit here with smiles on our face while our hearts are in turmoil. We seem so happy when the truth is we’re crying on the inside. Maybe you have a broken, or a hurting, heart this morning.

c) Wise Hearts

The third type of heart I want to look at this morning are wise hearts. The whole point of the Book of Proverbs is to encourage us to become wise. Over and over we’re encouraged to ‘2 …apply your heart to understanding. (Prov 2:2b)’ ‘17 …apply your heart to what I teach. (Prov 22:17a)’ ‘12 Apply your heart to instruction… (Prov 23:12a)’ A wise heart seeks to learn and understand, and not just what works and doesn’t work in life, but how to live life in a way that brings glory to God and honours him. A wise heart doesn’t just seek knowledge, but makes that knowledge a part of who they are. The point of seeking knowledge is so that ‘10 …wisdom will enter your heart… (Prov 2:10a)’ We are encouraged to ‘1 …keep [these] commands in your heart. (Prov 3:1b)’ and ‘21 Bind them upon your heart forever… (Prov 6:21a)’ and ‘3 …write them on the tablet of your heart. (Prov 7:3b)’ The point of reading God’s word isn’t just for information. Instead we need to let it impact our hearts, we need to meditate on it, and think about it, and remember it. We need to let it impact what we say and how we live. Proverbs 22:18 talks about having Scripture in our hearts so that it is ‘18 …ready on our lips. (Prov 22:18c)’ And Proverbs 16:23 says, ‘23 A wise man’s heart guides his mouth... (Prov 16:23a)’ The point of having a wise heart is that it results in wise words and wise living. That’s why it’s helpful not just to read Scripture, but also to memorize it, so you can recall God’s word when you need it. A wise heart doesn’t just read God’s word it applies it. I want to ask you this morning: Do you have a wise heart? When you read the Bible does it go in one ear and out the other? Does God’s word only fill up your head, or has it made its way into your heart? Do you let God’s word change you, change the way you think, change the way you speak, change the way you act? Is your relationship with God transforming your heart?

 

2) God Knows our Hearts

According to Proverbs there are many different types of hearts, hearts marked by evil, hearts that are broken and hurting, and hearts that are wise. But the second thing that Proverbs teaches us is that God knows our hearts. God knows the sin in your heart. God knows the pain and the hurt that you hide in your heart. God knows whether his word has fallen onto a hard heart, or onto fertile ground. Proverbs teaches this idea in the most dramatic way. Proverbs 15:11 says, ‘11 Death and Destruction lie open before the Lord— how much more the hearts of men! (Prov 15:11)’ This type of proverb takes something huge, and makes the claim that if this is true than surely the lesser is true also. In this case if death and destruction aren’t hidden from God, then neither are our hearts. Our hearts lie open before the Lord. God knows what’s in your heart right now. When everyone thinks you’re such a good person God sees the sin in your heart. When you pretend that you’ve got everything together, God knows what’s really going on in your heart. You cannot hide the sin in your heart from God. And neither can you hide your feelings from God. When your heart is heavy, or anxious, when it aches with the pain that life so often brings, God knows. God knows if your faith is just skin deep, or whether his Spirit is living in your heart. When you put on the mask, whether it’s the ‘I’m a good person’ mask, or the ‘everything’s okay’ mask, or the ‘I’m a good Christian’ mask, God isn’t fooled. God knows our hearts. And according to proverbs God doesn’t just know our heart he weighs and tests our heart.

a) God weighs our heart

Firstly, God weighs our heart. Proverbs 21:2 says, ‘2 All a man’s ways seem right to him, but the Lord weighs the heart. (Prov 21:2; cf. 16:2)’ Later in Proverbs 24:12 we read, ‘12 If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay each person according to what he has done? (Prov 24:12)’ The image is of God taking our motives, our attitudes, and our thoughts, and placing them on a pair of scales. Often we have a tendency to compare ourselves with other people and say stuff like ‘At least I’m not as bad as them,’ or ‘I wish I was more like them.’ But spiritually speaking that’s just comparing one piece of dirt with another piece of dirt and trying to determine who’s the better piece of dirt. But the thing God is comparing us with isn’t other people, but himself. God wants to know whether our hearts are like his heart. God wants to know if we are holy like he is holy, if we think like he thinks, if we love others like he loves them, if we hate sin like he hates sin. If God was to take what’s in your heart right now and weigh it against his heart, how do you think you’d stack up? God wants us to compare ourselves with him. God is the standard that we are to weigh our lives against. And the truth is that we all fall short. None of us stack up against God. Like we saw earlier we all have sinful hearts.

b) God tests our heart

The second thing that God does is he tests our heart. Proverbs 17:3, ‘3 The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests the heart. (Prov 17:3b; cf. 1 Chron 29:17; Ps 26:2; 139:23; Jer 17:10)’ The image here is of God examining our hearts to see whether they are pure or not. In Biblical times they purified silver by heating it in a crucible, a little dish and the impurities would float to the surface. for gold they heated it in a furnace and the purities would burn away. I did some research this week and discovered that these days they use three different testing methods. The first is an acid test. They put a particular acid on the gold and the chemical reaction shows how pure it is. The second test is the conductivity test. They hook up some electrodes and pass a current through the gold and how conductive it is reveals how pure it is. The third way to test gold is to use an X-ray Fluorescence spectrometer. Apparently x-rays cause the gold to emit radiation and the levels show its purity. In much the same way God tests our hearts. God puts us in acidic situations to see how we react, or God sees how much we allow the Spirit to flow through our lives, or God measures the level of sin that we radiate. Basically, God applies heat to our lives to see what bubbles to the surface. If God were to test your heart what would he find? Would he find a pure heart, or a heart stained with sin? Would he find a heart that was humble or a heart that is proud? Would he find a wise heart, or a foolish one?

 

c) The Heart God Seeks

And that leads us to our final point this morning, what sort of heart is God looking for? If God is looking for a pure heart, will he actually find one? According to the Bible the answer is no! So what sort of heart does God seek? In finding the answer to that we need to turn to probably one of the most famous passages in all of Proverbs, our text this morning, particularly verses 3-7, ‘3 Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. 4 Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man. 5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. 7 Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. (Prov 3:3-7)’ According to those verses God is looking for three things in our hearts.

a) Write love and faithfulness on your heart

The first thing God looks for in our hearts are two words, love and faithfulness. And according to this Proverb God literally looks for those words, we’re to write love and faithfulness on our hearts. But what does that mean? It’s certainly not literal, you’re not expected to get a surgeon to open you up and tattoo the words love and faithfulness on your heart. Rather, we’re meant to internalize those words and make them a part of who we are. Those words actually describe God’s character. When Moses sees God, God proclaims who he is, that he’s a God, ‘6 …abounding in love and faithfulness. (Ex 34:6d)’ God is a God who is defined by his love for his people. This word describes God’s covenantal love, his undying commitment to his people, or as we see in Jesus Christ, his love that is willing to die for his people. We see God’s abounding love displayed in Jesus’ death on the cross. But God is also defined by his faithfulness, the fact that he doesn’t give up on his people, that he will always be there for them. And again we see that faithfulness in Jesus Christ who promises to always be with us to the end of the age, who will protect his sheep. In a sense we’re to internalize these two truths about God. The fact, that in Christ God loves us and is faithful to us, should define our existence. I struggle with evil in my heart, but in Christ God loves me and won’t give up on me. I think stuff I shouldn’t think, but in Christ God loves me. I struggle with addiction, but in Christ God loves me. I struggle with doubts, but God is faithful. I struggle with unforgiveness, but God is faithful. My heart is a mess, but my heart is covered by the love and faithfulness of Jesus Christ. Or maybe you have a broken heart, you have been hurt by others over and over again. Or maybe you have an anxious heart, your heart is weighed down by concerns and fears. Or you have a heavy heart, a heart weighed down by sorrow and grief. I encourage you to write over your hurt and your concerns and your grief the words ‘I am covered by the love and faithfulness of Christ.’ The condition of our heart doesn’t matter, because God is defined by love and faithfulness. And that should motivate us to love God and be faithful to him. I want to encourage you to write love and faithfulness on your heart. Never forget that in Christ God loves you and won’t ever give up on you.

b) Trust in the Lord with all your heart

The second thing that God looks for in our hearts is trust. Verse 5 says, ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart.’ Ultimately what God looks for, is not how good we are, but whether we trust in his goodness. God wants us to believe in him – to believe that he is God, that he is good, that he has done everything that is required for our salvation through the death of Jesus Christ on the cross. Paul says, ‘9 That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified... (Rom 10:9-10a)’ Jesus says, ‘1 Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. (Jn 14:1)’ The thing that God looks for in our hearts is trust. Do we trust in him, do we trust in his Son, Jesus Christ? You may say, ‘I struggle with evil in my heart, but I trust in Jesus, that his death has paid the penalty for the sin in my heart.’ Or, ‘I have a broken heart, but I trust that Jesus will one day make my heart whole again.’ You don’t have to fear the condition of your heart when you put your trust in Jesus and the fact that he died for you, that his blood covers your sin. This morning if you are struggling with a sinful heart, or with a broken heart, I want to encourage you to have a wise heart, a heart that trusts in Jesus.

c) Hearts that worship the Lord

The third thing that God looks for are hearts that worship him. Our text talks about hearts that fear the Lord. And like we saw in the first sermon in this series to fear the Lord is to understand our place in the universe, it is to understand that we are totally dependant on the One who not only created us, but who also sustains us, and will one day hold us accountable for every deed that we have done. To fear the Lord means worshipping him and giving him the honour and the respect that he is due. God looks for a heart that seeks to honour him. God looks for a heart that worships him. When we fear the Lord we will shun evil. When we fear the Lord we will desire to do life God’s way. Proverbs 23:19 says, ‘19 Listen, my son, and be wise, and keep your heart on the right path. (Prov 23:19)’ And just a few verses later it says, ‘26 My son, give me your heart and let your eyes keep to my ways. (Prov 23:26)’ Fearing the Lord is all about giving your heart to God, it’s about keeping your heart on the right path. You may say, ‘I struggle with evil in my heart, but I fear the Lord, and I want to do what is right.’ And even if you are struggling with a broken heart this morning I want to encourage you to say ‘No matter what I’m going through I will fear the Lord, I will worship him!’ The wise heart is the heart that fears the Lord.

 

The truth is that when it comes to our hearts they can be pretty messed up. We sit here this morning with evil hearts, hearts stained by sin. We sit here with broken hearts, hearts weighed down with pain and grief and fear. But the truth is God knows our hearts, God weighs our hearts, God tests our hearts. And what God is looking for are hearts that trust him, hearts that trust his love and faithfulness displayed in Jesus Christ, hearts that worship him, that seek his honour and glory. So my prayer for you this morning is that you will have a wise heart, that you will love the Lord with all your heart. Amen.

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