Turn Your Ear & Fix Your Eyes (Proverbs 4:20-27)

My son, attend to my words.

    Turn your ear to my sayings.

21 Let them not depart from your eyes.

    Keep them in the center of your heart.

22 For they are life to those who find them,

    and health to their whole body.

23 Keep your heart with all diligence,

    for out of it is the wellspring of life.

24 Put away from yourself a perverse mouth.

    Put corrupt lips far from you.

25 Let your eyes look straight ahead.

    Fix your gaze directly before you.

26 Make the path of your feet level.

    Let all of your ways be established.

27 Don’t turn to the right hand nor to the left.

    Remove your foot from evil.

Proverbs 4:20-27 (WEB)

The other day my wife was talking to me, and like a dutiful husband, I was nodding and saying “Uh-huh…” in all the right places. My mind however, was somewhere else! I had to hold my hands up and admit that although I was hearing the words, I wasn’t really listening.

Verse 20 of Proverbs 4 is a rather eloquent way of saying “Listen up!” Attending to someone’s words is not simply to hear them, but rather to engage with them. Likewise, turning one’s head in the right direction (so that the ear is pointed at the speaker) is not nearly enough to ensure the instruction hits home.

Solomon is again entreating us to listen, to take on board and to respond to the wisdom of his teaching.

In a similar way, verse 21 encourages us to keep Wisdom’s teachings before our eyes and thus planted in our hearts. This idea of God’s Word and wisdom not departing from our eyes is an exhortation to be both regular and consistently reading and studying the Scripture.

A 30-minute sermon on a Sunday is not enough. A 5-minute devotional each morning may be encouraging, but it may be insufficient to receive the full counsel of God’s Word.

For me at least, little and often may be the key. I have followed “Bible in a year” plans before, and while useful in some cases, it can become a burden or even chore as we wade through six or more chapters each morning.

Better to read and meditate on a few Bible verses regularly, than read a dozen pages without taking it in.

Better to read and #meditate on a few #Bible verses regularly, than read a dozen pages without taking it in.

That is not to take Scripture out of context, I hasten to add. There is just as much danger in reading your favourite few verses all the time, and not engaging with the wider text or understand its place in the big picture.

Verse 22 says:

For they are life to those who find them,

    and health to their whole body.

Proverbs 4:22 (WEB)

Verse 22 has always been a verse which fascinates me. It says that God’s word, or the instruction of wisdom, provides life to those who find them and even health to our physical bodies. We touched on this in previous posts on the book of Proverbs, and clearly living wisely will lengthen your life. Smoking, drinking or eating to excess, or not looking after oneself is not wise, and as a consequence will of course reduce one’s lifespan.

The word translated as “health” here is the Hebrew word marpe’ and is most often translated as “health” (as above) or “healing.” It can also be rendered as “cure” or “remedy” also.

Could it be that the very studying of God’s Word can bring health to us, and I mean in some supernatural way rather than as a natural consequence of living right? While some would give a definite yes to that question, others would dispute it. I would encourage you to study its meaning for yourself.

The WEB translation of verse 23 is a little confusing, to me at least! Here it is from the NLT:

Guard your heart above all else,

    for it determines the course of your life.

Proverbs 4:23 (NLT)

Despite talking of the health of the body in the last verse, this one is not referring to our blood pump, but rather our inner self. Guarding our heart is very much in line with what this passage has been talking about. Too few of us take seriously what we allow into our hearts and minds. Instead of keeping the Word of God before us constantly, we fill ourselves with ungodly entertainment or gossip. We are foolish if we think our hearts can go unscathed by such continual battering.

Your heart, that is, your inner self, will determine how your life goes. It is like a child who is constantly criticised or put down, they will struggle in life to overcome such negativity. Our hearts, in a similar way, cannot be soaked in negativity and produce positive results.

Verse 24 deals not with what we put into ourselves, but rather what comes out of us. It strongly advises us to be careful about how we speak, and I cannot emphasise enough the power of our words.

Paul also instructs us to:

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

Ephesians 4:29 (NIV)

What a challenging verse this is! I say a lot of things in a day, but can hardly confess to all of it being helpful for building others up. I try to add value with my words, always having in the back of my mind that one day I will give account for them to the Lord. Yet too frequently I find my words are not wholesome, but instead are negative, critical or just wasteful. How about you?

Verse 25 to 27 all echo the same sentiment. Keep your eyes fixed ahead, and your feet on level ground. This is clearly not to advise us against turning our heads nor to ascend inclined ground in our hometowns! Instead, the Proverbs are warning us to keep fixed on what is right, and not to turn aside to evil.

If we do not do this, if we just wander along aimlessly, then we will find ourselves in trouble. Our focus and our determined purpose must be to seek after what is right and good. Our sinful nature has been programmed into us since birth, and despite the new life Christ brings, we do tend towards selfishness and evil unless we are set against it.

What are your eyes fixed on? Are locked ahead, gazing upon God’s Word, or do they wander and lead you astray? How about those feet? Are they shod with the Gospel, and following after Jesus, or do they stumble or meander away?

Make a decision right here and now that you will seek after wisdom all day long. Fix those eyes and discipline those feet, and you will life in God’s Word.

The More You Have (PoW)

Pearls of Wisdom

The more you have, the more you have to take care of.

This Pearl of Wisdom challenges us to really think about what it is we want.

We might say we want a bigger house, but do we also want to clean all that extra space? Do we want to pay the higher electricity or gas bills that go along with it? Do we really want the large mortgage or rental payments too?

We might say we want that promotion at work, but do we also want the longer commute that goes with it? We want the pay increase, but do we want to deal with the responsibility and associated stress?

The more we have and want, the more we have to take care of, pay for and devote time to.

I am not suggesting you become a minimalist, unless that is what you want, but I am asking you to carefully consider what new things you buy or what additional responsibilities you take on.

The Bible warns us to count the cost before we begin, and that is good advice! Putting it another way, try not to get caught up in the excitement of a new purchase or liftsyle choice without first thinking about all of its implications.

The good thing about this advice is that it can also be applied retrospectively. It is not just about what you take on in future. If you have failed to count the cost in the past, biting off more than you can chew, you can make changes now. Admittedly that’s harder if you’ve bought a house, as selling up and downsizing is no small decision. If you have bought items of furniture or a car even that is just too much to handle right now, you can sell them on or even give them away. You might lose some money in the deal, but you may gain peace. Peace is worth more than gold.

Before we commit to anything new, let each of us consider whether we really do want it. What we have needs looking after, and if our time is already stretched, adding to that to-do list will not help.

Are you on the verge of a decision – big or small – and need to consider this? Does your diary, bank statement or cluttered home scream that you have more on your plate than you can handle? Only you can make the change.


In case you missed it…

Andy’s Aims – Audio

Andy shares a brief audio update.

A short update from Andy about his writing projects.

In case you missed it…

Your Plans? (PoW)

Pearls of Wisdom

God does not have to bless your plan

Are you ever guilty of running ahead of God? I know I am!

There have been times when someone has asked me to do something, or I have made a commitment in some way, but did not first check it with the Lord. I went ahead and made my plan, and only later thought to ask God if it was what He wanted for me.

Rather than seeking the Lord for His guidance in what we are to do, we make our own plans and then ask Him to bless them as if they were His own.

The truth is though, God does not have to bless your plan. He does not have to finish anything He did not start. We have no business going somewhere or doing something, and then just expecting God to make it right.

#God does not have to bless your #plan. He does not have to finish anything He did not start #Wisdom #Bible #Christianity

Instead, we need to make our plans in prayer, putting them before God and ensuring He is in the plans we make.

Paul was instructed to preach the Gospel, and he made plans to do so. In Acts 16, the Spirit of the Lord prevented him from entering Macedonia, and so he diverted his course. Imagine what would have happened had he just ignored the prompting of the Spirit and went anyway. Only God knows what would have happened to him!

If we go against God’s plan for us, then we will end up in trouble. If we do that, there is no sense in getting angry at God for not rescuing you. There are times when I tell my children not to do something. It may be to not touch the hot stove, or not to climb on something they shouldn’t. If they choose to ignore me, they could end up burning themselves or falling.

Don’t simply do whatever you want and expect or demand God makes it work. Rather, seek Him in all you do, and He will make your paths straight.

God bless you this day.

Preparing for Proverbs – Andy Brown

Just a reminder that from tomorrow we will start to look at the book of Proverbs. I look forward to studying it with you!

This coming Monday, I will be starting a new series on the book of Proverbs. it is an amazing book, with much to wrestle with. Throughout next week I will be sharing my thoughts on the first chapter, and felt I should give you a bit of a heads up in advance! If you have…
— Read on andy-brown.org/2022/01/06/preparing-for-proverbs/

Word Count

WordPress helpfully keeps a total of the words you have written on your blog each year. Although we are only about a week into 2022, I am reliably informed that I have written nearly 4500 words so far.

This is good for me to know, because I really do want to make good progress on some unfinished books I am writing this year.

One project has around 10,000 words written, and another approximately 17,000 words completed.

Knowing that I’ve already written 4500 words on the blog this year, helps me to believe that it may even be possible to complete both projects in the coming 12 months!

why am I telling you this? Simply for accountability!

I want to try to post regular updates on how the books are progressing, as a way of keeping myself honest! Do pull me up dear reader, if I do not do this!

I also ask for your prayers, and that my writing would be fruitful. Please ask the Lord to help me complete these projects this year, but more importantly that they will be a vehicle for him to bless those who read them.

Word count is not the best way to measure the quality of a book… But in this stage of the project, it sure does help me keep track!

Thank you for your ongoing support and prayers!

The Berean Approach – Andy Brown (repost)

I don’t want you to just take my word for it… We take a little break from our current series on Psalm 103 to discuss something important. It is an immense privilege to share God’s Word with you through this blog, and I take that responsibility very seriously. But you, the reader, have a responsibility…
— Read on andy-brown.org/2018/04/12/the-berean-approach/

Happy new year plus Bible in a year

Let me join in the chorus of other voices in wishing you a very happy New Year!

May 20 22 be a joyous and Blessitt year for you and those whom you love. I pray you draw nearer to the Lord this year, and through your life he may be glorified. May many come to faith through your ministry and witness for Christ.

That said, and not unrelated to my “best of “series, I share a post I wrote just over a year ago about a year long Bible reading plan. If you intend to follow the bible reading plan this year, then there is still plenty of time to start one today!

God bless you…

-

On this, the final day of 2020, I have completed a one year Bible reading plan. I have been following a chronological plan, where you read the Bible not as it is laid out, but instead in the order things actually happened. I wanted to offer a few thoughts today on one year Bible plans,…
— Read on andy-brown.org/2020/12/31/bible-in-a-year/

Don’t Speak Out of Your Pain (Best of 2021)

You have probably heard it said that people don’t always mean what they say when they are angry. Perhaps, you’ve even said things you didn’t mean when emotions were running high? Among other things, I’m quite certain the Apostle Paul had such things in mind when he wrote these words from Ephesians: Be angry, and…
— Read on andy-brown.org/2021/05/07/dont-speak-out-of-your-pain/

In giving, we receive (Best of 2021)

In this latest “best of “post, we return to the subject of giving. Not my own teaching this time, but one from my church when they visited our local school.

Don’t let the fact that this video is intended for children put you off. There have been times in my life when the family talk, aimed at younger people, has spoken to me more than the full length, adult sermon!

At this time of year, we tend to look back over the last 12 months to review how things have gone. This is an excellent time to look at you’re giving for the year. Have you given where the Lord has directed you? What is he asking you to give next year?

Remember – God loves a cheerful giver!

I hope you enjoy the video.

andy-brown.org/2021/10/19/in-giving-we-receive/

Might Not Sin (Re-post)

Do you want to sin against God? The obvious answer is no! No one who calls themselves a follower of Jesus Christ does. Yet, what steps do we take to …

Might Not Sin

A Protective Father – Andy Brown

Last year, I wrote a series of blog posts on the early part of the book of acts. The below post, which is about a protective father seems appropriate for this fathers day!

To all of the fathers out there, I wish you a very happy Father’s Day! It is both a very difficult and very rewarding job to raise children in this difficult world. Be encouraged and God bless you and your children today.

At long last, we move on to Acts 5. This chapter opens with a rather disturbing set of events, and I want to try to shed some light on what is happening here. This particular passage is a difficult one, and I admit to having struggled with it for many years. I will explain why,…
— Read on andy-brown.org/2020/06/16/a-protective-father/