King Solomon wrote this, so in verse 3–4 as he’s talking about his father who taught him to pursue wisdom, he’s talking about King David. And thankfully we actually have record of some conversation between this father and son duo in the second chapter of first Kings that I think is relevant to this Proverb. Let’s go back and take a look for a moment.
Side note: Yes, this chapter in Kings involves David and Solomon conspiring murder, but let’s just ignore that for the sake of this little essay.
David while on his death bed tells Solomon to “Be strong” and “Walk in obedience to him (God)”. But my favorite part of this dialogue is what he says to his son in verse 9. “You are a man of wisdom”. He spoke life into his son. and as a young son does, Solomon takes his dads words to heart. So much so, that when David dies and Solomon has a chance to ask God for help in running his new kingdom, he doesn’t ask for armies or territory or for the slaughter of his enemies, he asks for wisdom. How did he know to ask for that? Well, dad taught him well.
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Keep your mouth free from perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths of your feet and be steadfast in all your ways.” v 23–26 NIV
Here’s two worthwhile lessons to take from this among many:
- Don’t carelessly throw out the earned wisdom from the past. Matthew Henry in his commentary on this Proverb writes, “Those that would teach well, in religion, must not look with contempt upon the knowledge of their predecessors.” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, 1961) Proverbs warns us against it, but we do it anyway. In the book Live No Lies John Comer calls this “chronological snobbery”. This is when we take the hard earned wisdom from the past and throw it all out of the window. We discredit all that those who came before us know based off of a few mistakes. We believe that we are somehow more evolved and more intelligent, therefore we must start over on a blank canvas with our own brilliant thoughts on how the world works. But this is stupid and negligent seeing as with just a bit of dissection we could extract the wisdom from the past and use their ceiling as our floor. Instead, we tear the house down and start rebuilding with a blueprint that is just as flawed as theirs was. Same story, different chapter. Solomon is teaching us here to pay attention and to use that limited resource of attention that we have and spend it wisely on finding Wisdom.
- Our words typically hold more weight than we think. We so carelessly blurt out the ideas that pop up in our minds with no real care on how others will be impacted by them or how we ourselves will be impacted by them. It’s not literary coincidence that directly after Solomon tells us to guard our hearts (and that being our primary duty) he also tells us to watch our mouths. Our mouths are an accurate gauge for the condition of our hearts. Are we speaking life and hope into the people around us or are we breathing out slander and condemnation and cynicism? Your kids listen to your words and watch your actions more than you think, so act with care. And with the right words of wisdom that come from God, you can help beautifully shape the heart of another.
We have the ability to tap into God’s wisdom and tap into His words because Jesus gave us an all access pass with His death on the cross. God changes the heart, the heart changes the person. The rest of Proverbs tells us how we can begin to change our hearts, (as does v 23–26) so we will dive more into that as we move forward.