Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Proverbs 10:8 --- Following Your Heart? Or, Following the Lord and His Commands?

Proverbs 10:8 --- Following Your Heart? Or, Following the Lord and His Commands?
The wise of heart will receive commandments,
    but a babbling fool will come to ruin.

Proverbs 10:6-18 is a section of the Proverbs that deals extensively with the tongue, i.e., our words.  George Schwab points out that in this section, as the righteous and wicked are contrasted, "the impression that builds in the mind of the reader is that of two categories, two manners of living."[1]  Today's proverb and tomorrow's give us a glimpse of what is at the heart of these two ways of living.

This is an antithetical proverb.  It contrasts the wise with the foolish; a heart that receives commands with babbling; and "come to ruin" in the second line has no parallel at all, except for one implied.  It is this imprecision of the contrasts that give the proverbs their depth.  Instead of being frustrated by the imprecision of the parallelism, it is this imprecision that gives room to consider why the Spirit of God gave us the parallelisms he did.  In other words, it should get us thinking and praying about the meaning of this portion of God's Word.

The most important contrast is between the wise heart of a person that receives commandments and a babbling fool.  It appears that the fool is too busy talking to listen.  It is difficult to listen when you are talking!  But the fool's problem goes deeper than a mere failure to be quiet and listen.  There is a pride involved that will not receive God's commandments.  There is a trust in self, rather than a trust in the Lord, that sees no need to be instructed.

One of the main differences between false religion and the true faith is the direction of the heart's gaze.  False religions tend to have an inward focus.  They think it is a good thing to follow your heart, and to find the answers on the inside.  But Christianity is a revealed religion.  The faith and love of Abraham, Jacob, the prophets, and the apostles has been a response to God's revelation of himself.  Hebrews 1 puts it like this:  "Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world" (1:1-2).

Our God is a speaking God.  Just as you can't get to know another person unless they are willing to speak, so we cannot know God unless he speaks.  But he made us in his image, and so we are the only creatures on earth who can understand and form words.  And, this is how the Lord has revealed himself to us. 

But here is the key point this verse is making: man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4).  There are only two ways to live.  We can look inward and follow our own hearts, sinful desires, and selfish ambitions.  Or we can look outward and live according to the word and commandments of the Lord.

If we follow our own wisdom, then we will be too busy talking to ever listen to the Lord; too proud to ever submit to his commands; and too unbelieving to trust that the Lord knows better than our own heart.  The end result will be "ruin."  But if we are wise in heart and follow the Lord's instruction, then we will be found at our Lord's feet listening (see Luke 10:38-42); we will be humble enough to receive the commands of the Lord we love; and we will trusting enough to know that our heavenly Father is loving, good, and wise and knows what is best for his image bearers.  The end result will not be ruin, but everlasting life!

[1] George M. Schwab, Proverbs, 528.

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