Sunday, October 9, 2016

Proverbs 10:21 --- A Lack of Heart

Proverbs 10:21 --- A Lack of Heart
The lips of the righteous feed many,
    but fools die for lack of sense.

The second line of this proverb literally says, "but fools die for lack of heart."  The human race has a heart problem.  The problem with the human heart is that it will not receive the words of God its king.  The human heart will listen to many voices, but the one voice it shuts out is the voice of the Lord.

The first line of this proverb literally says, "The lips of the righteous shepherd many."  While feed is an acceptable translation of the Hebrew, it loses the connotation that shepherds not only feed the sheep, but also protect the sheep.  It loses the royal connotation of this proverb, since shepherds were pictures of ideal kingship in the Old Testament.  Psalm 23 is the classic example: "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want." 

The key issue of life and death for the human race has always involved listening.  To whom will we listen?  Will we listen to the Lord or the serpent?  Will we receive the words of the Lord or will we refuse his words?  This was the question at issue in the garden, and it was a wisdom issue.  Eve rejected the word of the Lord, because she thought she would receive wisdom apart from it (Genesis 3:6).  Instead, she became a fool, and lost the divine life within.  Man, post-fall, lives in the famine of a world that lacks the word of God, and, therefore, lives in death.  Man, as Kitchen writes, "is dying from the inside out."[1]

Jesus, the good Shepherd, emphasizes the need of hearing the words of God:

"The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.  A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers. . . . I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.  And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd" (John 10:3-5, 14-16).

The distinguishing mark of Christ's people is that they listen to his voice.  The sheep listen to the Shepherd.  Jesus goes on:

"So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”  Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand" (John 10:24-28).

The problem with the human heart is that it has no heart to receive the words of God.  There is no divine life in the human heart.  The human race needs the eternal life only the Lord can give them.  But man by his willful rejection of God's Word, has cut himself off from the life that comes from listening to the Lord.  "Fools die for lack of heart" --- a heart that lacks the life of God, because it refuses the words of God.

This is the only place in the Old Testament that the imagery of the shepherd is applied to the righteous.  In all other places it is applied to the Lord or to the king.  Kings in Israel were only good kings if they listened to the voice of the Lord.  This is also how we will be judged.  When we refuse the voice of our Lord and Shepherd, we refuse life.  If we refuse life, then we have no life to give to others.  But the righteous are those who receive the life of God, because they receive the words of God.  Therefore, they have life to give to others.

Jesus' feeding of the multitudes through his apostles is a beautiful parable of life.  It is only as the twelve received bread from the hands of their Lord and Shepherd that they were able to "feed many."  It was a beautiful picture of what this proverb teaches.  It is only as our hearts receive his words, that we will be able to feed, protect, and shepherd others under our spiritual care.


[1] Kitchen, Proverbs, 230.

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