Proverbs 23:12

Apply Your Heart

12a Apply thine heart unto instruction

1. Apply:

a. The most basic meaning of the term: Come/go, enter; i.e., make linear movement of a general kind.

b. It has a wide range of meaning depending upon the context.

c. In this passage, the term means learn information and correlate to other ideas or facts.

2. Heart:

a. This term CAN refer to the literal blood pumping organ.

b. But here it speaks of the mind, emotions, and will; the immaterial inner self, the inner man.

c. Solomon is speaking of making application to one’s own personal heart… to our inner life.

3. Instruction:

a. Strong’s: Discipline; chastening; correction.

b. Dictionary of Biblical Languages: Correction that is a minor punishment for teaching which may include a rebuke.

c. Punishment; i.e., an infliction of a judicial penalty based on a standard.

d. The “instruction” mentioned here can either be oral or it can come with a rod.

e. It is broad enough to include teaching, instruction, warning, rebuke, or punishment.

f. The context has to determine the precise nuance.
• Prov. 1:8 – it stands parallel to the mother’s “law.” (teaching)
• Prov. 13:1 – it stands parallel to a “rebuke.”
• Prov. 13:24 – it stands parallel to “the rod.”

g. However, in our proverb, the context does not settle the precise meaning for us.
• If we understand this to be a synonymous parallelism, then the instruction is parallel to knowledge, namely, teaching information.
• If it is an antithetical parallelism, then it stands in contrast to “words of knowledge” and may well be chastening or a rod.

• This proverb was very likely worded in such a way purposely to be applicable for ALL kinds of instruction – verbal, teaching, warning, rebuke, or a rod.

4. Applying the instruction to the heart:

a. Remember, the basic meaning of this Hebrew word is to “make a linear movement towards something.”

b. In other words, the instruction should ENTER IN to our hearts… sink in… there should be a coming together of the instruction and the inner life of the person.

c. ALLOW the lesson to sink in. Allow the Spirit of God to make application in your own life…

d. Apply the lesson to your thought life… to the way you express your emotions… to your will—to the whole inner man.

5. If the lesson is oral and comes in the form of teaching:

a. Don’t just store the information in your head. Let it sink down deep into your heart and do its work of changing and transforming.

b. Allow the instruction to RENEW your mind. (Rom. 12:2) Let it transform your thinking so that your thought life is not being conformed to the attitude of the world, but rather conformed to Christ.

c. Allow the lesson to change your BEHAVIOR. (Jas. 1:22-25)
• vs. 22 – BE ye (????µa?) = Become… doers.
» Hearing is good and necessary, but not sufficient.
» Hearing MUST be accompanied by DOING.
» When there is no action taken, the end result is deception.
» We deceive ourselves by THINKING that all is well, when all is not well.
» If we think that listening to the Word is all that is required, we are deceived.
» If we think that simply reading the Bible, or listening to sermons is all that God expects, we are deceived.
» We then must BECOME doers… or deception is our lot in life.
• Vs. 23-24 – The illustration of a man looking at his face in the mirror.
» The man who SEES the dirt on his face is like the man who HEARS what the Word of God has to say. The Word points out areas in our lives that need changing. So far so good.
» The man who sees the dirt and then goes his way is like the man who hears the Word but does not instantly respond in obedience. He hears but does not DO anything about it.
» He instantly FORGETS about the dirt on his face. This is what happens when we read the Word or hear a sermon, or sit through a Sunday school class, and have sin or error pointed out in our lives, but we don’t DO anything about it right away. We forget!
» This man thus walks around with egg on his face… or drool… or who knows what!
» James’ point here is that hearing DEMANDS an instant response or else we will forget.
» The man who looked in the mirror and saw the dirt and then walked away without doing anything made a willful decision to walk away… and that’s why he forgot about it.
» “I forgot” is no excuse in God’s books.
» That man forgot and became ignorant of the dirt; but he is willfully ignorant of the dirt because he chose to walk away… he choose to put it off till later… he chose to ignore it.
• If the truth or light we receive from the Word is not applied to the heart and acted upon right away, they are soon forgotten… and we are held accountable for that light—even though we forgot.
• Vs. 25 – There is a great blessing in DEALING with sin in our lives right away… behavior, attitudes, speech, desires, motives, etc.

6. If the lesson comes in the form of a rod:

a. God expects us to let the real lesson sink in and soften our heart… and ultimately, change our attitude and behavior…

b. If we consistently respond to God’s instruction and allow it to change our attitude, eventually, it will change our character.

c. Heb. 12:5-7 – chastening
• God chastens His sons as a Father… for our good… in love.
• He wants us to endure chastening.
» Endure = to abide under (?p?µ???); persevere; be patient.
→ Don’t try to escape; don’t fight it; don’t kick and scream.
→ Abide in the place of “child-training” your Father has designed for you.
» This is related to APPLYING that kind of instruction (with a rod) to one’s heart.
→ Seek to learn the lessons that God wants you to learn during that trial…
→ Allow God to work in your heart… soften your heart to the hands of the Master Potter…
→ Don’t rebel and quit before the lessons are truly learned.

7. Apply your heart to instruction: Oral instruction (whether through a teacher, a parent, a brother, a pastor) and also instruction that comes in the form of a rod (from your heavenly Father).

12b And thine ears to the words of knowledge.

Apply Your Ears to Words of Knowledge

1. Solomon now states that we are to also apply our ears to words of wisdom.

a. Though the verb “apply” is not mentioned in the second part of the proverb, it does need to be inserted.

b. This means that we are to LISTEN to words of wisdom.

c. It implies that those words should “enter in.”

d. We should allow the words of wisdom to continue making that linear motion right into our ears… and to settle down in our heart.

e. The point is that words of knowledge communicated to us should be RECEIVED with all readiness of mind (Acts 17:11).

f. It doesn’t really matter whether these words are spoken and we hear them, or whether they are written and we read them—we are to pay attention to what was communicated.

2. Word of knowledge:

a. “Words” refers to words spoken or written.

b. “Words of knowledge” refers to understanding; information; learning; insight; discernment; sometimes it speaks of experiential knowledge.

c. God seeks to communicate this to us – through His Word, or through a Bible teacher, or through one on one counseling from a spiritually mature believer.

d. Our responsibility is to LISTEN.
• We should be eager to hear… anxious to know more about God and His Word… hungry for more truth and light…
• All of that is implied when Solomon speaks of “applying our ears to words of knowledge.”
• This implies ATTITUDE in listening.
• Prov. 2:1-6 – Applying the ear to words of wisdom is to be associated with SEEKING that wisdom with your whole heart… as you would for hidden treasure…
» Only THEN will you truly understand what God is trying to communicate to you.
» God knows when we are listening half heartedly.
» Obtaining wisdom and knowledge from the Lord is not so much about the head as it is the heart.
» Average or below average intelligence is rewarded with spiritual wisdom and knowledge if it is accompanied by a spiritually hungry and diligent heart.
» Above average intelligence will never discover spiritual wisdom and knowledge through the head only—UNLESS it is accompanied by a spiritually hungry and diligent heart.
• For example, it is possible to literally hear the words with your ears while maintaining a grumbling attitude—but the heart is not really listening. Truth, light, and wisdom are not sinking in.
• Obviously, the point is for the hearing to go BEYOND the ear drums.
• In fact, in both Testaments, the word “hear” in many contexts is virtually synonymous with “obey.”

e. You cannot APPLY truth to your heart if you don’t LISTEN with your ears.

f. Prov. 22:17 –
• Bow down thine ear (bow = incline in the direction of).
» It speaks of an inward heart INCLINATION to listen…
» We should ALL be inclined to listen to God’s Word.
• Hear the words
» To hear = to obey.
» The readers should pay attention to the words they read… and then, obey!
• Apply thine heart –
» Just as the present proverb, one part is addressed to the “ear” and the other to the “heart.”
• Note the progression in the three exhortations in 22:17:

» Bow down thine ear (bend the ear; incline the ear; turn it towards the sound).
» Hear the words (heart with great interest; paying attention to so as to understand).
» Apply thine heart (set the mind and heart to an attitude of devotion, with corresponding action).
» Perhaps we could paraphrase:

→ Listen to the words of the wise.

→ Pay attention so that you understand what you hear.

→ Then respond in obedience: DO it… turn it into action.