Back in the day there was a band called “Brother’s Keeper.” They could still be around but I haven’t heard a song of theirs since the mid-late 90s. The one song that has always stuck with me though is titled, “The Heart of the Matter.” In its own cheesy way, the song expressed a truth that states that no change will come until there is change in the heart. “The heart of the matter is a matter of the heart.” Solomon would not have agreed more.
Notice his instruction to his son in Proverbs 3: “My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments,” (v. 1, ESV; emphasis mine). To Solomon it was not about doing the right thing, but being the right thing. As Jesus said centuries later, “For out of the heart comes evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander,” (Matthew 15:19, ESV). Solomon, years ahead of his time, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit expressed a similar attitude: its a matter of the heart. The body can externally do what is necessary for “survival.” We can physically do what is deemed necessary by society, but once those constraints are gone and we no longer have to worry about being judged, ostracized, or punished by those around us, the real us is shown–who we are in our hearts.
Solomon wanted his son not to forget what he was taught, but more than that he wanted that teaching to go straight to his heart and become his own. He didn’t want the external forms of obedience, but internal obedience that led to external righteousness. We’ve all heard of the little boy who was told to sit down, and complied saying, “I may be sitting down on the outside, but I’m standing up on the inside.” We’ve all been there at some point. We’ve all done what was expected, and were not obedient from the heart.
Solomon went on to give a demonstration of what he meant. “Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart,” (Proverbs 3:3, ESV). Steadfast love was an Old Testament way of expressing grace. It meant to love or favor or to deal kindly. Solomon wanted not only the actions that looked gracious, but the heart that was gracious. He not only wanted the appearance of faithfulness, but a deep-seated faithfulness to his father, others, but especially to God. It was as if he was saying let these be who you are, let them go to your very soul (the neck/throat was often a symbol of the soul), and be the monument of your heart.
So as today is Wednesday Wisdom, it would be wise of us to strive for and desire the same that Solomon wanted for his son: obedience from the heart–grace and faithfulness as who we are not simply what we do.