God’s Word for You
Proverbs 23:12 hearts and ears
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, February 2, 2019
12 Apply your heart to instruction,
and your ears to words of knowledge.
What does it mean to apply the heart and to apply the ears to instruction? In Solomon’s way of thinking (which has become ours), the heart (Heb. lēv) is the seat of faith. For example, he says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). Also, “The Lord tests the heart” (Proverbs 17:3). The believing heart is always willing to be guided by the word of God, so that the heart is refreshed in Christ (Philemon 20). The Holy Spirit comforts us: “The word is near you, it is in your mouth and in your heart” (Deuteronomy 30:14), and urges us to rely on our Savior. “Believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, (and) you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).
With believing hearts, we also want to listen, read, and study the words of knowledge; the words of the Holy Scriptures. “These are written,” John said, “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31). Faith does not grow out of the heart, it grows out of the text of the Bible. “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard from the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). We do not invent anything having to do with God, with the Spirit, or with Jesus Christ. Everything we believe and teach comes from the Bible. We allow clear passages to speak, to stand firm, and to explain passages that are less clear.
Perhaps there is also an application here to the sacraments. After all, Jesus commanded us to make disciples in two ways: to baptize, and to teach (Matthew 28:19-20). Of these, he commands baptism first, and we notice that in some cases, especially little children and certain brothers and sisters who have limited mental abilities, it is not possible to instruct before we baptize. But in such cases, we know that the gospel always works, and therefore the heart has been touched with the message of God’s forgiveness even before the child or the childlike has learned one sin from another, or the story of Jesus’ atoning sacrifice on the cross. But in other cases, such as adults who come to faith late in life, we instruct first before we baptize. Why? Because we can; because we can let them know what it is they are receiving, and rejoice in the merciful grace of God.
So our ears hear, and our hearts believe, and by the grace of God, this is accomplished in each one of us, to bring us to everlasting life.
Pastor Timothy Smith