God’s Word for You
Proverbs 23:15-16 If your heart is wise
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, February 16, 2019
15 My son, if your heart is wise,
then your heart will be glad, as will mine.
16 My inmost being will rejoice
when your lips speak what is right.
Hippolytus said, “He who knows the wisdom of God receives from him instruction as well, and by it he learns the mysteries of the Word. Those who know the true heavenly wisdom will easily understand the words of these mysteries. This is why [Solomon] says, “to understand words of insight” (Proverbs 1:2), for things spoken in a strange language by the Holy Spirit become intelligible to those who have their hearts right with God” (On Proverbs, fragment). The wisdom of the Bible is the wisdom that comes from faith in God; belief in Jesus our Savior. It is the heart that accepts everything presented in the word of God as the holy, inspired, word of God, without rejecting any of it at all.
Wisdom is not a choice; nor is faith. Wisdom is acquired by careful instruction and is buoyed up by faith. Faith is a gift, a medicine which comes to the sin-sick heart of man through the means of the gospel in word and sacrament. These verses are an encouragement to the young to delve into the faith of their spiritual parents. Some children do not have mothers or fathers who take them to church, send them to Sunday school, or help them with learning their Catechism. The Lord will send them spiritual parents to take over their spiritual care from the foolish parents of their birth. These spiritual parents may be neighbors later in life, a friend who knows Jesus and offers to share the gospel, or even a minister whose words they hear at a wedding, a funeral, or flipping through channels on their TV. The wisdom of the gospel works in ways we cannot imagine, and even limited contact with the gospel is enough to create faith in the heart. In Revelation, John sees a time when there will be fewer and fewer witnesses to the gospel, in the last days. “I will give my power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy” (Revelation 11:3). But the testimony of a few is as effective as that of many. The gospel has the power within its very words. What words? “Your sins are forgiven” (Luke 7:48). The Son of Man, Jesus Christ, “has authority on earth to forgive sins” (Luke 5:24). In him “we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace” (Ephesians 1:7). While we linger here on earth, we trust in Jesus and pray: “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope” (Psalm 130:4).
Verse 16 proclaims the joy of a parent or spiritual parent who sees the faith of a child grow, no matter how old that child is. When the gospel has done its work and a soul is brought to faith, the angels rejoice, led by God himself. “Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep!” (Luke 15:6). We were lost, too, but we were found. Now our Savior trusts us to go looking for more that are lost. We have the most powerful tool in the universe to help us and to do all the work: The gospel of our Lord Jesus.
About the translation: I have translated the second line of verse 15, “then your heart will be glad, as will mine.” The Hebrew text is awkward: “Then my heart will be glad, even mine.” The older NIV editions have, “then my heart will be glad,” but the newest NIV (2011) has, “then my heart will be glad indeed.” The issue is that the Hebrew text has “me/mine” twice in the predicate as well as an apparently superfluous conjunction. The Latin Vulgate tries to accommodate this by saying ‘gaudebit tecum cor meum,’ “you will make yourself glad (and) my heart.” The text can be understood by omitting the final two words in Hebrew. The newest NIV edition has taken the conjunction as “indeed,” which is probably the wisest choice. I have allowed the Latin text to stand in this case. The usual rule for judging the Hebrew text when a variant reading exists is this: If the Hebrew text can be understood as it is, then it should stand. But when there are two separate versions of the Hebrew (as sometimes happens especially in the books of Moses due to the Samaritan Pentateuch) then both readings should be weighed carefully in their context. Here, the variant reading does nothing to change our understanding of the passage, and so I felt it was a good place to mention the protocol. It is inevitable that fallible men sometimes made errors in copying the infallible word of God. It is our great love and respect for the word that causes us to take it so seriously that we handle it with extreme care, loving the word of God always, and making certain that the best possible reading of the text is before us always.
Pastor Timothy Smith