In the early days in rural America cisterns were often dug to hold water where wells were not readily available. In addition to other things, these cisterns provided water for drinking for rural families. The fact is, there may still be a few of them still around in use.
If you had a cistern, it became very important to protect what was allowed to enter the cistern. It was not uncommon to do this with a grating of some sort. The reason? The water in the cistern, if unprotected, could bring disease and even death. Its purpose, however, was to provide life giving water.
I think Proverbs 4:20-27 may draw on this imagery, picturing the “heart” (the spiritual, emotional and mental center of life) as the reservoir from which everything in life flows and urging protection for what is allowed to enter it.
Here is what it says…
“My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Let them not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart. For they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh. KEEP YOUR HEART WITH ALL VIGILANCE, FOR FROM IT FLOW THE SPRINGS OF LIFE. Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you. Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.” (ESV)
Did you notice what the writer of Proverbs has to say about the importance of the “heart” to the rest of life? He asserts that EVERYTHING flows from what is allowed to enter the heart. He urges vigilance and care over what is allowed to enter the heart! He identifies a couple of entrance points to the “heart” that deserve vigilant attention… ears (vs. 20), and eyes (vss. 21, 25). Then after his central emphasis on keeping the heart in verse 23, he gives attention to what comes out of “heart” … What comes out of our mouths (vs. 24), and where our feet lead us – our actions or behavior.
My cry after reading this passage from Proverbs this morning during “Coffee with the Lord?” Oh Lord, help me to understand the importance of “keeping my heart” and guarding what enters it through what my eyes behold and what my ears hear! Help me to remember that what comes out – in terms of speech and actions – are the consequence of what I allow to enter my heart! My decision: Gonna “keep my heart with all vigilance!” I’m faced with the reality that what comes out is either life-giving or destructive. I want it to be life-giving, don’t you?