The Proverbs of Solomon – Proverbs 4:20-22


Some day when you’re feeling down and need a little snicker, google the words – “There are 2 kinds of people.” I did that yesterday, looking for an illustration with which to begin this message. But there was so much stuff, including pictures, I chose only to mention the idea. One reply to that search would be – “There are 2 kinds of people in the world – cat people and dog people.” Probably there is a huge in-between group, but a lot of people would agree with that statement. This evening let’s all try really hard to be dog people for a few minutes.

As I was asking the Lord for a way to illustrate the last verses of Proverbs 4 a silly thought came to mind. In another 30 minutes, you may disagree with me, but at least I’ll have a bit of your attention for a while. What if Solomon was thinking about his Cocker Spaniel, as he penned these words? Is there any way that children are like puppies? They are generally more like puppies than kittens, but that is a matter for later debate.

Are there any puppies or dogs who “love” their masters so much they are like an appendage to his body? Are there dogs who are so close to their owners they are like an extra leg – a third leg? Do any dogs grieve when they are parted from their person? Are there mutts who watch and listen to their masters so attentively that person can’t go into the next room without being accompanied? With questions like those, let us think about, and apply Solomon’s exhortations in these three verses.

“My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings” – Verse 20.

Here is how all this began yesterday. My computer Bible study program says the word “attend” is qashab” (kaw-shab’) meaning “prick up the ears.” I immediately pictured our dog “Mutt” dozing at the feet of his master, when, out of the blue, the owner replies to a thought in his head, or coughs, or utters an answer to a question in the letter he’s holding. Instantly Mutt’s ears leap to attention, ready to receive the master’s second syllable. What is the likelihood of that ever happening? I think that Solomon and the Holy Spirit want us to be as auditorially responsive as that loving pooch. They want us all, myself included, to be that sensitive to our Master’s voice. Do you remember the early advertising logo for RCA recordings with Nipper the dog staring into the speaker from which he heard “his master’s voice?” “My son, prick up your ears.”

“Incline thine ear unto my sayings.” What does the word “incline” suggest? Doesn’t it talk about directing or direction? But how many muscles do your ears have? How well can you turn them, adjust them, rotate them? For most of us, if we want to hear something a little better we can only turn our heads, pointing one ear to the source of the sound. But is that what dogs do? No sir. They have the ability to keep their heads steady and to turn their ears toward the sound they want to hear. Doesn’t Solomon say, “My son, when you hear my voice, point those ears in my direction”? “Don’t let a single sound wave get past your ear, because that is the route into your heart.”

“Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart” – Verse 21.

Isn’t this just a little weird? “Attend to my words…don’t let them escape from thine EYES.” Unless we are talking about words on a page, we don’t usually think about listening with our eyes. Of course, we could certainly make that leap when we are talking about the Word and the words of God. But let’s go back to our friend Mutt. I realize that I’m generalizing and that not all dogs are equal. But in my imaginary Mutt is asleep at his master’s feet, when he hears a word floating in the air. Instantly his ears prick up and rotate toward his owner’s face. And what happens next? That dog’s eyes rise and begin to bore into that human face. Some dogs stare so intently it appears as if they really are listening with their eyes. Maybe they are lip-readers as well as word-hearers. Or perhaps it’s not our lips he is watching but our eyes. Whatever it is, Mutt is an illustration of the attention the Lord wants from us.

I know that this never happens to you, but it does at my house. I will be reading something interesting, or listening to a newscast, paying attention to those words, When Judy will walk into the room with some important announcement about a rose which has started blooming or what the neighbor’s cat is doing. I may turn my head just a bit inclining my ear in her direction, but what I was hearing a moment before still has my heart engaged. And as a result, this new information about roses or cats doesn’t get the respect my wife thinks it deserves. When it comes to hearing the Words of God, our hearts are as important as our ears and eyes.

So here is Mutt, hearing a few syllables leave his master’s mouth. He thinks he hears the word “go” or “walk” – maybe it’s “eat” or “food.” From what I have observed, the mutts in this world often take such words very seriously. If they think you’ve promised a “walk” or to play with the “ball” or the “toy” what they have heard is no longer a matter of the ear, it is something akin to life and death. In rapid succession up go the ears, rotating in the right direction, the eyes cling to the face of the master and instantly Mutt is on his feet, ready to do whatever is offered. That dog owner has engaged his pet’s heart, and it will take some real effort to extricate or eradicate that idea.

The Lord says, “Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.” I say it reverently, but such words should make us grab hold and cling so tightly that our Master can’t afford not to come soon. Every promise which the Lord has spoken to us should be so real that we are instantly awake and ready to “play.” “Lord, you promised a walk. I will go with you even through the valley of the shadow of death. Let’s go.” “You promised me the water of life. I am thirsty.”

“They are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh.” – Verse 22.

To my imaginary Mutt, the dog park is the most important part of his day. Sure he loves his master, and if he could speak with him, he would sometimes talk about other things. But his half hour running his legs off chasing the frisbee or taking that leisurely stroll up the street – those are the things which make life worth living. And they are health to his flesh. Most dogs are sufficiently intelligent to learn those key words – “walk,” “food,” “ball,” “treat,” “toy.” Visiting the vet isn’t “life.” Sleeping all afternoon isn’t “life.” Life and health to Mutt are contained in those special words which come from the lips of his master.

And that is what Solomon is saying to us – his sons. These are important. “My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings. Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart. For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh.”