“Apply thine heart unto instruction, and thine ears to the words of knowledge.”
Pause to Prepare
This proverb echos 22:17-21 and asks us to get ready for what we are about to read/hear. In other words, what is about to be said is very important, so we should prepare our hearts and tune our ears.
I can almost imagine Solomon looking at his son the way I sometimes look at my daughters. I call their name, get eye contact, and then ask, “Are you listening to what I am about to say?” Sometimes I even take two of my fingers, point at their eyes, then mine, just to make sure I have their attention.
Solomon is trying to get our attention, but he is warning us that what we are about to hear might not be pleasant.
It is interesting to note that the majority of Bible translations use the same word in this proverb: “apply.” This should tell us that there is something special about this word – something worth examining.
The Hebrew word for “apply” is an expression that simply means to go in and come out. But when we use it in connection with one’s heart, the idea is that we must decide where the heart goes – it can’t be allowed to go where it wants.
Obviously, the heart is our seat of emotions, but too often the heart is in the seat driving. Solomon wants us to prepare our hearts for something that might not be pleasant, something that might cause our emotions to take over.
What is it that Solomon asks us to apply our hearts to? He says, “Apply thine heart unto instruction.” But here again, should be mindful of words. “Instruction” is a word we typically associate with being told what to do. However, the Hebrew word muwcar (mü·sär’) lends itself more to the idea of discipline and chastisement.
So what is the point?
Solomon is about to instruct us with knowledge that may be hard to handle, so he is telling us in advance to do what is necessary, even if it is difficult.
You see, we need to make our heart go to a place from where it would normally run. We need to force our ears to hear what we don’t want to hear. We need to take our emotions by the hand and willfully walk them through disciplined paces. Otherwise, what we are about to read next will cause us to flee with our emotions leading the way.