Proverbs 3:1 (ESV)
My son, do not forget my teaching,
but let your heart keep my commandments,
Why are people so forgetful? There are, no doubt, many answers to that question. Old age, disease, an unmanageable schedule, distasteful things that are better forgotten. The list could go on a lot longer.
Solomon is teaching great truth to his son and he wants to make sure that it takes root. Like any good parent Solomon encourages his son to not forget what he is about to tell him. How do you encourage your children not to forget the things you teach them that they need to remember if they are to become responsible, God loving adults? Repetition is a good way to learn. The more we hear something the less likely we are to forget it. In the home, repetition by a parent often becomes a cause for children to ridicule the parent who just keeps on repeating the same old rules, to which the parent replies that if the children showed some evidence of having heard it before, then it would not need to be repeated.
The Bible does not say a lot of things just once. It says a few things many times and in varied ways. Read Matthew and then read Mark and then read Luke. You will begin to think, as you get deeper into Luke, that you have read this somewhere before. Read Ephesians and follow that with Colossians. Read II Peter and then read Jude.
The key factor in Hebrew poetry is its parallelism, which is a form of repetition. The first line of a couplet has some relationship with the second and considering them both together helps to understand the meaning. The parallelism can be parallels that are opposite, where the two lines say opposite things. They can be synonymous where they say the same thing in different ways. The second line can build upon the first to give its meaning more plainly, and so on.
Note the parallelism in the first verse of Proverbs 3. Solomon, in the first line tells his son not to forget his teaching. The second line says to keep the commandments in the heart.
There it is. There is the reason we forget things. There is the reason he will not remember what his father told him. There is the reason he will do what he should not and omit to do what he should. His father’s commandments are not in is heart. “Don’t forget this” Solomon says, “Keep them in your heart”. What does keeping them in his heart have to do with not forgetting them? Everything.
Think about this in your own life. In things like forgiving others, seeing others as more important than ourselves, doing good for people who can never do anything for us. Why do we forget such things (and more?) Because they are not in our hearts. You promised to call that friend before the dreaded surgery to encourage her, but you forgot. You resolved to not miss your daily devotions at the beginning of your day, but you forgot. (But you never forget to eat breakfast.) You said you would be at your son’s ball game but you got so busy at work that you forgot. And we forget such things because they are not in our hearts. They are not close to us. They are not as important to us as other things are. We will offer up excuses as to why this is not so in our case. You may be doing that right now. But if you are really honest with yourself you will admit that many of the things that you forgot to do, or say, was because they just were not that important to you. They were not in your heart.
The head and the heart are not mutually exclusive parts of our being. They are inseparable. What is your favourite movie? What is your fondest childhood memory? What piece of Scripture do you value the most? You do not have to be coaxed to remember such things. They are always just a breath away. They will never be forgotten. They are in your heart. All Solomon is saying to his son is that if the Word of God is taken into the heart, it will not be forgotten. It is a lesson that we all need to learn. It is one we need to admit. And getting the things that God tells us in the Word into our heads so that we never forget them is a practise that begins in the heart.
Remember what God is saying to you in His Word – in your heart keep His commandments.