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Feb 27 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

February 26, 2012 – Present Your Body (part 4)

My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings.
Do not let them depart from your sight [lit. “eyes”];
Keep them in the midst of your heart.
Proverbs 4:20-22 (read vv. 20-27)

INTRO: Simone Weil was born into an affluent family, but always felt drawn to poor

Wanting to better understand the hardships of the working class, she went to work in a factory
– there she learned not only the harsh conditions in which many people labored, but also about their afflictions, both great and small
– one observation she made reflects on minor injuries in the workplace:

“When an apprentice gets hurt or complains of fatigue, workmen and peasants have this fine expression: ‘It’s the trade getting into his body.’ Whenever we have some pain to endure, we can say to ourselves that it is the universe, the order and beauty of the world, and the obedience of creation to God which are entering our body.”

Acquiring a skill changes our bodies
– first blisters form and then become callouses, muscles that are sore at first become strong, and the movements that are awkward starting out we later perform with agility and grace

In our current study, we are learning to let God’s grace enter our bodies – sin is already there – Paul says, it reigns in our mortal bodies (Ro. 6:12)
– but he also says, “. . . do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness (Ro. 6:13)
– by “members” he means body parts – arms, hands, legs, feet, etc.
– there cannot be sin without a body (notice how in Pr. 6:16-19 the eyes can be haughty, tongues can lie, and so on)

We have seen that body parts can refer to three different things:

  1. The physical appendage or organ
  2. The function of that appendage
  3. A metaphor for something else (eye in some instances means “fountain”)

The wise man is teaching his son (student) life lessons

Vv. 18-19, Two possible lives:
– one that is increasingly vibrant, productive, fulfilling
– one that has had the light drained out of it – the person for whom work is nothing more than a paycheck

The deciding factor depends on choices we make along the way
– to make right choices and do right things requires certain life skills

Passage: Learn wisdom as if it were a set of physical skills
– wisdom is practical – it has no value until it reaches the hands and feet — body parts

Much of our behavior is unconscious habit
– the message here is choose the habits that control your actions

The most important external body part is the head

(For those of you who want a more thorough look at this, I’ve prepared some notes)

Let the righteous smite me in kindness and reprove me;
It is oil upon my head;
Do not let my head refuse it.
(Ps. 141:5)

Awhile back, after reading this verse I jotted some notes, including the following:

“To be slapped in the face is not pleasant and can be a shock if delivered by ‘the righteous.’ But it can be useful in coming to grips with ones immediate situation through the instant reaction it elicits, the alertness it produces, and the energy it arouses. Therefore, rather than experiencing the slap as an insult or challenge, my head accepts it as an act of kindness–like pouring oil on my head.”

The head is the highest point of the body and therefore it has the chief role
– the head includes important external organs of perception
– what its eyes see and ears hear is the first line of defense for body (we see or hear danger and react)
– the head is the first body part to receive physical contact (from above), whether pleasant or otherwise
“. . . let my head not refuse it” – the poet recognized that he was liable to react to a slap on the head
– to get defensive or fight back
The wisdom literature of the Bible emphasizes the fact that it takes a lot of training for a person to learn to accept instruction and correction (e.g., v. 2)

In biblical Hebrew, a variety of meanings are attached to the word face
panim, the Hebrew word for face, is always plural – why do you suppose?

“A face is a message, a face speaks, often unbeknown to the person. Is not the human face a living mixture of mystery and meaning? We are all able to see it, and are all unable to describe it. Is it not a strange marvel that among so many hundreds of millions of faces, no two faces are alike? And that no face remains quite the same for more than one instant?” Abraham Heschel

Facial expressions are our most commonly used form of non-verbal communication

  • we roll our eyes, raise our eyebrows, wink, smirk, frown, grimace, and so on
  • facial expressions reveal our inner feelings (Ge. 4:5)
  • facial expressions reveal our attitude (Ge. 31:2, 5)
  • even a very slight facial expression can mean something and oftentimes we do not realize that our faces give us away

Neuroscientists have discovered that neurons in the amygdala–a small structure deep within the brain–are activated by angry faces
– the emotion that shows up on one person’s face can evoke emotion in another person

The word face is also also used of “presence,” and to be in a person’s presence is to be “before” that person

Above all, it is a vision of God’s face we wish to see

Seek the LORD and His strength;
Seek His face continually.
(Ps. 105:4)

The wise man teaches his son how to train his body parts

v. 20, the ears – their function is hearing — train the ears

The hearing ear and the seeing eye,
The LORD has made both of them.
(Pr. 20:12)

The message of the verse is pay attention
– hearing and seeing change the brain – it’s neural activity
– that is why when we are upset or have a severe case of the blues, the best thing we can do sometimes is to get out of the house for while

Whatever we make the focus of our attention, the brain will go to work on
– so to have focused attention is not enough — we need to also have awareness
– what is it that holds our attention? We get to choose

v. 21, the eyes – their function is sight — train the eyes
– we don’t sin because we have drifted far away from God, but because we are looking in the wrong direction
– the “heart” is where decisions are made — so the question is, what is the criteria for making decisions?
– we focus our eyes on the best things to provide the heart with excellent resources for so that the heart has good resources for making right decisions (v. 23)

vv. 22  and 23, refer to the body and the heart, which I hope to cover in the next couple of weeks

v. 24, the mouth and lips
– over against the ear that hears is the mouth that speaks

Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth;
Keep watch over the door of my lips.
(Ps. 141:3)

– he wanted help controlling his speech
– the lips as a “door” — he asked God to take charge over that last place where the wrong word could slip out

So the eyes take in visual information and also reveal what’s inside a person
– similarly, the ears take in auditory information and the mouth gives auditory expression of what’s inside

The Scriptures take speech communication very seriously
– the universe began with speech and is sustained by “the word of His power” (He. 1:3)
– not long after God spoke, the man and woman took up speech and human history began

Speech reveals what’s in a person – it’s the clearest form of self-expression
– it reveals the person (Mt. 15:15-20)
– Isaiah’s “unclean lips” had to do with his self-perception, that he was unqualified to witness what he saw or speak of it (Is. 6:5-7)
– the “articulators” we use to make intelligible sounds are also used of speech in general: tongue, teeth, palate, throat
“No human activity, therefore, is given the name of so many organs.” Hans W. Wolf

v. 25, eyes and also eyelids (translated, “gaze”)
– imagine propping the eyelids open so you don’t miss anything

vv. 26 and 27, feet and “hands” (the Hebrew is “right hand” and “left hand”), which we covered in the last two weeks

CONC: When reading the Bible, I want you to notice body parts

And as you do, bring awareness to your own body parts

Some Christians attempt to become spiritual without first knowing what it is to be human
“God would not have been born as a human being had we been meant to experience our existence differently.” Karl Rahner

To focus the kind of attention on body parts that the wise man recommends, is to bring your awareness into the present moment
– observe what your eyes see, really listen to what your ears hear
– ask, “What is my mouth doing?” Notice if you are grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw

Homework assignment: This week, once every day, pray over your body parts, head to foot
– it is enough if you simply say, “Peace to my scalp. Peace to my ears. Peace to my eyes. . . ” and work your way down

We are going to rewire our brains to develop better habits, better life skills

But most importantly, to develop a greater ability to be aware of God in daily our lives

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