“Your Word Is Truth”
Safeguard Your Heart
AMONG the ways that God’s Word proves itself to be the truth is by its warning principles. For example, at Proverbs 4:23 we read: “More than all else that is to be guarded, safeguard your heart, for out of it are the sources of life.” The heart involves one’s inmost feelings, motives, desires and longings. If these are not directed into the right channels, they can easily bring grief and ruin to a person and also result in grief and misery to others.
When Jesus Christ was on the earth, he drove home this matter of safeguarding the heart. The religious leaders were more concerned with ceremonial cleanliness than with purity of heart. So, he told them: “From inside, out of the heart of men, injurious reasonings issue forth: fornications, thieveries, murders, adulteries, covetings, acts of wickedness, deceit, loose conduct.”—Mark 7:21, 22.
That a failure to safeguard the heart can bring such results is graphically portrayed for us in God’s Word in connection with Amnon, the firstborn son of King David. Because of letting a base and selfish passion control his heart he died an early, violent death. The details are recorded for us at 2 Samuel chapter 13.
Amnon fell madly in love with beautiful Tamar, his half sister and a virgin. So much did he let this passion prey upon his heart that it became noticeable to others, such as his cousin and companion, Jehonadab, who asked him what was wrong. Amnon confided in him: “With Tamar the sister of Absalom my brother I am in love.” Jehonadab, being a shrewd and unprincipled fellow, counseled Amnon to feign sickness and then ask his father for his half sister Tamar to serve him a meal.
Eagerly Amnon followed this base counsel, and his father, King David, not suspecting anything, sent Tamar to Amnon’s house to make some cakes and serve them to him. Dutifully Tamar responded and baked some “bread of consolation” under his eyes. When she had it ready, Amnon ordered all others to leave his room. Then when alone with Tamar he grabbed her and urged her to have relations with him. But she, being a virtuous virgin, shrank from the suggestion. She pleaded with Amnon: “No, my brother! Do not humiliate me; for it is not usual to do that way in Israel. Do not do this disgraceful folly. And I—where shall I cause my reproach to go? And you—you will become like one of the senseless men in Israel.”
But Amnon was not willing to listen to reason. His passion was wholly selfish. He was not concerned with making her happy, as is usually the case when a youth falls in love with a maid. So he forced her, yes, raped his half sister, a beautiful virgin princess. Then, as is so often true in such cases, having satisfied his purely selfish passion, he hated her.
Next the record tells that Amnon began to hate her as much as he had previously ‘loved’ or desired her, and ordered her to go away. But she refused to go. So he ordered his attendant: “Send this person away from me, please, to the outside, and lock the door behind her.” Now it was not a ‘beloved’ Tamar, but “this person.” Amnon’s servant complied with his request and led Tamar out of the room. Tamar, greatly distressed and humiliated, placed ashes on her head (as was the custom in those days when undergoing great grief), tore her beautiful garment and went away weeping.
Her full brother Absalom, seeing her wretched condition, surmised what had taken place. He told her not to say anything about it and took her to his home, where she remained in seclusion. But he nursed a hatred of Amnon for this act and made plans to avenge his sister’s honor. Two years later, in connection with sheep-shearing festivities, Absalom invited his father King David and his servants to attend them. David refused and so Absalom prevailed upon him to have Amnon and the rest of the king’s sons come.
Before the feast Absalom gave orders to his servants that, as soon as Amnon was in high spirits because of drinking wine, they were to put him to death upon Absalom’s telling them, “Strike down Amnon!” His servants complied, killing Amnon, at which all the rest of the king’s sons fled in panic. Thus Amnon paid with his life for having failed to guard his heart, for yielding to selfish passion by violating the virginity of his half sister Tamar.
Clearly Amnon’s end bears out the truth of the Scriptural principle as to the importance of guarding one’s heart. And Amnon’s failure in this regard also brought much grief to others, to lovely Tamar and doubtless also to her close acquaintances. It certainly brought grief to her father. But quite likely because of his own sin against Uriah in connection with Bath-sheba, David had not been able to bring himself to act against Amnon. With Amnon’s violent death the prophecy uttered by Nathan at the time of David’s great sin began to undergo fulfillment.—2 Sam. 12:10.
What lesson is there in this for Christians today? That it is vital to guard one’s heart. If a young man failed to do so, he might let selfish, sexual passion so prey on his heart and mind that he would not only make love to a girl but also scheme to have her alone with him so that he could tempt her to commit fornication with him so as to satisfy his selfish passion. She might weaken, or foolishly reason that in this way she would show that she really loved him, or that by yielding she would assure herself of his marrying her. But if he truly loved her he would be willing to wait until they had an honorable marriage.
What folly it is to go against God’s Word: “Flee from fornication”! There is always the feeling of guilt afterwards. Frequently the girl becomes pregnant. Then what will they do? Will the boy marry her because of pressure? Even if he does, the girl is shamed by bearing an illegitimate child.—1 Cor. 6:18.
Nor is that all. For a youth associated with a truly Christian congregation such a deed might well result in his being disfellowshiped, being cut off from the congregation. And if he seeks reinstatement, he must show his sincerity by attending congregation meetings with no one speaking to him, all the while giving evidence of repentance. Then he would be put on probation for a time, and for years thereafter he would be denied special privileges and advancement in Jehovah’s organization.
No question about it, the Bible proves itself to be true by its warning principles. To safeguard the heart is the course of wisdom, for out of it are the sources of life. Failure to safeguard it brings grief and ruin to one today even as it did in the time of King David. It also brings grief to others. And, not to be overlooked is the fact that such a course displeases Jehovah God.—Ps. 90:7, 8.