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Proverbs 20:5: “Counsel in the heart of man [is like] deep water; but a man of understanding will draw it out.”


This is really a rather difficult proverb to understand, at least it was for me.  But when I  read this in the original Hebrew and consider the culture of that day, it makes who bunches of sense.


First is the word counsel.  What is the counsel in the heart of man and why is it like deep waters? The word counsel in Hebrew is ‘etsah. Rabbi Samson Hirsch the 19th Century linguist and Hebrew master explains this word as a penetration or to force through a narrow opening. Thus this should read as: “Penetrating the heart of man is deep water.”   The word for deep is ‘amoq.  When this word is used as an adjective to myim or waters it normally takes on the meaning of deep in the sense of being mysterious.  It is like when we say that the sermon we heard last Sunday is deep.  We are using the word deep to express the idea that there is more to this sermon that is surface intention.  It is a message we need to think about and search for even deeper meaning.  Thus this verse carries the idea that when you seek to penetrate someone’s heart you will learn the mysteries hidden in that person’s heart. If a husband wishes to learn and  understand his wife’s longings, desires and intentions, he must learn to penetrate her heart.  Only then will he come to an understanding of what her true desires are and what it is that will hurt her or cause her distress or bring  her pleasure and joy.  If he wishes to purchase a gift for her, he will not consult with other women as to what they would like, he will search out His wife’s heart, seek to ‘etsah penetrate her heart and learn what gift it is that will really please her heart.


So that opens the question then as to how do you penetrate one’s heart to learn these mysteries.  If you wish to purchase a gift for your mate that will delight you mate’s heart you must learn how to penetrate or ‘etsah your mate’s heart.  But only one of understanding can draw this out.

The word understanding is Hebrew is tabun which comes from the root word biynBiyn means insight or penetrating through a vast storehouse of knowledge to get to the core of the issue. It is the idea of investigating, sorting through many different clues and evidence to reach the truth of a matter.  The word has it origins the Akkadian language for a champion in the midst of a battlefield.


What makes a champion, what distinguishes a champion from any other warrior or more commonly in our day and age an athlete where we find the word champion commonly used?  A champion is anyone that takes first place or is the best of any team or league.  To be champion in any sport or even on the battlefield you must know your opponent or enemy.  You must know their strengths and weaknesses. You must know the limits of your body, how much pain you can handle, what your body can endure, the limits or your own strength and ability.


In a few weeks the United States will have their annual religious ritual known as the Super Bowl. This will be where the two best football teams in world will meet on the battlefield or playing field to determine the champion team or the best team in the world.  From this conflict will arise the MVP or most valuable player on the winning team and hence the most valuable football player in the world. He will be a champion.


Personally, I hate football.  I played four years of football in high school and I have not watched a game since. But I am fascinated at what it takes for someone to even be on that field of a professional football game.  I watched a documentary recently on the life story of a professional football player. The hours and  years of intense training, starting off as a small child in the Pee Wee league.  The immense competition against the tens of thousands of football players hoping to make it to the NFL.  Talent is not enough. Talent must be joined with hard work, dedication and focus. Even then the odds are very slim of making it on an NFL team.  Then if you beat the odds to make it on a team, then to become a real champion takes even greater effort.  There is one word that keeps coming up as a person travels the road to becoming a champion and that is overcoming obstacles.  Thus, byin understanding and etsab counsel or penetration dove tail.  Both have the idea of focusing, penetration and overcoming obstacles.  To understand one’s heart requires focusing. Like a champion who studies everything around him and focuses on the best approach, then penetrating the heart and overcoming all the obstacles or resistance to penetrating one’s heart.


The writer of this Proverb gives one more condition to this formula called lahad.  A man of understanding, a champion, will lahad or draw it out or draw that knowledge out.  True, lahad means to draw out, but the word lahad is a picture which also explains how this knowledge of one’s heart is drawn out.  The word lahad has its origin in letting down a bucket.  It is drawing water from a well. If a man wishes to understand his wife’s heart he must lower a bucket into her heart and draw the information like drawing water from a well.  That is cool, but I read something in the Midrash Rabbah which gave an even deeper understanding.  Rope in ancient times was made by tying and binding cords or threads together.  When you first attached a rope to a bucket  you create your rope by binding together cords and threads until you have a rope long enough and strong enough to reach the waters.  Sometimes the water recedes and you must add more threads and cords to your rope to make it longer to reach the water.


Every week before a football game the players are practicing.  You would think that after spending a life time of playing football they would not have to practice.  But they do, they are always in a constant state of learning, learning about the team they will face that week, their weaknesses and strengths and how to overcome them. On their way to a championship they are always facing new obstacles and need to keep adding more cords and threads to that rope.


For many many years I have been searching for the heart of God. I am in quest of byin, understanding or becoming a champion in my knowledge of God’s heart.  Every day there are new obstacles I must overcome, everyday I must add new cords and threads to my rope as I ride that bucket to God’s heart.


When that Super Bowl ends and a champion byin is declared you know,  what will happen in a couple months?  That champion will return to training camp, learning new things, experiencing new things, learning new things about himself and his opponents and he will keep learning and learning.  So too I find on my journey to God’s heart. Even when I reach God’s heart, my journey of understanding, byin championship will still continue, I will still keep adding cords and threads that to rope, for eternity. What an adventure!-

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