I've been think a lot on what it means to "keep my soul". As I was reading in Deuteronomy (as part of my study on worship...I might share some thoughts on that soon!) this morning, I couldn't help but be drawn back to this passage. Chapter four is right before Moses gives the children of Israel the Ten Commandments, and this is near the start of his book-long speech. Moses reviews what the Israelites have experienced by the hand of God, their Ultimate Provider and Deliverer, and then commands them with this. Take care, and keep your soul. What does this even mean? What's the importance of it? Later in this same chapter he commands it again...what's the big deal?
The Hebrew word used in Deuteronomy 4:9 is shamar, and it's used three times. It means this:
- to keep, guard, take heed
- to keep, have charge of
- to guard, keep watch and ward, protect
- to keep, retain, treasure up
- to restrain
- to observe, celebrate, keep
- to preserve and protect
- to be kept, be guarded
- to keep, pay heed
- to keep oneself from
- to keep, to watch, as a garden
This word is used where we put "take care" and "keep". We're commanded to do this same thing twice in order to steward our most precious possession: the soul God has granted us. As CS Lewis says, "You don't have a soul. You are a soul – you have a body." This is who we are. It's what sets us apart from other creatures. It is what the Son of God sacrificed His life for. We are commanded to guard this gift diligently. The life that has been bestowed upon us is able to be taken away – why else would we need to guard it, keep it, protect it? Shamar is an offensive verb (not offensive in the meaning of offending somebody...offensive with the meaning 'opposite of defensive' ;). There's action, steps taken forward. The guard and watchman of this citadel is not passively standing by. He (or she) is actively on guard, watching for any movement of the enemy to attack the fortress. Anything that would come against it is not welcome...it's shot down and destroyed. There is no place for anything but light and life in this castle. This is the proper perspective I need to obtain in regards to my soul.
If I am commanded to 'keep my soul', what should I be doing? If I'm guarding this treasure, what should I do to protect it? Paul, in Philippians, says to "set your mind on things above." My eyes and my ears are two major input areas that I need to have a watch on...if my mind is the control center of my body, why wouldn't I watch what comes in? The words I read, the images I set before me, the music or preaching I listen to, or the very thoughts planted in my head; what do I do with them? What I set before me is what I am going to imitate. What map I stare at is the road I am going to take. What am I doing with every thought? With every spare minute? Sure, it might not be bad, per se, but I'm on mission. All the time, I am on assignment from Jesus Christ. I've been commissioned with the task of building the Kingdom of God here on earth. There is nothing more important than that. How can a Kingdom be built strong if the builders are not equipped? How do we become equipped? By submitting ourselves to King Jesus and setting Him before our eyes. This isn't easy, folks, but it's worth it. The best things are.
This morning Jesus began to point out two things for me to begin to apply in my life more so than I already have been. As I've pondered it today, I'm beginning to see that this is critical, at least for me.
- Be watchful over every bit of input in my life. Movies, media, thoughts, words...what's the ratio of Jesus to ?? . Be watchful, be guarded, be vigilant.
- Set Jesus ever before your eyes. Make Him your first priority – He is what remains after all else is gone.
How I wish I could tell you that I've got this down, that Jesus is all I ever think about, hear about, watch, or speak about. I wish I could tell you that this is written from the perspective of one who has been perfected and that lives this out perfectly. I'm not. But (what grace!) I know One who is, and this is the One who has commissioned us to. He gives the greatest gift – Holy Spirit – and enables us to live as He did because it's Him doing the work. What a Jesus! May we continue to set Him ever before us, and keep Him front and center. My prayer for you and I both is that Jesus, and only Jesus, might be everything.