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To Guard...Or To SafeGuard?

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First...please allow me to say that, prior to this research...I would have used those two words almost interchangeably...and, as usual...I would have been completely wrong. For the sake of those who may have thought similarly to myself...here is the difference:


The terms “guard” and “safeguard” both relate to protection, but they have distinct nuances:

Noun: A guard is a person or thing that protects or watches over something. It implies immediate, direct protection, often involving human agents or actions.
Verb: To guard means to protect from danger, secure against surprise, attack, or injury. It involves actively defending and keeping something safe1.
Noun: A safeguard serves as a defense or protection. It can refer to built-in features, practices, or policies designed to automatically provide protection or prevent harm. Safeguards reflect a more systemic approach to safety.
Verb: Safeguarding involves taking precautionary protective measures against potential danger. It often encompasses ongoing processes or systems23.


In summary, while “guard” suggests immediate protection, “safeguard” emphasizes preventive measures and systemic safety. Both terms contribute to ensuring safety and security, but their focus differs.


Got it?


Me neither, not at first.


Then I began to meditate on a single scripture over the past week, a verse that has been incessantly picking at my brain...over and over again...demanding to be seen and heard. Finally, and with the help of some further digging...I came to the following understanding that absolutely astounded me...and thus I began to sit down and write, to share it with all of you.


The scripture is extremely well known to all of us...but maybe this will shed a different light on it...a different hue of color that might catch your attention and cause you to see it afresh as the spiritual gem that I now see it to be.


Proverbs 4:23: "Above all the things that you guard, safeguard your heart, For out of it are the sources of life."


Simple...powerful...Solomon's words seem to rise off the page and materialize right in front of us...almost as if we could hear his strong deep voice expressing Jehovah's thoughts echoing down throughout the intervening millennia. 


In other versions of the Bible, they render the Hebrew word miš-mār as guard...or "to watch"...and while technically they are correct...this leads me back to my original question...to guard...or to safeguard?


Friends...are you starting to get goosebumps yet? 


Is the impact of this single Biblical truth starting to really hit you yet?


Look at what Jehovah says, my dear brothers and sisters: ABOVE ALL ELSE...


Why would it be so emphatic? True, we all know the heart is the seat of emotions...and we all KNOW that Jehovah judges the heart...but have you gotten the impact of exactly what Jehovah is trying to tell us? 


Maybe you do...maybe I'm alone. But this hit me like a ton of bricks, and here's why:


First...at the end of the day...actions matter to Jehovah...but the HEART is what he will judge each of us on...what a comforting thought that was to me personally: My ACTIONS may be down to just the dregs of what I used to do...what I WISH I could do...but other than remembering them and counting them in our favor...it simply will not matter to Jehovah. Our heart condition AT THAT TIME will seal the deal...one way or the other.


Here is a small portion of the article I referenced for this deep personal study: The whole tenor of the Scriptures, including the teachings of God’s Son, is to the effect that the gaining of understanding of God’s purposes, the doing of his will, and the attaining of salvation to life are dependent primarily upon the individual’s heart. (1Sa 16:7; 1Ch 28:9; Pr 4:23; 21:2; Mt 15:8; Lu 8:5-15; Ro 10:10) The Bible is unique in its ability to “discern thoughts and intentions of the heart,” revealing what the person really is. (Heb 4:12, 13) It is clear from the Scriptures that God has not made knowledge of himself something to be acquired without effort. (Compare Pr 2:1-14; 8:32-36; Isa 55:6-11; Mt 7:7, 8.) 


Perfection — Watchtower ONLINE LIBRARY (jw.org)


This is why hanging on...never letting go...is so vital.


A popped balloon will lose all its air...it's shape...it will fall to the ground...but it is still a balloon. 


People may discard it...step on it...may even pull it further apart, distorting it, stretching it beyond all recognition until it tears apart...just as a joke or for a laugh or just to be cruel...but it is still a balloon. It had a purpose...and if it is a Mylar balloon...if it isn't a regular old cheap balloon...it can even be repaired. Not forever...but long enough.


Some days I feel like that balloon...and even though I fully understand that I am precious to Jehovah...I still feel deflated, torn...stepped on...distorted beyond all recognition.


Some days it's all I can do to whisper in my head Jehovah's name...all the while battling the feelings of wanting to wave the white flag, bow my head...let the tears flow and just say, "Okay, Satan...you won! I give up...now just please...please leave me alone."


The trouble is...he wouldn't leave me alone.


He would continue to batter me...pummeling me mercilessly even as he laughed in Jehovah's face...claiming that he made another one fall.


How hard it is to write these words...it's almost as if saying them aloud will breathe life into them. But I know that Jehovah is more powerful than anything I am facing...and I now have a fuller understanding that my everlasting life hangs on the balance of what is in my heart...and I know that Jehovah can see how much I love him...how my heart is bursting with love for Him and his Son, for his organization, for my brothers and sisters... even as my broken body staggers forward another step into tomorrow.  


Second: I learned that the difference between guard and safeguard is also more serious than I had first realized...to guard means to protect something in the immediate sense...whereas to safeguard encompasses ongoing processes or systems...in other words...it means we must continue to safeguard it...right on into the new system...and forever.


That was something I hadn't even thought about...hadn't even really considered...even though it only makes sense.


So...to all of you who struggle with similar issues as me...please understand that Jehovah DREW YOU...and he simply doesn't make mistakes.


If he sees even the tiniest grain of value in me...then he surely see's value in each of you.


Please don't give up...Jehovah sees...and only in His arms can we find the peace we are actually seeking...it's just that simple.

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Interesting summary, Tim. It's one of the verses that is a powerful reminder for us.


This is a text I have considered across a number of translations of Proverbs 4:23:


NWT Above all the things that you guard, safeguard your heart, For out of it are the sources of life.

NWT (Reference) More than all else that is to be guarded, safeguard your heart, for out of it are the sources of life.

NLT Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life. 

NAS Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life. 

BGT (Greek) πάσῃ φυλακῇ τήρει σὴν καρδίαν ἐκ γὰρ τούτων ἔξοδοι ζωῆς 

WTT (Hebrew) ‎מִֽכָּל־מִ֭שְׁמָר נְצֹ֣ר לִבֶּ֑ךָ כִּֽי־מִ֜מֶּ֗נּוּ תּוֹצְא֥וֹת חַיִּֽים׃ 
Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. 


A number of scholars set this occurrence of  מִ֭שְׁמָר (mishmar)to the restriction of prison, or the safety of confinement, and it thus seems to stress the way we need to give good quality protection to the emotions and sensibilities of our heart. The word for 'guard' is נְצֹ֣ר (batsar) is also as you say.


Good points Tim. Thanks.


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