God's commandments are excellent keepers of our souls. God did not give us His commandments to make our lives miserable - or to keep us from ever having fun - as some would accuse. His commandments are boundaries that protect us from entering into areas where we would be harmed. He does not command us to honor and obey our parents because He desires for us to be miserable as children - not getting our own way and being dominated by an older generation forever. He does this so that children, who do not have good sense and whose sin nature would run rampant, would be protected from themselves. He does so because they must be guided and helped to know the right from the wrong in their lives. The Lord tells us to steer clear from adultery because God knows the damage and the destruction and misery caused by unfaithful partners in marriage. He knows that sexual immorality will lead to disease and to the destruction of our bodies. Thus the one who keeps the commandment indeed keeps his own soul.
God's commandments go even deeper than our physical beings. The one who keeps the commandment keeps his soul. The word for soul here is the Hebrew word "nephesh" which means our breath. This speaks of our inner being with its thoughts and emotions. This came to mean our whole person - both body and spirit. It spoke of the whole creature of man - both his outer health and his inner. When we keep the commandment - watching closely to obey and even kep the "spirit of the commandments," we are protected inside as well as out. Our mental health will be blessed by holding fast to God's commands and living by His ways. God blesses our thinking, our reasoning, our understanding, our discernment, our decision-making processes . . . He blesses so much when we learn to walk in obedience to His commands. But again I want to stress we obey the command - and we come to grasp the heart and love that is behind them.
The second part of the Proverb today reminds us that the one who is "careless of his conduct" will die. The word careless is "bazah" which means to hold in contempt or to despise. The reason one acts this way is because they have a basic disdain for something. They disrespect the idea of a code of conduct. They despise the idea that God would tell them how to live. Here is the sin nature exposed in all its ugliness. Mankind rebels against any master - and that is especially true of God as our Lord. Fallen man trumpets his own freedom of will to do as he pleases - yet is so blind not to see that his will is in bondage to his own sinful desires and the spirit of this world. He is careless of God's commands - and of his own ways. He walks where he wants - being led about by his own lusts and by the "ruler of this world" who has rebelled against God as well. He does not grasp that this rebellion - this contempt of God - this disrespect for His Word is a hellish thing.
The one who lays hold of such a lifestyle will perish. He will die in two ways. First he will die physically - the wages of sin is death. When God told Adam and Eve that in the day that they ate of the fruit they would surely die - He was not lying to them. This was no mere ploy of God to keep them away from something good. It was a loving warning that death lay in that decision to turn against Him and rebel. But there is a death that comes spiritually as well. The first pair knew sweet fellowship with God. They could actually walk with the Lord in the cool of the day in the garden. They could talk with Him, love Him, fellowship with Him in ways that we will only know in eternity. All that was gone after they despised their conduct - or at least the one commandment given to them. They died spiritually and passed down to all future generations a dead spirit at birth. They were dead in their transgressions and sins - and so was every child descended from them. In the first Adam we all died.
Oh such a warning is given to us by this proverb. How we should watch our ways - and watch God's commandments as our way. The one who does so watches not just over his physical existance in this world. He watches over the life that God gives him - both physically, but so much more importantly - spiritually. Watch dear saints - watch your life and keep it according to God's Word. See the positive call to life in every one of God's commandments. For though they are given with a thou shalt not - there is within every one of them a call to life and life abundantly. They is within them a freedom to walk in fellowship with God. Enjoy it and walk in it!