A Hardened Countenance vs. Carefully Considered Ways

A wicked man hardeneth his face: but as for the upright, he directeth his way. Proverbs 21:29

Looking at the some references, this is one of those verses that could be taken to mean a number of things. For example, the Good News Bible renders it as, “Righteous people are sure of themselves; the wicked have to pretend as best they can.”

Contrariwise, the Douay-Rheims Bible has the righteous man being willing to correct his ways, rather than being sure within them: “The wicked man impudently hardeneth his face: but he that is righteous, correcteth his way.”

I like how the English Standard Version has this verse: “A wicked man puts on a bold face, but the upright gives thought to his ways.”

We are told first of the natural, unregenerate, wicked man. He has a bold, hardened face, and one only needs to examine the crowds when the gospel is preached publicly to see what this verse means. In the face of reproof — whether from parents, the government, ministers, preachers, and so on — the wicked man will impudently remain, well, wicked. Whether he is lying or lusting, stealing or bowing to idols of his own imagining, the wicked man does so with pride. Nothing and no one will convince him to do otherwise.

But what about a righteous man? What about those who have tasted and seen that the Lord is good, who have partaken of the Spirit, welcomed into God’s holy family?

The righteous are separate in that their countenances are not hardened to reproof and correction. Their hearts of stone have been exchanged for tender hearts of flesh which are sensitive not only to the guidance of God’s Holy Spirit, but also of the various authorities and influences God has arranged to be around them. Whether it is the preaching of the Word, the private reading of the Word, the influence of conscience, the guidance of parents, or the laws of masters and magistrates, the righteous man will consider his ways, being mindful that he does not go astray. If the righteous man does step out of the way which is straight and narrow, his face will not be hardened when rebuke comes, for he will be sorrowful over the transgression and will desire the restoration of fellowship with God and any he may have done wrong.

This world could certainly use a few more righteous men. May the Lord raise some up, and may we be desirous of their discipleship.

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