A wicked man hardeneth his face: but as for the upright, he directeth his way.
You show your heart by how you receive instruction. Wicked men rebel and purpose to continue in their evil way. Righteous men receive correction and alter their lives. Your response to instruction may tell more about your character and future than anything else.
A wicked man hardens his face. Here is a metaphor for a rebel who has purposed to reject teaching. He chooses to rebel rather than to submit. Setting his jaw, steeling his eyes, frowning, or looking away are only symptoms of his wicked heart. He has resolved to ignore correction and instruction and stay put in his opinions, conduct, and habits.
The Lord knows faces and how they reveal rebellion, so He warned about them (Is 48:4; Jer 3:3; 5:3). Rebellious hardening is also used of the neck and heart (Pr 28:14; 29:1; Acts 7:51). He told His ministers to ignore such faces and preach the unvarnished truth without apology or compromise anyway (Jer 1:4-10,17; 23:28-29; Ezek 2:6-7; 3:7-9).
You cannot play with God. He knows your every thought; He knows your every intent (Heb 4:12-14). He knows how submissive or rebellious you are at the deepest level of your heart and mind. Get totally clean with Him by tearing out any resistance to any Bible doctrine or practice, and fill your heart and mind with eagerness (Ps 27:4; 122:1-4).
Ministers learn faces. There is a huge difference between the hungry, submissive, cheerful, and godly face of the righteous and the bored, stubborn, unhappy, and carnal face of the wicked. Some faces crave and devour instruction; others resent and reject it. Both are in every church. They cannot hide from men or God. Their hearts are revealed.
Sometimes a minister will see by the faces that his hard preaching is “out of season.” The people do not want to hear what he has from the Lord. Sometimes his preaching may be “in season.” But in either case, he has only one duty: preach the word insistently and press it upon all the hearers (II Tim 4:2). Only fearless men should ever be ordained.
A true man of God wages war against those faces, smashes through their walls, pulls down their strongholds, casts down their haughty imaginations, brings every thought into obedience to Christ, and readies himself to revenge any disobedience (II Cor 10:3-6). Do you understand this warfare, reader? Do you appreciate this kind of servant? It is a far cry from the effeminate, refined, cultured, and mannered pastor sought by most Christians.
God hates stubbornness and rebellion. He considers them comparable to idolatry and witchcraft (I Sam 15:22-23). And He judges them severely. Think King Saul rejected from the throne! Think Judah in Babylon! Think women eating their children in 70 A.D.!
Righteous men hear and change. The Thessalonians heard Paul and turned from their idols to serve the living and true God (I Thess 1:9-10). Cornelius begged Peter to tell him and his family all of God’s commandments (Acts 10:33). Harlots wept at Jesus feet.
Dear reader, the Lord Jesus warned you about your hearing (Luke 8:18). Do you receive instruction and rebuke meekly and thankfully (Neh 8:1-18; Acts 17:11)? Or do you stop up your ears and wish you could stone the preacher (Acts 7:57)? Why do some people never learn or grow? Because the Lord is judging them for how they hear (Luke 8:18)!
You can stay in your wicked rut received from childhood, the devil, your parents, tradition, religious training, or worldly education. Or you can eagerly desire the sincere milk of the word that you may grow thereby (I Pet 2:1-3). Wise men and great men say, “I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto thy testimonies” (Ps 119:59).
Do you delight in understanding? Or rather to discover your own heart? Solomon warned against this folly (Pr 18:2). If you think your heart already has any light and wisdom, you will harden your face against godly instruction. God does not grant your heart any at all (Is 8:20; Jer 17:9). Wise men will hear, learn, and change (Pr 4:26; 8:33; 11:5; 23:19).
Some hearers do not harden their faces; they nod up-and-down in agreement; they tell the pastor it was a good sermon. They lie with their lips and their handshakes (Ps 144:8,11). But their hearts are hard and far away during the teaching and when they get home. How are they detected? Their lives are fruitless shells of hypocrisy. Their joy is gray death.
Jesus told of a father who told his two sons to work in the vineyard (Matt 21:28-32). One son said he would not, but later repented and went and worked anyway. The other son respectfully said he would, but he did not. Which one pleased his father? Consider it. If a wicked man will hear and turn from his wickedness, he shall live (Ezek 18:27-28).
Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the Lord of heaven and earth, kindly offers, “If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him” (John 14:23). But He also warns, “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day” (John 12:48). Humble yourself today, dear reader!