Proverbs 21:29

Stubbornness vs. Thoughtful Consideration

Introduction: Here Solomon contrasts the wicked man with the upright man from yet another angle.

The Wicked Man Hardens His Face

1. Wicked:

a. Defined: Evil; a criminal; guilty one; one guilty of crime; hostile to God.

b. Solomon mentions the wicked man 89 times in the book of Proverbs.

c. This is a major theme in Proverbs: describing the wicked man and contrasting him with the righteous or the upright.

2. Hardens his face

a. Harden:
i. Show yourself strong; make firm; make bold; being fixed; determined in a course of action; belligerent.
ii. Prov. 7:13 – It is used of a harlot’s face in her arrogance; a shameless countenance. She is boldly and shamelessly determined in her course of action.

b. Face:
i. It is sometimes used in the literal meaning of face.
ii. Most of the time this word is used in a figurative sense or as an idiom.
iii. Face can be a substitute for the entire person; or it can be a reflection of the person’s mood or attitude; (joyous, or defiant, proud, etc. depending upon the context and the adjectives used with it.)
iv. It seems to be used of the person’s mood or attitude here.

c. A hardened face
i. This describes the person whose attitude is belligerent; fixed and determined in a course of action;
ii. He is defiantly and arrogantly determined to do what he wants to do.
iii. His bullheaded determination even shows on his face!
iv. This person is not interested in hearing anyone’s opinion or advice.
v. He will not listen to reason.
vi. Do not confuse this with the tenacity, determination, and endurance of a godly man pursuing a good course of action. Solomon is describing the WICKED man here.
vii. There is something admirable and noble about resolve and fortitude in good things. That is not what is being described.
viii. Solomon is describing bullheadedness; an unreasonable inflexibility; ungodly stubbornness.
ix. This bullheaded determination might come from pride and arrogance: “I’m right—don’t confuse me with the facts.”
x. This bullheaded determination might come from a sense of vengeance. He may be so angry that he has determined to make others suffer. Vengeance drives him to pursue a course of action that might be disastrous, but he doesn’t care. He doesn’t care about the consequences of his action. He is determined and no one is going to change his mind.
xi. This bullheaded determination might stem from frustration. He has tried to accomplish something that is beyond his ability to achieve, yet he is determined to do it… even though deep down inside he knows that it is futile. He will not listen to advice of friends… so he plows ahead. He is determined to do it and to prove them wrong.
xii. This bullheaded determination might stem from many different sources… in various situations… and express itself in many different ways.

d. Prov. 29:1 – Here we also see the stubborn man again.
i. The figure of speech is a bit different (hardening one’s neck as opposed to hardening one’s face), but the meaning is quite the same.
ii. They both speak of obstinate stubbornness.
iii. Being hard necked is an illustration that comes from dealing with oxen or mules. They sometimes stubbornly stiffen their neck so as to make it difficult to put the yoke on them… because they refuse to work…
iv. It is used of men who refuse to submit to God. They stubbornly refuse to submit to His yoke.
v. They stubbornly refuse to listen to advice.
vi. And as a result, there are consequences to bear. They shall be destroyed (broken; maimed; hurt).

e. This is a good warning for us all: If our faces, our necks, or our hearts are hardened, then God is not able to direct our paths. We are too stubborn and fixed in our OWN ways and will to consider God’s will and His ways. That is a dangerous road to travel.

3. The WICKED man behaves this way.

a. He arrogantly and defiantly hardens his face.

b. He boldly and shamelessly pursues his wickedness.

c. He is determined to accomplish his wickedness and is not interested in listening to reason.

d. He may attempt to COVER up his wicked intent by leading others to believe that his “hardened face” (bullheaded determination) is really “godly resolve or faithful steadfastness.”

The Upright Man Directs His Way

1. Upright:

a. Defined: Straight, not crooked; upright; correct; just; morally right; according to the standard.

b. This term is used in Prov. 3:6 – “In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy paths.” (He shall make your path upright; straight; according to His standard…)

2. Directeth:

a. This term is variously translated because of a textual issue.

b. Defined: To discern; understand; to perceive; to observe; to pay attention to; to consider diligently.

3. His way:

a. The term is most often used figuratively of one’s journey in life; one’s course of life; the road of life one is pursuing; a manner of life.

4. The upright man pays close attention to his course of life.

a. He diligently considers the direction or course of action he is pursuing.

b. This man doesn’t FORCE his will and his way. He directs his way according to understanding and wisdom.

c. He thinks before he acts.

d. He directs his thoughts, his emotions, his mind, and his will… and thus, he directs his way carefully and cautiously.

e. Prov. 11:5 – “The righteousness of the perfect shall direct his way.”
i. Here Solomon speaks of another man who directs his ways.
ii. Only this time he exchanges the word “upright” for “perfect” (mature). A spiritually mature man will be upright in his practice.
iii. His righteousness (a character of life that is consistent with God and the Scriptures) causes his ways to be directed.
iv. He thinks through his actions. He considers his way. He ponders the path of his feet. He moves cautiously.
v. By way of contrast, the wicked do NOT behave that way, and as a result they FALL because of their wickedness.
vi. But the righteous man, the upright man, directs his ways. He thinks and plans ahead.
vii. He takes into consideration that following a certain course of action might lead to a FALL… and he decides not to travel down that road.

f. Psalm 119:59 – The upright man is like the psalmist: “I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto thy testimonies.

The Contrast:

1. The wicked man is obstinate and bullheaded; he just plows through life determined to do whatever he wants regardless of the consequences.

a. He won’t listen to reason. He doesn’t consider others. He is determined to do what he’s going to do even if the results are disastrous.

b. The wicked man who hardens his face is so determined to do what he wants to do that he throws caution to the wind.

c. He brazenly strikes out on his own to do his own will no matter what.

d. He’s like the stubborn man who is determined to cut down the huge oak that is right next to his house and is leaning towards the house. All his friends advised him to hire professionals, but he was determined to cut it down himself. You can picture the outcome of that scenario!

2. On the other hand, the upright man carefully considers his way.

a. This upright man may also have a huge oak tree leaning over his house. He also may want to cut it down. But he listens to advice. He carefully considers the real possibility of it falling on his house and chooses not to demonstrate bullheaded determination. He thinks it through and decides to call the professional tree removers.

b. He is open to suggestions and to advice.

c. He is an upright man and he wants to do things right.

d. He is open to advice. He thinks things through.

e. He carefully considers the possible outcomes and makes wise choices.

f. He gives much thought to his course of action. He doesn’t brazenly rush into things.

g. He takes his time and is methodical.

h. Prov. 4:26 – He ponders the path of his feet.

i. He wants to follow the straight and narrow road and not swerve off course.

j. Ps. 119:133 – He seeks God to order his steps in His Word.

k. Ps. 37:23 – The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way.” God is delighted in his way because he considered his way and thought it through.