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God’s Word for You

Proverbs 27:19 In the mirror

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, June 11, 2020

19 Just as in water the face reflects the face,
  so a man’s heart reflects the man.

There are at least three ways of taking this proverb. First, a man’s own heart is reflected by the man himself. Each of us betrays what is really in his heart by what he says and does. However, the symptoms of behavior can be easily mistaken. Why does a man stay away from church? While unbelief leaps to mind, it might be something else. He might have suffered an insult from the pastor or some prominent member, and he might fear that going to his church could damage his fragile faith. Or he might bear the cross of having a pastor whose sermons do not make sense to him, or bore him to sleep, and staying away (he thinks) helps him to preserve his dignity. Perhaps he doesn’t want to be asked to serve for some physical or emotional reason, and perhaps the church’s pastor would not be the best person to find out what’s wrong and how the church can help. So much for a man’s own heart.

Another way of taking this proverb, and the one more commonly understood, is that one man’s heart is reflected by another man. That is to say, I can learn about my own life by examining the life of Job, or David, or some other Christian such as Katy Luther or one’s parents.

The third way of taking this proverb is to look into the life of Jesus Christ and compare myself and my actions. While there is obvious merit in comparing my life with that of my Savior, and even of asking, “What would Jesus do?”, there is also the trap of thinking that if I do as Jesus would, that I somehow therefore merit something because what I do is Christ-like. But to use my faith in Jesus and my love for him as a guide for what I do in life is an ideal example.

Looking at the lives of sinners to see my sin is probably what Solomon has in mind. Then I can be ashamed when Cain looks back at me in the mirror, or King Saul, or Laban, or Lot. What are my motives for the things I do? Do I have in mind the things or God, or the things of men (Mark 8:33)? The sober Christian mind will find that walking in sin is walking in slavery, and only Christ’s victory on the cross frees us from that slavery and enables us to walk in free obedience to the will of God. “I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts” (Psalm 119:45).

Whether you benefit from seeing yourself as others see you, or of seeing yourself in the lives and sins of other people, or of seeing in Christ an example for your life, be certain that you also remember what this proverb does not underscore: the cross. It is in the cross of Jesus that our sins are atoned for, that our guilt is sent away forever, and then we are able to imitate our Savior in the things we say and do, and even think. To be a forgiven sinner is to be free indeed.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith

About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.


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