I opened my Bible this morning to the book of Proverbs and I find these words:
“Happy is the man who is always reverent, But he who hardens his heart will fall into calamity” (Proverbs 28:14).
What is this talking about? What is this secret of happiness? What does it mean to be reverent? What does it mean to “harden your heart”? If this verse speaks truly at all then it must be revealing one of the great secrets of a successful life. But in order to apply it, we need to understand what the words used actually mean. We need to try to put it into today’s language.
“Reverent” sounds very stuffy and formal doesn’t it? It reminds you of the word “Reverend”, a kind of title for the clergy. But this word in Hebrew is “Pachad” and in refers to a kind of “fear”. Now in a lot of preaching today, there is a lot of talk AGAINST fear, and it is true that negative fear is one of the most destructive spiritual forces you could embrace – and so it is right that there be this preaching against fear. But there is also a POSITIVE kind of fear which we could easily lose, and it is THIS fear that God is telling us makes us HAPPY.
“Fear” – pachad. Strongs #6342 means “To be startled, to tremble, to stand in awe, to rever, or fear, be amazed. Pachad concerns a person’s reaction to something sudden and startling to the point of trembling. It refers to what you feel when you encounter something dreadful or awe-producing.
We need to learn to say and feel “Wow!” and be a little scared when we think about our Lord.
Whether we realise it or not, we are living in the Presence of an Awe-Inspiring God. If you are a born-again Christian, the Spirit of this God lives in your own body along with you. Now then, what is the appropriate mental frame of mind in view of this. Should we be off-handed, flippant, proud, “cool”, unfazed, indifferent? These attitudes are really the opposite of the attitude of “pachad” that we would do well to always have.
This verse contains a “Hebrew parallelism” where two lines of a proverb contrast with each other. The opposite of “pachad” is “hardness of heart”. If “pachad” is a key to tremendous happiness in God, emotional well-being, enjoying the thrill of the Divine and so on, then “hardness of heart” is the path to eventual DISASTER. It is “hardness of heart” that you generally meet when you go out witnessing in western society and tell people about our awesome God. Many remain unfazed, unamazed, cool, indifferent. You can watch videos on youtube of street preachers declaring the gospel and the awesome laws of God while pretty young twenty-somethings armed with their latest fashion accessories stroll by totally indifferent and unmoved. This is an example of what I mean. Instead of finding God awesome, people are more caught up in their cell-phones or their lipstick.
People get warned, people may even sense the anointing of God to some extent, but they shrug it off. They are not amazed, they are unfazed. Even as Christians, we can get like this. I have seen this attitude a lot in the United States amongst the adolescent and very young adult children of preachers. They can see miracles and yawn. They are more interested in some Reality TV program that is going on, or getting to the next level of “Angry Birds”. I think you know what I mean.
All this pride, all this immunity to preaching and God’s Word, this “hardness of heart” actually leads in the end to disaster. It could lead to life as a single mother, or a car accident with drunken friends resulting in death or permanent incapacitation. It could lead to a life of slavery as a drug addict, or a life of addiction to pornography, where there is no longer any relish in the sense of the divine, no longer any real internal response to the moving of the Holy Spirit. This lack of pachad is one of the chief maladies of the western world, and much of the western church in particular. And yes, I am including modern pentecostals in this analysis.
Hardness of heart is a common human condition and its something I am not entirely free from myself – but I want to be. It makes you emotionally insensitive and also insensitive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. It makes you part of the great herd of stupid, lust-driven human animals that because of their indifference are hurtling into hell and don’t care. It is like a scaly layer of protection which clings to the heart of man and makes him unmoved by things both good and bad. Its a cheap substitute for the armour of God that God gives to a Christian.
On the positive side then, we might choose to be “always reverent”. We might choose to embrace the “Fear of the Lord”. We might choose to prepare our hearts, and allow God to do surgery on our hearts, so that we embrace that sense of amazement and wonder which makes life truly “magical”. There is this amazing Creator God around, and He is not far from any one of us. What if we had eyes to perceive and a heart to really KNOW who He is and what it all means? What if this amazement of God being with us and in us right now made us so different that we would at all times utterly recoil from the idea of defiling ourselves by the things we say, do or think about? How far could the Holy Spirit take us if this was always our attitude?
What would it be like to be always thrilled, amazed and truly awe-struck by the presence of God? Wouldn’t that be a way of being that is emotionally and spiritually rich beyond compare? Wouldn’t it be a path of ever increasing consciousness of the Divine? Even of our God, for whom raising the dead and performing miracles of all kinds is something well within His repetoire, so to speak?
I want the happiness that always having pachad would mean. Are you willing to open your heart to God and say “Yes” to this way of being also? If so, please pray now and talk with Almighty God about it. Drop any kind of cool, smug attitude – hold out your empty hands to God and ask Him to begin to do a work in you.