There is severe discipline for him who forsakes the way;
whoever hates reproof will die.
Sheol and Abaddon lie open before the Lord;
how much more the hearts of the children of man!
A scoffer does not like to be reproved;
he will not go to the wise.
A glad heart makes a cheerful face,
but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed.
The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge,
but the mouths of fools feed on folly.
All the days of the afflicted are evil,
but the cheerful of heart has a continual feast.
The commentators seem to see a progression in 10 from 'forsaking the way' to 'hating reproof', and from 'grievous' to 'shall die', the implication being that the first state will harden into the second. Good and evil are both dynamic, they do not ever standstill, but advance inexorably along their own path. Hebrews 4:13 echoes faithfully the thought in 11, and provides a solemn backcloth against which to re-read 1-9. The NEB translates 'scorner' as 'conceited man' and this makes good sense, for such an one cannot stand being reproved, he has such a sublime conceit of himself. It would never enter his heart that he could be criticised. This is a sad and dangerous state to be in! In 13 we have a venture in 'spiritual cosmetics'. Most people look better, and many are transformed, when they smile. If we are rejoicing in Christ with the merriness of heaven, it should be showing in our faces, which are a pretty good reflection of the real thoughts of our hearts. This does not mean that we will have a fatuous grin on our faces all the time, but there will be something about the way we look that will convey the deep springs of joy within us. This is further underlined in 15: our prevailing attitude of heart affects not only our faces and our personality, but also our whole experience, and makes life a continual feast. This may seem extreme, even idealistic, but we can hardly doubt that it is the emphasis we find in the New Testament (cf Romans 8:28, Philippians 4:11ff). It is not so much that life has a drab and dreary look about it, as that it is our attitude to it that makes it seem so. A man in Christ sees life with new eyes; and what to other men are misfortunes or even disasters, he sees as opportunities and challenges. There are two ways of looking at any situation: if we are gloomy of heart, we will be filled with foreboding, but if our heart is resilient, we shall look at it straight in the eye, accept it as from God, and make capital out of it. The choice is ours.