As I was preparing our devotional for two weeks ago, I determined what my subject would be this evening. But whereas I thought I’d have time to prepare while we were gone, such was not the case. As it turned out today was the only day that I would have to prepare, but that was not really a problem. Then this morning, before I got to my study, the Lord put His stamp upon my chosen subject. As I was working my PHYSICAL heart on an elliptical machine at the gym, the Lord was working on my mind and my SPIRITUAL heart. I started reading some of David Brainard’s journal notes. Brainard was an 18th century missionary to the American Indians in the east. But before that I read a short autobiography written by George Whitefield. Both men were sovereign grace preachers, who failed to attain a knowledge of God’s church. Whitefield was a key part of America’s 18th century Great Awakening.
In the first paragraph of Whitefield’s autobiography, he declared, “I can truly say, I was froward from my mother’s womb. I was so brutish as to hate instruction, and used purposely to shun all opportunities of receiving it. I soon gave pregnant proofs of an impudent temper. Lying, filthy talking and foolish jesting, I was much addicted to, even when very young. Sometimes I used to curse, if not swear. Stealing from my mother I thought no theft at all, and used to make no scruple of taking money out of her pocket before she was up. I have frequently betrayed my trust, and have more than once spent money I took in the house in buying fruits, tarts, etc., to satisfy my sensual appetite. Numbers of Sabbaths have I broken, and generally used to behave myself very irreverently in God’s sanctuary. Much money have I spent in plays, and in common entertainments of the age. Cards and reading romances were my heart’s delight. Often have I joined with others in playing roguish tricks. But was generally, if not always, happily detected. For this I have often since, and do now, bless and praise God.”
Listen again to Whitefield’s first sentence. “I can truly say, I was FROWARD from my mother’s womb.” It is the word “froward” that I’d like us to consider tonight. I would not be surprised to learn that the majority of King James Bible readers cannot define or explain that word. I would guess that many would confuse “froward” with “forward,” but they would be semi-wrong. And I seriously doubt that the word “froward” can be found in the corrupt modern versions of the Bible. The only one I checked was the American Standard, and it wasn’t there in its rendition of this verse. But since “froward” is found 20 times in OUR Bibles, we need to know what it means. Apparently people of the 18th century knew the word, and used it periodically in common conversation or Whitefield wouldn’t have used it.
What does Solomon mean by “froward” when he says, “Thorns and snares are in the way of the froward”?
Whitefield just gave us a description. “I can truly say, I was FROWARD from my mother’s womb.” I was brutish and hated instruction. I lied, spoke filthily, cursing and swearing. I stole from my mother; I betrayed her trust. Essentially, “I wasted my young life in riotous living.”
Judy and I have been to several ports and we have sailed or walked along a number of beaches. We have seen the working of the tides. As the tide goes “to and fro,” what is it doing? When the moon is in the right position to the earth, its gravity pulls the water of the ocean towards itself. In some cases that means the tide is out, but at other times the tide is in. Twice a day the tide goes “to and fro;” it ebbs or it flows. It is high on rocks beach twice a day, and twice it is out at a distance creating a beach. Sometimes Judy and I left our ship from the 3rd deck, but we returned to the 2nd deck, because the ship was riding high or low compared to the dock.
“To” and “fro” are opposites. And similarly, “froward” and “to-ward” are opposites. That is the key to remembering the word the next time you run into it as you are reading your Bible. “Toward”and “froward” are opposites. When someone is facing towards you, you can see his face. But when he is froward, you are looking at his back.
I mentioned that the word “froward” is found 20 times in the Bible – that is 19 times in the Old Testament. In the only New Testament reference Peter says, “Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward.” Obviously, to be “froward” is just the opposite of being“good and gentle.” The Hebrew word translated “froward” in Proverbs 22:5 is used 11 times. There is also another Hebrew word translated the same way to bring the number to 20. The next time we find “froward” it is in 28:6 – where it is translated in a way we might better understand: “Better is the poor that walketh in his uprightness, than he that is perverse in his ways, though he be rich.” When the Holy Spirit uses the word “froward,” He does so from HIS perspective, the perspective of God. The word is describing something which is NOT good. In God’s Word a “froward” person is perverse, wilful, sinful, wicked. His heart is facing away from the Lord; he is walking contrary to the will of God.
Now, let’s make a quick survey of what the Old Testament says about people who are froward.
Most of these declarations are self explanatory. Job 5:13 – “(God) taketh (or catches) the wise in their own craftiness: and the counsel of the froward is carried headlong.” When the Lord says “follow me, and I’ll lead you down the road of righteousness,” that is a safe path. But to walk away from the Lord leads to rocks, cliffs, thorns and snares. In Psalm 101:4 God says, “A froward heart shall depart from me: I will not know a wicked person.” The person whose heart is facing away from the Lord is usually not a child of God. Perhaps Deuteronomy 32:20 clarifies God’s relationship toward the froward. (Did you note my use of the opposing words?) “And (Jehovah) said, I will hide my face from them, I will see what their end shall be: for they are a very froward generation, children in whom is no faith.” David said of God in one of his Psalms in Samuel – II Sam. 22:27 – “With the pure thou wilt shew thyself pure; and with the froward thou wilt shew thyself unsavoury.” What do we usually do with something that is unsavory? Don’t we spit it out? Psalm 18:26 – O God, “with the pure thou wilt shew thyself pure; and with the froward thou wilt shew thyself froward.” The frowardness of the Lord is a worrisome thought. Psalm 101:4 – “A froward heart shall depart from me: I will not know a wicked person.”
Prov. 2:10-17 – “When wisdom entereth into thing heart, and knowledge is pleasant unto thy soul: Discretion shall preserve thee; understanding shall keep thee: To deliver thee from the way of the evil man, from the man that speaketh froward things.” Who leave the paths of uprightness, to walk in the ways of darkness; Who rejoice to do evil, and delight in the frowardness of the wicked; Whose ways are crooked, and they froward in their paths: To deliver thee from the strange woman, even from the stranger which flattereth with her words; Which forsaketh the guide of her youth, and forgetteth the covenant of her God.”
Prov. 3:32 – “The froward is abomination to the LORD: but his secret is with the righteous.” Prov. 4:24 – “Put away from thee a froward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee.” Prov. 6:12 – “A naughty person, a wicked man, walketh with a froward mouth.” Prov. 8:8 – “All the words of my mouth are in righteousness; there is nothing froward or perverse in them.” Prov. 8:13 – “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate.” Prov. 10:31 – “The mouth of the just bringeth forth wisdom: but the froward tongue shall be cut out.” Prov. 11:20 – “They that are of a froward heart are abomination to the LORD: but such as are upright in their way are his delight.”
Prov. 16:28 – “A froward man soweth strife: and a whisperer separateth chief friends.” Prov. 16:30 – “A violent man enticeth his neighbour, and leadeth him to the way that is not good. He shutteth his eyes to devise froward things…” He shuts his eyes in order to concentrate on his wicked plans. Prov. 17:20 – “He that hath a froward heart findeth no good: and he that hath a perverse tongue falleth into mischief.” Prov. 21:8 – “The way of man is froward and strange: but as for the pure, his work is right.” This verse reiterates that it is the nature of men to be froward. We are naturally opposed to the sovereign authority of God. And then there is our text – “Thorns and snares are in the way of the froward: he that doth keep his soul shall be far from them.” Why are thorns and snares in the way of the froward? Because God opposes them who are opposed to Him. Generally speaking and with exceptions, He makes life hard for the wicked.
What conclusions can we draw from this?
We can say that it is a dangerous thing to walk away or face away from the Lord. Not only is He the judge of all our hearts and all our actions. But He is the only source of grace. And not only is there an ultimate price to pay when a life is spent in rebellion against God. But as tonight’s verse suggests, a day-to-day life of frowardness will be through a maze of thorns and snares.
What is the solution to the froward life? Repent.