As in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man.
As in water face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects the man.
As a face is reflected in water, so the heart reflects the real person.
Just as water mirrors your face, so your face mirrors your heart.
Most translations render this something like, “As water reflects the face, so one’s heart reflects the man.” Many traditional commentaries suggest this means something about one man seeing his own characteristics in another man. It is not necessary to read it this way, and assuming the translators of the NIV are correct, this would mean that a man’s heart, meaning the essence of the man himself, can be known by the way he conducts his life. If this is the intent, then it means it is one thing to say what one believes, but what one believes can be more accurately shown by how one lives.
If the heart is the seat of one’s most basic beliefs, then the fruit of those beliefs will be the life of the person. It is true that it takes a long and comprehensive look at someone’s life before one can be totally accurate in one’s assessment, and even then, it is possible to err, but in general, spend a long enough time with a person, and the character of that person cannot be hidden. It should also be noted that one with great discernment can sometimes read a person in a moment from just meeting them.
If one is looking at the fruit of his or her own life and sees that the results are not good, it is wise to go deeply into the heart to see if there are contradictions between what he or she says and what he or she truly believes. This can be useful to the one who is willing to be honest with oneself.
Breaking Down the Key Parts of Proverbs 27:19
#1 “As water reflects the face,”
Generally speaking, a reflection in water is not perfect. First of all, it is a reverse of reality. Secondly, it takes a perfectly calm and clean pool to reflect a very accurate picture. Assuming that a still pool was the most accurate reflection of the day when the proverb was penned, we don’t have to pick apart the illustration too far. It seems to mean what it says, that it is possible to see what’s inside the one whose life is being scrutinized.
#2 “so one’s life reflects…”
Just like the reflection in water can be a little distorted, it might take some time to make out the man or woman based on the way their heart is reflected by their life, but it is a solid principle for getting to the truth of the person’s character if given enough time.
#3 “…the heart.”
The term, “heart,” is used in Scripture to describe the emotions, the soul, and the inner man. It is generally thought to be a hindrance when it is not led by truth and the logic of the choice-making, rational mind (Jer 17:9).