I continue to find Proverbs interesting, challenging, and insightful in ways I have not experienced in years. While I have made a habit of spending time in the book off and on since childhood (my parents encouraged me to read it regularly, not least for its advice on honoring and listening to one’s parents!), I have only begun to grasp how profoundly true its usually straightforward wisdom is as I have come back to it yet again in these last few weeks. God has seen fit to speak to almost any aspect of the mundane we could imagine or wish.
He who is often reproved, yet stiffens his neck,
will suddenly be broken beyond healing. (Proverbs 29:1)
As with a number of verses I have come across in the last week, this one struck me in no small part because I now have had enough experience to see it for true experientially. Not personally, thanks be to God and to many faithful friends and family members who have born with me well. But I have watched others resist rebuke ad nauseum, and the result is never pleasant. Those who refuse to listen when others bring correction—who are absolutely unwilling to change—ultimately suffer for their stubborn folly. The choices we make are not without consequences; we can go on only so long before they catch up with us and break us. In light of this, we should learn to see God’s rebukes and his chastisements as measures of his grace. He does not rebuke us or bring chiding situations into our lives out of malice, but out of love, to save us from ourselves.
This has me doubly thoughtful: reminded, first of all, to be quick to accept rebuke in my own life, and then also to pray for those I know who are struggling in this area.
It has been rather in vogue these last few years to suggest that what Jesus really cared about was the plight of the poor and downtrodden—what we might call issues of “social justice.” To be sure, Jesus did care about these things, and God has always cared about them. (There is hardly a book in the Bible where this concern is not displayed!) But as profound as God’s hatred of injustice and abuse of the helpless is, there is something he hates even more, unpopular as though is to say it: unbelief. In Matthew 11, Jesus rebukes three cities, Bethsaida, Chorazin, and Capernaum, not for any other sins but because there he had done a great many miracles, and they did not believe him. And refusing to believe in Christ deserved a harsher punishment than did all the myriad sins of Tyre and Sidon and Sodom: cities known for everything from economic injustice to rape and murder. We must therefore keep the gospel’s call to repent and believe Christ first and foremost—not neglecting the other matters of righteousness, but not forgetting that which is worst and has the highest penalty.