Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Rebuke: A Double Blessing

“Whoso loveth instruction loveth knowledge: but he that hateth reproof is brutish.” (Prov.12:1)

A brute, according to the dictionary, is a “savage, insensitive person, displaying animal qualities and desires”; one who is “not intelligent, but irrational.” Solomon displays such an individual as the opposite of a man or woman who loves instruction. They are contrasts, however, that play off one another. Sound, effective instruction will always involve some degree of reproof, while the individual who cannot sustain a rebuke will be forever uneducated in the important lessons of life. They, like the animals, are forced to learn by experience. In the case of the brute beast, it’s because they lack the capacity to learn any other way. In the case of a “brutish” human being, it’s because they lack the humility that is required to learn. To receive instruction, one must first assume that the instructor knows something he or she does not know. This is hard for some people. And, Solomon says, they are worse than fools. “Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? There is more hope of a fool than of him” (26:12).

Those among us who might be tempted to pride ourselves in our ability to take a reproof graciously should make sure that we do not have to be the ones who decide how, or from whom, it will come. God may choose to rebuke us through a kindly Samuel (1Sam.13) or an amiable Abigail (1Sam. 25); but, on the other hand, He may send a ranting Shimei (2 Sam.16), or worse yet, He may speak through a donkey (Num.22)! The individuals who are able to see the hand of God behind the most unworthy instrument of instruction or rebuke will find themselves twice blessed. Not only will they learn the intended lesson from God that comes with the rebuke, they will have exercised themselves in humility, something guaranteed to make one a recipient of an extra helping of the grace of God.

“But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.” (James 4:6)

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