He who rebukes a man will afterward find more favor than he who flatters with the tongue. Proverbs 28:23
Which would you rather receive - a compliment or a rebuke? Even though many of us would chose the first - it is actually a better thing to get the second. Today we will look at the value of a godly, loving rebuke - or honestly - even a not so godly rebuke from someone who is frustrated with us.
My original question was not exactly what this proverb addresses. The compliment offered is actually called, 'flattery' rather than just a compliment. Flattery, by its Hebrew definition, is very seldom true. The one offering the flattery usually has an ulterior motive for offering it. They do not have your best interests in mind. What makes this difficult for me, though, is that I usually agree with people who think I'm awesome. My fallen heart wants people to make much of me. Thus it is very easy to deceive me with complimentary flattery. What I've learned though is that this is not good for me - because I don't learn to address sinful patterns of behavior that hinder me from loving others better.
Someone who offers rebuke is much harder to receive. The problem with receiving rebuke is once again my sinfulness. I will resist the thought that I am not awesome. I am perfectly fine with hearing other people rebuked - or even offering rebuke myself. They do have problems. In fact, often it is their problems that led to someone thinking I need to be rebuked. It is there fault, after all, that I have any problems whatsoever. What you have in these last goofy sentences is the affect of the sinful nature. We want to absolve ourselves of any responsibility for the things we do that are sinful - and prefer blaming others for them. Biblical reality looks much different. We are selfish and self-centered by nature. That leads to choices that are sinful - and that will lead to problems in our lives.
It is better to have someone in your life who will offer rebuke - than to have 50 who offer sycophantic flattery that only blinds you further to your moral and relational blind spots. The rebuke is a blessing in several ways. First, the rebuke helps us to see a sinful pattern or action. Second, as that sin is revealed, it helps me to turn to God in repentance and for forgiveness. Third, it puts me in a place where I want God's grace and truth in my life. The rebuke may hurt at first, but in the end it is far better for me because it helps me to grow spiritually and morally. The wise man learns to receive rebuke not only because of the benefit, but also because of how it identifies true friends. Those who only condone and put up with our sin are not really our friends. A true friend is someone who will tell us the truth lovingly - even if saying it may hurt us - and even our friendship in the short term. But if you have such a friend, thank them for such things, because they are truly interested in your best - and in God's best being realized in your life.
The north wind brings forth rain, And a backbiting tongue, an angry countenance. Proverbs 25:23
A wise man does not participate in backbiting or gossip. It is a very destructive thing when we do. Therefore a wise man does everything he can to make it very clear that he will not participate in it. That is what God wants to give us wisdom about in today's proverb of the day.
This particular proverb creates a problem for us - in that in Israel the north wind does not bring rain. It is the southeastern winds that do that task. Some think that because of this that this proverb may be one Solomon learned from Egypt, because that particular area does have rain originate out of the north wind. Regardless of which geographic region this proverb originated, the fact is that when the wind blew from the north in this region, it brought with it clouds and rain. The one thing that is accepted by just about every commentator is that this cloudiness and stormy weather promised by the north wind is compared to the stormy, angry countenance that should be given to someone who is about to begin gossiping about someone else.
The phrase, "a backbiting tongue" comes from the Hebrew word "seter" which means a covering or a secret hiding place. The idea it brings with it is that of secrecy. The problem with this word is that the one speaking is wanting secrecy only from one person - the one about whom he is talking. He is more than willing to talk about them - he just is not willing to talk TO them. This is the problem with gossip and backbiting (or secret talking). The one doint it is usually unwilling to make his complaint public where the other person can either answer or repent and initiate change.
No such grace is extended to the focus of the gossip. The desire is not to help them - or to see them delivered from some sin or fault. The desire is to destroy the person. They are denigrated in the eyes of others. Since this is done behind their back - there is no way they can change. On top of all this - the people who hear about the gossiped-one's faults - are usually being turned against him. Thus the one who is the subject of the gossip is doubly damaged. First he is not being confronted about whatever sin led to the gossip - and second, he is being isolated by the gossip. In the end he or she is hated and shunned - which is what the gossip had as their goal in the first place. Most gossip is either started or continued due to a bitterness or lack of forgiveness of the one about whom they are gossipping. That is why this is such a wicked sin.
How do you stop a gossip from pouring their poison into your soul? This passage tells you how. Just like a cold north wind brought clouds and rain into the area from which this proverb arose, so also an angry countenance brings a stop to the gossip and backbiting. This is not a brief glance, or a telling look. The word here in the Hebrew is "zaam" and it means to be indignant and enraged. The root word literally means to "foam at the mouth." So this is no quick glance - it is a look that says, "Stop this now!" That is how to do it. There is no real gracious way to deal with a gossip - except to be indignant that they would include you in their wicked work. That is accomplished by giving them a very angry look that says in effect, "Not with me, bro!"
A wise man is a peacemaker - not a gossip. His desire is healing and grace - not to gather a group against someone with whom he has a gripe. Such things are to be dealt with face to face with the one with whom you have the problem. Oh, how much would be healed in the church this way. Oh, the damage that would be prevented by walking in such grace and loving truth with each other. But because such wisdom is ignored, relationships are destroyed, friendships and ended, and even churches are split. That is why whenever gossip comes to knock at the door of your soul, you should answer with an angry, enraged countenance that says, "No way! Don't bring that junk in here!"
Stripes that wound scour away evil, And strokes reach the innermost parts. Proverbs 20:30
Physical punishment . . . here is a topic that brings out the most strident opposition in a lot of people. When it refers to children some call it child abuse - and when it comes to the punishment of those who break the law the phrase "cruel and unusual punishment" is used. So what exactly is God's take on the idea of corporal punishment and some kind of physical response to disobedience and criminal activity?
There are two levels to understand this Proverb - that of the physical and the responsibility of parents and the state - and a purely spiritual level and how it relates to our growth in a relationship with the Lord. I'll begin with what is being addressed most clearly here - which is the response of parents and governing officials to disobedience and crime.
Our justice system has turned away from the biblical view of crime and punishment. We try to rehabilitate criminals without thought that they need to acknowledge that they've stepped over a very serious line in their behavior. The results are not encouraging at all. We have overcrowded jails and prisons where repeat offenders abound. We've gotten to the point where we have more people interested in the rights of the criminals than in the rights of those they infringed upon with their godless behavior. Our prisons therefore have revolving doors on them - and with the present focus, there are few who are rehabilitated while incarcerated. Put our current record next to one of a modern state that practices physical punishment for a crime. Several years ago a young American citizen was arrested from a crime in one of these states. He was convicted and sentenced to a caning. People in the United States, especially among liberals, went ballistic. Yet the facts should be viewed without all the hysteria. Their crime rates are much lower than ours. What they see currently and have seen in the past is that truly stripes and strokes do scour away evil in the heart. They do reach the innermost parts of a person. They are a very powerful deterrent to crime and disobedience.
The spiritual level is little diffeerent. God disciplines those He loves and, according to Hebrews 12, He scourges every son He accepts. How does God deal with His own children? He disciplines them with scourgings - stripes and strokes that scour away the evil of our hearts and make us think twice about being disobedient again. We are fallen beings and have a sad tendency to ignore God and His commandments and turn instead to what our flesh cries out for constantly. The way God deals with this is to bring us into discipline. Anyone who has ever experienced this discipline knows that it is stern but loving. There is no doubt that God loves us when He disciplines us - but He is dead serious about it too. He knows what is at stake - and is wanting to deter us from walking in rebellion and sin. These things will hurt us - and in some cases even destroy us - therefore He takes it very seriously a trip to the proverbial spiritual woodshed. But do not ever be mistaken . . . God does these things because He loves us. The same should be said for parents and for a society that crafts effective physical punsihments for those who break the law.
Physical punishment and corporal punishment may be unpopular with the liberal elements of our society - but in all honesty, they are wrong. Yes there need to be limits put in place - there needs to be a humane way to practice the death penalty - and there should be wisdom in a parents administration of discipline. Yet there also should be a full acknowledgement that the sinful nature of man will not respond to a call to reform alone. It is in the best interests of a family - and indeed a society to practice physical and corporal punishment. How do we know? The Word of God informs us.
He whose ear listens to the life-giving reproof Will dwell among the wise. He who neglects discipline despises himself, But he who listens to reproof acquires understanding. Proverbs 15:31-32
If you want to be wise, you will have to learn the value of reproof and rebuke. That is a tough thing to do because very few of us take to these things at all. We are fallen creatures therefore a couple things are true of us. First of all, we usually think we are right. This creates a problem because we react with pride and defensiveness when we are rebuked and reproved. Second of all, we are rebellious. Therefore when someone offers correction our first response is to resist and resent it. But as we will see from today's proverb of the day, these things can really hurt us.
We dwell among the wise when our ear is open to "life-giving reproof." I am so glad that when God inspired this He made a distinction between life-giving reproof and other kinds of reproof. The difference between these two is that life-giving reproof is correction that is bent toward blessing us and offering us rebuke that will turn us away from sin and turn us to God who gives us life. To be reproved in this way turns us from our own way, the way of the world, and the way of destruction - which is how the devil will seek to offer us. Thus it turns us away from death and sin, and instead points us into the way of life - or said another way - into the ways of God. Regular reproof is correction based out of an idividual's preferences. Jesus was reproved . . . often. He faced Pharisees who rebuked Him for His teaching, His miracles, and the people He chose to hang around. People will reprove you for walking in the ways of God. This kind of reproof requires both understanding and discernment on our part. Just because someone reproves you, does not mean that they are correct in their reproof. That is why Solomon warns us only to open our ear to "life-giving" reproof.
We read in verse 32 of a person who neglects discipline. The word discipline means instruction that offers truth and a disciplinary rebuke or correction. Godly men and women offer discipline to us to bless us in the end. But the unwise man rejects it outright. When he does this Scripture tells us that he "despises himself." He hates himself when he does these things. The rejection of all discipline and moral limits will destroy our lives. You can easily see in a child who is a spoiled brat this danger. The child gets his own way - and is not corrected so as to learn wise and godly behavior. In the end this child will destroy himself with their selfishness and self-centered behavior.
The one who listens to godly reproof will aquire "understanding." The word here refers to the heart - or the inner moral life and compass that we need to have. When we listen to reproof and learn from it - our inner moral compass is set by God's standards. We learn right and wrong. We may simply respond to discipline by avoiding the pain of it at first. This is the response of a child who is spanked early on in life. The initially avoid the behaviors to avoid pain. But after a while the child, if trained properly, is also learning "why" they are not to do something. The process teaches understanding. The child learns from the wisdom of the parent that there are reasons to avoid the moral bahavior. This understanding will guide them and teach them that when discpline comes - it is from love that people offer it. When followed such wisdom will truly bless any man or woman who will take the time - and often the pain that rebuke often brings - to learn from it.
Poverty and shame will come
to him who neglects discipline, But he who regards reproof will be honored. Proverbs 13:18
Everyone would like to see their hopes and dreams realized. One of these dreams is that of earning a fortune. The conventional wisdom of this world says that if you work hard and apply yourself these things can be yours. But the Word of God counsels us a little differently. There is more to success than just making a lot of money because you work hard. Far too many men who stepped on the road to their riches - wound up unable to achieve them because they would not listen to counsel and accept discipline. They would not take wise advice - and as a result were not honored in the end.
The Word of God ties the whole idea of wealth and blessing to something more than hard work. The Bible teaches us to work hard and apply ourselves in what we do. That is why we hear about the "protestant work ethic." But there is so much more to "true success" than just having a lot of money. Real success biblically is tied most of all to knowing and walking in God's favor. Beyond that God also speaks of things like character and virtue. These things are developed by not only working hard - but also in submitting to the counsel of wise and godly people. What many people do not understand is that submission to such wise counsel also means being willing to accept criticism. Let me put before you two Old Testament examples from which we can learn.
We first come to a King in the Old Testament named Rehoboam. He was the son of Solomon who received the kingdom when his father died. The people came to him asking for him to lighten the load that his father put on them. Rehoboam asked his father's counselors what to do. They advised him to take a position of servant to the poeple, lighten their load, and they would serve him. He rejected such counsel and chose instead to listen to his own friends who said to be harsh and tell the people who was king and who was in charge. He rejected wise counsel from godly men. The end was that he was NOT honored. He wound up losing 10 of the 12 tribes of Israel. He also was humbled further when he would not listen to God's life-giving rebuke and turn from his idolatrous ways. In the end, his kingdom was severely weakened and eventually overrun by Egypt.
The second king we seek to learn from is David. David was confronted and rebuked by Nathan the prophet for his sexual sin with Bathsheba. Instead of neglecting this correction and discipline, he received it - and was restored. He had some pretty severe discipline for what he did - but never rebelled against it. He knew he deserved far worse - and therefore submitted himself to God in all of it. David was honored for being a man after God's own heart. Such praise was given because of his repentance and willingness to undergo and learn from discipline. It turned him from a disastrous course and back into the arms of God.
It is so important that we be wise and learn that it takes hard work and discipline to truly succeed in life. Those who do such things will be blessed in the end. Their lives may not be profiled among the rich and the famous - but they will be honored in the one place where it matters. They will be honored before the throne of God in the day of judgment. It is there where we find out whether we are blessed and wealthy - or whether we are going to know eternal poverty and shame. Be wise - choose the former - submit to God - and listen to life-giving rebuke.
"Turn to my reproof, Behold, I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you. Proverbs 1:23
Can a person truly walk in wisdom if all they ever want in life are positive, uplifting messages from God? There are those today who say that the church should not be negative - should not issue rebukes, corrections, and most of all should not dwell on the whole issue of sin. "Let's be positive," is their cry - and when we are, people will come back to the church!
There is a fundamental problem with this view of things. It completely ignores that whole, "fall of mankind" thing. The reason Christianity cannot be "all positive, all the time" is because man is a fallen creature given to rebellion and walking in ways that are destructive and damning. At some point the honest among us are going to have to address the fundamental flaw in human nature. If men were naturally disposed to honoring and glorifying God, this would not be necessary. But the facts are that the heart is deceitful and desperately sick - that there is none who have done good, not even one - and that unless we repent we will all likewise perish. Man is not a naturally wise creature - unless you count being wise in his own eyes.
Wisdom is personified in Proverbs quite often. Wisdom shouts in the streets, calls out in the square seeking to get our attention. What does she say? Her first words are not exactly positive. She calls mankind "naive ones" as well as "simple-minded." She refers to the inhabitants of this globe as "scoffers" and "fools." The reason this does not sound positive is because it isn't. The Bible is not into any kind of a positive confession type of tripe - instead it is honest about the condition of man. As a result, her first command is issued here in verse 23.
Turn to my repoof. That is her first command to mankind. If we are going to be wise, it will require us to turn from our present selfish and self-centered ways and turn to the reproof of true wisdom. Wisdom will require reproof - correction - rebuke. We need to grasp that our current fleshly thinking is foolish and stupid. Wisdom will not enter our hearts unless we first unseat the poser who sits there presently. That is us. We need to lay aside human wisdom and that which parades as understanding - and choose to conform our thinking to God's ways and paths.
Here is a truth that will help you gain wisdom every day. Say it to yourself several times before you leave your home for the day. "If I disagree with God's Word, I am wrong!" Wisdom calls to us and tells us that something wonderful awaits those who accept reproof. But the person who in pride refuses to admit that he is wrong - that person will remain mired in the foolishness of his own ways.
What happens when we turn to God's reproof? Here is something wonderful! He pours out His Spirit upon us. Did you know that the Holy Spirit is the personification of wisdom! He wants us to turn from foolishness - so He can be poured out upon us - and so that He can teach us. Each time we turn from self and the wisdom of this world, the Holy Spirit is waiting to make known God's words to us. Here is a shocker - wisdom is found when the God's Spirit is poured out on us and we come to know the Word of God. In that moment we know wisdom.
The way of wisdom is the way of correction and reproof. We cannot become wise until we embrace humility. We cannot become wise until we respect and honor God's Word above all other sources of truth. We cannot become wise unless God in His mercy pours out His Spirit and opens our minds to the truth of His words. When this happens, we'll know the truth - and see that truth corrects us and turns us to the right thinking and the right path. The path to wisdom may not start positive - but when the Spirit of God begins to reveal truth and wisdom to us - it surely ends positive. Be open to God's reproof - to His correction - knowing that when we turn to Him - an abundance of truth and righteousness will be our reward.
But to those who rebuke the wicked
will be delight, And a good blessing will come upon them. He kisses the lips Who gives a right answer. Proverbs 24:25-26
We continue with Solomon's comments on partiality and favoritism. There is a blessing that comes to those who do what is right in these situations. We are told of those who "rebuke" the wicked. These are the men who give a right answer when faced with issues of justice and righteousness. Let's take a couple of minutes to learn what they do - and how they are rewarded.
To "rebuke" here means more than just speaking a simple word of correction. The Hebrew word is "yakah" which means to argue, convince, convict, judge, or reprove. This word usually has the meaning of clarifying where someone stands morally. This involves making arguments to establish the ground upon which a moral judgment is made. The word is used of God's reproof and rebuke of the wicked and sinful. When He rebukes, there is no doubt the right-ness of His Words - and the biblical reason behind them.
When we rebuke the wicked - it is not just a simple statement that we make. This blessed man comes to the wicked with wisdom, with understanding, and with arguments to help the wicked grasp why their actions are wrong. Christians need to embrace this kind of rebuke and reproof as they seek to convince those who stand in biblically unjust positions of the truth. It is not enough just to say, "I rebuke you for your stand!" The wise man comes with ordered and convincing arguments. He does not come just to state that a position is wrong and ungodly - he makes a case that convinces and convicts the one holding it.
We are told to this kind of man there will be delight and blessing. These will come as he experiences first the blessing of God who delights in wisdom and justice. Knowing the smile of God - and His approval of our works and words is more to us than the favor of all the nations. Please understand that when a godly man takes a stand worldlings will hate him - and some will mock his views. But many will see his arguments and rejoice that righteousness is being upheld. If the "wicked" are in positions of power - this man may face problems - even imprisonment - but the blessing from God - and the joy of the people will abound in what he has said. They may not be able to rescue him from imprisonment, but his words will be embraced by those who love what is just and righteous - and that includes Almighty God Himself. Remember if your stand for truth, righteousness, and justice costs you in this life - that you will be richly rewarded in the life to come - in eternity.
We are told at the close of these statements that, "He kisses the lips who gives a right answer." The right answer here is the honest and true answer. It is the person who does not let the world, or any kind of personal favoritism enter into their thinking and judgment. The proper judgment in this matter is God's judgment. And the "kiss" that is spoken of here is the kiss one gives in approval. The idea expressed here may seem strange to us in the United States, even forward and weird. But in the middle east it was common to express approval with a kiss. Thus the idea here is that when we speak what is right - approving the righteous and rebuking the wicked - there will be favor for us. Those who love what is right will hear - and it will be as one receiving loving favor to hear it.
Wise men speak what is right. They do not allow favoritism and partiality to cloud and darken their judgment. They are instructed by the Word of God as to what is proper and true. They open their mouths to speak this truth to others - not just in a denunciation - but with convincing arguments that help to instruct men as to what is good and right. To have such men around you is a blessing that cannot be measured. Such men are rare and hard to find, so if God gives you one - thank Him for the favor He has shown you - and treasure this blessing always.
To keep you from the evil woman, From the smooth tongue of the adulteress. Proverbs 6:24
Why do we need additional light by which to see in life? Why is it that we need to be reproved and disciplined so that we choose life? The answer to these questions and to the reason the Bible spends so much time warning us about sin, is found in the worldview of the Bible when it comes to the basic nature of man. The Bible teaches that man is fallen and sinful. Our basic nature is to turn from God and His ways. If left to ourselves, we will NOT choose life. If left to ourselves, we will by the very evil in our nature, go in a direction that is contrary to God's way. That is why we need the light of God's Word to light our way. That is why we need reproofs and corrections to move us into the path of God's commandments.
Here, after making that clear, the writer of Proverbs then reminds us that one of the ways that we will choose to our detriment, is the way of the evil woman. The word evil here is the Hebrew "ra" which means an active, pernicious evil. This is an evil that cannot rest unless it is acting out evil - and encouraging others to do the same. The woman who is abandoning her vows to her husband - and encouraging other men to do the same - is an evil woman. But unless you are wise, you will not detect her as such. The father who is speaking here warns his son to turn to wisdom and the commandments and reproofs of God, so that he will not be led astray by the smooth tongue of this adulteress. Her smooth tongue is her weapon of choice. She uses it to flatter a man and use his natural tendency toward pride and a bloated ego as a trap. That is why we are warned against her smooth, flattering tongue. And it is also why we need God's commandments to direct us where our egos and our sinful nature will not. Finally, it is why we also need the Word of God to rebuke and reprove us when we begin to make unwise decisions concerning sexuality and the kind of company we keep with the opposite sex.
For the heavy drinker and the glutton will come to poverty, And drowsiness will clothe one
with rags. Proverbs 23:21 (NASB)
Here are the consequences of the sins of drunkenness and gluttony. The father of these sons has been seeking to aim for their hearts on these issues. Now he does so by letting them know where these sins will take them in the future.
This dad is not brow-beating his boys as he says this. If he was, this would not be three verses long - but 1003. That is the way of the lecture - and most of them are usually ignored. This wise father takes the time to give his sons a call to wise and a godly heart. Then he takes a moment to offer them a command of instruction - and follows that up with a warning about the consequences that are coming for those who live such lifestyles. Then he is quiet. Having an advanced degree in the art of "Father-Lecturing," I wish that I was wholly unlearned in this area. I've engaged in lectures that took far too long - and were usually tuned out the moment I began my second (of 53 points). This dad just puts out the facts - and lets them sit with his son.
This dad knows that if his sons ignore him - all the additional words in the world will make little to no difference. They will become the cautionary tale for others through the consequences that come upon them. As a result, this father wants to make sure his sons know the truth - but that they know it with brevity and a lack of wordiness. Their hearts will not be turned due to the length of his talks. They will be changed and turned due to the work of the Holy Spirit as He seeks to teach them and lead them in the truth.
The heavy drinker and glutton will come to poverty. This is the first warning and consequence that the dad tells his son. For a few years in seminary I had the honor of being able to work and preach at the Union Mission in Memphis, Tennessee. We would serve food to the men - and afterward would take turns bringing a message to them. After the preaching we would sit with whoever was interested and share with them personally. While doing this I met numerous men who were in bondage to alcohol. Many of these men were former executives - some who would still be wearing an expensive suit - as they slept on the streets of Memphis. Their drunkenness had destroyed their lives. I remember one man who had previously had an office in a downtown skyscraper. He told me that just two years ago he was pulling down a six-figure salary, had a beautiful family, and lived in a house worth nearly $350,000. Due to the sin of drunkenness and an addiction to alcohol - he had lost all of this. Every month that I read this passage - I usually remember him. Truly, his sin and brought him to poverty. The glutton will have the same problems as well. His poverty though may be an inability to play with his children - or a poverty of respect as others wonder why he has so little self-control. His poverty may be a lack of self-respect himself - as he struggles with his weight. I've personally experienced some of these things as I've struggled with gluttony.
The second thing that happens to those who indulge in these sins is that a drowsiness will come upon them. It is a drowsiness that will clothe them with rags. Both of these sins lead to a lack of awareness and also - honestly - a person who has to sleep more. The drunk has it because he has to sleep off the affects of his drinking. The glutton experiences it because he is too full - or too overweight to exercise. The result of that is that he is sleepy all the time. There are also problems that result from blood sugar levels and other medical conditions that rob the glutton from the alertness that he should have. These things, if left undealt with long enough, will clothe these men with rags. They will miss promotions - and some will even lose their jobs.
The wise father will warn his children of the real consequences of these sins. He does so - not to be melodramatic. He even avoids such things. But he does tell his sons the truth. His hope is that ultimately such warnings will open their eyes to the problems that lie ahead when these sins are ignored. The goal of all this is not just that his sons won't be drunks and gluttons. Too often young people in the church equate Christianity with phrases like, "A Christian doesn't drink, doesn't chew, and doesn't go with girls that do." This kind of training does more to harm our kids than help them. It gives them the false idea that if they just steer clear of these evil three sins that they are right with God. Nothing could be further from the truth. In the end we want to win our children's hearts - not just burn a three rule list into their minds. We want them to be wise - not just in these couple of areas - but in all of life. Dads - don't get caught in the trap of warning your kids about your list of deadly sins - but not giving them the gospel and good rounded biblical teaching. We want more than obedience to us in a couple of areas. We want obedience to God in all of life. This we will obtain when we aim straight for their hearts - and have as our aim - that they be wise, godly, and Christ-centered. When we see these things in their hearts - we will know that we've been truly successful!
A rebuke goes deeper into one who has understanding Than a hundred blows into a fool. Proverbs 17:10
God gave me a wonderful man who has a heart after Him to be my mentor. His name is John Dale Rector. John Dale spent 3 years of his life teaching and training me in the things of the Lord. He taught by precept and by example. He also had his hands full as I was a proverbial bull in a china shop with my zeal that lacked wisdom. Thus John Dale had to spend more than his fair share of time rebuking me for my excesses. Thus he taught me a very important verse of Scripture and had me memorize it early in my walk with the Lord. The verse says, "Let a righteous man strike me, it is a kindness." That particular verse has a lot to do with what today's proverb has to teach us.
I am an advocate for both verbal and corporal punishment. There is a time for rendering blows to fools. One of those times in during childhood where the responsibility of the parent is to train up a child in the way he should go. It is a time where through loving discipline (which includes spanking) a parent seeks to teach a child what he should and should not do. The parent is not trying to dominate the child or to crush his spirit. The parent IS seeking to help a child grasp what is acceptable and unacceptable to God and to society. But the end of that corporal punishment is to train a child to be a young man or woman who knows two things. First he or she knows how to accept rebuke from the Spirit of God. This happens as he or she is walking through life and about to make un ungodly or unwise decision. The Spirit of God then rises up within to remind of Scripture, to offer correction and guidance with the Word. Some times the Spirit just activates our conscience and we are smitten with a bad sense or feeling - or we just know that what we are about to do, or have done, is wrong. What we desire to do with our children (and in training disciples in the church) is to have them be responsive to that rebuke - to that warning from within.
The second way that a parent and discipler wants to train up their charge is to have them be responsive to people who come to them with a word of rebuke. It would be wonderful if everyone who offered such rebuke were being constructive with it - but we all know that is a perfect world and not the real one. The truth is that even non-constructive criticism can be beneficial to us. Therefore we want to be open to all rebuke. The wise thing is to receive the rebuke and be thankful for it. Then take it to the Lord and ask Him to confirm what is in agreement with what He is doing through the Word of God. Then take what God affirms and use it to grow into all the fullness of Jesus Christ in our character and actions. This is how to allow rebuke to go deep within us - rather than just bounce off of us as we reject it outright.
The Scripture tells us that in order for this to happen, we have to be one who has "understanding." This is the ability to discern and perceive truth from error - right from wrong - God from the flesh and the world - the work of the Holy Spirit from the work of the devil. We discern an pay attention to what God saying to us. Because of this we truly understand the will of God - and grow wiser because we have learned to see things from His perspective.
The proverb tells us that this ability to receive rebuke and understanding from goes deeper into us than a hundred blows into a fool. An interesting thing is that God instructed not to give corporal punishment beyond 39 blows at any time. There is the penalty of imprisonment and even the death penalty that is applied by the state to crimes against society. But God knows that a hundred blows as opposed to 39 would not bring wisdom and understanding into a fool. There is a point where no amount of corporal punishment is effective. The fool rejects all of it - verbal rebuke as well as any kind of physical punishment. Thus we know that all that is left to us is intercessory prayer that God will ultimately break the fool and open his heart to begin to understand.
When I read this proverb, I am thankful to those whom God uses to offer rebuke into my life. Let me be perfectly honest that often it is hard to receive the rebuke - and yes, it hurts. But those who wound us can be healers. Remember that when a surgeon does his work he has to injure us before he can take out the cancer that will kill us. We consider the incision made by his knife a good thing - because it is ultimately working healing into our lives. Remember that the next time you receive some verbal surgery through a brother or sister in Christ who loves you. Those words will bring blessing into your life if you receive them and allow God to work through them. If it is hard to remember that - just remember this instead. I'd rather have some verbal surgery - than a hundred blows on my back!