Proverbs Thematic Sermon: Discipline, Rebuke, and Godly Counselors (Pastor Erik Veerman)
Discipline, Rebuke, and Godly Counsellors
Thank you… and thank you to David Fraser for bringing God’s Word last week. Always a blessing.
You’ll see there is a second insert in the bulletin beside the hymn sheet. On the front is a chart of the themes in Proverbs that we’ll be covering this winter and spring. Last fall, we worked through Solomon’s 12 wisdom lessons to his son, which are found in chapters 1-9.
But in Proverbs, once you get to chapter 10, there’s a change from focused lessons, to wisdom nuggets. And so rather than work through chapters 10-31 sequentially, we’ll be working through different wisdom categories. Besides the themes listed on the first page, you can also see the number of verses in each theme.
Let me note that most of the verses in Proverbs 10-31 are organized in poetic couplets. They start with a statement and then are followed by either a contrast, or a comparison, or an affirmation. For example here’s one for today: “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.” You can hear the two sides of the couplet.
That brings us to our focus today. We’ll be considering the theme of rebuke, discipline, and counsellors. In a few minutes I’ll explain why we’re beginning there.
If you would turn to the inside of the insert. You’ll note the initial 5 verses are from Proverbs 22. If you want to read those from your Bibles, you can do that. In the pew Bible, you’ll find them on page 645. For the rest, I’ll be reading from the insert.
As we come to God’s Word, know that this is the inspired and authoritative word of the Living God. Please stand as we give reverence.
Incline your ear, and hear the words of the wise,
and apply your heart to my knowledge,
for it will be pleasant if you keep them within you,
if all of them are ready on your lips.
That your trust may be in the LORD,
I have made them known to you today, even to you.
Have I not written for you thirty sayings of counsel and knowledge,
to make you know what is right and true,
that you may give a true answer to those who sent you?
10:17 Whoever heeds instruction is on the path to life,
but he who rejects reproof leads others astray.
11:14 Where there is no guidance, a people falls,
but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.
12:1 Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,
but he who hates reproof is stupid.
13:1 A wise son hears his father's instruction,
but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.
13:18 Poverty and disgrace come to him who ignores instruction,
but whoever heeds reproof is honored.
13:24 Whoever spares the rod hates his son,
but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.
15:5 A fool despises his father's instruction,
but whoever heeds reproof is prudent.
15:10 There is severe discipline for him who forsakes the way;
whoever hates reproof will die.
15:12 A scoffer does not like to be reproved;
he will not go to the wise.
15:22 Without counsel plans fail,
but with many advisers they succeed.
15:31 The ear that listens to life-giving reproof
will dwell among the wise.
15:32 Whoever ignores instruction despises himself,
but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence.
17:10 A rebuke goes deeper into a man of understanding
than a hundred blows into a fool.
18:1 Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire;
he breaks out against all sound judgment.
19:20 Listen to advice and accept instruction,
that you may gain wisdom in the future.
19:25 Strike a scoffer, and the simple will learn prudence;
reprove a man of understanding, and he will gain knowledge.
19:27 Cease to hear instruction, my son,
and you will stray from the words of knowledge.
20:30 Blows that wound cleanse away evil;
strokes make clean the innermost parts.
23:12 Apply your heart to instruction
and your ear to words of knowledge.
23:19 Hear, my son, and be wise,
and direct your heart in the way.
23:23 Buy truth, and do not sell it;
buy wisdom, instruction, and understanding.
25:12 Like a gold ring or an ornament of gold
is a wise reprover to a listening ear.
25:28 A man without self-control
is like a city broken into and left without walls.
27:5 Better is open rebuke than hidden love.
27:9 Oil and perfume make the heart glad,
and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel.
27:23-24 Know well the condition of your flocks,
and give attention to your herds,
for riches do not last forever; and does a crown endure to all generations?
29:1 He who is often reproved, yet stiffens his neck,
will suddenly be broken beyond healing.
29:18-19 Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint,
but blessed is he who keeps the law.
By mere words a servant is not disciplined,
for though he understands, he will not respond.
29:21 Whoever pampers his servant from childhood will
in the end find him his heir.
Several years ago, I was at a co-worker’s home for a company event. And I remember at one point he asked his 8-year-old daughter to help with something. And she responded, “You’re not the boss of me!”
My jaw dropped. But my co-worker, without missing a beat, said to his daughter, “Oh yes, I am.” And he took her aside and lovingly rebuked her, explaining his responsibility over her and her responsibility to him.
That was the first time I had heard that phrase.
I thought, where did that come from? Was it a refrain in a hit song? Or some movie line? But after some research, I found that it’s a phrase that’s been around for decades.
And then I realized, that independent-minded, self-autonomous idea has been around since the garden… since the moment that man rejected the authority of God. In fact, it’s in every single one of us. It’s intrinsic to our fallen nature. We don’t want others to tell us what to do. We don’t want to be told we’re wrong. Or that we’re hypocritical or selfish or prideful.
Instead, when we’re told one of those things, our natural reaction is to be defensive or dismissive or to lash out at the one who said it. “You’re not the boss of me!”
It’s in my heart. As much as I want to believe I can receive rebuke, I can tell you my knee-jerk reaction is often denial or dismissal.
So, why begin here? Why begin this section of Proverbs with these verses on rebuke and discipline?
Well, turn back to the front of the Proverbs insert. This book will be getting into your business. To be sure, every text of Scripture deals with us in some way. Our beliefs, our faith, our sin … but you can’t read Proverbs without being confronted with the state of your heart, with the inconsistency of your life, with your words, and your actions, and your relationships.
And the question is, will you receive this word? When we get to the verses on integrity (you see that in the list), will you examine yourself? When we get to the verses on honoring your parents, will you resent it? What about anger and justice and greed? Will you dismiss these words? What about sloth? Will you justify the hours you spend watching and talking about SEC or ACC football or playing video games or watching the Hallmark channel? I see some of you getting a little nervous.
Now, to be sure, the opening 9 chapters did speak to our hearts and words and actions. Some of them were very pointed, but these chapters cover a much broader application.
You see what I’m saying? Being willing to apply each of these themes to your life begins with being willing to listen, and being willing to be rebuked by God’s Word. Committing yourself to godly change.
In other words, studying these Proverbs needs to begin with a heart receptive to reproof. Really, it begins with having the heart of Christ. We’ll be coming back to that, of course.
So, we’re beginning here because we need to begin here. We need to allow other people to speak God’s Word deep into our lives. We need to humbly desire that. And when we do, God will be more glorified in our lives. We will be conformed more and more to the image of Christ. And we will be able to walk alongside one another on the rocky path of life.
Before we continue, I want to revisit King Solomon and his son. We talked plenty about Solomon last fall. God spoke through him to give us this wisdom. And at the time, three thousand years ago, Solomon was renowned. He was known all throughout the world for the wisdom God had given to him.
But do you remember this… Sadly, he turned away from the one true God and began worshiping foreign Gods. In other words, he did not keep the wisdom that God had given him.
And also sadly, it was similar for Solomon’s son, Rehoboam. The first 9 chapters of Proverbs were written explicitly to him. Solomon penned these words for Rehoboam, his first-born son, heir to the throne.
But Rehoboam witnessed his father’s decline. As we read earlier in the service in 1 Kings 11 and 12, Rehoboam witnessed the increased burden that his father inflicted on the people. And after Solomon passed away, Rehoboam had a choice to make. Would he listen? Would he listen to the wisdom of God through what his father had written? Would he listen to the counsel of the older men who said to him, “serve the people and speak good words to them.”
No, he wouldn’t. We know the path that Rehoboam took. He essentially said, “you’re not the boss of me.” He rejected God’s wisdom. He increased the burden on the people, and it led to tragic results - the splitting of the kingdom.
Besides the impact on his own life and reign, it also led to 350 years of struggle in Judah until Babylon overthrew the nation. Much of it can be traced back to Rehoboam’s decision not to listen to wisdom.
Now, you may remember, we came across the idea listening to wisdom all throughout the opening chapters. But I want to point out something out. The emphasis in these verses today is more than just listening to wisdom that you may stay on the path of wisdom. No, it’s also heeding wisdom to bring you back to the path.
Let me note a few words that are repeated over and over, and then I’ll define them.
· First look at verse 13:1. You’ll see the words “instruction” and “rebuke.” “A wise son hears his father's instruction, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.” That word instruction is used 9 times in these verses. The word “rebuke” is used 3 times.
· Next the words “reproof” and “discipline.” Look down at verse 15:10. “There is severe discipline for him who forsakes the way; whoever hates reproof will die.” The word “reproof” or “reprove” is used 11 times in these verses, and the word “discipline” is found 4 times.
Here’s the continuum.
· Instruction is conveying God’s truth and righteousness. Remember, wisdom has a moral component to it. We see that all throughout the Proverbs. That’s instruction.
· Next rebuke. The Hebrew word for rebuke means a verbal correction. It’s telling someone that what they believe or what they are saying or doing does not conform to God’s law or his Word. Rebuke does not have an associated punishment with it other than the weight of the verbal correction.
· But the words discipline and reproof do. In fact, they are very similar in the Hebrew. Reproof is instruction or rebuke plus some kind of just penalty or direction. In English, we think of rebuke as more pointed than reproof. But in the Hebrew, reproof is more intense and includes consequences.
· And last, the word discipline is similar. Discipline is a path of correction. It may include making amends for something or it may include a punishment for something said or done.
· So, instruction, rebuke, reproof, and discipline.
All of it is to help the one receiving the correction. The point is to bring one back to what God has ordained as good, right, and true. In other words, rebuke and discipline are intended to restore and not push away.
Hopefully that clarifies the words here.
With that said, let me give you 3 principles from these verses. By the way, they all start with the word love.
1. Love instruction, rebuke, and discipline.
2. Love and listen to godly counsel
And the last one…
3. Love others by rebuking and disciplining them
Now, we are not going to end there. After considering these three principles, we’ll consider some underlying assumptions which lead us to the Gospel. But let’s spend the next few minutes on these principles.
1. Love instruction, rebuke, and discipline
Again, number 1: Love instruction, rebuke, and discipline.
Our heart disposition should be to desire these things. And we are called to not just receive or tolerate correction and reproof, but to seek them out. And I know, that is really difficult.
I remember one of the times that I had asked Amy out on a date. She initially said yes, but later, she called me back and said no. I hung up the phone and in frustration, I kicked over one of my roommates dining room chairs. And he looked at me and he said “you have any anger problem.” That was rebuke. How do you think I took that?
Let me highlight some of the verses here:
· Look at 12:1 – “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.” Isn’t there something raw about the Proverbs.
· Consider 17:10 – “A rebuke goes deeper into a man of understanding than a hundred blows into a fool.” If you have the wisdom of God in Christ, you will not only want to receive rebuke, but you will desire a heart change when you receive it. A fool, on the other hand, dismisses rebuke.
· There are of course, several other verses here which are similar.
Amy shared on our podcast a story about one of her College professors. He was talking about this very thing. And he said, when people come to him with feedback or a rebuke, here’s what he says to them: “Thank you so much. But let me tell you, you don’t know the half of it!” Instead of being defensive, he acknowledged that he did need correction – even beyond what the person was addressing. May we all have that mindset.
Now, before we move on to the second principle, let me note a couple of negative examples:
· Look at 15:12 “A scoffer does not like to be reproved; he will not go to the wise.” We’ve come across that word before. A scoffer is someone who mocks truth and righteousness.
· And then one last example from 29:1 “He who is often reproved, yet stiffens his neck, will suddenly be broken beyond healing.” Here’s what we do. We deny the loving correction from our parents or our spouse or friend or from another brother or sister in Christ, and instead, we set our mind against them. We reject their loving reproof and become angry. That’s what it means to stiffen your neck. And that breaks relationships. It causes disunity and turns something that should have been good for us into something that breaks us.
But beloved, this is not God will for you. No. Rather (and here’s the principal again) we’re called to love instruction, rebuke, and discipline. As hard as it is to do that, we’re to have an open heart, listening to what God is speaking to us, through others.
2. Love and listen to godly counsel
Principle number 2. Love and listen to godly counsel.
Each of us has been or will be faced with important decisions in life. Should I marry this person? Should I move to this place? Should I take this job or go to this school?
How do you decide? Well, part of your decision should be to seek advice from godly counsellors.
· Look back down at chapter 15. This time verse 22. “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.” That’s a well-known Proverb.
· Jump down to 18:1 “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.” If you isolate yourself, you will miss out on the godly wisdom of others. Others can help you see things you wouldn’t have considered or thought.
· And one more: 27:9 “Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel.” A true friend give you loving and wise counsel.
Ok for the kids. The older you get, the more decisions you will have to make in life. And what’s so important is that you seek out godly advice… from your parents or perhaps others in the church who can direct you to God’s Word in those decision. And part of it is listening to and evaluating that advice. I want you to remember that as you get older.
Again, the principle: Love and listen to godly counsel.
3. Love others by rebuking and disciplining them
That brings us to the last principal… number 3. Love others by rebuking and disciplining them.
Honestly, I think this may be the hardest one for us. Some of us are people-pleasers. The Bible calls this the fear of man. Because of that, we tend to shy away from being honest with our family and friends. We worry about pointing out things in their lives that are contrary to God’s Word. But others of us may be too comfortable with expressing criticism and rebuke.
These verses direct us that love requires reproving and disciplining others, but from a position of humility. Think about this: If the call here is to receive rebuke, it means that we should also lovingly give rebuke. Again, lovingly.
Let me highlight a couple of verses.
· First, 19:25 “Strike a scoffer, and the simple will learn prudence; reprove a man of understanding, and he will gain knowledge.” That verse gives us the full scope from a scoffer to a man of understanding. In other words, we all need to rebuke and be rebuked.
· Or consider 20:30 “Blows that wound cleanse away evil; strokes make clean the innermost parts.” That is, blows from a friend.
Now, I’m not saying we should go around pointing fingers. “Do you know what your problem is? Well, I do” I am also not saying that children should discipline their parents. There’s more to be said of course, about discipline and the structure of the family and church. But what I am saying is that we should have the mindset of being a community committed to one another. And part of loving one another is being willing to speak truth and righteousness to one another lovingly.
Several years ago, I observed a friend of mine in the church struggling with a prideful attitude in a particular area of his life. So, I went to him, and I asked if we could get together for coffee for the purpose of sharing some feedback. He was willing to receive it. And so, we sat down. I said, “you know, I want to share this because I would want you to do the same for me.”
Then, I explained what I thought the Scriptures taught in that area. I read them and then I gave him some examples that I observed in his life. Now, he didn’t agree with everything. And that’s ok. But there were things that I think were helpful for him to hear. I’m not the Holy Spirit, but I did feel my responsibility was to communicate those things. And we still occasionally talk or see each other.
What I’m saying is that rebuking doesn’t have to be painful – especially when we lovingly give it, and we lovingly receive it.
Ok, let me make one last comment on this principle. The most famous Proverb in this whole batch is 13:24 “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.”
Parents, part of training your child up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord is discipline. Now, we can have a healthy conversation about how to discipline – there are different ways, but discipline is necessary.
Every single one of us was born selfish. Parents know this. And disciplining children begins early. When your child talks back, or lashes out at a sibling, or is defiant in some ways, then that child needs to be disciplined. That could be a punishment, or it could be directing a child to practice righteousness or make something right.
One time when I was in grade school, my parents made me write an apology letter for something I did… and I had to go over to the person’s house, give it to them, and ask for forgiveness. I was mortified, but you better believe it made an impression.
And children, because your parents have a responsibility to discipline you, you likewise have a responsibility to receive that discipline. That’s difficult, isn’t it. Your parents probably tell you this, but it’s true “I’m disciplining you because I love you.” They are training you in righteousness. The more you respond to God’s discipline now, the greater blessing that will result later in life. I know that’s easy to say, but hard to do.
Ok, to recap: 1. Love instruction, rebuke, and discipline 2. Love and listen to godly counsel and 3. Love others by rebuking and disciplining them.
Now, we cannot conclude here. Hopefully it’s been ingrained in you from last fall that Proverbs is not a book of morality. Yes, it directs us to live a life honoring to God and receiving the blessing of living out his law. It certainly points us to that. But Proverbs fits in the broader narrative of Scripture by revealing faith.
The beginning of chapter 3 was so clear that this book fits into the covenant framework of God promises fulfilled in Christ. And remember, where does wisdom begin? The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom – fear is the reverent faith that comes with knowing God in Christ.
We’ve seen over and over how these chapters are fulfilled in Christ. He’s the greater Solmon. He’s the creator of all things, chapter 8. He's the faithful husband despite his wayward wife, the church, chapters 5, 6, and 7.
So let me conclude by telling you how these verses fit into the narrative of the redemption found in Christ alone.
· First, these verses presuppose sin. We can’t read them without a recognition of our fallen nature. We need reproof. We need discipline because our hearts have gone astray, and we need to be called back.
· Second, these verse point to a standard that is outside of us. God has established righteousness and truth. It’s who he is. And the contrast to that is foolishness and wickedness. In other words, to be called to give and receive rebuke presupposes a standard upon which that rebuke is based. We can’t read any of the Proverbs without this recognition.
· Number 3, rebuke, reproof, and discipline are part of the call to repentance. Part of faith in God, is repenting of our wayward beliefs and life… and turning to the one true God who receives us. And remember, God receives us not because of our righteousness, but because of Christ’s righteousness.
· And that brings us to a final consideration. The call to respond to these verses is not so that God may save us. No. Instead, we respond by faith for what God has done for us in Christ. In other words, we can respond because of what Christ has done on the cross. By his grace and through his Spirit, we can receive rebuke.
In closing, we still have a long way to go through Proverbs. But let’s be reminded that it’s not in our strength that we seek to be rebuked or disciplined but rather it’s through the Holy Spirit in us. He enables us to pursue God, His Word, and receive correction. As we read from Hebrews 12 earlier, God disciplines his children. As painful as it may be at times, it testifies to God’s work through Christ in you and me.
May we receive God’s love and discipline through others from his word out of hearts desiring to conform to Christ.