For example, in Proverb 1, there is exhortation to stay away from those who make haste to shed innocent blood, lying in wait for robbery and murder, then sharing the booty among themselves. I can honestly say I have never associated with people like that. True to the proverb, I understood and listened to my parents’ teaching in that regard.
But other less obvious practices cause me trouble in looking back. This came to mind as I saw certain practices repeated over and over in Proverbs – wisdom, folly, scoffing, reproof. I found myself whizzing past them at first, checking the boxes: yup, I have always tried to gain wisdom, avoid folly and scoffing, and listen to reproof in order to improve.
Well, maybe not always. Well, certain things I really took a long time to understand. Well…did I maybe shun a lot of wisdom? I understand what wisdom, folly and scoffing mean, but do I understand reproof?
In the first sixteen chapters of Proverbs, reproof is used no less than thirteen times! It must be rather important to Solomon, the primary author of Proverbs. The Bible dictionary defines reproof – the Hebrew word is tokechah – as rebuke or correction. With that in mind, what does Proverbs 1 – 16 say about reproof?
Wisdom herself says if we turn (away from evil) at her reproof, she will pour out her spirit on us; but if we ignore her counsel and reject her reproof, she will laugh at our calamities and mock us when terror strikes (1:23-25, ESV). I have seen enough calamity and terror to make me wonder how much of it I earned by shunning reproof!
Solomon says that we should not despise the Lord’s discipline nor be weary of his reproof (3:11). In others words learn from it, don’t reject it out of pride.
He also says, with reference to temptation, that we hate discipline and our hearts despise reproof (5:12). Yes, we give in and practice disobedience.
Next, keep the commandments, not only those of Moses – and I would add those of Jesus and also those from a parent or supervisor or whoever is in a position superior to ours. The commandment is a lamp and its teaching is a light; reproofs of discipline are simply the key to life (6:23)!
“Whoever heeds instruction is on the path to life, but he who rejects reproof leads others astray” (10:17). People are watching. When we reject an observation from someone that we are straying off a path, we give others an excuse to do the same, to our eternal regret.
“Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge; but he who hates reproof is stupid” (12:1). I have always hated reproof! This is getting scary. My report card is far from straight A's.
Poverty and disgrace are the fruits of rejecting reproof; honor comes with accepting it (13:18).
“The ear that listens to life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise” (15:31).
So how have I done? How have you done?
If you are like me, this could have been depressing – it brought back all the times I have failed.
But guess what: today is a brand new day, and our faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior gives us all we need to turn away from folly and gather in wisdom. In repentance we can learn how to improve the report card every day, based on what follows in the Cycle: restoration!
Our Lord’s never-ending love is a beautiful thing.