Excerpts from our recent church bulletin:
The Wise Reprover (2)
Brian D. Dykstra
Proverbs 25:12: “As an earring of gold, and an ornament of fine gold, so is a wise reprover upon an obedient ear.”
The reproof of Elihu in the book of Job turned out much better than that in Jeremiah 43:1-7. As you know, Job was a very wealthy man. However, he lost everything—everything!—in one day and soon he was afflicted with terribly painful sores. Job was miserable. He had three friends come to comfort him. These friends claim that all this evil came upon Job because he must have committed some awful sin for which God is justly punishing him. Job denies his friends’ charges. Job says that he is not a sinner. Well, he knows that he has sinned but he certainly is not guilty of the dreadful sins of which his friends are accusing him. He has not done anything, in his judgment, to bring God’s awful wrath upon him.
The conversation between Job and his three friends goes back and forth. Job cannot convince his friends that he is innocent and the friends cannot convince Job that he is guilty. Job even expresses the desire that God would appear before him in some way because he would like to have the opportunity to ask God some questions. Through all of this, Elihu sat silently listening to this conversation. He was the youngest man there and felt the older men should speak first.
The talk among the other four men was over. They had nothing more to say. Elihu could no longer keep silent. Elihu reproves Job because he justified himself rather than God. He then reproves Job’s friends because they continued to condemn Job without having any evidence that he had done the dreadful things of which they accused him.
Elihu’s words in Job 33:12-13 are really the answer to Job’s horrible afflictions and losses. Elihu points out two essential truths. First, God is greater than man. Secondly, God does not give account of any of His matters. This means God can do whatever He pleases because He is great. The Almighty is under no obligation to explain to us why He does what He does. It’s none of our business.
Job and his friends have no protest to make about what Elihu has said. They know Elihu is right. God then appears to Job and speaks to him. Jehovah points out He is almighty, wise and can do whatever He wishes. At the end of the book of Job, it is important to note that God tells Job to offer sacrifices for the sinful speech of his three friends but He requires no sacrifice for what Elihu had said. God must have approved of Elihu’s reproof.
What can we learn about what makes a good reprover from Jeremiah and Elihu? Neither of them were upset because the sin they witnessed was a personal insult to them. They did not give reproof to vent their own personal anger. They did not speak because they felt this would clear their good name or soothe their troubled conscience of the sins they had witnessed. These reprovers saw sin as an affront to God. They wanted these sins to be put away because sin prevents a right understanding of God and a proper walk with the Lord.
Proverbs tells us a reprover must be wise. Jeremiah knew the spiritual condition of the Jews with whom he was dealing. Elihu let the others speak first so he could properly understand the situation. For us, we need to know whom we reprove. Some reproof needs to be strong, while with other friends we can speak gently. We cannot be hasty in our judgment of others but must make sure we have a good understanding of the matter. We must also be wise to know the proper time to give reproof. Some reproof must be given immediately, while sometimes it is better to wait. For a reprover to be as valuable as gold, he must be wise.
God also tells us in this Proverb that the person being reproved must have an obedient ear. The Jews reproved by Jeremiah did not obey reproof. They disobeyed and went forward in their own stubborn, rebellious way to their own destruction. The ears of Job and his three friends were obedient to Elihu. They did not protest nor give an angry response. They responded with submissive silence. This led to sacrifices being offered and forgiveness being granted.
Receiving reproof properly is not what we do by nature. We take offense. Who are you to tell me what to do or tell me I am wrong! Our natural reaction is to become angry and defend ourselves. The old man of sin in each of us does not take it well when we are told we have sinned. This has been my experience for many years almost without exception-JK
An obedient ear to reproof is hard to find. I am thankful as a teacher in a Christian school that when I have had to take a student aside and have a little talk, it usually goes well. Part of that could be the student’s recognition of authority. What I pray is that this is proof of the response to God’s Word by one who is redeemed by God. What we also need as a Christian community of believers is to react properly to reproof when the reprover is our equal or, harder yet, holds a position lower than our own.
The greatest and wisest reprover is our Lord Jesus Christ who died for our sins. When someone gives us reproof based on the Bible, they are really bringing the Word of Christ to us. We also read in John 16 that the Spirit comes to do exactly that!-JK. We have to listen to the minister when he preaches because he brings and applies Christ’s Word to our lives and hearts. In catechism class, you are being taught Christ’s Word. The history of the Old and New Testaments give us instruction in a godly life. Disobedience brings the anger of God, while obedience results in covenant fellowship with Christ. Finally, Christ gives us reproof when we read the Bible, the Word of God. This is the instruction of Paul in II Timothy 3:16-17, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”