Proverbs 29:1, 11
Posted September 18, 2012
29 He who is often reproved, yet stiffens his neck,
will suddenly be broken beyond healing.
11 A fool gives full vent to his spirit,
but a wise man quietly holds it back.
The book of Proverbs aims to call its readers to godly wisdom. This sort of wisdom begins not with complex theories, but a simple & healthy fear of the Lord (not a bad "scary" fear, but one filled with awe and respect). Not only is wisdom marked with a right relationship with God, but also with others. It's not a self-made wisdom birthed in isolation, but one that is cultivated through both a right vertical relationship with God and a humble horizontal relationship with others.
VERSE 1 This first verse reminds us of not only the importance of community, but also our posture within it. We can remain in supposed "community" but refuse to listen to each other out of pride (which ultimately isn't true community) and remain functionally isolated. It seems that the person described in this verse isn't a one-time offender ("often reproved"), but has made a pattern of being stiff-necked and regularly unwilling to listen to those around them. This proverbs warns this person that they're setting themselves up for disaster through their hard heartedness.
When God confronts us, how do we respond? Remember his love is a "holy love" that confronts us when it knows His glory and our good are at stake. What about when others caution us? For believers, we're also called to join God in caring for one another, and that includes warning each other when we see each other on a destructive path or living in ways contrary to God's intent. The goal of the reproof is healing and wholeness, never control or pushing one's subjective opinions on others. Should we choose to live in our delusions and cease to listen to God & others, ultimately our stiff-necks will gradually harden till the point that they're broken beyond healing.
VERSE 11 The second part of the verse sets up another contrasting picture of the fool who never restrains himself (in context, it could pertain either to anger or making decisions purely based on passion or feelings), while the wise man practices self-control. What's ironic is that our society sees the person who lives without restraint as an example of freedom and living life to the full, but godly contentment and restraint have been viewed as boring & repressed living. In God's kingdom & in God's economy, the exact opposite is true. The wise godly person should be the one who lives most joyfully in obedience to God & his law, and the one without restraint regularly dissatisfied because they're settling for shadows and "lesser gods". The wise man withholds from sinful deceptive short-term pleasures because they know the truer long-term joy in Christ and all He's called us to. The wise person isn't merely self-controlled out of legalism or a fear of being caught, but because they have a greater joy and perspective than the fool who lives for the flavor & sin of the month.
In his book "A Shelter in the Time of Storm", Paul Tripp said, "Here's what the Bible makes blatantly clear; the quest for independence never ends in independence. It always ends in slavery. Why? Because I was carefully designed by the Creator to live in a dependent, obedient, and worshipful relationship with him and in humble, interdependent relationships with other human beings. The quest for independence is not simply a spiritual mistake; it's a fundamental denial of my humanity." May we be a people who listen to each other and to God! Why? Should we not listen to their loving warnings, we'll find ourselves isolated, stiff-necked, broken beyond healing, without godly self-control (one of the fruit of the Spirit).
This week's song and artwork was created by Seth Alan Roberts, a singer/songwriter/graphic designer from the Central Coast in California in a band called Lakes. You can check out their beautiful music here: http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/the-agreement/id390615676 and http://amzn.com/B0033UOS84.