SSL 7 - Proverbs 29:12-20 - ACCEPTING DISCIPLINE
THIS WEEK: In today's lesson, Prov. 29:1-3, 12-20, we will focus on the issue accepting discipline. There are two types of discipline: the kind we voluntarily accept to achieve order and progress in our lives and the kind imposed on us by others-parents, teachers, pastors, bosses, and even law enforcement-when we need to be corrected for wrongdoing and today, and we'll hear Solomon talk about both types. In my own case, I was fairly indifferent to accepting discipline until March 1969 at age 20, when I reported in to the Naval Training Center at Orlando, Florida for Boot Camp. It was an experience that changed my life forever. I not only learned to accept military discipline in my four years of Navy service, but more importantly, I learned the value of disciplining myself.
Read Prov. 29:12-14 - A LESSON IN POLITICAL SCIENCE
12 If a ruler pays attention to falsehood, All his ministers become wicked.
13 The poor man and the oppressor have this in common: The LORD gives light to the eyes of both.
14 If a king judges the poor with truth, His throne will be established forever.
v. 12: "If a ruler pays attention to falsehood, All his ministers become wicked" - This verse and the two that follow all pertain to the importance of honesty and integrity in government. In Solomon's day governments typically consisted of a king and the ministers who worked under him, but the truths expressed by these proverbs are equally relevant today in constitutional democracies like the United States. Verse 12 talks about the information and advice a king uses to make decisions. If the king is getting his information from unreliable sources, e.g., gossip, misrepresented or manufactured facts, or outright falsehoods/lies, his administration of government will reflect it. The king's advisors will tell him want he wants to hear rather than what's actually true. When this happens, the king's government will become corrupt, characterized by injustice and oppression. The truth of this proverb is that any ruler, whether a king or a president, must lead by demanding the truth in all matters that come before him. Disputed issues can't be decided based on initial information or the reports on only one side of the matter. A ruler should not act until he or she takes the time and effort to discover and carefully consider the true and objective facts of the matter. If a ruler does this-leads in an atmosphere of truth-government corruption is far less likely to gain a foothold.
v. 13: "The poor man and the oppressor have this in common: The LORD gives light to the eyes of both' - Very simply, this verse means that all men (and women) are equal before God and strongly implies that God will judge rulers (kings or presidents) without any partiality. Giving "'light to the eyes" is a metaphor for giving life. By this, Solomon is saying that oppressive rulers have the power to take life but not the power to create it. The oppressors-and Kim Jung-un, the dictator of North Korea, comes to mind when I hear this term-think that they are all-powerful and above judgment but in reality they are fools. Kim Jung-un, Stalin, Hitler, and every other oppressor in history will one day stand at the final judgment and discover what pathetic characters they really are. This is justice.
v. 14: "If a king judges the poor with truth, His throne will be established forever" - Here Solomon gives us a godly and wise principle of political science: that a king must judge the poor with truth. Why? Because the poor are the most powerless people in any society and God cares about them. God ordained civil government authority for the benefit of those who cannot protect or defend themselves. For example, families cannot protect themselves in a time of war, so governments raise armies to protect the whole nation. The poor do not have the means to resist rich and powerful people, so governments are expected to intervene for them. You might remember that Daniel advised Nebuchadnezzar he could preserve tranquility in Babylon by showing mercy to the poor (Dan. 4:27). The power of wealth in American politics today is alarming. Look at the cost of modern political campaigns. The candidate who raises the most money stands a better change of winning. Yes? But where does this money come from? Not from the poor. It hasn't always been this way. But the era of a "grass roots" politician, gaining support from a broad slice of our society, is a thing of the past. The only king I can think of whose throne was established forever was David, whose throne became eternal and everlasting when his heir, Jesus Christ, was resurrected from the dead.
SOLOMON SAYS 1: Any ruler, whether a king, president, governor, or mayor, must lead by demanding the truth in all matters that come before him. Disputed issues can't be decided based on initial information or the reports on only one side of the matter. A ruler should not act until he or she takes the time and effort to discover and carefully consider the true facts of the matter.
Read Prov. 29:15-18 - TRAIN THEM UP
15 The rod and reproof give wisdom, But a child who gets his own way brings shame to his mother.
16 When the wicked increase, transgression increases; But the righteous will see their fall.
17 Correct your son, and he will give you comfort; He will also delight your soul.
18 Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained, But happy is he who keeps the law.
v. 15: "The rod and reproof give wisdom, But a child who gets his own way brings shame to his mother" - This goes hand in hand with Prov. 13:24: He who withholds his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him diligently. The term "rod" encompasses much more than punishment but includes training, teaching and correcting (reproof) a child. Developing character traits like self-discipline and self-control are important elements of this process. The end product is godly wisdom. And the only truly effective teaching method is teaching by example. Hear that? The child in the couplet who "gets his own way" depicts an out of control situation that not only brings shame to his mother but creates utter chaos in the household. Yes? A lot of us here today are "baby boomers," people born between 1945 and 1960. One of the best selling books (50 million) of that era was Baby and Childcare by Dr. Benjamin Spock. He advised parents not to discipline their children but to allow them the freedom to make up their own minds about everything. This book misled an entire generation of parents and resulted in the "hippie-free love" rebellion of the 1960s. This era also marked the start of an enormous drug use problem that continues today. So hear this everyone: The only truly reliable book on child-rearing is the Bible.
SOLOMON SAYS 2: In the context of child discipline, the term "rod" implies much more than punishment. It includes training, teaching and correcting (reproof) a child, to help them develop character traits like self-discipline and self-control. The end product is godly wisdom. And as important, the only truly effective teaching method is teaching by example.
v. 16: "When the wicked increase, transgression increases; But the righteous will see their fall" - This is another proverb about the consequences of corrupt leadership. At the time Solomon was writing this, the kingdom of Israel was at its zenith, a prosperous and powerful nation, started by David and continued by Solomon who, though not perfect, were godly men who loved the Lord. His words here amount to a prophecy: a divided kingdom ruled by unrighteous kings who ultimately brought complete destruction to the nation. This forces us to take a hard look at ourselves and our government. We live in a divided nation today. The enmity and hate we see between opposing political factions is truly shocking. Civility, courtesy, and respect between opposing views is virtually non-existent and we have a media that fuels the fires of discontent on a daily basis. Politics has turned into a form of national entertainment-talking heads. This is what happens when God is removed from government. We are no longer one nation under God. The only solution: a nation-wide revival. But the righteous may not see the fall of the wicked until the end times, when Christ returns and His Millennial Kingdom is established on earth (Rev. 20:1-3).
v. 17: "Correct your son, and he will give you comfort; He will also delight your soul" - One of the most common mistakes parents make is the idea that if they impose strict discipline and punishments on their children, that they'll be alienated and won't be friends in later life. This can be especially true when a parent hears hurtful things like, "I hate you" or "you're ruining my life," while he or she is imposing punishment. At the same time, punishment shouldn't be reactive, out of anger, when you've allowed the child to push you to your limits and you explode. In that situation you've lost control and the child knows it. Punishment must be a controlled action that is accompanied by correction and teaching, explaining why-based on Biblical principles-the behavior is wrong. The real key here is teaching godly standards to children and adolescents by example. If you teach them this way, they will thank for it later in life. This is how godly wisdom works, and it's a proven system. The real blessings of child rearing involves "delayed gratification," when it "delights your soul" to see your grown children turn into godly fathers and mothers themselves.
v. 18: "Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained, But happy is he who keeps the law" - this proverb in the New Living Bible reads: When people do not accept divine guidance, they run wild. This doesn't imply that they've become raving maniacs, but that people without the revelation of God-without any godly vision-are leading purposeless, wasted lives. There lives are characterized by indulging fleshy desires and have a warped ideas of self-importance. A church that loses its godly vision can fall into the same trap. Church leaders craft a vision statement calling for an array of clever new "programs" and an army of volunteers to achieve them. The only valid vision for a church is prophetic, which is to say based squarely upon the revelation of God. And what is the prophetic revelation of God? Jesus Christ, Lord of Lord and King of Kings. And who are we? We are His body, made up of many parts and many gifts. That's the vision we need to follow. What's His program: Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you. (Mt. 28:19-20a).
SOLOMON SAYS 3: People who live without vision are leading purposeless lives. In Biblical terms, the expression "vision" refers the revelation of God-The Holy Bible. And the revelation of God is that Jesus Christ is Lord of Lords and King of Kings. And the vision that defines our lives-now almost 2,000 years in the making-is our Lord's command to: Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you. (Mt. 28:19-20a).
Read Prov. 29:19-20 - CHOOSING YOUR WORDS AND DEEDS
19 A slave will not be instructed by words alone; For though he understands, there will be no response.
20 Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.
v. 19: "A slave will not be instructed by words alone; For though he understands, there will be no response" - The main point of the proverb is real simple: sometimes words alone don't work. The term used here is "slave" but could extend to any master/servant (employer/employee) or even a king/subject relationship. The idea here is really a study in human nature: Although correction is for the subject's own good, there are people out there who refuse to submit to any type of correction. Words ought to be the first step of correction, but Solomon tells us that the ideal cannot always be achieved. This subject here is obviously not obedient or responsible but a sullen and scornful individual who hears the words but pretends not to listen. They simply ignore you as if you'd said nothing, most of the time not even looking you in the eye. In the next phrase, the master goes a step further and asks the servant questions that he would certainly understand but again is met with silence. The obvious solution is that if words don't work, more drastic measures are justified. In Solomon's day, a servant could be beaten or whipped for such insolence. The conclusion is that these people are fools. In the case of the ancient servant, he could have avoided a beating by simply doing as he was told. In the modern workplace, such people usually end up getting fired. Have you encountered people like this? I have. They would greatly benefit from a military boot camp.
v. 20: "Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him" - This simple proverb tells us that men or women who are "hasty" with their words are fools or even worse. The term hasty in this context doesn't mean speedy but thoughtless and ill-considered. This pictures a person who barges into conversations uninvited in order express his opinion or draw judgments or make conclusions. These words are not only thoughtless and inconsiderate, but can be insulting, offensive, and hurtful. You've heard the phrase, "look before you leap"? Well, this one could be "think before you speak." James tells us that we should be quick to listen and slow to speak. (James 1:19). There is great wisdom in taking a moment to think over what you are going to say. It might slow you down, but in the end it will keep you from saying things you might regret later. And sometimes its just better remain silent when you have nothing constructive or helpful to say. Why does Solomon say there more hope for a fool? Well, a fool may be misinformed or even stupid, but a hasty speaker is proud. There is some hope that a fool might overcome his stupidity, but much less hope for the prideful person who refuses to recognize the deficiencies in his character.
SOLOMON SAYS 4: We should be quick to listen and slow to speak. There is great wisdom in taking a moment to think over what you are going to say. It might slow you down, but in the end it will keep you from saying things you might regret later. And sometimes its just better remain silent when you have nothing constructive or helpful to say.
PRAYER: LORD GOD, as I approach Your Holy throne, I thank for allowing all of us the gather together this morning to study and learn the truth of Your Holy Word. Unlike the foolish people that Solomon describes in today's lesson, I pray , Father, that you would inspire and lead every person in this room today to lead a purposeful life in their Christian walk. Please give us the vision and self-discipline to go out and do the good work of sharing the Gospel Message with the untold hundreds of lost souls who live right outside the doors of this good church. Lord, as this church slowly transitions back into what we would call normal fellowship, I pray, Father, that we will look around us and notice Your Spirit moving the people of this church in a new and powerful way. I pray that we will see our people stepping out, serving, and doing things that demonstrate a right relationship with You and a right relationship with others. Finally, Dear God, as this pandemic comes to an end, I pray that you would use it to turn people away from the spiritual hopelessness of life in this world and toward the saving grace of Jesus Christ. And in His name, I ask all these things, AMEN.