“Strike a scoffer, and the simple will learn prudence…When a scoffer is punished, the simple becomes wise” (Proverbs 19:25a; 21:11a)
Yesterday we explored the frustration and needlessness of rebuking a scoffer who will only dislike you for your correction. Some passages in Proverbs support beating scoffers as the only means to teach them, but that will not be our emphasis today. Instead, we will focus on what may be learned by disciplining someone who is foolish and perhaps simple-minded. I suggest that we think of ourselves as those who can learn from the punishment of others, rather than immediately think of our children or students. It’s easy and unproductive to focus on the younger generation because we have used this practical advice and seen it work. Punish one child in the family, and suddenly siblings start behaving. Discipline one student in a classroom, or a boarding house, or a camp cabin and all the other children seem to grow wiser instantly.
But do we change as a result of studying biblical characters who wouldn’t change? We’re on a bit of a run about those Jewish leaders who refused to give up their outmoded, wrong ideas about religion for the truth. They were warned, chastised, and openly cursed by Jesus, yet do we learn from his words to them? Are we learning prudence and becoming wise by recognizing the great extent to which they were wrong? Will we embrace Proverbs 19:8, “Whoever gets sense loves his own soul; he who keeps understanding will discover good?”
Those leaders were hardened to his teaching and offer of the gospel, but we can learn from his treatment of them. If we are attentive, we do not need to see someone beaten or hear about them being condemned to acquire wisdom. Even a soft reproof or a slight redirection will be enough to change our thinking. As we grow in our knowledge and understanding of God, we can learn from the big and small examples in the Bible. Moses struck the rock and berated his people for their obstinacy rather than graciously just talking to the rock as God commanded. (Numbers 20:8-13) His punishment was an untimely death before Israel would enter Canaan. David was punished for his sexual sin by the loss of his child. The stubborn Jewish leaders were condemned and cursed for their false teaching, neglect of the foundational doctrines of true faith, hypocrisy, swearing allegiance to the temple rather than to God, for worshipping traditions, and for betraying Jesus in all these.
Do you have trouble with anger like Moses, impatient and unkind when you should be gracious? Are you tempted by the rampant sexual liberalism in our world today, to be accepting of it and just “go with the flow?” Or, will you learn from David’s sin to condemn fornication in all its various forms today as the teaching of the Bible? We all tend to be legalists, so let us learn from the condemnation of the Pharisees. Let us learn and become wiser still and see how God might use it to encourage others.