May 7, 2012
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“The Blessing Of Rebuke”
Rebuke; I don’t really like that verb! It sounds so harsh and unloving. I’m quick to use words like edify, encourage, inspire…words that lift others up, words that suggest “feel good” thoughts.
But carrying out a rebuke can be a blessing and is a necessary tool within our spiritual tool chest. We have all needed a loving rebuke at times. God may even call on us to do the rebuking.
Having said that, I believe one of the greatest marks of the contemporary church is a failure to rebuke. With such a major emphasis on practicing tolerance, exhibiting a non-judgmental and loving attitude toward everything that comes down the pike, it’s very hard to practice the God-ordained ministry of rebuke. It’s out of sync with the emphasis and popular teaching of our day. What’s more, confront somebody in their sin and you’re liable to be labeled legalistic!
You probably know someone named Nathan or Nate. Like Stephen in the book of Acts, it’s not a common Bible name but is used only once (apart from genealogical references). Nathan is the bold prophet who confronted David with his sin.
We don’t know how much time transpired between David’s cover-up of his sin with Bathsheba and the beginning of chapter 12. Assuming that the cover-up took place shortly after Bathsheba announced her pregnancy it would have been at least six months, perhaps longer. I wonder what David was dealing with during this time. Did he really think he’d gotten away with it? Had he somehow justified his actions? Was he dealing with secret guilt or sorrowful remorse? What we do know is that the horrendous sin committed by David recorded in chapter 11 was “evil in the sight of the Lord” (v.27).
“The LORD sent Nathan to David.” What courage it would require for Nathan to complete this God-ordained prophetic mission! David, at the apex of his kingly authority, could easily and quickly do away with such a pesky prophet. Nevertheless Nathan boldly approached David with an outstanding story analogous to the injustice of David’s reprehensible deed. In an illustrative way he was setting a trap for David to walked right into, and David did not disappoint. Nathan tightened the noose with these words of stunning, forthright rebuke, “You are the man!” before launching into a prophetic declaration of judgment concerning David’s sin.
The brave rebuke turned out to be a redemptive blessing. However uncomfortable, it brought David to his proper senses as he forthrightly confessed, “I have sinned against the Lord.” In receiving Nathan’s rebuke and making his honest confession David took the first steps toward his journey to reconciliation with God, though he, his family, and the nation would deal with the spiraling consequences from his ruthless actions the remainder of his life, and the generations who followed.
Personal communications with people I encounter in ministry are privileged, especially in this regard, so today’s illustrations, although true, are somewhat veiled:
- A man who knew better left his wife and children for another woman. He was not receptive but heard this stern rebuke quoting the Holy Scripture. “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel” ( 1 Timothy 5:8).
- “I recall a man who was struggling with alcohol and destroying his family but was receptive to my input. I looked him right in the eye and placed a hand on each shoulder, “What are you doing destroying your life and those you love in this way?” I sternly asked.
- Another man was plagued with the addiction to internet pornography. We walked along our trail to a country church about a mile and ½ away. As we walked I listened, but also preached truth from God’s Word.
How do you handle needed rebuke? Do you get angry and harden your heart or do you see the blessing of rebuke? I have been blessed by rebuke, though at the time it was very uncomfortable. My posture can be one of defense, justification, and excuses or I can choose to be receptive when the rebuke reflects my offense. Many years ago I was dealing with an issue in my life when a friend pinned me down (not literally) and spoke truth to my heart. He was right and I am a better man today due to the blessing of his loving rebuke.
What about when God calls us to rebuke another? The tendency for many, including me, is to avoid this call. It’s very hard to do and should come about only after a season of prayer. But we must be careful to obey if God is speaking. It’s part of our calling, especially if we are a minister of the Gospel. (See 2 Timothy 4:2.)
“Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted” (Galatians 6:1).
Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
Daily prayer: Father, it comes very naturally to encourage and instruct others in Your teachings. But it is far more difficult to bring loving rebuke and correction to one who has chosen to live in disobedience to Your commands. Help me to go forth as one pure in heart, humble in spirit, and earnest in prayer when I am commissioned to be Your messenger of life-giving rebuke. It wasn’t Nathan who went after David, but it was You who sent Nathan, which served as the beginning of David’s spiritual restoration. When the messenger is pure in motive and obedient to the Spirit’s prompting, and the message is received in the right spirit, then correction will take place, just as it did with David. Though I cannot be assured of the desired results help me to find blessing in having been obedient to Your Spirit’s leading. When I am the recipient of a rebuke may I respond in humility and receive the correction as though it were delivered personally from You and respond accordingly. In the name of Jesus I pray. Amen.
Selected Scriptures on rebuke:
“My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke” (Proverbs 3:11).
“He who listens to a life-giving rebuke will be at home among the wise” (Proverbs 15:31).
“Better is open rebuke than hidden love” (Proverbs 27:5).
“He who rebukes a man will in the end gain more favor than he who has a flattering tongue” (Proverbs 28:23).
“Those who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that the others may take warning” (1 Timothy 5:20).
“Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Timothy 4:2).
“These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you” (Titus 2:15).
“Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent” (Revelation 3:19).
Much more could be considered about this topic such as the relationship between rebuke and correction, considering the reasons that there’s minimal practice of this in the modern church and the consequences it has brought.
Yesterday we attended a special service in the Lehigh Valley to honor my brother Pat and his wife Laverne for 40th wedding anniversary and twenty years of pastoral service in the same church. The leadership did an outstanding job of pulling off a surprise. The photo to the left shows them cutting the anniversary cake following a potluck luncheon.
We have many friends in this church as well and always enjoy getting together and seeing the folks.
Here’s a current photo. An artist in the church used this photo to paint a beautifully framed portrait which was presented to them during the service (though she changed the background to a nature scene).
Here’s a photo of my brother Pat and I from 1980 at our sister Genelle’s wedding. At that time I often had my rather large bulky 35mm Minolta camera with me. For old TV fans Pat has been confused in this photo with Kotter (see here) How about those perm days, men! Remember the big afro days?
The Rodale Institute farm claims to be the pioneer in organic farming and covers 330 acres.
“Create In Me A Clean Heart, O God” Video Keith Green based on Psalm 51, David’s prayer of confession and repentance following Nathan’s rebuke.
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