This sermon was preached at Peace Hill Christian Fellowship on April 29, 2012. To listen to the audio of this sermon, just click on this link – Prov 29C.
This morning we want to look at these verses and talk about discipline. Hebrews 12 specifically pictures God as a Father who disciplines us as Sons. It makes the case that suffering is a kind of discipline that God allows for our training. However, suffering is not the only way that God disciplines us. 2 Timothy 3:16 suggests that God also teaches us, rebukes us, corrects us and trains us in righteousness. This description of how God uses Scripture in our lives to discipline us, is what is in view in these verses.
Today we want to look at what these verses say about our need, as human beings, for discipline, and then at some specific ways God is disciplining us as a Father training his Sons.
EVERY LEVEL OF SOCIETY NEEDS DISCIPLINE.
Even Rulers Need Discipline: Ancient Near Eastern potentates were considered to be, in some cases, gods or, at least, representatives of and speakers for the gods. Nevertheless, as the proverbist points out in verses 12-14 – rule without the benefit of wise discipline, could soon become corrupt and ruinous.
~ Rulers Need Discipline to Hear the Truth: 12 “If a ruler listens to lies, all his officials become wicked.” Because ancient potentates had such power, they were often likely to hear what their advisors and officials thought they wanted to hear. A ruler who did not search out the truth of a situation or a policy would be likely to be deceived. A ruler who listened to outright lies would create an environment where injustice and oppression could thrive.
~ Rulers Need Discipline to Reject Oppression: 13 “The poor and the oppressor have this in common: The LORD gives sight to the eyes of both.” Because rulers held such power, having their way and using their power over people were a great temptation. A ruler who had the discipline to understand that he was just as answerable to God as a peasant, would be more likely to care about justice.
~ Rulers Need Discipline to Do Justice to the Poor: 14 “If a king judges the poor with fairness, his throne will be established forever.” The power of the potentate came from the rich and the powerful – not from the poor. Consequently, the rich and powerful were more likely to have things go their way in the courts because of their influence. The poor, on the other hand, had no influence. If a king chose to champion justice for the poor, he gained no advantage. Therefore, doing justice was a matter of discipline
Children and Servants Need Discipline: At the lowest level of society were children and servants. Whereas rulers were considered to be connected to the gods, children and servants had no rights and were not protected by the kinds of laws we have today. Nevertheless, the proverbist points out in vs.17 & 19 how important and appropriate discipline is for them.
~ Disciplining Children Blesses Parents: 17 Discipline your children, and they will give you peace; they will bring you the delights you desire. The way this proverb is stylized, it can com off sounding both very self-serving to parents – and like a guarantee of success. However, we need to grasp what this proverb is saying, without getting caught up in its Ancient Near Eastern formulaic phrasing. Children who are disciplined lovingly and thoughtfully become a blessing to parents – not just because they are under control – but because they become, through discipline (generally speaking), understanding and thoughtful themselves. Disciplined children learn to love and value what is good – to appreciate and love parents. Without discipline, children come to despise parents.
~ Children and Servants Need the Discipline of Consequences – Not Just Words: 19 Servants cannot be corrected by mere words; though they understand, they will not respond.
There has been a lot of discussion about whether parents should spank – use the rod, or not. Certainly in the ancient culture, using the rod was considered quite normal – however the question is whether the passage reflects what was normal in the ancient culture or whether it reflects timeless truth. But regardless of what position one takes, it seems clear that discipline requires more than just words – it requires consequences.
We need to experience real consequences to our actions – making restoration, being trained in correction – different ways of acting, speaking, doing – even more than we need the words of correction. We need experience to be trained more than we need understanding.
WE OURSELVES NEED DISCIPLINE.
Without Discipline Evil Thrives in Us: “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” This is a political quote, yet it is quite true and is confirmed by the following verses…
~ Without Discipline, Children- Adults Act Disgracefully: 15 A rod and a reprimand impart wisdom, but a child left undisciplined disgraces its mother. Children act up! This is one of the unavoidable realities of life. Children say and do things (all parents have stories) that are incredibly embarrassing to parents – and only funny much later.
However, while many such situations may arise, what this verse is saying is that a child who is left to their own devices, and left undisciplined, will increasingly speak and act in ways that are disgraceful to his or her parents.
In other words, without discipline – not just understanding, but the experience of discipline (see vs.19) we grow up into disgraceful attitudes and words and actions. We need discipline – and many of us have never experienced true, loving, thoughtful discipline.
~ Sin Left Unchecked Thrives: 16 When the wicked thrive, so does sin… When evil behavior is allowed to go unchecked, it thrives and increases. This seems so obvious, but we as parents and as people often find ourselves paralyzed and unwilling or unable to confront sin, either in ourselves or in our children – through discipline.
~ Where there is No Instruction, People Throw Off Restraint: 18 Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraint; but blessed is the one who heeds wisdom’s instruction. Where we are not instructed in righteousness – where we are not taught what is wise, noble, good, upright – we will not restrain evil impulses and actions. Discipline – training in righteousness – must involve more than saying “no” to bad behavior – it must be instruction in goodness. This is one reason we need a book like Proverbs – we are not naturally wise – we are naturally given to evil impulses to vices and lies.
~ Where there is No Correction, Even the Lowliest Become Arrogant: 21 A servant pampered from youth will turn out to be insolent. Where we have been indulged, we tend to be arrogant. We have seen this in children – and generally know how to deny it or hide it as adults – where overt arrogance is much less socially acceptable.
Arrogance, where we have been given our way, is natural to us. Correction seems odious and painful and unnatural to us. This is evidence of pride and arrogance in our hearts.
GOD DISCIPLINES US BECAUSE HE LOVES US.
Society needs discipline! Our children need discipline! We need discipline! We need a model of what discipline should look like. So I want to take a few minutes to say some things, from these verses, about the model of discipline – and the grace of discipline – that God provides for us.
God Confronts Our Lies: vs.12 – a ruler who listens to lies corrupts his rule. In the same way, we listen to and live by lies that corrupt our lives. We tend to hear what we want to hear and speak out what we want to believe in order to put ourselves in a good light.
Proverbs forces us to see things in a different light – to confess our waywardness and foolishness and need for discipline. God calls us and convicts us to reframe the way we speak about our lives and our responsibility towards our own choices and sin.
God Disciplines Us Justly: vs.14 – God does justice with us. God’s discipline is neither controlling tyranny for his own convenience – nor indulgence. God trains us for our good and blessing and yet, also for his own glorious purposes.
God Disciplines Through Consequences: God allows us to experience the consequences of foolishness and waywardness – though, he does not treat us as our sins deserve.
God Disciplines us Through Conviction and the Word: God reveals his word to us – convicting us of sin, encouraging us with love and assurance – calling us to noble and upright behavior. God deals with us on the level of the motives of the heart – confronting, exhorting, correcting, encouraging.