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Receive Reproof or Return to Sender?

2 Chronicles 22-24

      "I want to move to Texas," my son, Joel, announced the other day.
     "And why is that?" I asked.
     "Because," he explained, "it seems like all kids do is get bossed around in this place."
     I then explained that once he got there he might find, to his disappointment, that things ran pretty much the same way in Texas.
     The word, "reprove," means, "to scold or correct, usually gently or with kindly intent" (Webster, 1993). I think you will agree with Joel that kids do get a lot of reproof!
     The Bible has much to say about reproof--in fact, the Bible itself is a book of reproofs that apply to young and old alike. "All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for…reproof" (2 Timothy 3:16).
     God's Word also has a lot to say about how we should receive reproof--and I'm sure you've met with some reproof that you found hard to receive! Even though no one enjoys being corrected, the Bible says that you can tell a lot about a person by how he or she responds to it. In fact, the ability to receive correction may be used to predict an individual's future success or failure.
     If you want to find out firsthand what God thinks about reproof and those who receive it or refuse it, you should read Proverbs 15. For now, get out your Bible for a quick tour of verses that contrast reproof receivers and reproof rejecters.
     Receiving correction makes you smarter, according to Proverbs 19:25 and leads to honor, according to Proverbs 13:18. (The same verse promises poverty and embarrassment to reproof rejecters.)
     Proverbs 9:8 says that a wise girl will respond with love to the person who corrects her, but if you try to help a reproof rejecter, she will respond by hating you!
     Proverbs 1 tells about how harshly God responds to those who reject the wisdom of reproof in His Word. Because "they despised all my reproof," God tells them, "I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh…as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind…Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer" (Proverbs 1: 30, 26-28).
     Receiving reproof, in the abstract, is a simple concept: but what does God expect you to do with this information? What will obeying or disobeying this principle look like in real life?
     Once again, God has given us stories of real people (both positive and negative examples) to learn from in His Word.
     King Solomon, who wrote the book of Proverbs, definitely knew that accepting reproof is a beautiful and valuable thing. Proverbs 25:12: "As an earring of gold, and an ornament of fine gold, so is a wise reprover upon an obedient ear," King Solomon wrote. But long after Solomon's reign, the Bible tells of a king who responded very differently to reproof, and his name was Joash.
     Prince Joash was only one year old when his father, King Ahaziah, was killed. This seeming tragedy was actually God's punishment on Ahaziah for doing "evil in the sight of the LORD" (22:4). In fact, baby Joash's family were so wicked that after his father's death, little Joash himself was nearly murdered--by his own grandmother!
     Yes, Joash's grandma, Athaliah, was determined to become the supreme ruler of the land, and to do that, she had to kill all of the king's heirs, her own grandsons. Soon all of Joash' brothers were dead.
     Somehow, Joash's aunt managed to rescue him and his nurse from the castle, and she and her husband, the priest, hid the little prince in the temple for six years. It was God's plan to separate Joash from his wicked family and place him in the care of priest Jehoiada, who taught him God's law.
     When Joash turned seven years old, Jehoiada, who had saved his life, took one more risk. He decided to stage a rebellion against wicked Queen Athaliah and make Joash king!
     His daring plan proved successful, and as the trumpets announced young Joash's coronation, Athaliah belatedly entered the temple, crying, "Treason! Treason!" Bravely, Jehoiada ordered her own royal guards to take her away from the temple and kill her.
     In young Joash, Judah finally had a God-fearing king, and all the people rejoiced! The priest "made a covenant between him, and between all the people, and between the king, that they should be the LORD's people" (23:16). God blessed the land with rest and peace.
     King Joash grew up to be a good king, who remembered the training of the priest and followed God's commands. He also remembered God's house, the temple, where he had hidden for six years.
     The temple was in disrepair: it had been "broken up" by Joash's own wicked family, and the beautiful golden dishes made while Solomon was king had been used in the worship of false gods.
     So, Joash collected many offerings and hired skilled workmen to repair the temple, inside and out. They even had enough money left over to make new dishes and other utensils. Once again, the temple could be used to worship God as it used to be.
     Yes, everything was as it should be in the land of Judah. At least it was going well until Jehoiada, Joash's trusted mentor, priest, and father figure grew old and died.
     Without his guidance, Joash began to reconnect with the remnants of his family, "the princes of Judah." Soon, he became just like them--even worshipping the false gods of his wicked father and grandmother.

 

     God was angry with Joash and the land of Judah, so he sent a prophet to reprove him: it was Zechariah, the son of Priest Jehoiada.
     Zechariah stood up in front of all the people and said, "Why transgress ye the commandments of the LORD, that ye cannot prosper? because ye have forsaken the LORD, he hath also forsaken you" (24:20).
     The words of Zechariah stung Joash to his heart. He felt that they were directed straight at him, and he was embarrassed that this young prophet would dare to scold him, the king, in front of all his people. He didn't want to repent or to be reproved. After all, he was a good guy--he had repaired the temple, hadn't he?
     Joash's new friends and counselors hated Zechariah and his stand for God, and they urged Joash to have him killed. At the king's command, Zechariah was stoned to death within the temple court.
     "Thus Joash the king remembered not the kindness which Jehoiada his father had done to him, but slew his son." As Zechariah died, he spoke these last words, "The LORD look upon it, and require it" (24:22).
     The very next verse begins like this: "And it came to pass at the end of the year, that the host of Syria came up against him…with a small company of men, and the LORD delivered a very great host into their hand…so they executed judgment against Joash" (24:23-24).
     In this battle, Joash's wicked counselors were all killed, and when the Syrians finally departed, they left Joash "in great diseases." As the miserable king lay sick in bed, his servants plotted against him and killed him.
     King Joash's life, which had begun in protection and promise, had been cut short in his sordid death. The people did not even bury him in the sepulchers of the kings.
     All of Joash's defeat, disease, death, and dishonor resulted from his unwillingness to receive reproof. Proverbs 17:10 says, "A reproof entereth more into a wise man than an hundred stripes into a fool." In other words, the choice is receiving a small reproof or a big punishment.
     How did Joash, who appeared to be a good king, make the wrong choice and expose himself as a fool, and how can we avoid repeating his mistake?
     First of all, to receive reproof we must be humble. During his early years as king, Joash yielded to godly instruction. But as he grew older, Joash grew proud. He was proud of his position as king and of the great things he had done. He felt that the nation's peace and prosperity were due to his leadership, rather than a result of God's blessing. Joash's preferred the flattery of his deceitful family, and his pride caused him to respond in anger to the honest reproof of God's Word.
     Second, to accept reproof, we must be pliable, not stubborn. Joash rejected the counsel of Zechariah because it was not what he wanted to do. He was having fun with his new friends, and he knew that obeying God would mean giving up his wicked friends and his fun. Perhaps, as I've heard other sinful Christians say, Joash was thinking, "Later I'll live for God, but not now. I want to live it up while I can. I have to learn from my own mistakes." Joash was set on his path of destruction and he was too stubborn to yield his will to God's way.
     Third, to avoid Joash's mistake, we must be trusting. For some unknown reason, Joash did not trust Zechariah when he warned of God's coming punishment. Instead, he chose to put his trust in the counsel of the princes. If he would have considered his own past, he should have known who truly had his best interests at heart.
     Like Joash, we should carefully consider whose counsel we trust. No human is going to be right all the time, but we can choose good counselors by asking ourselves: what's their perspective (is it godly?), motivation (do they have my best interests at heart?), and history (have they ever steered me wrong in the past?). Let's not be like Joash, rejecting reproof because of misplaced trust.
     I hope that this Bible study about "Joash: The King Who Hated Reproof" will help you make some changes in your own life. We want to be blessed of God like Joash was in his early years, allowing God to mold us through the application of godly reproof. Unlike Joash in his later years, let's be sure our hearts are humble, pliable, and trusting so that we will be open to the "gentle correction" of God's Word!

Thoughts for Today:

     Truly, rejecting reproof is a serious thing, and it comes with serious consequences! That's why Bible studies like this one are so important: we need to know about God's reproof in different areas of our lives, and then we need to receive that reproof and conform to His standards in order for Him to pour out His blessing on us.
     I know that each purity girl truly desires God's approval, and it is my prayer that each one of you will live in a way that enables Him to fully bless you and use you. As we study God's Word this month, I want each of us to carefully examine our own hearts to determine how we are responding to godly reproof. Are we open, loving, and obedient, or are we proud, hateful, and stubborn?
     Today, ask God to give you the humility and wisdom to accept only godly advice and correction. Then write down some areas where your parents and other mentors have given you correction this month. Prayerfully consider: How did you respond to that correction?

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