A man who remains stiff-necked after much reproof will suddenly be shattered beyond recovery.
I. TRUTHS OF PERSONAL CONDUCT.
1. The obstinate offender and his doom. (Ver. 1.) The repeated complaint against Israel was that they were a "stiff-necked people." Self-willed, haughty, persistent, defying rebuke and chastisement, is the habit described. It invites judgment. "When lesser warnings will not serve, God looks into his quiver for deadly arrows." They who will not bend before the gentle persuasions of God's Holy Spirit must feel the rod. Men may make themselves outlaws from the kingdom of God.
2. Wisdom and virtue inseparable in conduct. (Ver. 3.) So much so that the same word may occasionally do duty for either notion. Thus the French mean by one who is "sage" one who is chaste and virtuous. The effects are alike. Joy is given to parents by the sage conduct of children; and vice is seen to be folly by the waste and want it brings in its train (comp. Proverbs 6:26; Proverbs 10:1; Proverbs 28:7).
3. The dishonesty of flattery. (Ver. 5.) It may be designed to deceive, and is then coloured with the darkest hue of treachery. Or it may be undesigned in its effects. But in either case, the web of flattering lies becomes a snare in which the neighbour stumbles to his fall (comp. Proverbs 26:24, 25, 28). The kiss of the flatterer is more deadly than the hate of a foe. "When we are most praised for our discernment, we are apt to act most foolishly; for praise tends to cloud the understanding and pervert the judgment."
4. Delusive and genuine joy. (Ver. 6.) The serpent is concealed amidst the roses of illicit pleasures; a canker is at the core of the forbidden fruit. A "shadow darkens the ruby of the cup, and dims the splendour of the scene." But ever there is a song in the ways of God. See the example of Patti and Silas even in prison (Acts 16:25). "Always there are evil days in the world; always good days in the Lord" (Augustine, on Psalm 33).
II. THE INFLUENCE OF PERSONAL GOODNESS ON SOCIAL AND PUBLIC WEAL.
1. The general happiness is dependent on the conduct of individuals. (Ver. 2; comp. Proverbs 28:12, 28.) For society is a collection of individuals. "It is no peculiar conceit, but a matter of sound consequence, that all duties are by so much the better performed, by how much the men are more religious from whose abilities the same proceed. For if the course of political affairs cannot in any good sort go forward without fit instruments, and that which fitteth them be their virtues, let polity acknowledge itself indebted to religion, godliness being the chiefest, top, and well-spring of all true virtue, even as God is of all good things." "Religion, unfeignedly lived, perfecteth man's abilities unto all kinds of virtuous services in the commonwealth" (Hooker, 'Eccl. Pol.,' 5:1).
2. The effect of just administration and of bribery. (Ver. 4.) The best laws are of no avail if badly administered. God's throne is founded on justice (Psalm 89:14). And this only can be the foundation of national stable polity and of the common weal "We will sell justice to none," says the Magna Charta. The theocracy was overthrown in the time of Samuel by the corruption of his sons. The just administration of David "bore up the pillars" of the land (2 Samuel 8:15). The greed of Jehoiakim again shook the kingdom to its foundations (Jeremiah 22:18-19). Righteousness alone exalteth a nation.
3. Justice to the poor. (Ver. 7.) The good man enters into the feelings of others, and makes the lot of the oppressed, in sympathy and imagination, his own. The evil and hard-hearted man, looking at life only from the outside, treats the poor as dumb driven cattle, and easily becomes the tyrant and the oppressor. Peculiarly, sympathy, consideration, compassion for the lowly and the poor, have been infused into the conscience of the world, and made "current coin" by the example and spirit of the Redeemer. - J.
I. THE TRUE IDEA OF REPROOF. Whatever is calculated in its own nature or relations to arrest the attention of the mind, and call men to see their neglect of duty, or the obligation they owe to God, involves the true idea of reproof.
He that, being often reproved, hardeneth his neck.
(S. Davies, M.A.)
1. Such a reprover of sin does it against his office. The office of a reprover binds him to be blameless.
2. Such a reprover can never reprove to a right end. It is not because he hates sin; if he did he would put it away from himself.
3. Such a reprover can never do it in a right manner. As long as a man has a beam in his own eye he cannot rightly deal with the mote in his brother's.
4. Such a reprover is a hypocrite.
5. Such a reprover is inexcusable. His reproving another man's sin makes himself inexcusable of his own.
6. Such a reprover is an absurd and impudent person. Such a man both wrongs his own soul and dishonours God. But the verse may be read, "He that, being often reproved, hardeneth his neck." Hebrew is, "Hardens his own neck." A "man of reproofs" equals a man often reproved. The Lord does not destroy a man nakedly, but upon consideration of sin. What a great sin it is, what a great ill it is, for man to sin against his reproofs.The greatness of the ill is set down in two ways.
1. By the great sinfulness of the thing. It is called the hardening of a man's own neck.
2. By the greatness of the punishment that God inflicts upon this sin. When God reproves a man of sin, the reproof primarily comes out of love. The end of reproof is to bring a man to good, to reduce him into a right way, to convert a man, and save his soul. There is no reason in the world why reproof should be taken otherwise than with all willingness and thankfulness and cheerfulness. First use of this: See here what an infinite punishment God is bringing upon a kingdom when He is taking away reprovers from them.The second use makes against those that despise the reproof of the wise. "Ye despise not men, but God." The Lord proportions punishments to men's sins.
1. Because hereby man's punishment appears to be so much the more equal and worthy.
2. Because this stops a man's mouth; it convinceth s man's conscience.
3. All the standers-by see the equity of it. Consider and see how God proportions punishments to sins in kind, quantity, quality, time, and place.
II. THE WAYS IN WHICH GOD ADMINISTERS REPROOF. God exercises a universal providence. By judgments God ofttimes administers reproof. The Holy Spirit reproves by convincing the sinner of his sins and producing in his mind visitations of remorse.
III. THE DESIGN OF REPROOF. To effect a reformation. He means to secure this end by forbearance. When He finds that will not do, then He uses the rod.
IV. THE MEANING OF HARDENING THE NECK. The figure is that of a bullock working with a yoke upon his neck. The neck becomes callous with the pressure of the yoke. Men are represented as pushing against God's providence, and thus making their necks hard. The conscience of the sinner becomes quite callous under reproof if he does not yield to it.
V. THE MEANING OF BEING SUDDENLY DESTROYED. Opposition and destruction will always go together. The conscience becomes so stupefied that men lose the sense of danger. The danger of men is great, just in proportion as they cease to be affected by a sense of it; when men feel the most secure, if they are living in sin, then destruction is most certain; and when it comes it will be sudden, because they do not expect it at all. This is not arbitrary on the part of God; it is a natural consequence of the sinner's conduct.
( C. G. Finney.)
1. You have often been reproved by kind and judicious parents.
2. Or by some faithful friend who has seen your tendency to evil, and has stepped in to prevent the destruction which he saw was on its way.
3. A still larger class among us God has counselled and reproved by His ministering servants.
4. Many have been reproved by afflictions of various kinds.
II. THE SEVERE JUDGMENT HERE DENOUNCED. The threat of the text is only against those who persevere in iniquity amidst all their religious privileges, who will not be warned nor instructed, who reject all advice and admonition, all offers of grace and mercy. Reflect on the suddenness, the greatness, and the eternity of the destruction which awaits impenitent offenders. But we only preach destruction that we may make you feel your need of salvation; and then, when we have awakened your fears, how gladly do we point you to the refuge and the remedy.
(S. Bridge, M.A.)I. GOD'S LINGERING LONG-SUFFERING. He reproves. Why? That we may turn and live. He reproves often. Why? Because "He is not willing that any should perish."
II. MAN'S INSANE INFATUATION. "Hardeneth his neck." Too many "reject the Word of the Lord."
1. How terrible the power of sin!
2. How deceitful the heart of man!
3. How inexcusable and suicidal the sinner!
III. THE TERRIRLE THREATENING. God's long-suffering will not always last.
1. "The sinner shall be destroyed; his destruction is certain."
2. Be destroyed; his destruction fearful.
3. Shall suddenly; we know not what a day may bring forth.
IV. THE AWFUL APPENDIX. "And that without remedy." There is a remedy here and now, however sinful we have been, but there will be none hereafter.
(David Jamison, B.A.)I. THE CHARACTER IMPLIED.
II. THE REPROOF GIVEN. "Often reproved."
III. THE REPROOF REJECTED. "Hardeneth his neck." Setteth himself against taking the reproof, as a stubborn ox against taking the yoke. Indifferent to it. Laughs at it. Becomes worse. Obstinate in doing evil and in resisting good. "Mind your own business." "I am my own master." Throws off all restraint. Becomes sceptical, perhaps atheistic; scorns at religion and religious people.
IV. THE PUNISHMENT THREATENED. "Shall suddenly," etc. He shall be cut off from hope; from friends; from honour; from happiness; from all his desirable possessions — suddenly; prematurely cut off; unexpectedly: apoplexy; disaster in travelling, etc. Irretrievable; eternal. Conclusion:
1. A limit to God's long-suffering.
2. To live against Divine reproofs is perilous.
3. Divine reproofs are Divine mercies.
4. Exhort sinners.
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