The 17th Sunday After Pentecost September 15, 2013
2 Kings 5:1-15
388, 449, 355, 46
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.Like an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold is a wise rebuker to an obedient ear.
Dear fellow-redeemed by the blood of God’s own Son:
Naaman, the commander of the Syrian army, suffered from leprosy. His wife was served by a little Israelite girl. One day the little girl said, “If only my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria! For he would heal him of his leprosy” (2 Kings 5:3). This was a word of blessing “fitly spoken.”
One day in April of 1521, Martin Luther was about to take his stand before the Roman Emperor and the Pope in Worms, Germany. We are told that as Martin Luther entered the city an old knight clapped him on the shoulder and said, “My dear, poor monk, you are going to make such a stand as neither I nor any of my companions in arms have ever made in our hottest battles. If you are sure of the justice of your cause, then go forward in God’s name, and be of good courage. God will not forsake you.” This was a word of encouragement “fitly spoken.”
Words of blessing and encouragement are truly words “fitly spoken”—“like apples of gold in settings of silver.” When we hear such words spoken to us we want to frame them and hang them on the wall! But what about words of correction and rebuke? Our fleshly nature doesn’t like to hear words of correction, does it? Often we even shy away from speaking words of correction to others. On the one hand, we are tempted to take the easy way and correct no one. On the other hand, we are also tempted to correct others with a self-righteous attitude.
Why don’t we mind our own business? Because the giving and receiving of correction is necessary for the Savior to save us. Without correction no one can reach Heaven? It is shocking, but true! That’s why the Apostle Paul charged the young preacher, Timothy, “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2). In other words, be ready to offer “THE WORD FITLY SPOKEN.”
When the disciples prevented the little children from coming to Jesus, He rebuked them, saying: “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14).
When Peter tried to persuade Jesus not to go to Jerusalem to suffer and die, Jesus answered him: “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me; for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of man” (Matthew 16:23).
Rebuke, reproof, and correction are extremely important in the lives of Christians. Solomon says that reproof can be like “an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold,” [v.12] but then he goes on to say that when reproof is as lovely as a gold earring it comes from a wise person.
The wise person in this case is not someone who has gone to school for 20 years, or has earned a degree in human psychology. In one of His parables Jesus describes the person who hears and believes His Word as “a wise man who built his house upon a rock” (Matthew 7:24). The Apostle Paul reminded Timothy “that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15f).
A wise person is the one who stand in awe of the holy God and finds his salvation from sin in the blood of Jesus. As he walks and talks by faith he knows how to wisely correct others.
He is wise in reproving others first of all because such a Christian comes in humility. Do you trust in the Lord for the forgiveness of your own sins? Then you have already recognized your own terrible errors and sins before God. If you, therefore, are aware that a sister or brother in Christ has done or is doing wrong, you will not correct him or her from a sense of pride as if you have never done wrong. You will, rather, think to yourself: “I have been there too. I too could have committed this sin.”
As strange as it may seem, we can only deal wisely with someone who has sinned when we first look to ourselves and think how easily we ourselves have fallen to temptation. So Paul wrote to the Christians in Galatia: “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself , lest you also be tempted” (Galatians 6:1).
The wise reprover will not only come to the erring person in humility, he will also come in love.
If you know how often your Savior has forgiven you, even though you have sinned against Him countless times, then you will not run to tell others about the sin of your brother or sister in Christ. You will do nothing to make it more difficult for one who has sinned to repent of his sin. You will do everything you can to make it clear that you dearly love him as God loves you.
Our Lord did not come into the world to judge the world. He came to die on the cross in order to save the world. So also our aim is not to condemn the one who has sinned with a cold, judgmental heart, but to save him by bringing him to truly see his error and seek forgiveness in Christ.
In Solomon’s day an earring was considered a thing of beauty, whether worn by men or women. The wise reprover wants to improve the one who has done wrong and sinned. He wants to be like a beautiful earring to the one he is trying to help in Christian love.
Sadly, the wise reprover is not always received by the hearer’s ear as a fine ornament of gold! Why is that? Because the ear is not obedient. Solomon says that reproof is as lovely as a gold earring only when it is received by an obedient ear. Obedient hearing is absolutely necessary. In Matthew 18, Jesus places great emphasis on the obedient hearing of the brother who has sinned: “If your brother trespasses against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear you, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector (sinner)” (Matthew 18:15-17).
When the prophet Nathan came to rebuke King David for his sins of murder and adultery, David did not deny his guilt, or make excuses, or change the subject, or lash back at Nathan with harsh words. David’s ears were obedient so that he repented of his sins and received forgiveness. Nathan said to King David, “The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die” (2 Samuel 12:13). Later, David wrote in Psalm 141, “Let the righteous strike me; it shall be a kindness: and let him rebuke me; it shall be as excellent oil; let my head not refuse it” (Psalm 41:5).
Dear friends in Christ, just as each of us needs much encouragement during our earthly journey to Heaven, so also we need reproof and correction. Our Savior has gathered us closely together in this blessed fellowship so that we may assist one another to Heaven by encouragements and reproof.
Let no one think more highly of himself than he or she should. But with the humility of David may we invite reproof from our believing brothers and sisters in Christ. May we receive rebuke as a
“kindness” rather than as a self-righteous judgment of our lives. May we be thinking to ourselves: “My Christian friend must love me. He must be seeking my good. I will listen to him.”
May the undeserved love of Christ for each of us, move us to reprove sin in our children, in our spouse, and our fellow members only with the Savior’s loving concern for sinners. Then reproof among us will be as lovely as a gold earring to the ear. Then we will walk peaceably together, growing in love and devotion to one another, then we will assist one another to our heavenly home, which is the goal we all share. God grant it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.