April 15: I’ll Take the Arrow
Deuteronomy 29:1–29; 2 Corinthians 7:8–16; Psalm 42:1–43:5
“Better is an arrow from a friend than a kiss from an enemy.”
When I first heard this saying, I was struck by what a truism it is. It wasn’t until years later, though, that I began surrounding myself with wise friends who would tell me the truth even when it was difficult to hear.
Paul was a true friend to the Corinthians, and it’s for this reason that he rebuked them: “For if indeed I grieved you by my letter, I do not regret it.… For grief according to the will of God brings about a repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted, but worldly grief brings about death” (2 Cor 7:8, 10).
I recently felt God asking me to rebuke someone. I was hesitant at first, but I followed through. Afterward, I was tempted to lighten the weight of my words by writing a follow-up explanation, but I was certain that it wasn’t God’s will that I do so; I felt that nearly all the words I had spoken were in His will. I had to be confident that the rebuke had power to lead the person to repentance and that the repentance could lead to salvation. I shouldn’t regret what I had done, but embrace it.
Moses had a similar experience to Paul’s. He spoke harsh words into the lives of the Israelites when renewing God’s covenant with them. He said things like: “You have not eaten bread, and you have not drunk wine and strong drink, so that you may know that I am Yahweh your God” (Deut 29:6). When the Israelites were deprived of things they thought they deserved, it was so that they could learn about God; such deprivation would force them to be dependent upon Yahweh.
I had another experience lately where I was on the receiving end of a truthful rebuke. My typical response is defensiveness, but I sensed from my friend’s voice that he was genuine. He was speaking words of experience, love, and godly wisdom. God worked in my heart and I listened. Even though they hurt, I had to be thankful for the wise words. As I’ve been tempted to fall into my old patterns since then, that rebuke continues to make a difference. I’m thankful for honest friends.
We often use the phrase “Judge not lest you be judged” as an excuse for not speaking the truth to someone (Matt 7:1). But Paul clearly didn’t use it that way. He understood that he was the worst of sinners, and he gladly admitted it. In grace, he issued rebukes.
Judging people incorrectly and out of hate or envy is a problem in our world. But so is failing to speak up when we see someone going astray. Paul didn’t judge—rather, he stated that God would judge according to His plans and oracles. Paul said it like it was, based on what God led him to say. He didn’t degrade people; he promoted godly behavior.
Do you have godly friends who speak honest words to you? If not, how can you go about making friends that will? How can you be open to speaking the truth to others without judging them?
JOHN D. BARRY
- These are the words of the covenant which the Lord commandeth Moses to make with the children of Israel, in the land of Moab, beside the covenant which he had made with them in Horeb. And Moses called all Israel, and sai dunto them, Ye have seen all that the Lord did before your eyes in the land of Egypt unto Pharaoh and unto all his servants, and unto all his land, The great tentations which thine eyes have seen, those great miracles and wonders: Yet the Lord hath not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day. And I have led you forty years in the wilderness: your clothes are not waxed old upon you, neither is thy shoe waxed old upon thy foot. Ye have eaten no bread, neither drunk wine, nor strong drink, that ye might know how that I am the Lord your God. After, ye came unto this place, and Sihon King of Heshbon, and Og King of Bashan came out against us unto battle, and we slew them, And took their land, and gave it for an inheritance unto the Reubenites, and to the Gadites, and to the half tribe of Manasseh. Keep therefore the words of this covenant and do them, that ye may prosper in all that ye shall do. Ye stand this day everyone of you before the Lord your God: your heads of your tribes, your Elders and your officers, even all the men of Israel: Your children, your wives, and thy stranger that is in thy camp, from the hewer of thy wood, unto the drawer of thy water, That thou shouldest pass into the covenant of the Lord thy God, and into his oath which the Lord thy God maketh with thee this day. For to establish thee this day a people unto himself, and that he may be unto thee a God, as he hath said unto thee, and as he hath sworn unto thy fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Neither make I this covenant and this oath with you only, But as well with him that standeth here with us this day before the Lord our God, as with him that is not here with us this day. For ye know, how we have dwelt in the land of Egypt, and how we passed through the midst of the nations, which ye passed by. And ye have seen their abominations and their idols (wood and stone, silver and gold) which were among them, That there should not be among you man nor woman, nor family, nor tribe, which should turn his heart away this day from the Lord our God, to go and serve the gods of these nations, and that there should not be among you any root that bringeth forth gall and wormwood, So that when he heareth the words of this curse, he bless himself in his heart, saying, I shall have peace, although I walk according to the stubbornness of mine own heart, thus adding drunkenness to thirst. The Lord will not be merciful unto him, but then the wrath of the Lord and his jealousy shall smoke against that man, and every curse that is written in this book, shall light upon him, and the Lord shall put out his name from under heaven. And the Lord shall separate him unto evil out of all the tribes of Israel, according unto all the curses of the covenant, that is written in the book of this Law. So that the generation to come, even your children, that shall rise up after you, and the stranger that shall come from a far land, shall say, when they shall see the plagues of this land, and the diseases thereof, wherewith the Lord shall smite it: (For all that land shall burn with brimstone and salt: it shall not be sown, nor bring forth, nor any grass shall grow therein, like as in the overthrowing of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, which the Lord overthrew in his wrath and in his anger.) Then shall all nations say, Wherefore hath the Lord done thus unto this land? how fierce is this great wrath? And they shall answer, Because they have forsaken the covenant of the Lord God of their fathers, which he had made with them, when he brought them out of the land of Egypt, And went and served other gods and worshipped them: even gods which they knew not, and which had given them nothing. Therefore the wrath of the Lord waxed hot against this land, to bring upon it every curse that is written in this book. And the Lord hath rooted them out of their land in anger, and in wrath, and in great indignation, and hath cast them into another land, as appeareth this day. The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong unto us, and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this Law. Deuteronomy 29:1–29
- For though I made you sorry with a letter, I repent not, though I did repent: for I perceive that the same Epistle made you sorry, though it were but for a season. I now rejoice, not that ye were sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye sorrowed godly, so that in nothing ye were hurt by us. For godly sorrow causeth repentance unto salvation, not to be repented of: but the worldly sorrow causeth death. For behold, this thing that ye have been godly sorry, what great care hath it wrought in you: yea, what clearing of yourselves: yea, what indignation: yea, what fear: yea, how great desire: yea, what a zeal: yea, what revenge: in all things ye have showed yourselves, that ye are pure in this matter. Wherefore, though I wrote unto you, I did not it for his cause that had done the wrong, neither for his cause that had the injury, but that our care toward you in the sight of God might appear unto you. Therefore we were comforted, because ye were comforted: but rather we rejoiced much more for the joy of Titus, because his spirit was refreshed by you all. For if that I have boasted anything to him of you, I have not been ashamed: but as I have spoken unto you all things in truth, even so our boasting unto Titus was true. And his inward affection is more abundant toward you, when he remembereth the obedience of you all, and how with fear and trembling ye received him. I rejoice therefore that I may put my confidence in you in all things. 2 Corinthians 7:8–16
- As the Hart brayeth for the rivers of water, so panted my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, even for the living God: when shall I come and appear before the presence of God? Mine tears have been my meat day and night, while they daily say unto me, Where is thy God? When I remembered these things, I poured out my very heart, because I had gone with the multitude, and led them into the house of God with the voice of singing, and praise, as a multitude that keepth a feast. Why art thou cast down, my soul, and unquiet within me? wait on God: for I will yet give him thanks for the help of his presence. My God, my soul is cast down within me, because I remembered thee, from the land of Jordan, and Hermon, and from the mount Mizar. One deep calleth another deep by the noise of thy waterspouts: all thy waves and thy floods are gone over me. The Lord will grant his loving-kindness in the day, and in the night shall I sing of him, even a prayer unto the God of my life. I will say unto God, which is my rock, Why hast thou forgotten me? why go I mourning, when the enemy oppresseth me? My bones are cut asunder, while mine enemies reproach me, saying daily unto me, Where is thy God? Why art thou cast down, my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? wait on God: for I will yet give him thanks: he is my present help and my God. Judge me, O God, and defend my cause against the unmerciful people: deliver me from the deceitful and wicked man. For thou art the God of my strength: why hast thou put me away? why go I so mourning, when the enemy oppressed me? Send thy light and thy truth: let them lead me: let them bring me unto thine holy Mountain, and to thy Tabernacles. Then will I go unto the altar of God, even unto the God of my joy and gladness: and upon the harp will I give thanks unto thee, O God my God. Why art thou cast down, my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me: wait on God: for I will yet give him thanks, he is present help and my God. Psalm 42:1–43:5