Series 49


by Francis Dixon
(Key-verse: Proverbs 29:1)

In the Bible there are some terrible words of warning. They are placed there by God Himself like red warning signals to those of us who are travelling on to eternity. The key-verse of this study is one such warning! We may shudder when we read Proverbs 29:1, and yet with this note of solemn warning there is also a note of mercy and compassion. We are told here of the certain and awful judgment which will fall on men and women who persistently and deliberately reject God’s love and grace; but it also tells of His wondrous love and mercy, because in the heart of the warning we have a declaration that God is not willing that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9). What can we learn from this verse?

1. How much God loves sinners

This verse speaks of God’s love towards “a man who remains stiff-necked after many rebukes”. The words ‘rebuke’ or ‘reprove’ (KJV) are the same as the word used in John 16:8 KJV. He so greatly loves men and women that He frequently reproves them. He tries to convince them of their danger but also reminds them of His love in the provision of His Son. Notice that it is God who does the reproving, so that in the case of our salvation He takes the initiative. This is very wonderful! He might have cast us off for ever and banished us to Hell; but instead He comes to us and seeks to bring us to Himself! – as He did with Saul of Tarsus, the militant enemy of the gospel and of the Lord (Acts 9:1-5). Here is grace in action. How does God reprove, rebuke and warn men and women to show His concern for their salvation?

  1. 1. He does it through the life, example and pleading of a godly parent or friend. How many of you remember the example of a loving mother or a fine Christian father, or the earnest concern of a friend for your salvation?
  2. 2. He does it through a preacher or youth group leader. How often have you listened to a preacher and been conscious that in his preaching God has been speaking to you, pleading with you regarding His offer of salvation?
  3. 3. He does it sometimes by adopting drastic measures. Losing a loved one will often make a man face up to the solemn fact of eternity, when God often reproves and speaks very loudly in times of tragedy. He also speaks in times of illness, business failure or personal testing. Is God reproving you so that you will realise your need of Him?

What a long way God will go in order to bring men and women to Himself! He loves us all, in spite of our sin, and He has made every possible effort to save men and women (Matthew 21:37; Romans 5:8). But in spite of this, how do they respond to God’s mercy and compassion? What else does this verse tell us?

2. How sinners treat God

“A man who remains stiff-necked after many rebukes…” That is how sinners treat God. The word ‘stiff-necked’ implies not an action but an attitude, a process. How easily we can become like this, whereas once our hearts and consciences were tender and impressionable! The expression ‘stiff-necked’ is a figure taken to illustrate the way a rebellious animal, say an ox, turns away from the yoke. In the same way men in their obstinacy stubbornly and persistently set their wills against God and against those things which are in their best interests. God is gracious and patient (see Nehemiah 9:17); and He does not afflict willingly (Lamentations 3:33); yet many people today are hardening their hearts against God. This is the sin that seals a man’s doom: the willful rejection of the grace of God and of His offer of mercy. Are you turning your back upon Him (Isaiah 53:6)? rejecting His loving invitations (John 5:40)? taking sides with the enemies of God and of His Son (Matthew 12:3)? Well, He still loves you!

3. The Peril of Resisting God

“A man…will suddenly be destroyed – without remedy”. What remorse, despair and eternal regret are shown here! God says to the man who hardens his heart that certain judgment will come upon him, with no remedy. Notice the following:

  1. 1. Judgment is sure – see the word ‘will’ and look up Acts 17:30-31, Hebrews 9:27. There was certain judgment for those before the Flood (Genesis 7:11-23); for Pharaoh and his hosts (Exodus 14:15-28); and for the rich man (Luke 16:19-31). All these were reproved and warned by God but they refused His admonitions.
  2. 2. Judgment will be sudden. What terrible words these are – “suddenly be destroyed”! Death is sudden (Luke 12:20); Pentecost came suddenly (Acts 2:2); the Lord Jesus will return suddenly (Mark 13:36); and judgment will come suddenly (1 Thessalonians 5:3).
  3. 3. Judgment will be final. The Bible does not offer any second chance of salvation beyond the grave (Proverbs 1:24-31), so to continue rejecting Christ will lead to a point where there is no further remedy, and where it is too late to come to Him (Isaiah 55:6-7). Notice how this happened in the case of Korah, Abiram and Dathan (Numbers 16:12-35), and Jezebel (2 Kings 9:30-37).

Proverbs 29:1 is one of the most solemn statements in scripture. It contains God’s word of loving entreaty and His word of solemn warning. Do you believe what God says? Even if you do not, He still says it! – and His word is true. Notice, finally, that there are three things you cannot do:

  1. 1. You can never say that God does not love you and long for your salvation (Romans 10:13).
  2. 2. You can never say you have not had a chance to be saved (John 6:37).
  3. 3. If you die in your sin, you can never say you thought you would have another chance of being saved after death (Proverbs 11:21; John 8:21-24).