So up to this point, we have seen two contextual elements of rebuke: the WHO, and the WHY. Of course, Isaiah does not simply stop with these, but will go on to discuss the actual content of what is displeasing God. But I think it is important to spend some time dwelling on these important pieces of context, because the who and why of rebuke really shapes how we receive discipline or warning.
For example, why is the “who” of rebuke important to us? Why doesn’t Isaiah just cut right to the chase and identify the core issue which displeases God? Because our receptivity to a rebuke depends greatly upon who is dishing that rebuke out. If someone whom you don’t know, or don’t respect, is telling you that you have done something wrong, our natural inclination is reject their opinion out of hand as either mean-spirited, or simply incorrect. But if it comes from someone whom we genuinely love, and admire, we are much more likely to look for truth in what we are hearing, no matter how difficult it may be to hear.
This is valuable for us in two respects: first, helping us remember that the God who sometimes rebukes and corrects us is our loving and wise Father. And because of this identity, we should be mining these moments of rebuke and admonition for greater truth. So in order to have the patience to learn what we can from rebuke…we must really know God as our Father. If he is a Taskmaster-God, or a Slavedriver-God, then we will only see his rebuke as punishment, rather than what it really is – the Father’s discipline.
But additionally, this principle should also inform how we give rebuke. Rebuke is never pleasant, but it is often necessary in the life of the church. But when we rebuke, we should very careful that we are the right person to do it. Do we really know this person? Do they trust us? Have you shown concern for their best interest before? If not, there is probably very little chance that anyone will have the patience to look for the good that you have to say.
I had a friend rebuke me a few years ago – pulled me aside, and told me that he didn’t feel like my words were appropriate. I instinctively defended myself and my actions and assumed that he was overly-sensitive. But in the midst of this conversation, I remembered who I was talking to – my friend. He’s smart, and a good person, and has shown concern for me before. And so I consciously bit back on my verbal defenses, and instead gave real thought to his words – and he was right. Dead on the money. He was the right person to rebuke me, and his words of correction, I carry with me to this day.
All of this is leading up to the WHAT of rebuke, exactly what is displeasing God. The question is whether Israel will accept what Isaiah has to say, even if it comes from a loving Father?
1. How would you honestly describe God? Is he a Father, a Teacher, a Slave Driver, a Judge? Has your perception of God ever affected your interpretation of why God was doing something in your life?
2. Is there someone whom you have rebuked, but realized you were not the right person? Is there a person whom you should rebuke, because you are the right person?