But what about unfair criticism? How should we handle it when we believe criticism is unjustified?
2 Samuel 15 & 16
Trusting in the sovereignty of God
We see David’s trust in the sovereignty of God in these two chapters. The broken relationship between David and his son Absalom has lead to bitterness and now rebellion on Absalom’s part. He has been secretly plotting to overthrow his father by deceiving the people. He is now on his way to take Jerusalem.
David gets word and is fleeing the city along with his household and hundreds of his men. When Zadok the Priest joins him, David says:
“Then the king said to Zadok, ‘Carry the ark of God back into the city. If I find favor in the eyes of the LORD, He will bring me back and show me both it and His dwelling place. But if He says thus. “I have no delight in you,” here I am, let Him do to me as seems good to Him'” (15.26).
Then in chapter 16 Shimei one of Saul’s descendants follows David and his men cursing and throwing stones at him. Abishai, one of his generals, offers to take off Shimei’s head! David responds by saying:
“So let him curse, because the LORD has said to him, ‘Curse David.’ Who then shall say, ‘Why have you done so?’ And David said to Abishai and all his servants, ‘See how my son who came from my own body seeks my life. How much more now may this Benjamite? Let him alone, and let him curse; for so the LORD has ordered him. It may be that the LORD will look on my affliction, and that the LORD will repay me with good for his cursing this day.”
Responding to our critics
This is a great example of how we should respond to criticism in our lives. Whether or not the criticism is justified, God has allowed it for some purpose. If it’s unfair or ill-intended, we should allow God to deal with it.
Romans 12, “Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.”
It’s so easy for us to dismiss any counsel or criticism we don’t like, but over and over in Proverbs and other places in the Bible we are encouraged to listen.
Proverbs 12.15 says, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but he who heeds counsel is wise.”
Even when criticism is unfair on untrue, there is generally a nugget of truth in it. So listen, take it to the Lord, and leave your critic in God’s hands.
My Father, but …
Verse 8 begins, “Oh, bless our God, you peoples!”
The meaning of the word “bless” includes: kneeling, praising, saluting, and thanking. The word “salute” caught my attention. When we think of saluting, we think of the military. But what is a salute? It’s an acknowledgment of someone’s superiority or rank. Webster says it’s “a formal gesture expressing respect.”
I believe God wants us to have a close, personal, intimate relationship with Him. Because we are His adopted sons and daughters, Paul said we have a right to call Him, “Abba,” the Aramaic word for “Daddy” (Rom. 8.15).
But that familiarity should not lead us into a forwardness or over-familiarity where we begin to see ourselves almost as peers, or worse yet, where we begin to think God is at our beck and call like a genie in a bottle. We must also understand “… that the LORD Himself is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other” (Deut. 4.39). He may be our “Abba, Father,” but He is still God and we are not!
The kisses and winks and whispers of an enemy
Think about the passage:
27 An ungodly man digs up evil,
And it is on his lips like a burning fire.
28 A perverse man sows strife,
And a whisperer separates the best of friends.
29 A violent man entices his neighbor,
And leads him in a way that is not good.
30 He winks his eye to devise perverse things;
He purses his lips and brings about evil.
I was struck by the verbs in these four verses about how ungodly men and women influence and operate. Sometimes people can even be used without realizing it to sow ungodliness in our lives.
When Jesus tried to prepare the disciples for His death it says:
“Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, ‘Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!’ But He turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men'” (Matt. 16.22-23).
Go back and reread the verses in Proverbs, look at the phrases used, especially the verbs. In the NKJV they are: “digs up,” “sows strife,” “a whisperer separates the best of friends,” “entices,” “winks his eye,” and “purses his lips.”
When we think of digging something up or sowing strife, it’s pretty clear. But what about that “friend” who whispers something she thinks you really should know? Oh, that sweet gossip! It entices us!
Or what about the person who says something that really stings and then winks, “I was only kidding!” Or the one who says nothing, but implies much with her expression, her pursed lips!
Sometimes we should say at least to ourselves, “Get behind me Satan!”
“Faithful are the wounds of a friend, deceitful are the kisses” (and winks and whispers) “of an enemy” (Prov. 27.6).
Sometimes those who appear to be our friends turn out to be our enemies, at least spiritually, and our worst critics can be truer friends.
The truthfulness of the Word
Verse 17, “If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority.”
Most of us meet people or have people in our circle of friends and family who express doubts about the veracity and inspiration of the Scriptures. They ask, “Wasn’t the Bible just written by men?” They don’t understand or believe that:
“… no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1.20-21).
But if we have been born again and we surrender our will to His and ask for His wisdom in our lives, our spirit begins to witness with His Spirit that not only are we the sons and daughters of God (Rom. 8.16), but that His Word is Truth (Ps. 119.160).
How have you responded to criticism in the past? How do your responses need to change? Is there someone in your life who has wounded you in faithfulness? What do you need to do about it?
Is there someone you’ve been listening to whose kisses, winks, and whispers have only served to help you justify your own sin, hold on to bitterness and unforgiveness, or keep you from growing spiritually? What do you need to do?
Is there some area where you have resented the work of God in your life? Have you been angry because He hasn’t been the kind of “Daddy” you want? Have you failed to “salute” Him and acknowledge that He is the perfect Father and knows better than you?
Have you been tempted to doubt the truthfulness of God’s Word? Have you explained away parts that don’t fit your ideas?
Take some time to honestly assess your answers and talk to God about any changes in action or attitude that you need to make.
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