Faithful are the wounds of a friend
Recently, while preaching through the book of Zechariah, I was struck by a passage in the thirteenth chapter in which the prophet spoke of a time when the Lord would so work in and among his people that they would no longer tolerate the presence of idols or the prophets who served them. So adamant would they be in this that even the family members of the false prophets would rebuke and discipline them. What’s more, the false prophets themselves would come to be grateful for this.
Every prophet will be ashamed of his vision when he prophesies. He will not put on a hairy cloak in order to deceive, but he will say, “I am no prophet, I am a worker of the soil…” And if one asks him, “What are these wounds on your back?” he will say, “The wounds I received in the house of my friends” (Zech. 13:4-6).
The genuineness of their repentance would be proven by the fact that they would regard as friends, those who had reproved them and rescued them from their error.
The same sentiment is expressed in Proverbs, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Prov. 27:6). The meaning is that a faithful friend will not allow his friend to persist in his error without seeking to correct him. This ought always to be done in a spirit of gentleness, of course (Gal. 6:1; 2 Tim. 2:25), but in the world’s wisdom, no matter how loving, kind, and well-intentioned the correction might be, this is not an act of friendship, but of enmity; it is not love, but hate. In the world’s wisdom, it’s the one who applauds and encourages his neighbor in his sinful ways who is thought to be a friend. The truth is that in such a case he is acting the part of an enemy, no matter how friendly he thinks he’s being.
Consider what David says:
Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness;
let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head;
let not my head refuse it (Ps. 141:5)
“Let a righteous man correct me – it is a kindness.” This is a mark of wisdom, to regard righteousness as more important than comfort, and to esteem as a friend one who risks being considered rude and offensive by delivering reproof.
Perhaps David had the prophet Nathan in mind when he wrote this. Nathan had given David a very sharp and well-deserved rebuke on account of his sin with Bathsheba, a rebuke that brought him to a heart-felt repentance and brokenness before God, resulting in his restoration (see 2 Sam. 12).
However difficult it is to deliver such a stroke – and however painful it is to receive it – it is nevertheless an act of kindness for which we should be grateful. The author of Hebrews puts it this way:
For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it (Heb. 12:11)
May the Lord give us hearts that humbly receive the faithful wounds of a friend and the courage to be faithful friends ourselves.