Eli the priest had two sons, Hophni and Phinehas. As priests, Eli’s sons were supposed to lead the people in worship and in obedience to God’s commandments. Instead, they were selfishly indulging themselves. They practiced sexually immorality. From the offerings of the people to God they took the best parts for themselves. They held God’s commands in contempt. “Whatever!” (1 Samuel 2:12-25).
Had they listened and heeded God’s commandments they would have been rewarded with joy and satisfaction in life. But their contempt became the snare of death, both figuratively and literally. Their relationship with their father languished in the grave of conflict and alienation. God punished them with an early death. Proverbs 13:13-14 advises people like Hophni and Phinehas:
The one who despises the word will be in debt to it,
But the one who fears the commandment will be rewarded.
The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life,
To turn aside from the snares of death.
The “word” and “commandment” refer to divine revelation in the Bible. The “wise” would be someone who knows God’s Word, because it is the only source of authoritatively godly wisdom. A “fountain of life” is a fountain of welfare, persistently bubbling up with spiritual blessings that also produce earthly happiness.
It can be hard to receive correction; it hurts our pride and we don’t like it. We are tempted to shift blame, mince words, rationalize, or to accuse our reprover of being harsh or unjust. But God’s correction, whether through reading His Word or by the mouth the wise, is not intended to spoil our fun. His goal is to point us to fear the commandment because He knows we will be rewarded. We will have more peace in relationships, the happiness that comes from a clear conscience, and the enjoyment that results from making wise decisions. Not only is the present situation likely to improve, but we will grow more wise for the future. How good God is!
What we teach others about life and living needs to be founded on God’s Word. And when we are reproved, we need to remember that no matter what intent we think is held by a person who reproves us, it has not come apart from Providence. Even unjust reproof is designed by the Lord to work for our good. The Lord intends that the one reproved might not be in debt to the Word as were Hophni and Phinehas, but rewarded. So we are wise to look for God’s truth in the reproof, that we might drink more deeply of that fountain of life, to experience joy and satisfaction both spiritually and in earthly felicity.