Rev. Kuiper is a minister emeritus in the Protestant Reformed Churches.
The Hebrew and Greek words translated in the KJV as reproach contain the idea of shame, disgrace, reviling, upbraiding, chiding, and casting into the teeth. All reproach is for Christ’s sake, as He is God, and as He is in the flesh the Word and revelation of God. When the people of God are reproached, it is for Christ’s sake; it is because Christ is seen in them. Christ was reviled because all the fullness of the Godhead dwells in Him bodily, and He left behind a certain measure of reproach for His people to endure or fill up (Col. 1:24).
The great passage on reproach is Psalm 69, where we find the term used six times. In this psalm David complains of those who hate him without a cause: they number more than the hairs of his head; and he is even made a stranger to members of his family. And his explanation for this situation is: “Because for thy sake I have borne reproach; shame has covered my face” (v. 7). David makes the point, further, that the more zeal a person has for the cause of God’s house, the greater the reproach (v. 9). He was consumed by such great zeal, and as he showed to Israel this consuming zeal for God’s covenant, the reproach of the wicked against God fell on him. This reproach broke his heart, and there was none to pity him or comfort him; his only comfort was that God saw his reproach, shame, and dishonor. And he left it to God to punish the adversaries.
David writes as the great type of the Christ. Every thing of which he writes here was multiplied upon Jesus on the cross, where the adversaries gave Him “gall for my meat; and in my thirst gave me vinegar to drink” (v. 21). In Romans 15:3 the apostle Paul quotes from Psalm 69, setting forth Christ as the example for us in not pleasing ourselves, but rather the neighbor for his good to edification. “For Christ pleased not himself: but as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me.”
Two passages speak of the reproach of Egypt, that is, a reproach that came forth from Egyptians upon the Israel of God. After Israel had crossed the Jordan and encamped at Gilgal the Lord said unto Joshua, “This day have I rolled away the reproach of Egypt from off you” (Josh. 5:9). The reproach of Egypt was their reviling of God that He could not bring them to the promised land: “For Pharaoh will say of the children of Israel, They are entangled in the land, the wilderness hath shut them in” (Ex. 14:3); it was their idolatry; it was the cruelty they showed the Israelites as the chosen people of God; it was their hard-hearted refusal to bow before God in repentance in the face of overwhelming proof that He is God alone. God rolled that reproach of Egypt from off Himself and His people at Gilgal. There they circumcised an entire generation born in the wilderness, symbolic of the cutting away of their sins in Egypt and in the wilderness, and the token of God’s covenant faithfulness toward them.
The second passage that speaks of the reproach of Egypt is Hebrews 11:26, where we read of Moses’ choice against everything that Egypt could offer, and for the people of God and whatever that may involve. Moses esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt. Moses suffered reproach, not of a general kind, but the reproach of Christ! The same reproach Christ would later endure! He was joined to Christ by faith and he believed that Christ would obtain for him a reward that was eternal and not for a season.
There is an interesting use of the term reproach in connection with the believer’s conscience. In Job 27:6 this oft-assailed man of great patience exclaims, “My righteousness I hold fast, and will not let it go; my heart shall not reproach me so long as I live.” Literally Job says, “My heart reproacheth not one of my days.” Because he is assured of his righteousness in Christ, he enjoys the answer of a good conscience every day of his life, and so may we.
Finally, the wise man of Israel calls our attention to our duty to the poor. “He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his maker: but he that honoreth him hath mercy on the poor” (Prov. 14:31). And, “Whoso mocketh the poor reproacheth his maker: and he that is glad at calamities shall not be unpunished” (Prov. 17:5). We take “his maker” as referring to God, the Maker of the poor. Men upbraid and rail against God who makes some poor. They carp at God’s sovereignty in doing this; some even call for the redistribution of wealth in the land. Others chide God for the calling that He gives to us in respect to the poor: to labor faithfully that we may have something to give to the poor, helping them in their distress. But the poor that are always with us are to be considered a blessing from God. They give us the opportunity to show forth the love that God has shown to us. By having mercy on the poor we honor the God of all mercy.