The Word For Wednesday: Chastening
Proverbs 6:23 For the commandment is a lamp, And the law a light; Reproofs of instruction are the way of life...
Today, I would like to talk about the chastening of the Lord. (And I realize that I may step on some toes, here; so please be "civil" in your comments. Thanks.) To illustrate my point, I will use the analogy of a doctor and his patient:
"Okay. Now all I need you to do is walk down the hall to this room and then you can have the operation, " the Doctor says after he examines you. You walk down that hall, knowing that the operation that will rid you of your terminal illness lies just around the corner. You want to be cured; you can hardly wait to be free again. You reach the door and see an ominous looking machine; this is the machine that is going to slice you open. Quivering with fear, you dash down the hall the way you came -- you are afraid. You walk out of that hospital no different than before. What has happened? Your fear has outweighed your desire for freedom from the illness.
Now suppose that you were to walk down the hall, enter the room, and -- though you are quivering -- lie down on the operation table. Now, the Doctor can cut out the illness. You walk out of that hospital a free man; it will take time to heal, but you are cured of your illness. You have let the Doctor examine you AND operate on you.
This is a lot like God. He examines you and sees if there is any bad thing in you (see 1 Corinthians 4:4 and Psalm 139:23-24). He sees a sin in your life and His analysis is as follows: "We need to cut this out! You need to get rid of this." You can either climb onto His operation table and let Him cut it out of you, or you can run and hide... and stay in your sins. To often, we let our fears outweigh the freedom that we would enjoy if we would just let God deal with the sins in our lives. We really want to be free; otherwise, we wouldn't have come to the Doctor in the first place. But we didn't take the next step: letting Him operate on us to rid us of the sin. We saw what was about to happen and we paniced, "No! I can't do this!" The sin, whatever it may be, has become such a part of us that we let our fear clobber our desire to be free!
In Hebrews 12, it speaks of the chastening of the Lord. Now, sometimes, the chastening of the Lord is not simply, "Do this"; sometimes, it's a slap in the face: "You're doing this the wrong way! Here's what you should be doing!" --- because we aren't listening. But either way, it hurts us -- it hurts our pride. We don't like to be told what to do, and many times, it comes when you are really trying to do right; you think that you are just getting to "okay" mode, and then -- BAM -- the chastening comes! Why? Well let's look at Hebrews 12:
Hebrews 12:1- "Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin. And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: 'My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the LORD loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives.' If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it."
Those who had gone before these Hebrews had died martyrs deaths and gone through so many persecutions (mentioned in Hebrews 11). Jesus had endured much from His enemies in His striving against sin, and He died for sinners. However, these Hebrews had not gone that far in their striving against sin. Because they were not yet perfect in this striving, Paul admonishes them to not lose heart when the Lord chastens them. When you're doing what's right, you are gonna get chastened; this is because in our effort to do it, we are in need of direction -- we mess up sometimes.
I would like to clarify that God doesn't put problems on us to "teach us a lesson" as some believe; that is not how He chastens us. This passage says that He does it "for our profit." Why? So that we might be partakers of His holiness -- that we might be holy as He is holy. In fact, that is what verse 14 states, "Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord..." When a child gets disciplined, it's not because the father hates his child; the father loves his child and wants him to be able to distinguish between right and wrong -- that is what discipline is for. The reason that many people believe that chastening is "God teaching me a lesson" is because they misunderstand this Scripture: "And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness'" (2 Corinthians 12:7-9). Notice that it doesn't say that God gave Paul the thorn in the flesh; it was "a messenger of Satan" -- Satan gave the thorn to Paul. However, you will notice that when Paul asked the Lord to "take it away," the Lord used it to teach Paul something: that His strength is made perfect in our weaknesses. God was not the one who sent to messanger of Satan, but God USED that messanger. This was also the case with Job (which is another commonly misunderstood passage); Satan afflicted Job, but God did not let him take Job's life -- God used it for Job's good. (God gives us all good things. It is the devil who gives us the bad things, but God merely USES those bad things for His glory. [See Jay's recent WFW for a good discussion on this topic.]) So if you're sick today or something bad has happened to you, know that God didn't give it to you, and God isn't chastening you. He won't drop sickness on you to get your attention anymore than a doctor would drop poison into your body to get you to take his medication (which is supposed to be never, unless we are considering vaccines ;) )! That would be forceful, and we know that God is not a dictator! God is a loving Father who disciplines us out of His love for us; He wants to see us prosper, He wants to see us going the right way -- THAT is why He chastens us.
In Hosea 6:1-4, we find another example of the Lord's chastening: "Come, and let us return to the LORD; For He has torn, but He will heal us; He has stricken, but He will bind us up. After two days He will revive us; On the third day He will raise us up, That we may live in His sight. Let us know, Let us pursue the knowledge of the LORD. His going forth is established as the morning; He will come to us like the rain, Like the latter and former rain to the earth. O Ephraim, what shall I do to you? O Judah, what shall I do to you? For your faithfulness is like a morning cloud, And like the early dew it goes away." Here, we see that the people had good intentions to obey the Lord; they knew that the Lord could heal them if they returned to Him, but their faithfulness to Him was as a vapor. So we see that if we are faithful to Him, He will heal us. Now, when it says that the Lord wounds, this still does not mean that He sent the bad; it merely means that He is chastening. Consequences for sins, however, is an entirely different thing. When the Lord shows us what to do, it's our decision whether or not we will actually do it. In the case of the people mentioned in Hosea, the Lord issued consequences upon the people for not being faithful -- consequences always follow actions, so we cannot blame the Lord for something that we ourselves have done.
But many times, when something bad happens people think, "What did I do to deserve this? Am I doing something wrong?" We know that God doesn't give us bad things, but "Is this a consequence of my sins?" someone might ask. To that, I would say that if you are wondering if the Lord is chastening you, seek Him in prayer to find out. He won't leave you in the dark about something like that, because He wants you to repent. And always remember that He is merciful and gracious to forgive us our sins. All we have to do is start walking in His direction!
Job 5:17-18 also says the same thing as Hosea: "Behold, happy is the man whom God corrects; Therefore do not despise the chastening of the Almighty. For He bruises, but He binds up; He wounds, but His hands make whole." Why is he happy if he is being chastened? Because after we are trained in it, "it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness." The very next verse states, "Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed" (Hebrew 12:12-13). Psalm 147:3 states, "He heals the brokenhearted And binds up their wounds." It takes us coming before God in complete brokeness of spirit, in complete repentance of those sins which the Lord has told us to discard -- that is how true chastening is supposed to work. After the operation is complete, the Lord wants to heal you of your scars. So you see, it's not God "hurting" you -- it's not Him "giving" you sickness. Actually, that's why Hebrews says, "and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed."; we are to "walk in the Spirit," to walk on His path in order to be healed. So you see, God doesn't afflict you; He wants you well. He doesn't chasten you and then leave you sick for the rest of your life; that would be like a doctor neglecting to stitch up the incision. Rather, it's God operating on you and then, as a Doctor, He gives you, the patient, a perscription for healing -- a straight path to walk on, as perscribed in His Word, so that you can be healed. When the healing process is complete, you are truly free -- Whom the Son sets free is free indeed!
"Turn at my rebuke; Surely I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you. Because I have called and you refused, I have stretched out my hand and no one regarded, Because you disdained all my counsel, And would have none of my rebuke, I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your terror comes, When your terror comes like a storm, And your destruction comes like a whirlwind, When distress and anguish come upon you. Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; They will seek me diligently, but they will not find me. Because they hated knowledge And did not choose the fear of the LORD,They would have none of my counsel And despised my every rebuke. Therefore they shall eat the fruit of their own way, And be filled to the full with their own fancies. For the turning away of the simple will slay them, And the complacency of fools will destroy them; But whoever listens to me will dwell safely, And will be secure, without fear of evil." ~ Proverbs 1:23-33