The Seventh Sunday After Pentecost July 15, 2007
244, 252, 25(1-3,5-6), 517, 54
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.
In the name of Christ Jesus, our Savior, dear fellow-redeemed:
Rules can at times seem rather burdensome, may even seem unfair, and may seem to crimp our style. Rules such as always wearing a helmet when biking, knowing safe places to play, and how to cross the street may not always seem so pleasant to children, but they are vital for safety from cars and other dangers.
Consequences for breaking the rules may not seem too pleasant either. It’s hard to be grounded for two weeks when that means missing a big event. Being spanked stings—physically, but also knowing that mom or dad is disappointed. Monetary fines may be difficult to swallow for adults. Whatever the consequence it will likely be unpleasant, but the consequence is important if we are to learn the rules and be encouraged to follow them.
God’s will for us is laid out in the Ten Commandments and we break them. However, when we break the commandments, we do not face the punishment for those sins, Jesus has already faced the punishment for us on the cross. We may, however, face chastisement for those sins as well as chastisement that is not directly related to the sins at all.
Consider King David as an example: David committed adultery with Bathsheba. This resulted in the conception of a son. In an attempt to cover up his sin, David ended up having Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, killed.
God sent the prophet Nathan to David to rebuke him for his sins and to lead him to repentance. Nathan told a parable to lead David to repentance. After his sin was exposed, David confessed his sins and repented. Nathan told David that God had forgiven him. The punishment for David’s sins of adultery and murder would not be carried out upon David. That would be accomplished when Jesus died on the cross for those sins and all the sins of the world. But, the prophet Nathan continued, because David had given an opportunity for others to see his sin and to be led astray by it, the son whom David had conceived with Bathsheba would die. In addition, another son, Absalom, would rebel against David, and there would be turmoil in David’s family.
In this example, David’s sin was forgiven, but there would be lasting consequence as a result. David faced the consequences of his sin, but the punishment was on Christ. The sin was forgiven, but God allowed lasting results to affect David as a reminder of those sins and as a reminder for David to remain humble, to submit to the Lord, and to remember the lessons he had learned.
Once Jesus’ disciples wrongly concluded that a man was born blind because of some sin that he had committed or because of a sin his parents had committed. Jesus said that this was not the case. The man was born blind to provide the opportunity for Jesus to heal him and glorify God (John 9). The blindness of the man was a hardship in life, a chastisement from God to strengthen him, to lead him to the point where he would meet Jesus, be healed, and be brought to faith. The blindness, though a hardship, was for the man’s blessing. It was a chastisement for the man’s greater good.
So the troubles and hardships that God allows to come into our lives may be discipline and a result of sin, they may be unrelated to sin but used by God to strengthen us, encourage us, keep us shielded from sin, or whatever other design God may have.
This chastisement is not always easy to bear. In our sinfulness we want to complain and say, “God this is too much! You are hurting me!” So the writer to the Hebrews reminds us to Rejoice in God’s Discipline. This may seem hard to do but if we keep in mind the purpose of God’s discipline then we will find every reason to rejoice. To rejoice in God’s discipline we need to I. See discipline as a mark of love II. Remember discipline has an important purpose III. Accept discipline without discouragement
The writer to the Hebrews uses earthly discipline by fathers and mothers as an example of God’s discipline. So we need to consider first of all what God desires concerning earthly discipline. For this we turn to the book of Proverbs where there are quite a few passages that deal with this subject. To parents God says, “He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly” (Proverbs 13:24). A lack of discipline is a sign of hatred and lack of love, but clear and direct discipline is an act of love on the part of parents toward their children. A parent who lets his child run wild into all sorts of danger is not showing love. Discipline is love, God says.
“Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of correction will drive it far from him” (Proverbs 22:15). We are all born in sin. We all have a sinful nature (young or old) that wants to go against the rules and push against the boundaries of the law. That is our nature. Correction, God says, will drive that out and provide a road map for the paths of righteousness.
“Do not withhold correction from a child, for if you beat him with a rod, he will not die. You shall beat him with a rod, and deliver his soul from Hell” (Proverbs 23:13-14). Discipline has eternal implications. To allow children to pursue their sinfulness unchecked may very well lead to their eternal destruction. Discipline the child and he will not die, but he will be saved from those torments. Skip the discipline and he may very well die in his sins. “The rod and rebuke give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother” (Proverbs 29:15).
Love corrects. Love sets boundaries for protection, for instruction, and for the overall benefit of the child. Love also enforces those rules and boundaries and brings chastisement when there is sin.
In our world, the message of discipline is not well received. In our world, there are many who abuse their children by beating them. The difference between abuse and discipline is love. If a parent brings punishment upon a child out of anger and selfishness, such as, “Look what you’ve done to me! You’ve made me late for work!” and then WHACK! It is abuse. If the discipline is administered out of something other than love for the child, it is abuse. On the other hand, when discipline is exercised in love for correction, and instruction, and the benefit as described by God in Proverbs, then discipline is not abuse, it is God pleasing.
It is also abuse to not discipline. Our world is filled with examples of people—adults and children—who have been overindulged with no discipline and no boundaries, and their lives show it. No discipline, no boundaries, and no correction means no love. The writer to the Hebrews says, “If you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons.” [v.8] If you are left on your own without discipline there is no love. Then you are not children because when you are treated as genuine children loved by parents, there will be discipline and correction.
Jeremiah recorded this prayer: “O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself; It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps. O Lord, correct me, but with justice; not in Your anger, lest You bring me to nothing.” (Jeremiah 10:23-24). Ours is a prayer that as God corrects us and chastises us that He does so in love, not in anger. God does not give us the judgment our sins deserve because that justice was carried out on Christ. We ask our God to deal with us in love and mercy—disciplining and correcting with our best interest and love in mind.
Just as parents discipline their children and thereby demonstrate love, similarly when God disciplines us it is a demonstration of His love and we need never doubt that. For David to lose a son and have a son rebel against him was hard, but it was a mark of God’s love. David could rejoice in that discipline because although he knew it was his sin that merited judgment, he also knew and believed that God had put away his sin through the merits of Christ and was allowing the troubles to come for David’s benefit. David had the confidence that God allowed his hardship to come and He did so out of love. Whatever hardships and troubles God allows to come into our lives, whatever consequences He allows to come as a result of sins, these are not punishments in the sense of judgment. The judgment was endured by Christ. Rather, these are acts of love to correct us, to strengthen our faith, and increase our trust in Him.
Rejoicing in discipline is also possible as we remember the important purposes of that discipline. “For they [earthly fathers] indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He [God] for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness.” [v.10]
Imagine if God had not brought consequence to David. He could have easily gone through life forgetting the depth of his sin and what his sin deserved. Imagine if there was no consequence, no chastisement, no discipline in our lives for the things we do that are displeasing to God. In that case we might grow rather secure in our sinful ways. We need God’s discipline to rebuke us when we sin, to correct us and humble us, so that day by day we understand that our strength is from Him and not from ourselves.
Fruit growers know they need to prune the branches to train them and keep their growth productive. This necessary cutting actually increases the production! The farmer who does not prune the trees and the vines will eventually find very little return in his crop. He might have leafy, sprawling plants, but there will be no fruit. God prunes us so that we produce fruit for Him. He cuts us with the Law in His Word to rebuke and correct, but then He also heals with the Gospel to assure us that our sins are forgiven. The psalmist writes, “Blessed is the man whom You discipline, O Lord, and teach out of Your instruction” (Psalm 94:12).
Just as parents instruct their children so God has the important purpose of instructing us to bring us to life everlasting. Again in the Psalms, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes” (Psalm 119:71). Paul wrote the Corinthians, “But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.” (1 Corinthians 11:32). God’s chastisement has the goal of preserving us from eternal destruction.
Because of the importance that lies behind all of God’s discipline and chastisement, we ought not despise it. There are many examples of people who despised the chastening of God. The result of this despising is judgment. Jeremiah, the prophet, lamented about the people of his day when he wrote, “O Lord, are not Your eyes on the truth? You have stricken them, but they have not grieved; You have consumed them, but they have refused to receive correction. they have made their faces harder than rock; they have refused to return.” (Jeremiah 5:3) God brought different kinds of chastisement upon His people, but they just set themselves, despised the chastisement, and maintained their own way all the way to destruction.
In all the troubles we may witness—natural disasters, earthquakes, fires, floods, hurricanes, volcanoes, terrorism, or any other trouble and danger—we can see these things and understand them as reminders of who we are and how much we need God. God allowed trouble to come to the Israelites in order to rebuke them and lead them to turn them from their sins, but they did not. Do not despise the chastening of God, it has an important purpose. As we see God allowing these troubles to occur in the world, we do well to remember our frailty, remember our sins, and come to the Lord repenting, seeking his forgiveness, and appreciating the fact that He does these things to lead people to repentance.
When we approach God’s discipline in this way we may still become discouraged. For reasons unknown to us, God may allow great hardship, great misery, and sorrow to come into an individual’s life. We might feel, “No one else is suffering like this…why me, God, why me?!” To encourage us God says, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
We are not alone. Each and every one of us faces trials and hardships and struggles that God allows to come for our benefit. On the surface it may appear that the next person has a much harder road to walk than I do, or it may seem that I have a much harder path, but God knows the hearts of everyone. He knows what each of us can take. He administers the discipline and correction according to our individual needs and ability to endure them. He does this for our benefit. I may not be able to handle much so He doesn’t allow much to come to me, but with what He does allow, He still corrects, instructs and strengthens me. Someone else may be able to handle what looks like much more, but we really can’t compare the two because we don’t know what God knows.
We ought not become discouraged because someone seemingly has more chastisement and someone has less. Rejoice to know that God is administering chastisement in love and wisdom to each according to his needs and ability. “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.” [v.11] We can find the cure for discouragement by remembering that God is training us. He is all-knowing and knows what we need. He will administer His chastisement for our blessing according to His will.
The writer to the Hebrews points to Christ who endured suffering and death for us and says: “Consider [Jesus] 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.” [3-4]
Another reminder against discouragement is to keep what we are facing in its proper perspective. There are who have lost their lives in gruesome deaths because of their faith. Not one of us has faced that. We have not resisted to bloodshed. Keeping in perspective what we face as compared to what we could face in this world of evil, leads us to conclude that God’s chastisement is very limited and directed by love.
Above all else, we avoid discouragement by keeping our eyes focused on Jesus who did not become discouraged but laid down His life for our sins and then rose again to life everlasting. He suffered the agonies of the cross and the punishment of Hell so that they could be removed from us and we could be counted as God’s children—loved, forgiven, and chastised for our blessing.
The apostle Peter wrote to the Christians encouraging them against discouragement in chastisement, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:6-9).
You can rest assured that God’s desire is your eternal salvation. Therefore, you can rejoice in His discipline. He does it in love with an eternal purpose of your salvation. He will encourage you and bless you even in the face of hardship. Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.