Hebrews 12:5-6 (NKJV) 5 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; 6 For whom the LORD loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives.”
The summer has gotten me a bit distracted so I have been lax in posting. I am back and I want to finish looking at what kind of Father God is to us. We began this study by reading John 17:3.
John 17:3 (NKJV) 3 And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.
Jesus tells us that the nature of eternal life is to know God. However, he is talking to God the Father. To fully access the kind of life Jesus is talking about we must know the Father not just God.
Here is what we have learned so far.
1. Genesis 1:26 He is a Father who wants every one of his children. He chose to create and then gave man the right to participate in creation. He wanted man to fill the earth with his children. He wants you.
2. John 3:16 He is a Father who will never abandon his children. His created family had overwhelmingly rejected him as their Father. He provided for himself a perfect son. He could have abandoned those who abandoned him. Instead he “gave his only begotten son” so that his abandoned children could once again have access to life. He will not abandon you.
3. Luke 11:11-13 and James 1:16-18 God is a Father who gives good things to his children. Anything that comes from him is good. It may not seem good at first, but in the long term it will be the best thing for our lives. In the short term, he will do everything he can to bless us with health, wealth and wellbeing. No earthly parent would do less and God is a far better Father than any of us. He will not give us what we want if it will hurt us even if we think it is what we need.
That brings me to the next thing the Word tells us about what kind of Father God really is. This is one that is not popular today but it is one of the most important aspects of parenthood. God loves us enough to discipline and train us so we can be the kind of people who will bring glory to him and fulfill the destiny he has planned for us.
There is a real press in today’s bible teaching to say that God loves us and therefore he will not let anything bad happen to us. There is truth to that statement. However, the problem is how we define bad. There is a message that says because of God’s love and grace, sin does not matter. There is a movement away from christian discipline and sacrifice towards the sentiment that says God’s grace will make everything we do alright. This is not true.
The wages of sin is death. Romans 6:23 has not been rescinded. That is not the Old Testament nor even a quote from the Old Testament. It is a New Testament statement made by the greatest expert on grace who ever lived, the apostle Paul. God is a Father who knows what is good for us and what is not. Sin and a lifestyle outside of the constraints of biblical principles will hurt us. Maybe not today but at some point, it will bring bad things into our lives, the lives of those around us and it will compromise our ability to fulfill God’s purpose in our world.
One of the most important jobs any father has is to prepare his children to be productive adults. If a father does not discipline his children he is not a good father. If he does not train them to do good and avoid evil he sends a liability into the world not an asset. He will ensure that his children will not be happy or productive and they will not bring happiness others. If they obtain natural success it will be at the expense of inward success. We would not praise that kind of a father and God would never be that kind of a father.
There was a famous child psychologist who advocated a method of child rearing that eliminated discipline and punishment of any kind. People were encouraged to let their children find their own way. They were told to encourage whatever they did. They should not require anything of them. The result was one of the most unruly, ungodly and unproductive generations in the history of our country. That is not parenting!
God is a perfect Father who loves us too much to neglect our discipline and training. He has standards that he will not compromise not matter how uncomfortable they may make us. He knows what will bless us and make us productive as well as what will compromise and destroy us. He created us. He knows what we need and he knows what he created us to be in life. His choice is to lead us with our cooperation and submission. If we will not cooperate nor submit, he will help us by correcting our behavior.
The scripture quoted above makes some powerful statements. We should not despise God’s chastening but be encouraged by it. We should not be discouraged when we are rebuked by him. The word rebuke is very strong. It means to convict, convince, tell a fault, rebuke. The English definition of rebuke is to express sharp disapproval or criticism of (someone) because of their behavior or actions.
Any good parent knows that they must give their children love, acceptance and encouragement. However, they also know that if they do not “rebuke” when necessary their children will lack some very important things in life. We do not like rebukes when they come to us. They make us feel bad. Today that is the most important consideration. A father knows that feeling bad for a moment can lead to a lifetime of being better. God is a very good Father.
Do not be discouraged by God’s rebuke. Obey it. Conform to what it is trying to change in your life. You will not regret the changes that he is trying to make.
The language in this verse does not get easier. It says that the Lord chastens everyone he loves. In this chapter, it goes on to say that if a person is never chastened it is because he is not loved. God the Father loves you!
Chasten is an interesting word. It carries with it the meaning of discipline through punishment. We often equate punishment with abuse. They are not the same thing. The writer of Hebrews makes that clear. Abuse is when we punish in extreme and to satisfy our own flesh and anger. Chastening is punishment that desires only the best for the one chastened.
This word also carries the idea of training. I raised six kids. When they were small they often wanted to touch things that could hurt them. We had a wood stove in one house where we lived. It would get very hot. When the youngest of the children tried to touch it I told them no. When they persisted, I got louder and more disapproving in my tone. Finally, I would slap their hand and say, “NO!” This was not abuse. It was training. I inflicted a small but safe pain to train them that touching the stove meant greater more dangerous pain.
The writer says that God the Father loves us enough to “scourge” us if necessary. That means he will whip us if necessary. The term is certainly figurative. He is not going to damage us the way a Roman scourge damaged its victims. He will however, make our chastening as severe as necessary for training. Not because he hates us. Not because he simply wants us to “do it his way.” He chastens us because he knows a better way with better wages than sin.
Next I want to look at how God chastens. It is not like we chasten. Its only aim is to bring us closer to God.