God Disciplines His Children
DIG: What does the struggle against sin demonstrate about a person’s relationship with God? How should a person respond to Ha’Shem when disciplined? What are the three specific purposes of Ha’Shem’s discipline? How does God’s discipline differ from human discipline? What benefits does discipline bring?
REFLECT: From the demanding coach in a grueling practice to the pruning back of a rose bush in a garden, it’s discipline that ultimately causes growth. In what areas of your life do you sense that Ha’Shem has been or is disciplining (chastening) you? What was your reaction to God’s discipline? Did you rebel? Pout? How long did it take you to come around to His way of thinking? How can you help others in this regard? What’s the hardest thing you’re going through in your life right now? How is God using it?
All the Jews to whom the letter to the Hebrews was written were experiencing persecution because of their break with Judaism. It was coming from their Jewish friends and relatives, who resented their rebellion against the religious customs and traditions in which they had held since childhood (10:32-33). But none of them suffered what Yeshua had suffered. None of them had given up their life for the gospel. In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood (12:4). Nor had any of them lived an absolutely sinless life as Messiah had done, living in perfect obedience to the Father, and therefore, deserving no punishment at all. On the contrary, some of their suffering was deserved and was intended for their spiritual discipline and growth.
ADONAI uses hardship and affliction as a means of discipline, a means of training His children, of helping them mature in their spiritual lives. As John MacArthur relates in his commentary on Hebrews, God has three specific purposes for His discipline: punishment, prevention, and education. We must realize that there is a great difference between God’s discipline and His judgmental punishment. As believers we often have to suffer painful consequences for our sins, but we will never experience God’s judgment for them. This punishment Messiah took completely on Himself in the crucifixion, and God does not exact double payment for any sin. Though we deserve God’s wrath because of our sin, we will never have to face it, because Jesus endured it for us. Neither God’s love nor His justice would allow Him to require payment for what His Son has already paid in full. In discipline, God is not a judge but a father. Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).365
Punishment: We experience some of God’s discipline as a result of our sin, but the punishment is corrective, not judgmental. It is punishment, without a doubt, but not the kind that unbelievers receive. Because of his lust for Bathsheba and the resulting adultery and murder of her husband, Ha’Shem severely punished David. Most of the kings of that time did this sort or thing, or even worse, but that didn’t give David license to sin. So YHVH disciplined David, not out of wrath, but out of love. For the rest of his life he suffered anguish that otherwise he never would have experienced (Second Samuel 12:10). David didn’t lose his salvation, but he lost his infant son and had countless heartaches from his other sons. He was even forbidden to build the Temple because of the war that resulted between himself and Absalom. Yet David was a better man because of God’s discipline. ADONAI had a purpose in the discipline – to draw His servant closer to Himself (Psalm 51) and to help him grow and mature.
The church at Corinth was especially immature and worldly. Among other things, many believers were abusing the Lord’s Table. They were using it as an excuse for partying and drunkenness. Paul rebuked them strongly and told them plainly that they were suffering weakness, sickness, and even death because of their sinfulness. They were being disciplined so that [they would] not be condemned with the world (First Cor 11:30-32).
When we discipline our children, even for something serious, we do not put them out of our family. We discipline them to correct their behavior, not to disown them. Neither does ADONAI put us out of His family when He disciplines us, His children. It is often hard for us to see the good in God’s discipline as it is for our children to see the good in our disciplining them. But we know that because He is our loving heavenly Father, He will not do anything to harm us. The LORD says that when His children abandon My Torah and fail to live by My rulings, if they profane My regulations and doesn’t obey My mitzvot, I will punish their disobedience with the rod and their guilt (Psalm 89:30-32 CJB). But on the other side of His promise of punishment there is the promise of faithfulness to His covenant. But I won’t withdraw My grace from My children or be false to My faithfulness. I will not profane My covenant or change what My lips have spoken (Psalm 89:33-34 CJB). When the LORD punishes, He is not rejecting but correcting.
Prevention: Sometimes Ha’Shem disciplines us in order to prevent sin. Just as we put restrictions and limitations on our children to protect them from harm, so God does with us. What seems to us to be a horrible inconvenience or hardship may be ADONAI’s loving hand of protection. Even Rabbi Sha’ul had his thorn in the flesh for the specific purpose of keeping him from exalting himself (Second Corinthians 12:7). Our sickness or many other problems may be God’s way of keeping us from something much worse.
Education: Besides punishing and preventing, Ha’Shem’s discipline also educates us for better service and better living. It will teach us, if we will listen to what He is saying through it. First of all, discipline can help us better know YHVH’s power and sufficiency. Sometimes God can get our attention better through suffering than He can through blessing. Prosperity has a way of making us fell self-sufficient and independent, while problems make us more aware of our need for the Lord. We need Him every bit as much when things are going well as when they are not, but often we don’t feel our need for Him until we reach the end of our rope.
By the LORD’s own admission, Job was blameless, upright, fearing God, and turning away from evil (Job 1:1). However, God allowed him to suffer pain, loss, grief, sickness and ridicule from his so-called “friends.” Yet through his great and seemingly unending suffering, Job was given a glorious view of ADONAI. He experienced His holy majesty, His deliverance, His care, His power, His counsel, His defense – all through His discipline. Job also learned a lesson about himself – his wisdom is not God’s wisdom. He learned to trust God for who He is, not for what he himself could see and comprehend. When we see God better – we see ourselves better.
Only our faith can bring us to appreciate discipline, whatever the kind. We are able to see behind the scenes in Job’s ordeal because the Bible provides us with a clear picture of the workings of both the Adversary and ADONAI. But Job had no knowledge of this. As far as we can tell, Job went to his grave not knowing exactly why he had to suffer as he did. But when he finally acknowledged the LORD’s sovereign omnipotence and goodness in it all, it was by faith. He came to see God more clearly (Job 42:5), but he was not shown the whys and the wherefores of his problems more clearly. When we understand and trust Ha’Shem more deeply, we are content with whatever limited knowledge He gives us.366
And have you forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you as his children? He said, “My child, don’t make light of the LORD’s discipline, and don’t give up when He corrects you. For the LORD disciplines those He loves, and He punishes each one He accepts as His child” (Hebrews 12:5-6 NLT quoting Proverbs 3:11-12). The author’s basic point is that the purpose of suffering is to bring about the maturity of ADONAI’s children. In these two verses he talks about forgetfulness. The word forgotten (Greek: eklelesthe) means to completely forget, or to remove completely from one’s mind. Some of those Jews had completely forgotten many things about the TaNaKh. They had forgotten that God is never pleased by anything apart from faith (11:6), and they had forgotten the righteous of the TaNaKh who had suffered greatly for their faith. Now they are reminded that they had also forgotten the teaching from Proverbs 3:11-12 about God’s discipline.
They needed to learn two lessons from Proverbs 3:11-12. First, they must not regard this discipline lightly to the point of forgetting it and not allowing the discipline to teach them what they need to learn. And secondly, they must not give up when they are being corrected because it is for their own good. They were being conformed to the image of God’s Son (Romans 8:29).367 Our reactions cannot be right if our view of what is happening to us is not right. If we focus on the correction and not on our relationship with ADONAI, we can miss the lesson of what He wants to teach us. When we do that, and God’s discipline is not allowed to accomplish His purpose in us, the Adversary is the victor. YHVH’s purpose is lost, and our blessing is lost.
Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as His son (12:7a). Isra’el collectively is God’s son (Exodus 4:22; Hosea 11:1; Matthew 2:15; Romans 9:4); but more important than that, each believer, Jewish or Gentile, is individually God’s child, by virtue of being united with God’s one and only Son, Yeshua the Messiah (Romans 8:14-19, 29; Galatians 4:1-7; Revelation 21:7).368 We must remember that this letter is written to a Messianic community made up of the saved and the unsaved (see Ag – The Audience of the book of Hebrews). Both groups were the recipients of the persecution, because both groups had left the Temple and its Levitical sacrifices. But only those who would remain under the hardship of God’s discipline would prove themselves to be the true children of God. Those that left would prove that they were never save to begin with.369 The Ruach ha-Kodesh says: They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us (First John 2:19).
In the TaNaKh, Isra’el was taught to regard any discipline by YHVH such as drought and famine, or enemy attack, was a sign of His displeasure with His people because of their sins. As a result, those Hebrews in the first-century Messianic Community would naturally regard this persecution in the same light. The writer hastens to assure them that instead of this discipline being an indication that they were not right with God, it was proof of their sonship, for what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined – and everyone undergoes discipline – then you are not true sons and daughters at all (12:7b-8). A truly loving father is totally committed to helping his children conform to the highest standards. How much more is our heavenly Father committed to our conforming to His standards, and to inflicting the discipline to make such conformity a reality. Under Jewish law, to be mamzer (to be illegitimate) meant three things: no right of inheritance; no right to marry into Jewish society; and no right to be buried in a Jewish cemetery.370 ADONAI, as a loving Father, wants the best for His children, which includes blessing them with the inheritance of His peace and joy and an eternal home in heaven with him forever. When Ha’Shem’s children accept and learn from His discipline, it opens the door for God’s blessings on them.
Moreover, we have all had human fathers who discipline us and we respected them for it. The word moreover here introduces a shift in the teaching on discipline. Up to this point the persecution of the Messianic community had been explained by ADONAI’s fatherly relation to them. Now the emphatic point is that their fathers, with whom God is compared, were only earthly human fathers. How much more should we submit to our spiritual Father and live (12:9)! The comparison is between the respect paid to a fallible, human parent, which grows out of a natural relation, and the complete submission to our divine spiritual Father. Therefore our spiritual Father is compared to our father of the flesh. Their relation to us is limited; His is universal. They are related to us in our dying flesh; He is the Creator of our eternal being. The words and live are not limited, however, only to our eternal existence, but they also refer to this present life. The idea is to have true life.
A comparison is now made between the character and results of the earthly father’s discipline and that of our heavenly Father. Two things point to the imperfection of our earthly fathers. First, they disciplined us for a little while as they thought best (12:10a). But their discipline must stop when adulthood is reached, whether or not it has been effective or not. And secondly, human fathers are shortsighted and fallible. They are have a sin nature and are sometimes moved by passion rather than sound judgment, with the result being that their discipline may have hindered rather than promoted true life.371
But because YHVH is perfect, His discipline is always perfect. He disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in His holiness (12:10b). There is only one kind of holiness . . . God’s holiness. He is both the source and the measure of all holiness – which is separation from sin. ADONAI’s greatest desire for His children is to share His holiness with us, so that we may be filled up to all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:19 NASB). The only way we can be separated from sin, and be filled up with His holiness is to be saved. So the writer pleads with the unbelievers in the Messianic community who were thinking about going back to the Temple and the Levitical sacrifices, to instead step over the line from knowledge to faith and be saved. The only path to holiness is through Yeshuah Messiah.
No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it (12:11). The spiritual exercise consisted on the struggles of the soul, the battle between the determination to go back to the Temple sacrifices, and thus escape the persecutions, or to go on to faith in the High Priest of the B’rit Chadashah in spite of them.
Oh, how God wants you to hear His music. He has a rhythm that will race your heart and lyrics that will stir your tears. You want to journey to the stars? He can take you there. You want ot lie down in peace? His music can soothe your soul. But first, He’s got to get rid of that rap (Sorry Tupac. Only an example). And se God begins tossing our your CD’s. A friend turns away. The job goes bad. Your spouse doesn’t understand. The church is dull. One by one God removes the all the options until all you have left is Him . Would He do that? Absolutely. If He must silence every voice, He will. He wants you to hear his music.372