Week 8: The New Testament and Children Cont’d
Day 2: When God Spanks Us, Part 1 of 2 – Hebrews 12:5-11
I like my middle name. It’s part of me. It was chosen carefully to reflect God’s work in our family. I wouldn’t change it – but there have been plenty of times when I didn’t want to hear it!
No one likes to be in trouble, no one likes to go through whatever follows getting in trouble, but it is good for us. It also shows us that we are loved; that those over us care about our wellbeing and want us to do what is good and right. God spent a lot of time reminding us, His children, of this very thing in Hebrews 12, “And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he recieveth.” (vs. 5,6) This is nearly a direct quote from Proverbs 3:11,12, “My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord; neither be weary of his correction: for whom the Lord loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.”
If this was all that this passage contained it would be an enormous blessing. It gives us the hope that when we go through chastening as God’s child it isn’t because He is wanting to make our lives miserable, it is because He loves us. He has received us as His child and He delights in us!
God didn’t just bring us into His family and set us on the couch, so to speak, or let us go about our business with no guidance. He treats us as a father treats his son, “If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.” (vs. 7,8)
I know this isn’t politically correct, but God is talking about spankings. I don’t think He cares about political correctness, really. He cares about what is good and right. He cares that the character of His children is molded and shaped into what it ought to be – His image. According to this passage, the father that does not take the time to train and discipline his children is treating them as illegitimate sons.
The book of Proverbs tells us, “He that spareth his rod, hateth his son: but he that loveth him chaseneth him betimes.” (Proverbs 13:24) Discipline is good for us.
That little word “betimes” basically means early. In other words, when the need for discipline arises, it isn’t put off. This word also means something that is carefully prepared and thought through. It involves a deep sense of seeking, usually for something good. Of the twelve times it is used in the OT, seven of them are used in the context of seeking God, wisdom or good. Often, God uses it of his desire for His children to be seeking Him, and in the process He indicates that it will be discipline, chastening, that brings them to that point.
This verse offers much to think about. The word “rod” can simply mean a stick for “striking” someone, but it is also translated as a king’s scepter and a shepherd’s crook. One is used for setting laws and passing judgment, the other for guiding and rescuing from danger. These are the purposes of discipline. The law needs to be in place before the judgment can be passed. The guidance needs to be present in order to pull the child back from danger. Otherwise, the simplest form of the word may be used unjustly. The word “chaseneth” doesn’t mean punishment; it means correction and admonishment. It means doing what is necessary to see that the child is turned away from what is wrong and harmful to what is right and healthy. It isn’t talking about abusive discipline. It’s talking about love. In fact, the whole point that got us here is that God says if we don’t discipline our children, we hate them; but if we do discipline them, we love them.
You may wish that, as someone who has no children of their own, I’d just mind my own business on this one. What does this have to do with the fatherless anyway? Let me explain. As someone who has worked in various orphan ministries and children’s ministries around the world for more than 18 years, I have seen the results of children growing up in homes where they were not loved. There is no discipline in those homes. There may be abuse. There may be coddling. But there is no loving discipline, no training, no guidance. I know the results, the struggles that those children go on to face. I have seen the hurt, the rejection, the hate, the fear.
Forty percent of American children are born to unwed mothers. That means that for forty percent of our children, their fathers don’t even love them enough to live with them or make the commitment to marry their mothers. What a shame to add to that dreadful statistic the thought that every parent who neglects to guide their children and train them – hates them. We may not see it that way, but God does.
The book of proverbs says, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6) Who will train those who have no one to train them? Who will teach those mothers to train their children? Reaching the fatherless, also involves reaching their guardians, whether a parent, other relative or someone appointed by the state. Think it through. This is exactly what Jesus was talking about in Matthew 18 when He instructed us to “receive” these children. He wants us to teach them the way they should go.
Don’t despise the chastening of the Lord – He does it because He loves us.
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Also Check out Rachel Miller’s Book: The King’s Daughter: A Story of Redemption