1 Kings 11:9–12:33, Mark 7:14–8:10, Proverbs 3:6–3:12, Hebrews 12:6
When I turned my PC on this morning, both of my monitors showed snow and crazy patterns. I figured the main one had failed, so unhooked it and re-connected the secondary monitor as main. That worked, but this episode was like a bolt out of the blue. It’s never happened in forty years of using a computer.
Today’s Scriptures seemed a bit like a bolt from the blue also. I’ve read them before, many times, but this time God gave me eyes to see a little deeper into His power. If He wants to do something, He will. He can protect; He can destroy. He can also chasten His people for sin or selfishness using severe measures. Some of us might think that is not an expression of His love, but is that true?
Consider Solomon. He started out well, but “his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods. But he did not keep what the Lord commanded. Therefore the Lord said to Solomon, ‘Since this has been your practice and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes that I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you and will give it to your servant. Yet for the sake of David your father I will not do it in your days, but I will tear it out of the hand of your son. However, I will not tear away all the kingdom, but I will give one tribe to your son, for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem that I have chosen.’” (1 Kings 11:9–13)
God had given him two warnings before taking away Solomon’s role and giving it to another. He was merciful only in that it happened to his son and not to him personally. God wanted to spare Solomon from even the horror of living out his life knowing that what he had done would ruin the life of his child.
And that child’s life was ruined. Solomon’s son Rehoboam lost most of the kingdom to a man called Jeroboam. He tried to get it back, but one of God’s prophets said to him: “Thus says the Lord, You shall not go up or fight against your relatives the people of Israel. Every man return to his home, for this thing is from me.” (1 Kings 12:21–24) Another horror: the son had to accept his losses, and even accept that this was the will of God.
Solomon wrote this: “My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.” (Proverbs 3:11–12) Was he referring to Rehoboam? Perhaps, but these verses certainly speak to me. I have been tired of God’s reproof. I’ve also forgotten that He disciplines me because He loves me. I find it far easier to suppose that He is inflicting me in anger.
Today, the NT is not directly about God’s chastening, but about the reason it is needed. Jesus knows that we tend to think that sin is the result of a reaction to life’s circumstances. He uses food to illustrate the principle: “. . . Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) What comes at me from the world, or even from the devil, is not the reason that I sin.
Jesus explains it this way: “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” (Mark 7:18–23)
My problems with sin are not from the world and the devil, but from that sinful nature — and I’m so prone to feed it with the junk the world offers and the devil put on my plate. It that nature did not respond (and it should not for it died with Christ), then I would not care about temptation or respond to it.
Jesus also hints at the huge reason why discipline is so unwelcome. I tend to want Him to remove the problem, whether it’s a buffet of fattening food, or a disagreeable co-worker, or a tempting relationship, or an aching foot. If those things were gone, then my sinful responses would not happen. But Jesus says those responses are from the heart, not from what is outside of me. I cannot put twenty-five miles between me and the nearest sin. I take it with me wherever I go, and if God does not discipline it out of me, that sin will ruin my life.
“For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” (Hebrews 12:6)
I’ve pushed God away when I want to have my own way. He warns me and pushes back. He isn’t being mean to me. He knows that if I do what sin want to do, it will lead to discomfort or worse. His discipline is to save me from myself — and He does it because He loves me.