“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 receiveth. “
And ye have forgotten. . . .
That means that they to whom this Word of God was first directed had not kept in mind what they once knew. There was evidently a lapse of memory. They had been instructed in the Word of God, here particularly the Word as it appeared in Proverbs 3:11-12, which the writer now quotes. They knew that Word and understood its significance, but when chastening came they failed to recall it.
They evidently had become wearied and faint in their minds. And it is above all things necessary when the children of God are required to pass under the chastening rod of their heavenly Father that their regenerated minds are clear, that they are able to reason correctly, shall they be able to live according to the Word of God and experience the comfort they need.
Though the Word of God here is intended to serve as a rebuke, it nevertheless means also to serve as a comfort for all those who are required to suffer under the mighty hand of God. The text does not specifically speak of comfort, yet it is clearly implied. And comfort in the Scriptures is always a consideration of the regenerated, sanctified mind. Accordingly the child of God contemplates the evils he presently suffers in the light of the salvation and glory God has promised, in which contemplation he is able to perceive that the suffering he must endure is subservient to and absolutely necessary for the attainment of the promised glory. Not enough is it for him simply to conclude that for a time he must suffer, and then when that measure of suffering is filled, he shall enter the state of bliss. F6r then he would have nothing for the present but suffering with a promise; then he may easily murmur and rebel. But when he is able in the midst of his suffering to consider with the mind tempered by faith that the evils he endures are absolutely necessary and subservient to the attainment of the glory, then he is comforted. From the Word of God he not only knows that all things, including also the evil, work together for good, but that the chastening rod is inflicted on those whom God loves.
Indeed, here is comfort in chastisement!
Chastisement, not punishment!
There is a marked distinction between these two, both as to motive and as to purpose. Punishment is motivated by anger, wrath; while chastisement is always motivated by love. Punishment means to destroy, while chastisement purposes to build up and to save.
Here in the text it is the chastening of the Lord, that is, the chastening which the Lord inflicts. In the text in Proverbs, of which the text is a quotation, it is the chastening of Jehovah. In this name God particularly relates Himself to His people as their covenant God. In this covenant relation He has known them eternally in Christ in love, and chosen them in His counsel of predestination. In that covenant relation He is their Lord, and they are His covenant friend-servants. In that relation there exists a most intimate bond of living love and friendship.
In the light of the context the chastening of which the text speaks refers, first of all, to the suffering for Christ’s sake. Of this the writer of this epistle had mitten earlier (10:32ff). There the nature of the suffering which the Hebrew Christians were required to endure is described. The children of God have been required to endure a great fight of afflictions, having been made a gazing stock or being companions of those who were so used. They suffered bonds, and the spoiling of their goods, and other reproaches. Though they had not yet resisted unto blood, that is, they had not yet been required to die for their faith, nevertheless for this they must be prepared.
Though the reference is primarily directed to this type of chastening, there is no reason to limit it to this type. No doubt all the sufferings and afflictions of this present time are to be included. Also here we must not forget that not only our moments of prosperity but also of adversity flow to us in the providence of God, and all the sufferings of this present time are evidences of His chastening hand upon us. And if in the midst of your suffering you ask, as we so often do, “Why? Why am I required to suffer under the mighty hand of God?” Then our text presents the perfect answer. There is a two-fold reason for the chastisement.
In the first place chastisement is God’s way of showing us that we are His sons and daughters. The proof of our sonship must be seen in the rod of chastening. This point is stressed in the verses which follow our text. There we read, “If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons . . . but if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.” Bastards are illegitimates, but sons are legal. So in our text we read in the last part of verse six, “and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth.” It is evident, therefore, that those who are required to suffer Jehovah’s chastening rod have in that chastening a Word of the Lord concerning their legal sonship.
It must become plain to us that we do not become sons and daughters of the Most High through the chastening, but through the adoption. God has only one natural Son, the second Person of the Trinity, Who becomes our Lord Jesus Christ through the incarnation. Shall He have many sons and daughters as He has planned, these must come to Him through the legal process of adoption. God has chosen us to be His children in His eternal counsel, but the legal papers of our adoption were written at the cross with a pen of blood. Through the death and resurrection of Christ, God’s Only Begotten Son, our adoption into God’s family takes place.
Wonder of grace is this adoption! In natural adoption the children are declared to be legally sons and daughters of the parents who adopt them, yet they nevertheless do not partake of the nature of their parents. But in the adoption of God’s children they are conformed to His image. And with and through Christ, the Elder Brother, they become heirs of all things.
Having been adopted into God’s family, the Father exercises His right to bring us under His discipline. This He does through the chastening rod which is a rod of correction, beating as it were from us all the remnants of our natural sonship, and shaping us into legitimate children of God. So we are told that every one of God’s sons receives this chastening. If we receive no chastening we may well ask ourselves whether we are God’s sons. Such chastening is not to be despised, and for this reason.
But there is more!
That chastening rod is also indicative of the truth that God loves us.
For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth!
But is it not this truth that always seems so strange and difficult for the child of God to understand? Even in the sphere of the natural it is most difficult for the child to comprehend the motivation of the rod of correction that beats him, and it is so difficult to believe that the rod is inflicted in parental love. The writer to the Hebrews was aware of this natural phenomenon and in verse 9 uses it for a point of comparison. Says he, “we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence. . . .” When we were small children and naughty we expected the parental rod. Some of us older ones remember the old-fashioned wood shed where this discipline took place. Out of deference for father who was older and stronger than we, we walked into that shed with fear and trembling. Because we could not comprehend what moved father to inflict the chastening rod, we complained that he was unjust, and even went so far as to believe he hated us. Because of this sinful reasoning we failed to render the respect which was his due. Well, much like this from a spiritual point of view the children of God often rebel when our heavenly Father inflicts His rod. Like the Hebrew Christians we fail to recall the Word of God that spoke to them in the chastening rod of His eternal, unchangeable love for them.
Father knows how many are the imperfections manifest in our lives as we are called to live them in the flesh in this present world. And it lies in the very nature of His love to perfect us. It is in this light that we can understand the Word of God in Colossians 3:14 where we find love defined as “a bond of perfectness,” that is, a bond which unites a perfect subject and a perfect object. When God Who is perfect loves us who are so imperfect, it lies in the nature of His love to perfect us even as He is perfect. Or, to put it in the words of the writer to the Hebrews (12:10), “that we might be partakers of His holiness.” The divine motivation of the chastening rod is His eternal, unchangeable love; and the purpose of that chastening rod is the perfection of His people.
It is this that the Hebrew Christians had forgotten, and of which they must therefore now be reminded.
There are several possibilities to account for their forgetfulness. In the race to heaven they had not always kept their eye on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of their faith. They evidently were not running with patience in that race. They had become weary and faint in their minds. And when the context so describes their spiritual condition they are not fully prepared for the disciplinary acts of God Who so graciously exhorts them to remember His Word that must comfort them in the midst of all their distresses. O, they had not forgotten that the Book of Proverbs was in the Scriptures, but they forgot what God teaches His children in that Book, particularly in the passage quoted in our text.
But not only they, but we also need this reminder.
How do we look at the sufferings of this present time? Do we look at them perhaps stoically and indifferently? Do we perhaps with some semblance of piety acknowledge that our circumstances flow to us in the providence of God, and then say, “Well, I guess I will just have to grin and bear it?” Or, do we say perhaps, as some do, that God is punishing us for some particular sin we have committed? Or, do we throw up our hands in despair, and sit in the dumps?
You understand, of course, that if any of these describe our attitude over against chastisement and suffering, we can have no real comfort.
But when we remember that the sufferings of this present time are so many Words of God informing us that He is perfecting us for glory, and that He sends these chastisements to us because He loves us, then indeed we experience the comfort we need.
This is the conclusion of faith in the regenerated mind that is inerrant because it is based on the Word of God, Who cannot lie.
If your regenerated mind is not befuddled but very clear, and you are spiritually alert, you can hear Him say when His chastening rod is upon you: I love you!
That is all the comfort you need!