One day when one of my grandsons was about two years old, I watched him deliberately defy his mother’s instructions (my daughter, Ramah). Finally, she very calmly said to him as she picked him up, “Jack, we have to go to the bathroom because you will not obey me.”
I watched as a look of utter panic crossed his face and he began to wail as if he were mortally wounded, even be
fore Ramah had carried him a step. He knew what “the bathroom” meant—it was the schoolroom where the “hand of knowledge is applied to the seat of learning.” Instead of her hand, Ramah used a facsimile of the biblical “rod,” a thin, flexible branch from a bush or tree.
After a period of screaming as the rod was applied, and then a period of softly crying as Ramah hugged and kissed Jack, verbally encouraged him, and renewed her commitment to stick with him until his rebellion was conquered, they came out of the bathroom.
I will never forget the look of peace and contentment on Jack’s face as he hugged Ramah’s neck and snuggled up in her embrace. It was a vivid reminder to me that the spanking that God repeatedly teaches us to use with our children in His word is never punitive punishment, but redemptive discipline. It is never to get back at a child who has embarrassed, angered or disobeyed us, but to break the stubborn rebellion in his precious but sinful little heart. Ramah was proving to Jack that she loved him by her willingness to discipline him. I could see by his response that she had succeeded. The spanking was not punishment for Jack’s rebellion but to train Jack so he could be successful in life.
God uses this same picture of child discipline in the Bible in Hebrews 12 to teach us about His relationship with us. His loving but firm discipline is the essential, irreplaceable, third leg of the stool of an authentic self-image. We have discussed the first leg—an awareness of the constant, persistent, wickedness in our hearts; the second leg—the constant, persistent, agap
e love of God for us that never wavers in the very midst of that wickedness; in this posting the third leg—the loving, severe blessing of our Daddy’s firm discipline. The resulting authentic self-image equips us to enthusiastically and successfully join with Daddy in the family business, His ultimate intention of extending His kingdom over all the earth.
Let’s look at Hebrews 12:6-11 as a grid through which to view what God is about in our lives. I will quote from the Literal Translation that translates the Greek words as close as possible to their original meanings while sacrificing some of the natural flow of English.
Hebrews 12:6, 7: “For whom the Lord loves, He disciplines, and whips every son whom He receives. If you endure discipline, God is dealing with you as with sons; for who is the son whom a father does not discipline?” Notice that the source of God’s divine discipline in our lives is His love that, counter-intuitively, includes inflicting pain, not just with those of His children who are “bad” (law-breaking rebels) but also those of us who are “good” (law-keeping Pharisees). Notice the rhetorical question in verse 7, in essence asking, “Why are you surprised that God brings tough times into your life? Considering your experience with earthly fathers, what did you expect?”
Hebrews 12:8: “But if you are without discipline, of which all have become sharers, then you are bastards, and not sons.” I know that one of the sure signs that God loves me and I am a full-fledged family member is when it becomes increasingly difficult to present to all around me that “Everything is great! I’ve got it under control.” Daddy is always lovingly and persistently attacking my unconscious desire to be independent and self sufficient like He is. He brings “designer circumstances” that I cannot handle into my life, perfectly crafted for my individual situation, faithfully showing me that I desperately need Him. I am a slow learner.
Hebrews 12:9, 10: “Furthermore, indeed we have had fathers of our flesh as correctors, and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits, and we shall live? For they truly disciplined us for a few days according to the thing seeming good to them; but He for our profit, in order for us to partake of His holiness.” The author of Hebrews is telling us that we earthly parents do our best to train and discipline our children. However, we are all crippled sinners doing a temporary, flawed job. We are the blind (the parent) trying, often unconsciously, to lead the blind (our children) into productive lives that reflect our vision for their lives; the best we can do is ““the thing seeming good to (us).” God, on the other hand, is doing a perfect job of parenting us, His little children, with the goal, very self-consciously, that our imperfect lives be reflections of the family character and calling.
Hebrews 12:11: “And all discipline for the present indeed does not seem to be joyous, but grievous; but afterward it gives back peaceable fruit of righteousness to the ones having been exercised by it.” God’s woodshed, like Ramah’s bathroom, is never fun, but the promise of God is that it will “give back the peaceable fruit of righteousness.” The knot of rebellion that was in Jack’s heart as a little boy, and that indeed is in all our hearts, has been broken by his visits to the bathroom. Fine tuning remains, but the heavy lifting has been done. Jack is now ten years old, and the rod, for the most part, has been put away. It has done its job. Because of their willingness to love him enough to spank him, Jack “obeys (his) parents in the Lord: for this is right” (Ephesians 6:1).
God knows right where you are in your growth to maturity in His family. His love for you will not be denied; it will not shirk from the task of disciplining you, and it will produce the “peaceable fruit of righteousness” in your life. By the severe blessing of discipline, tailored just for you, He will capture your heart and change your “want-to’s” until you can’t wait to obey Him!