Endure suffering as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?
I. ITS CHARACTER. Three words are used to express it - "rebuke," "chastening," "scourging." The last two seem to be used synonymously here. Archbishop Trench points out that "'to rebuke" and "to chasten" are often found together, but they are very capable of being distinguished. "To rebuke" is so to rebuke that the person is brought to the acknowledgment of his fault - is convinced, as David was when rebuked by Nathan (2 Samuel 12:13)." The word translated to "chasten," "being in classical Greek to instruct, to educate, is in sacred Greek to instruct or educate by means of correction, through the severe discipline of love." The object of the discipline is to deliver the subjects of it from sin, to establish them in the faith, and to perfect them in holiness. The means of the discipline are afflictions, persecutions, and trials. And it may be administered by the enemies of the Church of Christ. The persecutions of man may be the discipline of God. "Persecution for religion is sometimes a correction and rebuke for the sins of professors of religion. Men persecute them because they are religious; God chastises them because they are not more so: men persecute them because they wilt not give up their profession; God chastises them because they have not lived up to their profession."
II. ITS AUTHOR. "The chastening of the Lord .... Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth." Some of our trials are from his hand. He is the great Husbandman, and he prunes the vines that they may bring forth more fruit. The trials which are not sent by him are permitted by him (cf. Job 1:12; Job 2:6; 2 Corinthians 12:7). And he gives to all our trials their disciplinary character. He makes the bitter potion medicinal. By his blessing our sufferings become salutary, and our sorest afflictions our sagest instructors. The fact that the Lord is the Author of our discipline, that our trials either proceed from him or are permitted and regulated by him, supplies a guarantee that we shall not be tried beyond our strength. He is infinite in wisdom and in love. "He knoweth our frame;" and he will either restrict our trials so that they exceed not our strength, or increase our strength until it surpasses the severity of our trials. "He stayeth his rough wind in the day of the east wind." "I will correct thee in measure." "Though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies." "My grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect in weakness."
III. ITS SUBJECTS. "Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth."
1. They are filially related to him. "Every son" of his he subjects to reproof and chastisement. "God has one Son without sin, but none without suffering." If we are his sons, we may rest assured that he will not fail to secure to us the discipline that we need. Thus our sufferings may be an evidence of our sonship.
2. They are beloved by him. "Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth." Because he loves us he corrects us. It has been well said, that "lawns which we would keep in the best condition are very frequently mown; the grass has scarcely any respite from the scythe. Out in the meadows there is no such repeated cutting; they are mown but once or twice in the year. Even thus the nearer we are to God, and the more regard he has for us, the more frequent will be our adversities. To be very dear to God involves no small degree of chastisement."
IV. ITS RECEPTION. "My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord," etc.
1. It should not be deemed unimportant. "Regard not lightly the chastening of the Lord." "We may be said to despise the chastening of the Lord," says Dr. Wardlaw, "in the following eases:
(1) When it is not felt; when there is a want of natural sensibility to the particular stroke of the rod. This is but rare. Men in general are quite sufficiently alive to the value of temporal things. But the value is comparative. There are cherished and favorite possessions, and others less highly thought of, less fondly held. The Lord, it may be, deals gently. He spares the 'gourd.' He does not take what is most highly set by. And instead of humbly owning the kindness - being lowly and submissive, and seeking a blessing on the gentle stroke, that the heavier one may be withheld - the preservation and safety of the greater produces insensibility to the privation of the less; and the correction is thus disregarded, and proves inefficient.
(2) When it is not duly felt as from God.
(3) When, although God is seen in it and his hand is felt, it is not felt humbly and submissively; not bowed to, but resisted.
(4) When the design or end of correction is not laid to heart."
2. It should not be deemed intolerable. "Nor faint when thou art rebuked of him." We are not to sink under the reproofs and strokes of the Divine discipline, though they be severe. The fact that our trials are regulated by our Father's hand, that they are educational, that they are intended and adapted to promote our spiritual and eternal well-being, should keep us from sinking beneath their pressure.
"The tears we shed are not in vain; Tis in the tempest souls expand, Oh, welcome, then, the ocean's roar!
Tis in the tempest souls expand, Oh, welcome, then, the ocean's roar!
Oh, welcome, then, the ocean's roar!
If ye endure chastening.
1. But what is "chastening"? Supposing we had a word that meant child-training, son.training, and this under the direction of a father who would spare no pains necessary for its perfect realisation, we should have exactly the corresponding term. But unfortunately we have not, and so we are driven to put up with the poor substitute "chastening." The father knows his child, his capacities, and, therefore, all the possibilities that are locked up in his being; his opportunities as they lie in the pathway of life, and therefore his obligations; his propensities and habits, and therefore his perils; his hindrances and helps, and therefore his chances. The father yearns over his boy; labours to secure the highest outcome of his life; guards and directs him; will do anything and bear anything for his advancement. He wants him to be an ideal son; his pride and joy in every faculty and feature of excellence. He wants to "make a man " of him; so that the terms "father" and "son," "son" and "father," may never jar, as they dwell on each other's lips, but may be as choice music to the ear, as beauty to the eye. For that end, with that hope, all is planned, all is done. It is at once the father's care, he "trains"; and the son's ambition, he "endures for the training." The application is obvious. "It is for chastening that ye endure"; to be sons, not in name only, but in deed and in truth; to come up, to be urged up to the standard. Such an issue may well reconcile us to all the pains and humiliations of the " chastening." To have the mind enlarged, the heart purified, the life exalted, refined, transfigured! To lose all that is dross; to cast out all that is low and selfish!
2. Now for the word "endure." This is no tame word. It Jeans something widely different from insensibility, or proud defiance. These Hebrews had joyfully taken the spoiling of their goods, not that they did not value them, not that their loss was no privation, but that they knew in themselves they had a better and an enduring substance in heaven. They had a boldness, a confidence, an exultation even. "Endurance" in them was the triumph of active faith in the recompense of reward. They were "exercised," much " exercised" in their afflictions, and the "exercise," like a Divine alchemy, was turning every constituent of distress into gold.
I. WHO DOUBTS THE NEED OF CHASTENING? Sin in one or other of its myriad forms has aggravated all the imperfections of inexperience, so that we require far surer correction and direction than a childhood and youth of innocence had ever called for.
II. WHO DOUBTS SHE SPIRIT IN WHICH THIS CHASTENING IS INFLICTED? Dictated by love, directed by wisdom, aimed at the highest ends, it has every quality to keep us alike from despising it or fainting under it.
III. WHO IS NOT DRIVEN TO RIGOROUS SELF-EXAMINATION? There is no talismanic power in afflictions, in pains and penalties, that of itself can correct and transform. Would we realise the" profit" our Father seeks, we must be " exercised" by our chastening. It calls for thought, for reflection, for faithful survey of our life, with its temper, aims, and spirit.
IV. WHO DOES NOT REJOICE IN THE ADVANCE OF CORRECTION AND GROWTH? The mastery of our evil tendencies, the due regulation of our desires, the elevation of our motives and aims, the higher and completer discharge of the claims of life, the stricter integrity, purity, and spirituality of our characters, the closer our likeness to Christ and our fellowship with God, these and kindred issues may well reconcile us to the pain, and sacrifice, and cost of the chastening, and make us "kiss the rod" with all praise.
(G. B. Johnson.)
God dealeth with you as with sons.I. GOD EDUCATES US BY MEANS OF OUR PHYSICAL NEEDS. Man is born naked and defenceless; if he would live he must obtain shelter from torrid suns and piercing cold; he must provide himself with food and raiment; he must, by means of his wits, be able to defend himself against enemies infinitely more powerful than himself. How is it that man alone, of all God's creatures, is sent into the world unprovided with any of those things which are necessary to the support of physical life? It is because God dealeth with us as with sons. It is because life is meant to be to us, and to us alone, an education; and from the first we are pricked on by these goads of necessity. God has taken security that our work shall not be easy, that it shall not be mechanical; but that it shall tax our ingenuity and educe our mental powers to the uttermost. For man is born not only without instinct and without clothing, but without tools. Nature provides the lion with the claws and fangs which make it easy to seize its prey; the bee has in itself all the apparatus necessary for extracting honey, and carrying it, and building its cells, and acting out all its life-history; the spider has its wonderful film ready wound about its body, and the machinery for spinning many threads into one, and affixing it, and weaving its web; but man must first provide himself with external aid if he would hold his own, be it but a sharpened flint or a fishbone! Moreover, God has made man relatively one of the weakest of living things. His bodily powers are poor indeed compared with those of other creatures. What does it all mean? It means this, that God would educate us not chiefly in body, but in mind; it is by the brain that man has subdued the earth and become lord over all creation; it is the necessity of surmounting difficulties and guarding against dangers that has called forth all his resources and educated his faculties and perfected his powers. See, then, how large a part of man's education is due to his bare bodily necessities! In the endeavour to meet these he has invented all the industrial arts and sciences. And it is not only mental gifts which labour educes. Patience, endurance, forethought, courage — these and many other moral qualities are the outcome of that necessity for work which God lays upon us all.
II. GOD EDUCATES MEN BY MEANS OF THEIR MENTAL NEEDS. He has implanted in nature that which awakens curiosity in man, and He has implanted in man a hunger and thirst after knowledge and truth, and the result is education. Man's intellectual needs are not less imperative than his physical requirements; they must be satisfied at any cost. He must know all about the flowers at his feet; the science of botany is the result. He raises his eyes to the stars above; their mystery perplexes him; generation after generation he struggles with this mystery till little by little the secrets of the sky are discovered, and the great science of astronomy is pieced together. Curiosity awakened by shells and fossils has led to geology; curiosity about the antecedents of our race has led to history, and so forth. It is thus with all those departments of knowledge which are not purely utilitarian; they are all the result of the desire for knowledge implanted in us by God, acted upon by external nature. And there is in man another intellectual appetite nobler than any of these, which is most powerful in evolving his higher nature — I mean the love of the beautiful. God has clothed hill and vale, mountain and lake, sea and sky, with splendour of colour and form of which the eye never wearies. And further He has put something in the human heart to which these things appeal; there is a strange correspondence between the human soul and the beauties of nature; they were made for one another; there was meant to be action and re-action between them. When gazing on a sunset sky or a lovely scene we realise our immortality as at no other time; we feel that they have a message from God for us.
III. GOD EDUCATES US BY THE SORROWS AND TRIALS OF LIFE. In this matter also man's position is unique. The lower animals are almost exempt from suffering. It is true that they are liable to physical pain, but there is abundant evidence to prove that this pain is much less acute than in human beings, and in their case there is neither anticipation nor retrospection. But man, to whom was given the dominion over the brutes, man, who was made but a little lower than the angels, how different is his lot! He is " born to sorrow as the sparks fly upward." He alone has to endure those mental and spiritual griefs compared with which bodily sufferings are as nothing. All his life is leavened with pain, with forebodings, with vain regrets, with unsatisfied longings. Why is this? Because life is an education; because God dealeth with us as with sons. Men ask why sorrows are permitted. As well might the flower ask why clouds and stormy days are permitted. As well might one expect blossoms and fruit without rain as expect that men can bring forth the fruits of righteousness without the discipline of sorrow. The saintliest of men have been always those who have suffered most; and it behoved even the great Captain of our salvation to be made perfect through suffering in order to teach us that only be who drinks the bitter cup and bears the cross of shame can hope to wear the crown of glory.
IV. GOD EDUCATES US BY OUR SPIRITUAL NEEDS. The most imperative want of our nature is to know God. Everywhere there is a belief in a God or gods, the instinct of worship, conscience more or less developed. Everywhere is felt the necessity of propitiating and being reconciled to the Invisible Power whom transgression has offended. And the more a man advances in holiness and moral greatness, the more is he impelled to make the thought of the Psalmist his own: "Like as the hart desireth the water brooks, so longeth my soul after Thee, O God"; "My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God." And while he is ever hungering after God with a hunger which nothing on earth can appease, conscience is ever urging him to a closer and closer walk with God, and yet he never feels that he has fully attained or is already perfect. What is the reason why these strange desires and instincts have been implanted in man? What but the truth our text teaches that God dealeth with us as with sons? Just as God has given in the book of Nature that which educes and partly satisfies man's intellectual needs, so He has given us in Holy Scripture that which educes and ministers to our spiritual needs. The correspondence between our craving for knowledge, and the revelation by which that craving is met, affords the clearest proof that both are from God, and that in sacred things as in secular the main purpose of our life is education.
1. It throws light upon the mystery of the present. This earth is but the lowest room in God's school; in other spheres and at other times the education which circumstances thwarted and hindered here will be carried on under happier circumstances.
2. And it throws light upon the mystery of the future. It affords one of the strongest arguments for a future life. For, of course, the education which is commenced here can be at best but in its initial stage when death removes us.
(A. M. Mackay, B. A.)
(T. L. Cuyler.)
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