The Chastening of the Lord
Is the chastening of the Lord the same as the chastening man would do?
Traditional Legal Model – God personally chastens, in whatever way He deems necessary, to prevent man from sinning. The chastening of the Lord is distinct from punishment in that it is remedial rather than simply retributive.
Biblical Healing Model – chastening involves God allowing us to experience the negative consequences of our sins with the goal of teaching us to avoid those sins that hurt us and others.
Chasten verb (used with object)
to inflict suffering upon for purposes of moral improvement; chastise.
Webster’s 1828 Dictionary
Correction; punishment for the purpose of reclaiming.
The Chastening of the Lord Misunderstood
Here is a description of chastening from one popular Christian website showing errors in understanding:
“Chastening can come in the form of guilty feelings, unpleasant circumstances, loss of peace, relationship fractures, or any number of negative consequences for choosing sin. Sometimes, the chastening of the Lord can be physical illness or even death (1 Corinthians 11:30).” (https://www.gotquestions.org/chasten-chastening.html)
Chastening by death! The verse quoted does refer to death (sleep):
“For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.” (1 Cor 11:30)
However, the weakness and sickness is a result of reaping what has been sown, rather than coming directly from God. Chastening with death would certainly stop a person from sinning but does nothing towards moral improvement. Here is more from the same source;
“Examples of chastening are found throughout the Bible. The Israelites were continually disobeying God’s commands (Numbers 14:21-23; Judges 2:1-2; 2 Kings 18:12). He was patient with them, He sent prophets to plead with them, and He warned them many times. But when they dug in their heels and embraced idols or evil practices, God brought chastening upon them in the form of plagues or enemy attacks (Jeremiah 40:3). He still loved them, and in His love He could not allow them to continue in behavior that would destroy them.” (https://www.gotquestions.org/chasten-chastening.html)
“He could not allow them to continue in behavior that would destroy them” so He sent “plagues or enemy attacks” to destroy them! That makes no sense whatsoever! There is indeed great confusion over God’s actions and character. (Note that the purpose of quoting sources is not to attack those sources but merely to show examples of wrong thinking that is so common in Christendom.)
Understanding God’s Chastening
A correct understanding of Biblical terms (as this glossary attempts to promote) clears up the confusion. However there can still be verses that present some difficulty:
“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.” (Heb 12:5-6)
Scourgeth? Jesus was scourged. The scourging seems to go with the chastening. However, the word for “scourgeth” comes from a word that can have the metaphorical meaning of “a calamity, misfortune esp. sent by God to discipline or punish” (Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament)
Other word studies indicate that God “sending” can merely mean that, in honoring man’s free will, He allows the consequences of man’s choices to occur.
See the definitions for “sent” and for “punishment.” Also, this commentary:
“The experiences of life are all ‘of the Lord’ in the sense that nothing can happen to us except by His permission. God is never the author of suffering and sorrow, though He may, at times, permit us to experience them.” (SDA BC Vol. 7, p483, on Hebrews 12:5)
Clearly, God does chasten but it is always for our benefit, for our training and with the goal of leading us into a better relationship with Him.
“For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.” (Heb 12:10)
Biblical discipline or chastening is “for our good” (“profit,” KJV). This is as opposed to punishment for the purpose of the satisfaction of the one punishing to have revenge or meet the requirements of an imposed penalty.
“For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness.” (Heb 12:10, NASB)
Does God Chastening With a Rod?
“I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men:” (2 Sam 7:14)
To chasten with the rod of men does not mean God borrows some man’s rod and uses it to straighten people out. Rather, He allows the consequences of our actions to occur and, in some cases, that involves attacks by other nations.
“O Assyrian, the rod of mine anger, and the staff in their hand is mine indignation. I will send him against an hypocritical nation, and against the people of my wrath will I give him a charge, to take the spoil, and to take the prey, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets.” (Isa 10:5-6)
God “used” (allowed) nations to afflict His people which resulted in their chastisement. Notice “send” (shalach; H7971), as mentioned earlier, often means to allow something to happen.
The Chastening of the Lord is a Blessing
We have generally thought that “the chastening of the Lord” refers to our getting sick, or getting in an accident, or some such misfortune. But, in fact, it’s the work of the Holy Spirit convicting us of sin itself or of our condition and need of Divine aid.
“And when he [the Comforter, the Spirit of Christ] is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:” (John 16:8)
The first stage of chastening is to bring an awareness of sin or the lesson is not learned.
“Blessed (esher, H835) is the man whom thou chastenest, O LORD, and teachest him out of thy law;” (Psa 94:12)
“Behold, happy (esher, H835) is the man whom God correcteth: therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty:” (Job 5:17)
The chastening of the Lord always involves teaching and correction for the purpose of blessing. The purpose is not to harm us but for our good.
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