In Hebrews 12 the writer clearly teaches us that God chastens us. Let’s look closely at verses 5-11. What does chastening really mean? The word “chasten” means to discipline, train and instruct. It also can mean punish and scourge. The idea here is teaching us and correcting us.
Why does God do this chastening? As a good parent, our Father does this for our profit because He loves us (verses 6 and 10). Moses reminded the Israelites of this in Deut. 8:5, and Jesus said this as well in Rev 3:19: “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten…”
How does God chasten us? I suggest these ways:
- Through His Word—We are disciplined and instructed by the Bible. Jesus Himself said, “Search the scriptures…” (John 5:39). Peter says we’ve been given all things that pertain to life and godliness through a knowledge of Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:3). God trains us and corrects us by “the word” that brings growth (I Pet 2:2). We must “desire” this word—thus we should desire God’s chastening.
- Through our circumstances—God uses our situations of life to teach us great lessons. While wandering in the wilderness, the Israelites sometimes came to sweet water (like at Elim) and sometimes bitter (like at Marah). (Exodus 15:22-27) We have Elims and Marahs in our lives as well. We must learn not to complain like the Israelites did, but believe that God will provide, and we must trust and obey.
- Through prayer—God disciplines us sometimes with His answers to our prayers. While God longs to bless us by saying yes to our prayers, there are those times when, being the All-knowing God that He is, He knows better than we do and must say “no” to our requests. Jesus experienced this too in the garden as He prayed (Lk 22:42). We are chastened by no or not now or wait for something better. We learn that we must trust the Omniscient One.
- Through brethren—Have you never been chastened through brethren?! Then you haven’t lived very long as a Christian. The Bible talks often about edifying one another, admonishing and rebuking one another and teaching one another. Older women are specifically given the obligation to teach younger women (Titus 2:3-5). Sometimes that can be chastening!
- Through blessings—While we may think of chastening during bad circumstances, chastening can certainly come during times of blessing also. What mother hasn’t known chastening through the blessing of their child?! While our children are among our greatest blessings, they also bring difficult times. While you struggle to train them, God is training you!
- Through preaching—Yes, I’ve already said we are chastened through the Word, but I want to specifically note preaching in the assembly (in addition to our own personal study). What a great blessing it has been for me to sit at the feet of a great preacher for 44 years! He has no idea I’m sure how he has used God’s Word to chasten me. How often have I wept at worship when God’s words have convicted me and transformed me? Truly God’s Word that chastens us has been “manifested through preaching” as Paul told Titus in chapter 1 verse 3.
- Through age and experience—God chastens us with each year that we live. At 62 I’ve experienced more and different things than the young woman (not that I can’t learn from everyone at any age). While the mirror reflects her beauty of youth, my mirror shows my gray hair and creased face—teaching me the value of my soul, not my temporary tabernacle. Age should bring wisdom and thus honor—we’ve endured! Age and experience should help us to become more conscientious—more spiritually minded. In youth we get caught up with cares of life but as we age, our guilt and shame for sin should bring us to godly sorrow more quickly and more acutely. The longer we hide God’s Word in our hearts, the more chastening it can do!
- Through God’s providence—Our chastening comes through an amazingly profound process—providence! He provides all we need—even our lessons to learn that will shape us into souls fit for heaven. Like a magnificent jigsaw puzzle, God puts our pieces in the right places, though how many times do we question our infinite benevolent God? Our job is to accept and trust.
Again, what is our job throughout all this chastening? Verse 7 says our job is to endure and learn our lessons so that God’s purpose might be accomplished—which is?–to make us righteous (vs. 11) This requires that we DECIDE to accept God’s chastening, to learn the lessons He is trying to teach us, to listen to His word and change accordingly, to learn from the circumstances we are in whether they are a desert or an oasis, to joyfully accept His answers when we pray, to listen and learn from our brethren with the proper humble attitude, to listen and heed the preacher’s words at worship so our worship is a delight to God and a benefit to us, to acknowledge each chapter of our lives as a learning experience from God, and finally to accept God’s providence as what is best for us!
Accept the training, the discipline, the instruction and even the punishment from our loving God, knowing it is not easy or comfortable, but will bring “the peaceable fruit of righteousness” (vs. 11). To mature, we must endure! “Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest, O Lord, and teachest him out of thy law” Psalm 94:12.