“Love’s Necessary Rebuke” – Deuteronomy 1:34-36

January 22nd, 2017

Deuteronomy 1:34-36

“Love’s Necessary Rebuke”

Auxiliary Text: Heb 3:12-4:3a; 12:4-11

Call to Worship: from Psalm 94

 

Service Orientation:  God loves you far too much to allow you to wallow in mediocrity (to stay where you are).  Many times His desired changes for our best involves pain.

 

Bible Memory Verse for the Week:   My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.  — Proverbs 3:11-12

 

Background Information:

  • (v. 35) this evil generation. Omitted in the LXX (cf. The curse in Nm 14:22) and perhaps a later addition.  The disbelieving generation is taken to be evil (cf. Nm 32:13).  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 181)
  • (v. 35) the good land. This expression, with reference to Canaan, occurs often in Deuteronomy (1:34; 3:25; 4:21, 22; 6:18; 8:7 [“a good land”], 10; 9:6; 11:17; Driver 1895, [xxxi no. 42; Weinfeld 1972, 343 no. 10).  Nm 14:23 simply has “the land.”  Deuteronomy consistently praises the good land of Canaan (see 8:7-10).  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 181)
  • (v. 36a) Caleb son of Jephunneh. Caleb was a leader in the tribe of Judah (Mn 13:6).  He is called “the Kenizzite” elsewhere in the OT (Nm 32:12; Josh 14:6), i.e., one belonging to a foreign clan living in the Hebron region, which over time was absorbed into the tribe of Judah (Weinfeld).  Caleb was said to have conquered the giants of Hebron (Josh 14:12; 15:14).  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 181)
  • (v. 36b) the land on which he has trod. This phrase focuses the physical act of Caleb’s walking through the land–evidently, only as far as Wadi Eschol in the future tribal territory of Judah and not, as in Numbers, to the far north–on the espionage mission.  Walking through territory was also an act of taking legal possession of it in a sale.  (Robert Alter, The Five Books of Moses, 884)
  • (v. 36c) the land on which he has set foot. I.e., Hebron (Josh 14:6-14).  A Deuteronomic expression (1:36; 2:5; 11:24-25; Josh 1:3 [“every place”]; 14:9; cf. Nm 14:24).  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 181)

 

The question to be answered is . . . Why does God’s discipline sometimes seem over the top?

 

Answer:  Because God’s love is over the top.   His concern that we enjoy His best is over the top.   His most severe discipline is against that which will ultimately destroy us:  NOT TRUSTING HIM!

 

University of Wisconsin historian Thomas Reeves indicts popular religious belief and service.  “Christianity in modern America is, in large part, innocuous,” he writes.  “It tends to be easy, upbeat, convenient, and compatible.  It does not require self-sacrifice, discipline, humility, an otherworldly outlook, a zeal for souls, a fear as well as love of God.  There is little guilt and no punishment, and the payoff in heaven is virtually certain.”  Former Secretary of Education William Bennett concludes that “We have become the kind of society that civilized countries used to send missionaries to.”  (David Yountd, Beggaring Belief, © 2000 Scripps Howard News Service. September 04, 2000)

 

The Word for the Day is . . . Discipline

 

Providence in light of Free Will and Discipline:

Of the evils that infect God’s world (Spiritual, moral, and physical) the Bible says:  God permits evil (Acts 14:16); He uses evil as a punishment (Ps 81:11-12; Rom 1:26-32); He brings good out of evil (Gn 50:20; Acts 2:23; 4:27-28; 13:27; 1 Cor 2:7-8); He uses evil to test and discipline those He loves (Mt 4:1-11; Heb 12:4-14); but one day He will redeem His people from the power and presence of evil altogether (Rv 21:27; 22:14-15). (Geneva Study Bible:  Proverbs 16:33 “Providence”, 957)

 

* Providence is not a strict or unqualified determinism, which posits a control so absolute that it destroys human responsibility, freedom, and accountability, viewing all events only in terms of their natural causal determination.

* Providence is also sharply different from a view of God’s omnicausality that holds that God so does everything that all other agents do nothing.

* Providence distinguishes itself from a doctrine of chance, which denies that the controlling power can be intelligible or personal or rational.

* Finally, providence differs from a doctrine of fate, which denies that the ultimate power is benevolent. (Thomas C. Oden; The Living God, 277)

 

Divine providence does not exclude free human agency but enables and sustains it.  There are indeed limits on human freedom, but God’s providence, in fact, grants and permits freedom.  Though God does not give aid to human distortions and sin, God nonetheless by grace sustains the human nature that falls into sin.  God permits sin in an otherwise good and intelligible order, yet limits and finally overrules whatever distortions human freedom can create.  (Thomas C. Oden; The Living God, 281)

 

One cannot even sin without providence.  God cooperates with freedom, not sin, but sin can come into being only in an order in which its preconditions are permitted by God.  God cooperates by allowing moral freedom and natural causality to function, out of which freedom becomes fallen and self-alienated.  That God permits us freedom to fall does not imply that God directly causes the fall, or that God delights to see freedom falling, or that God creates freedom already as fallen.  God, rather, permits freedom to work its own blessedness or self-condemnation, to spell itself out in glory or disaster.  God is constantly resisting, constraining, limiting, and working to prevent the consequences of sin from inordinately undermining God’s larger purposes.  God would never allow sin finally to frustrate or overcome God’s good purpose in creation.  (Thomas C. Oden; The Living God, 285)

 

* One reason God permits the gift of freedom to result in sin is in order that we can arrive at a consciousness of our own finitude and our own inability to attain righteousness on our own.  Hence Luther viewed temptation, sins, and suffering as closely related to providence.  A major function of the law (the divine requirement codified in Mosaic law) is to train us to not rely upon our own righteousness.  Thus providence works, even through the law, to teach us that we cannot achieve righteousness on our own, apart from God’s sustaining help and grace.  The germ of that idea was already present in the patristic writers.

* According to Augustine, God would not permit evil at all unless He could draw good out of it.  (Thomas C. Oden; The Living God, 298)

 

The Bible clearly teaches God’s providential control (1) over the universe at large, Ps 103:19; Dn 4:35; Eph 1:11; (2) over the physical world, Job 37; Ps 104:14; 135:6; Mt 5:45; (3) over the brute creation, Ps 104:21, 28; Mt 6:26; 10:29; (4) over the affairs of nations, Job 12:23; Ps 22:28; 66:7; Acts 17:26; (5) over man’s birth and lot in life, 1 Sm 16:1; Ps 139:16; Isa 45:5; Gal 1:15, 16; (6) over the outward successes and failures of men’s lives, Ps 75:6, 7; Lk 1:52; (7) over things seemingly accidental or insignificant, Prv 16:33; Mt 10:30; (8) in the protection of the righteous, Ps 4:8; 5:12; 63:8; 121:3; Rom 8:28; (9) in supplying the wants of God’s people, Gn 22:8, 14; Dt 8:3; Phil 4:19; (10) in giving answers to prayer, 1 Sm 1:19; Isa 20:5, 6; 2 Chr 33:13; Ps 65:2; Mt. 7:7; Lk 18:7, 8; and (11) in the exposure and punishment of the wicked, Ps 7:12, 13; 11:6. (Louis Berkhof; Systematic Theology, 168)

 

Why does God’s discipline many times seem over the top?:

I-  Because God’s love is over the top.  He wants us to enjoy His best.  (Dt 1:34-36; see also: Prv 3:11-12; 13:24; 23:13; 29:15; Heb 12:5-11)

 

God loves children enough to ensure that they receive discipline.  Regardless of the manner in which that shaping is provided, it is a reflection of His passion for a child’s well-being (see Prv 3:11-12; 13:24; 19:18; 23:13; 29:15-17; Eph 6:4). (Charles R. Swindoll; You and Your Child, 45)

 

Discipline goes hand in hand with love; one is not complete without the other.  How we discipline each individual child varies according to their and our temperaments.  But not to discipline your child is a dreadfully unloving thing to do. (Stuart Briscoe; Choices for a Lifetime, 94)

 

Disobedience causes us to forfeit the best that God has for us.  This truth will continue to be demonstrated throughout Deuteronomy.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 49)

 

When we want to be something other than the thing God wants us to be, we must be wanting what, in fact, will not make us happy.  Those Divine demands which sound to our natural ears most like those of a despot and least like those of a lover, in fact marshal us where we should want to go if we knew what we wanted.  (C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, 46)

 

“A child who is never corrected is taught that their actions have no consequences.  Therefore, they have no consequences.”  — Jill Briscoe

 

Wouldn’t it be great if God always gave you what you would have asked for if you knew everything He knows?  We do have a God like that.  — Tim Keller

 

His (Theodore Roosevelt’s) son Kermit observed:  “There are no full stops for him, no final defeats, and no ultimate victories.  It seems that he is able to absorb every act of providence–be it good or bad from a human perspective–as one more necessary lesson in life.  He is always growing, always learning, and always striving to make a better showing next time around.  Each failure is for him merely an incomplete task along the way toward an ultimate success.”  (George Grant, Carry a Big Stick: The Uncommon Heroism of Theodore Roosevelt, 146)

 

Why do we all accept the outmoded disciplines of an authoritarian past when we travel by air?   Because the safety of our own skins is at stake.  This is not a case of possible damage to mind or soul.   This is an area where physical well-being is at risk.  So we put up with all the regulations the authorities choose to impose, knowing they ensure that we can travel in safety.  It is nonsense to pretend that the in the modern world regulation, discipline, and obedience to authority are outmoded.  People who work in air-traffic control, or space-travel control, or a hospital operating theatre know well that regulation, discipline and obedience are as essential as ever. (Harry Blamires; Recovering the Christian Mind, 113)

 

In Sickness and Infirmity

We ought to conform to the will of God in sickness and infirmity and wish for what He sends us, both at the time it comes and for the time it lasts and with all the circumstances attending it, without wishing for one of them to be changed; and at the same time do all that is reasonable in our power to get well again, because God wishes it so.  “For my part” says St. Alphonsus,” I call illness the touchstone of the spirit, for it is then that the true virtue of a man is discovered.”  If we feel ourselves becoming impatient or rebellious we should endeavor to repress such feelings and be deeply ashamed of any attempt at opposition to the just decrees of an all-wise God.

St. Bonaventure relates that St. Francis of Assisi was afflicted by an illness which caused him great pain.  One of his followers said to him, “Ask Our Lord to treat you a little more gently, for it seems to me He lays His hand too heavily upon you.”  Hearing this the saint gave a cry and addressed the man in these words:  “If I did not think that what you have just said comes from the simplicity of your heart without any evil intention I would have no more to do with you, because you have been so rash as to find fault with what God does to me.”  Then, though he was very weak from the length and violence of his illness, he threw himself down from the rough bed he was lying on, at the risk of breaking his bones, and kissing the floor of his cell said “I thank you, O Lord, for all the sufferings you send me.  I beg you to send me a hundred times more if you think it right.  I shall rejoice if it pleases you to afflict me without sparing me in any way, for the accomplishments of your holy will is my greatest consolation.” (Father Jean Baptiste; Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence, 67-8)

 

II-  Because God’s love is over the top.  He knows failure to trust in Him will ultimately destroy us.  ( Dt 1:25-32; see also: Num 14:11-38; Prv 5:23; 10:17; 15″10; Jer 7:28; 32:23; Mk 16:14)

 

According to the teaching of our Lord, what is wrong with the world is precisely that it does not believe in God. Yet it is clear that the unbelief which he so bitterly deplored was not an intellectual persuasion of God’s non-existence. Those whom he rebuked for their lack of faith were not men who denied God with the top of their minds, but men who, while apparently incapable of doubting him with the top of their minds, lived as though he did not exist.  (John Baillie; Our Knowledge of God)

 

The seriousness of Israel’s unbelief was proven by the Lord’s reaction to the groaning and unbelief in the tents of Israel.  He was angry and solemnly swore that no one of the generation that had disbelieved him would see the good land that he had promised.  The exception was Caleb son of Jephunneh, who had followed the Lord wholeheartedly.  (Joshua was another exception, a self-evident one since he had already been designated as the new leader of the nation after Moses’ death; cp. Dt 1:37-40 and Nm 27:18-22.)  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 17)

 

The word “swore” appears twice here.  This dual swearing shows the nature of God as holy love.  As the loving God he swore to give the promised land to their fathers, but as holy God he swore not to give it to the present generation.  This shows how we must hold these two aspects of God’s nature together without separating them as many do.  We sometimes say things like, “God loves you unconditionally and will not leave you whatever you do.”  That is not true.  We are told that “the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul” (1 Sm 16:14) because he had become disobedient to God.  We cannot expect God to bless us if we disobey.  Of course, if we repent, then we open ourselves again to God’s blessings.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 75-6)

 

We should wish with the divine will for heat and cold, storm and calm, and all the vagaries and inclemencies of the elements.  We should in short accept whatever kind of weather God sends us, instead of supporting it with impatience or anger as we usually do when it is contrary or what we desire.  We should avoid saying, for instance, “What awful heat!” “What terrible cold!” “What shocking weather!” “Just my bad luck!” and other expressions of the same kind which only serve to show our lack of faith and of submission to Gods’ will.

Not only should we wish the weather to be as it is because God has made it so but, whatever inconvenience it may cause us, we should repeat with the three youth in the fiery furnace:  Cold, heat, snow and ice, lightings and clouds, winds and tempests, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever.  The elements themselves are blessing and glorifying God by doing His holy will, and we also should bless and glorify Him in the same way.  Besides, even the weather is inconvenient for us, it may be convenient for someone else.  If it prevents us from doing what we want to do, it may be helping another.  And even if it were not so, it should be enough for us that it is giving glory to God and that it is God who wishes it to be as it is. (Father Jean Baptiste; Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence, 46-8)

 

We ought to conform to God’s will in poverty and all the inconveniences poverty brings in its train.  It is not too hard to do so if we fully realize that God watches over us as a father over his children and puts us in that condition because it is of most value to us.  Poverty then takes on a different aspect in our eyes, for by looking on the privations it imposes as salutary remedies we even cease to think of ourselves as poor.

If a rich man has a son in bad health and prescribes a strict diet for him, does the son think he has to eat small amounts of plain or tasteless food because his father cannot afford better?  Does he begin to worry about how he will exist in the future?  Will other people think that because of his diet he has become poor?  Everybody knows how well off his father is and that he shares in his father’s wealth and he will again have what is now forbidden him as soon as his health is restored.

Are we not the children of God of riches, the co-heirs of Christ?  Being so, is there anything we can lack?  Let it be said boldly:  whoever responds to his divine adoption with the feelings of love and trust that the position of being children of God demands has a right, here and now, to all that God Himself possesses.  Everything then is ours.  But it is not expedient we should enjoy everything.  It is often necessary we should be deprived of many things.  Let us be careful not to conclude from the privations imposed on us only as remedies that we may ever be in want of anything that is to our advantage.  Let us firmly believe that if anything is necessary or really useful for us, our all-powerful Father will give it to us without fail.  To those gathered round to him our Savior said:  If you evil as you are, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father. . .?  (Father Jean Baptiste; Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence, 58-9)

 

Our conformity to the will of God should extend to our natural defects, mental ones, included.  We should not, for example, complain or feel grieved at not being so clever or so witty or not having such a good memory as other people.  Why should we complain of the little that has fallen to our lot when we have deserved nothing of what God has given us?  Is not all a free gift of His generosity for which we are greatly indebted to him?  What services has He received from us that He should have made us a human being rather than some lower animal?  Have we done anything to oblige him to give us existence itself?

But it is not enough just not to complain.  We ought to be content with what we have been given and desire nothing more.  What we have is sufficient because God has judged it so.  Just as a workman uses the shape and size of tool best suited to the job in hand, so God gives us those qualities which are in accordance with the designs He has for us.  The important thing is to use well what He has given us.  It may be added that it is very fortunate for some people to have only mediocre qualities or limited talents.  The measure of them that God has given will save them, while they might be ruined if they had more.  Superiority of talent very often only serves to engender pride and vanity and so become a means of perdition.  (Father Jean Baptiste; Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence, 65-6)

 

 

Worship Point:  Desire, love and worship the God of the Universe Who loves you (Jn 3:16; Rom 5:5, 8-10; 8:39; Eph 2:4; Ti 3:4; 1 Jn 3:1; 4:7-12, 16-19), knows you (1 Sm 16:7; 1 Chr 28:9; Ps 139:1-6; Prv 5:21), cares for you (1 Pt 5:7) and passionately (thus His wrath) wants you to enjoy His best (Jn 10:10; Acts 14:17; 1 Tm 6:17).  BEWARE:  He will ultimately give you what you claim you want. (Nm 14:28; Ps 119:21; Prv 6:23; 9:7-8; 19:18; 29:1; Jer 5:3; 17:23; Zep 3:2; Rom 11:22; Heb 3:16-19)

 

Hell is getting your way for all of eternity.— C. S. Lewis

 

Their eyes were sealed in unbelief.  With such eyes they would never see the promised land. (Christopher J. H. Wright; Deuteronomy: Understanding the Bible Series, 31)

 

If you do not believe in a God of wrath, but only in a god of love; then what did it cost for your god of love to really love you?  When you understand the wrath of God, you better understand the love of God because you understand what God was willing to do for you because of Your Sin.  — Tim Keller

 

Everyone will get what they want.  They did not want to see the land, and won’t; Joshua and Caleb desired the land and will in fact get there (Bekjhor Shor).  (The Rubin JPS Miqra’ot Gedolot, Commentators’ Bible: Dt, 13)

 

The Bible looks at the Wrath of God as a product of His moral integrity. — Chuck Swindoll

 

It’s serious business when the Lord takes an oath.  He swore by himself to Abraham that his descendants would take possession of the cities of their enemies (Gn 22:17).  The Lord would still keep his oath, but this generation of Abraham’s descendants now forfeited the blessing for themselves.  Only the two spies who had presented a report based on faith in God’s promises would go into the land.  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 28)

 

“See now that I, even I, am He, and there is no god with Me; I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal; neither is there any that can deliver out of My hand.  For I lift up My hand to heaven, and say, I live forever.  If I whet My glittering sword, and Mine hand take hold on judgment; I will render vengeance to Mine enemies, and will reward them that hate Me.”  (Dt 32:39-41).  A study of the concordance will show that there are more references in Scripture to the anger, fury, and wrath of God, than there are to His love and tenderness.  Because God is holy, He hates all sin; and because He hates all sin, His anger burns against the sinner (Ps 7:11).

…Indifference to sin is a moral blemish, and he who hates it not is a moral leper.  How could He who is the Sum of all excellency look with equal satisfaction upon virtue and vice, wisdom and folly?  How could He who is infinitely holy disregard sin and refuse to manifest His “severity” (Rom 9:22) toward it? …The very nature of God makes Hell as real a necessity, as imperatively and eternally requisite, as Heaven is.  Not only is there no imperfection in God, but there is no perfection in Him that is less perfect than another.

The wrath of God is eternal detestation of all unrighteousness.  (Arthur W. Pink; The Attributes of God, 83)

 

In order to form the minds of children, the first thing to be done is to conquer the will, and bring them into an obedient temper.  To inform the understanding is a work of time, and must with children proceed by slow degrees as they are able to bear it; but the subjecting of the will is a thing which must be done at once, and the sooner the better!

For by neglecting timely correction, they will contract a stubbornness and obstinancy which is hardly ever after conquered, and never without using such severity as would be painful to me as to the children.  In the esteem of the world, those who withhold timely correction would pass for kind and indulgent parents, whom I call cruel parents, who permit their children to get habits which they know must afterward be broken.  Nay, some are so stupidly fond as in sport to teach their children to do things which in the after while, they must severely beat them for doing.

Whenever a child is corrected, it must be conquered; and this will be no hard matter to do, if it be not grown headstrong by too much indulgence.  And, if the will of a child is totally subdued, and if it be brought to revere and stand in awe of the parents, then a great many childish follies and inadvertencies may be passed by.  Some should be overlooked and taken no notice of, and others mildly reproved.  But no willful transgressions ought ever to be forgiven children, without chastisement, more or less as the nature and circumstances of the offense shall require.

I cannot dismiss this subject.  As self-will is the root of all sin and misery, so whatever cherishes this in children insures their after wretchedness and faithlessness, whatever checks and moritifes, promotes their future happiness and piety.  This is still more evident if we further consider that Christianity is nothing less than doing the will of God, and not our own; that the one grand impediment to our temporal and eternal happiness being this self-will.  No indulgence of it can be trivial, no denial unprofitable. ( Dr. James C. Dobson; Parenting Isn’t for Cowards, 89-90)

 

Gospel Application:  God’s over the top love found a way for His over the top justice, mercy, wrath, grace and love to kiss (Ps 85:10):  by sending His Son Jesus to endure God’s wrath for us.  (Jn 3:16; Rom 5:8-10; 2 Cor 5:21) 

 

Do you want a vision of divine wrath?  Of intense holiness?  Of righteous judgment?  Look at the Cross!  Do you want to know divine love?  Mercy?  Grace?  Look at the Cross.  But don’t look at either dimension of the divine character in isolation.  Don’t try to grasp grace without seeing judgment.  Don’t expect to appreciate God’s mercy without being stunned by his holiness. (Stuart Briscoe; Choices for a Lifetime, 44)

 

Here you may say, “I don’t like the idea of the wrath of God.  I want a God of love.”

The problem is that if you want a loving God, you have to have an angry God.  Please think about it.  Loving people can get angry, not in spite of their love but because of it.  In fact, the more closely and deeply you love people in your life, the angrier you can get.  Have you noticed that?  When you see people who are harmed or abused, you get mad.  If you see people abusing themselves, you get mad at them, out of love.  Your senses of love and justice are activated together, not in opposition to each other.  If you see people destroying themselves or destroying other people and you don’t get mad, it’s because you don’t care.  You’re too absorbed in yourself, too cynical, too hard.  The more loving you are, the more ferociously angry you will be at whatever harms your beloved.  (Timothy Keller, King’s Cross, 176-7)

 

But we don’t ponder how much his anger is also a function of his love and goodness.  The Bible tells us that God loves everything he has made.  That’s one of the reasons he’s angry at what’s going on in his creation; he is angry at anything or anyone that is destroying the people and world he loves.  His capacity for love is so much greater than ours–and the cumulative extent of evil in the world is so vast–that the word wrath doesn’t really do justice to how God rightly feels when he looks at the world.  So it makes no sense to say, “I don’t want a wrathful God, I want a loving God.”  If God is loving and good, he must be angry at evil–angry enough to do something about it.  (Timothy Keller, King’s Cross, 177)

 

Shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?  In fact He attributed the suffering and ignominy of His passion not to the Jews who accused him, not to Judas who betrayed Him, nor to Pilate who condemned Him, nor to the soldiers who ill-treated and crucified him, nor to the devil who incited them all, though they were the immediate causes of His sufferings, but to God, and to God not considered as a strict judge but as a loving and beloved Father.  (Father Jean Baptiste; Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence, 25)

 

Should we practice spiritual disciplines?  Yes, we should.  But we should do so with the recognition that these disciplines are primarily means of polishing the armor that God has provided, so that we see his power more clearly (Rom 13:12).  Practicing these habits in order to overpower Satan by our own discipline and diligence actually makes us more spiritually vulnerable.  We don the armor of God by faith, repenting of our own weaknesses and believing that each element of divine protection can resist the assaults of Satan as God has promised.  (Bryan Chapell, Holiness by Grace, 155)

 

If you always do what you always did; you’re gonna get what you always got.— Lorraine Barnes

 

Spiritual Challenge:  Embrace rather than recoil God’s discipline.   See pain, suffering, loss, and hardship as a way for God’s loving hand to make you stronger, wiser, better:  more like Jesus.  (Gn 50:20; Prv 1:7; 12:1; 13:1, 18; 15:5, 10, 12, 31-32; 17:10; Rom 5:1-5; 8:28-30; 1 Cor 15:43-53; 2 Cor 3:18; Eph 1:3-14; Phil 3:21; Col 3:1-4; Jam 1:2-4; 1 Jn 3:2) 

 

Generally speaking, one day of adversity can be of more profit to us for our eternal salvation than years of untroubled living, whatever good use we make of the time. (Father Jean Baptiste; Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence, 114)

 

People who have a seeking heart still make mistakes. But their reaction to rebuke and correction shows the condition of their heart. (Jim Cymbala; Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, 167).

 

God brings us to the wilderness that we might hear His voice.  Therefore, do not fear or despise the wildernesses of your life, and don’t despise His removing of the distractions.  Rather embrace it.   Draw closer to Him.  And listen to what He is saying.  Seek to hear His voice, and you will hear Him.  For the wilderness in your life is not just a wilderness.  It is holy ground.  (Jonathan Cahn; The Book of Mysteries, day 8)

 

“Through the years I have learned to dislike church conflicts and personality clashes with intensity, but I have slowly learned that the kingdom of Christ can only grow through conflicts.  In one of his writings Oswald Chambers has said that in discipling, the most difficult pain to bear is that which we must give to others.  Causing pain to those we love is, in his view, the greatest cost in discipling.  He also makes it clear that such pain is an absolutely necessary ingredient in discipling.  If as a pastor-discipler we do not encourage, correct, and exhort, we simply will not see God build His church through us.”  (C. John Miller; Outgrowing the Ingrown Church, 114)

 

To ask that God’s love should be content with us as we are is to ask that God should cease to be God:  because He is what He is, His love must, in the nature of things, be impeded and repelled by certain stains in our present character, and because He already loves us He must labor to make us lovable.  (C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, 41)

 

We are bidden to “put on Christ,” to become like God.  That is, whether we like it or not, God intends to give us what we need, not what we now think we want.  Once more, we are embarrassed by the intolerable compliment, by too much love, not too little.  (C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, 47)

 

Sadly, like Israel, the church as a collective and Christians as individuals have often proved faithless, being more impressed by the power of the enemy than the power of God and the resources he makes available to his people.  But the example of Caleb inspires us in our pursuit of God and provides the key to passing the tests we face: possession of a different Spirit, that is, the Holy Spirit of God, and unqualified commitment to God and his mission.  To those who persevere the Lord promises not a plot of land but the eternal reward of an inheritance with him (Eph 1:3-14).  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 78)

 

I defy you to read the life of any saint that has ever adorned the life of the Church without seeing at once that the greatest characteristic in the life of that saint was discipline and order.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones;  Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure, 210)

 

When we fall in love with a woman, do we cease to care whether she is clean or dirty, fair or foul?  Do we not rather then first begin to care?  Does any woman regard it as a sign of love in a man that he neither knows nor cares how she is looking?  Love may, indeed, love the beloved when her beauty is lost:  but not because it is lost.  Love may forgive all infirmities and love still in spite of them:  but Love cannot cease to will their removal.  Love is more sensitive than hatred itself to every blemish in the beloved; his “feeling is more soft and sensible than are the tender horns of cockled snails.”  Of all powers he forgives most, but he condones least:  he is pleased with little, but demands all.  (C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, 38-9)

 

(“wrath”) Connotes not angry punishment, but the bad consequences God assigns, as any loving parent might, to destructive or wrongful behavior.  The word wrath as used in the OT, it is argued, is not primarily a law-court term.  It never means sending people to an eternal hell.  In fact, it can simply be translated “bad consequences”—the bad consequences of pestilence, drought, and famine, or the ravage of wild animals and invading armies, experience in the here and now . . . . So wrath is more like a loving encouragement or rebuke to help us into (or keep us in) the fold.  New-model evangelicals shrink from using the terrors of hell to scare people into making a decision.  From the old-model point of view, that approach misses the fact that God can send us to hell, and that the only hope is to accept what Christ has done to save us from the damnation we deserve.  (Brow, Robert; 1990; “Evangelical Megashift”)

 

It is very common for people to allow themselves great liberty in finding fault with such things as have only God for their cause…It sounds indeed much better to murmur at the course of the world or the state of things than to murmur at providence, to complain of the seasons and weather, than to complain of God, but if these have no other cause but God and His providence it is a poor distinction to say that you are only angry at the things but not at the cause and director of them.  (William Law, A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life, 314, 319)

 

When we complain, what we are really saying is, “I could have done a better job than God in this instance.  If I had made the choice, I would have done this and so…”  This is blasphemy.  (Gary L. Thomas, Seeking the Face of God, 95)

 

Abuse is unfair, extreme, and degrading.  It’s unduly harsh, unnecessarily long, and totally inappropriate.  When you drag children’s feelings through the mud and kick them when they’re down, you’re being abusive.  The result?  A soiled self-esteem and scars that often last a lifetime.  Actions like that are not discipline; they’re abuse.  And abuse doesn’t grow out of love; it stems from hate.

Discipline is fair, fitting, and upholds the child’s dignity.  Discipline is built on a foundation of justice.  It isn’t capricious or arbitrary, so the child should have a good idea of the punishment that will be meted out if parental boundaries are willfully and defiantly violated.  This form of correction strengthens rather than shatter the child’s self-worth.  Discipline is rooted in proper motivation–love and genuine concern–not in anger or expedience.  (Chuck Swindoll; The Strong Family, 56)

 

St. Gregory sets the same truth before us in another light.  A doctor, he says, orders leeches to be applied.  While these small creatures are drawing blood from the patient their only aim is to gorge themselves and suck up as much of it as they can.  The doctor’s only intention is to have the impure blood drawn from the patient and to cure him in this manner.  There is therefore no relations between the insatiable greed of the leeches and the intelligent purpose of the doctor in using them.  The patient himself does not protest at their use.  He does not regard the leeches as evildoers.  Rather he tries to overcome the repugnance the sight of their ugliness causes and help them in their action, in the knowledge that the doctor has judged it useful for his health.

God makes use of men as the doctor does of leeches.  Neither should we then stop to consider the evilness of those to whom God gives power to act on us or be grieved at their wicked intentions, and we should keep ourselves from feelings of aversion toward them.  Whatever their particular views may be, in regard to us they are only instruments of well-being, guided by the hand of an all-good, all-wise, all-powerful God who will allow them to act on us only in so far as is of use to us.  It is in our interest to welcome instead of trying to repel their assaults, as in very truth they come from God.  And it is the same with all creatures of whatever kind.  Not one of them could act upon us unless the power were given it from above.  (Father Jean Baptiste; Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence, 22-3)

 

Do not let ourselves be troubled when we are sometimes beset by adversity, for we know that it is meant for our spiritual welfare and carefully proportioned to our needs, and that a limit has been set to it by the wisdom of the same God who has set a bound to the ocean.  Sometimes it might seem as if the sea in its fury would overflow and flood the land, but it respects the limits of its shore and its waves break upon the yielding sand.  There is no tribulation or temptation whose limits God has not appointed so as to serve not for our destruction but for our salvation.  God is faithful says the Apostle, and will not permit you to be tempted (or afflicted) beyond your strength, but it is necessary for you to be so, since through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God in the steps of our Redeemer who said of Himself, Did not the Christ have to suffer all these things before entering into his glory?  If you refused to accept these tribulations you would be acting against your best interests.  You are like a block of marble in the hands of the sculptor.  The sculptor must chip, hew and smooth it to make it into a statue that is a work of art.  God wishes to make us the living image of Himself.  All we need to think of is to keep still in His hands while He works on us, and we can rest assured that the chisel will never strike the slightest blow that is not needed for His purposes and our sanctification; for, as St. Paul says, the will of God is your sanctification. (Father Jean Baptiste; Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence, 31-3)

 

In Interior Trials:

We ought to conform to God’s will in interior trials, that is to say in all the difficulties met with our spiritual life, such as temptations, scruples, anxieties, aridity, desolation and so on.  Whatever immediate cause we may attribute to these states of mind, we must always look beyond to God as their author.  If we think they come from ourselves, then it is true to say that they have their origin in the ignorance of our mind, the oversensitiveness of our feelings, the disordered state of our imagination or the perversity of our inclinations.  But if we go back farther, if we ask where the defects themselves come from, we can only find their origin in the will of God who has not endowed us with greater perfection, and by making us subject to these infinites has laid on us the duty of bearing all the consequences of them for our sanctification until He is pleased to put an end to them.  As soon as He judges it in the right moment to touch our mind or heart, we shall be enlightened, fortified, and consoled.  (Father Jean Baptiste; Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence, 81-2)

 

So What?:  Are you kidding?  With this attitude you will become the salt of the earth (Mt 5:13), the light of the world (Mt 5:14), a witness and testimony to unbelievers of God’s love and faithfulness (Mt 5:13-14; 1 Pt 3:15).  It is the only sane way you can possess joy while living in a fallen world.  Beg God to give you the Spirit of Caleb which is the Spirit of Jesus.  (Prv 4:23; Jer 31:18, 31-34; Ez 36:26-27; Rom 2:28-29; 1 Cor 9:27; 2 Tm 3:16-17)

 

“Joy is not a requirement of Christian discipline, it is a consequence.” (Eugene Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, 92)

 

Peter Craigie explains that the wording in our Deuteronomy verse literally translates as “he completely filled himself after the Lord.”  Caleb was saturated with God.  Always all that mattered to him was, “What does God want me to be and do?”  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 77)

 

Human beings grow by striving, working, stretching; and in a sense, human nature needs problems more than solutions.  Why are not all prayers answered magically and instantly?  Why must every convert travel the same tedious path of spiritual discipline?  Because persistent prayer, and fasting, and study, and meditation are designed primarily for our sakes, not for God’s.  Kierkegaard said that Christians reminded him of schoolboys who want to look up the answers to their math problems in the back of the book rather than work them through…We yearn for shortcuts.  But shortcuts usually lead away from growth, not toward it.  Apply the principle directly to Job:  what was the final result of the testing he went through?  As Rabbi Abraham Heschel observed, “Faith like Job’s cannot be shaken because it is the result of having been shaken.”  (Philip Yancey; Disappointment With God, 207-8)

 

In Nm 14:24 Yahweh recognizes a different spirit with Caleb, demonstrated in following Yahweh fully.  While this could mean simply that Caleb’s disposition differed from that of the rest of the population, it is more likely that “to be accompanied by a different Spirit” is equivalent to being circumcised of heart (Dt 30:6), to having experienced a divine heart transplant, or to having had Yahweh put his “spirit” within a person (Ez 36:26-27).  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 77)

 

The aim of disciplines in the spiritual life–and, specifically, in the following of Christ–is the transformation of the total state of the soul.  It is the renewal of the whole person from the inside, involving differences in thought, feeling, and character that may never be manifest in outward behavior at all.  This is what Paul has in mind when he speaks of putting off the old man and putting on the new, “renewed to resemble in knowledge the one who created us…” (Colossians 3:10).

The genius of the moral teachings of Jesus and his first students was his insistence that you cannot keep the law by trying not to break the law.  That will only make a Pharisee of you and sink you into layers of hypocrisy.  Instead, you have to be transformed in the functions of the soul so that the deeds of the law are a natural outflow of who you have become.  This is spiritual formation in the Christian way, and it must always be kept in mind when we consider Jesus’s teachings about various behaviors–in the Sermon on the Mount and elsewhere.

For example, his famous teaching about turning the other cheek.  If all you intend is to do that, you will find you can do it with a heart still full of bitterness and vengefulness.  If, on the other hand, you become a person who has the interior character of Christ, remaining appropriately vulnerable will be done as a matter of course, and you will not think of it as a big deal.  (Dallas Willard; The Great Omission, 152)

 

JESUS:

LOVING

DISCIPLINARIAN

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