The Place of Discipline
Psalm 89:30 If his children forsake my law
and do not walk according to my ordinances,
31 if they violate my statutes
and do not keep my commandments,
32 then I will punish their transgression with the rod
and their iniquity with scourges;
33 but I will not remove from him my steadfast love,
or be false to my faithfulness.
The cry of the Psalmist was for a continuation of the Davidic line. The people of God were, far too often, found to be unfaithful. The hope was in the eternal love of the Father. Drawing upon the metaphor of parenthood and the need for discipline, the Psalmist conjures up a vision of a parent who refuses to give up on their child. This Psalm brings up a great If-Then statement. If they forsake the law; If they violate God’s statues — Then they will be punished with the rod. The language here is again parental. God, the Father doesn’t say that the children will be destroyed, but that they will receive the rod, a reference to the discipline that parents bring to their young children so that they will keep on a healthy path. Finally, the steadfast love of the Father will never be removed, nor can or will the Father be unfaithful, for it is beyond his nature.
None of us likes to be disciplined and, as a parent and a grandparent, it’s really no fun to have to discipline those little ones either. I remember times when our girls were little that I found it painful to have to discipline them, but knew that I must for their own good. If I wouldn’t take the time to teach them what was right and wrong, there could have been extremely serious consequences. Our loving heavenly Father also disciplines his children when necessary, not because he does not love us, but because he loves us so much. Enduring the discipline of the Father can be painful and embarrassing but it can also bring us back to the place where we belong.
Refusing to discipline our children will be detrimental to their lives. Lately I’ve heard more and more comments about “parental failure” and the long-term results on children and society as a whole. When parents refuse to take their responsibility to bring about correction and discipline in the lives of their children everyone will have to suffer the consequences. A loving parent brings discipline into the life of a child, teaching them that the world does not revolve around them; that they cannot have everything they want when they want it; that not everyone wins; that hard work really is necessary; that doing chores is a great way to be prepared for life; that doing your own homework is important; that putting down electronic devices and learning how to have conversations with people will prepare you for life; and that spending time in family devotions every day is critical to spiritual development.
When we refuse to allow God to discipline us the consequences reach far beyond our own personal lives. The choices of leading Israelites led to the punishment of an entire group of people. As a Christian, when I refuse to follow God’s leading and direction, then I should expect correction, or many will suffer as a result of my behavior. Our hearts must be tender toward the leading and nudging of God’s Holy Spirit in our lives, listening for direction. It’s not always easy and sometimes quite painful, but it comes from a Father’s heart of love.
Our loving Father teaches us that our lives should be ruled by love of God and love of others.
Our Father teaches us that we don’t need that many “things” in life, but that he will provide and sustain us with all that we need.
Our Father nudges us out into the world to work — to be his hands and feet to those in need.
Our Father welcomes us into a place of intimacy where we can learn from him and become more and more like him, taking on family traits.
Our Father wants us to put down our electronic devices, turn off the TV, stop surfing the internet, take off the ear buds, and have a genuine conversation with him.
We need discipline when we head off in the wrong direction but I’m afraid we may be so distracted we don’t even notice when God is trying to get our attention. Suddenly we end up in circumstances that are crushing and we wonder how we even got there! We blame the Father. It’s not the Father’s fault, for he continues to reach out to us in holy love, drawing us toward him. But because of his love, we may have to suffer the consequences, as discipline, for the choices that we have made. We will not be destroyed, but can embrace the discipline and find ourselves back on the path that will eventually lead us home.
Discipline has a significant place in the life of a disciple. The two words even have the same root. Let’s be grateful that we have a Father who will discipline us so that we can be disciples.
Lord, while your discipline can be painful, thank you for never giving up on me. Amen.