Partakers of His Holiness

“God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten.” Hebrews 12:7

The men and women of the Old Testament have parts of their lives recorded for us as witnesses to us of God’s ways and the sinful nature within us. This is for our benefit not amusement. The key phrase in chapter eleven is “By faith.” Their experiences were as diverse as ours will be. We should never expect that God will take us along the same disciplinary path as someone else or that they will travel the same disciplinary path as us.

God’s grace may also be revealed in quite different ways. For some the grace of God in response to their believing His word brought about wonderful and miraculous miracles (11:33-35a). For others God’s grace in response to their believing His word brought horrendous trials, suffering and persecution (11:35b-38) but He delivered them out of them all. Under threat of fiery furnace Daniel’s three friends said, “… our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us from your hand” (Daniel 3:16-18). Whether by burning or preservation they knew they would be delivered from the King’s hand.

The writer exhorts us to lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us. Anything that drags us back from realising God’s purpose, revealed in 12:10, should be cast off. The sin that so easily ensnares us is no mystery. This whole part of Hebrews deals with it. If believing God’s word is faith then unbelief is the sin that turns us from faith. The fact is that we become ensnared in the sin of unbelief all too easily and may thereby invoke a disciplinary action from God. This action demonstrates that we have a special Father – son relationship with Him. The absence of it may seem good but it may also reveal that we are not sons of God.

There is a huge consequence to us individually and corporately (church) when we do not take God at His word and act upon it. Matthew tells us this consequence: “He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief” (Matthew 13:58).

Ignorance of God’s word will produce the same effect but love for Jesus will compel us to study the Bible for ourselves. No one enjoys discipline even though the outcome is good. We also know that discipline can be avoided if we study God’s word, believe it and act upon it (the evidence that we believe it).

God’s wonderful purpose in this is that His holy Divine Nature given to us (2 Peter 1:4; Hebrews 12:10) may be worked out in our experience for His glory. The O.T. record shows us many examples of God achieving this in the lives of men and women just like us.

Good in the End

“… that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do you good in the end” (Deuteronomy 8:16)

Moses told Israel that God’s purpose in Israel’s wilderness wanderings was twofold: to maintain a humble mind and to test their hearts with specific regard to obedience.

The way in which God maintained a humble heart in Israel was through making their dependence upon Him very obvious. When they hungered and cried out to Him He supplied manna (v 3) and when they thirsted He provided water. Miraculously their garments did not wear out and their footwear was always just the right size (v 4). In addition He maintained humility through chastisement (v 5). This is a model for all parents, especially fathers, to follow. We have the evidence of unrestrained and undisciplined youth all around us. Many are not so youthful age-wise any more but they carry the marks of a lack of training and discipline in their youth. They fit the description Paul wrote to Timothy (2 Timothy 3:1-5). With each generation humility is not only less evident but being seen as an undesirable trait. We should not be surprised that bullying has become more prevalent among children and that it remains with them into adulthood.

The tests that God presented to Israel were to reveal what was really in their heart. Did they really trust God or just give Him lip service? Obedience to His commands would reveal their heart and ours. If we believe someone who cares about us to be trustworthy we will do as they ask.

Recently a doctor prescribed a medication for me but I have not taken it. He was unable to convince me that he understood or believed what I was saying and I did not understand his words due to his accent. There was a period of a minute or two when he spoke that I did not recognise any English word. I have not obeyed his instructions because I do not believe they were necessarily in my best interest.

When we choose not to obey the word of the Lord we are saying that we do not understand His instruction, don’t trust His wisdom or we do not believe that He has our best interest at heart. He tested Israel and He will test us regularly. At Ai, under Joshua’s leadership, Israel failed this test (Joshua 7) but they learned from it (Joshua 8) and that is the purpose of chastisement.

God is at work to maintain humility in His people and to test us as to our trust in Him and obedience. He states that it is to do you good in the end. If we believe this then we will accept His hand that may sometimes withhold that which seems good to us, and His chastisement, with all grace and joy.

“My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor detest His correction; for whom the Lord loves, He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights” (Proverbs 3:11, 12)