"God deals with you as with sons."—Hebrews 12:1-13
As with wrestlers after long conflict, the arms of afflicted saints sometimes droop and their knees tremble. But they are encouraged to "lift up the hands that hang down and the feeble knees" by thinking of the "great cloud of witnesses" and of Him who "endured the cross," and is now "at the right hand of the throne of God." "Consider Him lest you be wearied and faint in your minds; you have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin," as He did in Gethsemane. They are also consoled by the fact that all their afflictions are the wise discipline of a loving Father.
This was already revealed in their Scriptures, but the Hebrew Christians seemed to have forgotten it. We may become so familiar with statements of truth that the truth itself escapes notice. One advantage of trial is the being reminded of what had become indistinct in memory. The rain may wash off the obscuring dust from the crystal. The lightning may reveal what had been unnoticed in the gloom. Affliction, like the setting sun making radiant obscure objects in the landscape, shows up many a text of Holy Scripture which had been long overlooked. "Have you quite forgotten the exhortation which speaks unto you as unto children?"
The Bible is not a dead, dusty volume of laws and precedents in some record office, but a present living teacher. The exhortation given in the past still "speaks." Circumstances change but great principles endure. Divine commands and consolations are ever new. The Bible "speaks unto you." As "all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for instruction" in every age, God, by Solomon (Prov. 3:11), "speaks unto you."
On the Mount of Transfiguration a cloud overshadowed the disciples; "and they feared as they entered into the cloud." So we are apt to fear when sorrow casts its shadow over us, or wraps itself around us and conceals the path. But the disciples no longer feared when "there came a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son." Thus the voice of the Father comes out of every cloud, saying, "Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am Your God." He speaks to us as unto children. "My son, regard not lightly the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved of Him; for whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives." We are in danger of treating trials too lightly. We are not, as others, to assume a "don't care" attitude; or assign trial to chance, or mere second causes; or to suppose God is angry, or indifferent to our sorrows. But we are to accept them, reverently, as from a Father, acknowledging that we are erring children, and inquiring what faults of ours may have needed the correcting rod.
But we are not to "faint when rebuked by Him." This we may do when we are so absorbed in grief that we do not listen to His voice of love, nor search the Scriptures of consolation, nor carry our woes to Him in prayer; or when, in indolent lamentation, we neglect our own duties and the sorrows of others—and even worse, when we distrust our Father, and say, "Has God forgotten to be gracious?"
The antidote to both tendencies is the revealed truth of the Divine Fatherhood. Trials are a token of remembrance—not forgetfulness; of care—not indifference; of training—not abandonment; of mercy—not punishment; of love—not wrath. God speaks to you, not as unto strangers or enemies or condemned sinners, but "as unto children." What joy when we recognize the Father's voice! when His call breaks the spell of despondency and we see that His chastisements are sent as blessings!
"In that hour,
"If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chastens not?" An earthly father prescribes the child's treatment and duties, provides and regulates its food and culture, appointing not what the child most wishes—but most needs, not what would be most pleasant for an hour—but most healthful and useful for future life. Therefore, the son of a wise and loving father must often learn difficult lessons, perform uncongenial work, be denied desired delights, and submit to painful discipline—"for what son is he whom the father chastens not? But if you be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are you illegitimate children and not sons."
Would we desire to cease to be God's children—in order to escape the discipline? Is not the sonship worth the chastisement which is a necessary part of it? God said to Israel, "I have chosen you in the furnace of affliction; I am the Lord your God who teaches you to profit." If chosen at all should we repine at 'the where'? Is not the privilege more than the place? If the furnace "teaches us to profit" should we not bless God for it as well as for the choice?
"Furthermore, we have had fathers of our flesh who corrected us, and we gave them reverence—shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?" They chastened us "as seemed good to them" (R.V.); according to their own discretion, sometimes erroneously, unduly, angrily; for a few days only, during childhood, then leaving the grown man to himself—but God perseveres through maturity to old age, always for our profit.
If we submit when the result of correction is only for this life, much more when its fruits are to endure forever. The longest life here is but "a few days" compared with eternity. "A little while" and the earthly advantages of parental discipline will cease; while those of God's chastisement will go on forever, in enlarged capacity for enjoying the inheritance of the saints. "Should we not be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live!" The end of an earthly father's discipline is death. There is no end to God's present discipline. We live forever with Him, and retain the fruits of His chastisement as a subject of endless hallelujah.
"He for our profit." What profit? Nothing less than this—"That we might be partakers of His holiness;" that we may reach not simply the higher life of human excellence, but of Divine; that we may become more and more conformed to the Sufferer of Gethsemane, who was "made perfect by suffering"; and so become "like Him, seeing Him as He is." Thus, His severest chastisements resemble in design His kindest consolations—for He has "given to us exceeding great and precious promises, that by these we may become partakers of the Divine nature."
Our Father reigns in heaven above!