God’s very special providence toward His own does not always or perhaps usually does not result in prosperity. God’s special love for His own often takes the form of chastisement. “My son, regard not lightly the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by Him; for those whom the Lord loves, He disciplines and He scourges every son whom He receives [i].” Chastisement may be taken as an evidence of genuine sonship [ii]. This chastening is for our good, so that we may share in His holiness [iii].
Chastisement is a proof of God’s love, a proof that we belong to Him as sons. Events may seem to indicate otherwise, but faith gives the proper perspective. “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness [iv].” Yet through the corrective lens of faith the purpose of this chastening becomes discernible. “Thus you are to know in your heart that the LORD your God was disciplining you just as a man disciplines his son [v].”
The one who would recognize the providential finger of God in adversity, trial, and affliction is a mature son who truly knows God and the way of salvation in Christ. When in God’s good providence we are brought low, as was Job, we may ask why? But we shall, like, Job, rest content to simply trust God even when the answer is not forthcoming.
Finally, let us never confuse chastisement with penalty. These two terms are actions which are essentially different from one another. Penalty proceeds from justice: “For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience [vi]?” Civil authorities are ministers of God, working as avengers, to those who do evil [vii]. In the end times men will be scorched with fierce heat because they did not give God His glory due Him as a penalty [viii]. Therefore, do not confuse civil penalty with God’s chastisement, and do not comingle the wrath directed against God’s enemies, the judgment upon unbelievers, that is to say divine fury with the chastisement God bestows upon His own people. God’s chastisement proceeds with love. In Jeremiah we read, “Correct me, O LORD, but this justice; not with Thine anger, lest Thou bring me to nothing [ix]. Pour out Thy wrath on the nations that do not know Thee and on the families that do not call upon Thy name [x].”
Martin Luther wrote, “God has two rods: one of mercy and goodness; the other of anger and fury.” Chastisement is the former, penalty the latter. Our Lord always has His glory and our good at heart.
[i] Hebrews 12:5-6
[ii] Hebrews 12:7-8
[iii] Hebrews 12:10
[iv] Hebrews 12:11
[v] Deuteronomy 8:5
[vi] 1 Peter 2:20
[vii] Romans 13:4
[viii] Revelation 16:9
[ix] Jeremiah 10:24-25
[x] Jeremiah 10: 25