Meditating on the Judgements of God: 2.5 Discipline = Correction
Heb 12:10,11 Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
We concluded the previous meditation by saying that we have moved into the realm of those judgments or disciplines that are being applied to people so that they will repent; they are not (necessarily) terminal judgments. We saw that in the case of Hezekiah whose repentance opened the way for him to be preserved. Some people wisely respond to God’s disciplinary judgments and others foolishly harden their hearts against them.
Pharaoh was an example of the latte, rejecting the warning of the ten plagues (Ex 8-12), which we sometimes forget occurred after Pharaoh rejected two miracles that Moses had performed, and which came in such gradual intensity that it is quite clear that God’s intent was that the Pharaoh be given every opportunity to repent – yet He knew from the start that he was so proud and hard hearted and caught up with the occult, that he would never do that – but the opportunity WAS there! We know from Ezek 18, that we have considered before, that God would much prefer people repent and be saved than remain hard and die.
We have already seen this form of judgment-cum-discipline in the book of Judges where a cycle of events can be observed again and again: faithfulness, drifting away from God, vulnerability and then incursion by surrounding enemies, crying out to God, and then the Lord sending a deliverer. The crucial bit, the ‘vulnerability and then incursion by surrounding enemies’ conforms to the judgment style spoken of by the apostle Paul in Romans when where he says three times, “God gave them over to….” (Rom 1:24,26,28) It is as if He lifts off His hands of restraint and lets the enemies have freedom to run rampant.
There was also a time when Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses and the Lord holds them to account so that, “When the cloud lifted from above the Tent, there stood Miriam–leprous, like snow. Aaron turned toward her and saw that she had leprosy; and he said to Moses, “Please, my lord, do not hold against us the sin we have so foolishly committed.” (Num 12:10,11) Leprosy appearing on Miriam brings instant repentance in Aaron.
Leprosy appears to have been used a number of times to chastise individuals. For example Elisha’s servant, Gehazi, lied to Elisha about taking from Naaman and so we read, “Then Gehazi went from Elisha’s presence and he was leprous, as white as snow.” (2 Kings 5:27) There is no record of him repenting or of being healed, but perhaps both were possible.
Similarly in respect of king Azariah who continued to sin, we read, “The LORD afflicted the king with leprosy until the day he died, and he lived in a separate house. Jotham the king’s son had charge of the palace and governed the people of the land.” (2 Kings 15:5) Again his reign was curtailed because of the Lord’s disciplining, perhaps more as a visible ongoing warning to those who followed.
There is a similar account of King Uzziah: “Uzziah, who had a censer in his hand ready to burn incense, became angry. While he was raging at the priests in their presence before the incense altar in the LORD’s temple, leprosy broke out on his forehead. When Azariah the chief priest and all the other priests looked at him, they saw that he had leprosy on his forehead, so they hurried him out. Indeed, he himself was eager to leave, because the LORD had afflicted him. King Uzziah had leprosy until the day he died. He lived in a separate house –leprous, and excluded from the temple of the LORD. Jotham his son had charge of the palace and governed the people of the land.” (2 Chron 26:19-21) Again his life was curtailed by the Lord’s disciplining.
What is intriguing about these accounts is that the Lord did not kill these men for their sins, but afflicted them in such a way that others would see and know and be warned. These ‘judgments’ were to act as signs of the sin that had been committed and to act as warning to others not to do the same thing. In each case, we suggest, the individual could have repented and may well then have been healed, but in each case there is no mention of repentance. They failed to learn that God is a God of grace and mercy who is a “compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.” (Ex 34:6,7)
May we not disregard the wonder of what God has said in His word so that we fail to receive all the good that can come to us, even after we have failed and got it wrong, by coming to the Lord in simple repentance (1 Jn 1:9).