God’s Discipline and Severity
GOD’s Discipline & Severity
Seek the Truth with all your heart.
The Loving Discipline of our Father GOD.
GOD does not give us problems; but If HE allows us to have a problem which befalls us from Satan, or from our own doing; HE wants us to deal with it, cope with the consequences, and GROW through it. Unless we do, HE cannot bring us to the next level.
Deuteronomy 8:5 “Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his children, so the Lord your GOD disciplines you.” GOD, as a loving Father, chastises, disciplines and trains His beloved children–even through hunger, hardship and suffering in the desert.
Deuteronomy 8:2-3 “Remember how the Lord your GOD led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep HIS commands. HE humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that people do not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.”
The Hebrew word for desert or wilderness is midbar, which has the same root letters as the word m’daber – ‘to speak’.
It is GOD’S word that sustains us, and HE often speaks to our hearts during our ‘desert’ (wilderness) times of spiritual dryness. There in our ‘desert’ (the ‘desert’ of our lives) HE tests us.
Deuteronomy 13:12-15 ‘If you hear it said about one of the towns the LORD your GOD is giving you to live in that wicked men (people) have arisen among you and have led the people of their town astray, saying, “Let us go and worship other gods” (gods you have not known,) then you must enquire, probe, and investigate it thoroughly. And if it is true and it has been proved that this detestable thing has been done among you, you must certainly put to the sword all who live in that town. Destroy it completely, both its people and its livestock.’
This is another example that under the Old Covenant in the Old Testament, GOD had to force HIS Will. The rabbis call this 'chastisements of love.' We see that same sentiment in the Book of Hebrews, as well:
Hebrews 12:4-11 ‘In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons. “My child, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when HE rebukes you, because the LORD disciplines those HE loves, and HE punishes everyone HE accepts as a son (child.)” Endure hardship as discipline; GOD is treating you as sons (children.) for what son (child) is not disciplined by his father.? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline,) then you are illegitimate children and not true sons (children.) Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the FATHER of our spirits and live. 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.’
GOD’S discipline, however, is not only fatherly; it is also motherly. The Book of Proverbs links "Shaddai," one of the names of GOD, with GOD’S discipline.
Proverbs 3:11-12 “My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline, and do not resent HIS rebuke, because the LORD disciplines those HE loves, as a father the son he delights in.’
Although Shaddai is related to the word for destroyer and Self-Sufficient One, it comes from a Hebrew root word meaning a woman’s breast (as in a source of food for babies).
This specific name, Shaddai, represents the maternal, gentle, nourishing characteristics of GOD.
When the name of GOD that reflects His maternal nature is used is in the context of GOD’S discipline. It tells us that HIS discipline is not only strict and just, but also merciful and tender. We can, therefore, ‘count it all joy’ even when going through times of discipline and suffering because we know that GOD’s love for us is entirely balanced.
We can rest assured that His discipline will bring us to maturity, and we will be ready to possess the ‘Land’, when we come out the other side.
GOD’S apparent severity in commanding destruction of peoples:
Psalm 106:34-35 “They did not destroy the peoples as the LORD had commanded them, but they mingled with the nations and adopted their customs.”
Many people struggle with the morality of GOD’S command to destroy the inhabitants and wonder how a loving GOD could give such a command.
We need to keep the following three things in mind:
1. GOD’S intention was to protect Israel from falling away into idolatry;
2. He was also judging the egregious sin of the nations in the Land;
3. Genesis 12:7-8 GOD promised the Land to Abraham.
Deuteronomy 9:5 “The Lord your GOD will drive these nations out ahead of you only because of their wickedness, and to fulfil the oath he swore to your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”
GOD had to purify the land. For example if you don’t pull out the weeds and their roots, the weeds grow again.
Question: "Why did GOD command the extermination of the Canaanites, women and children included?"
1 Samuel 15:2-3 ‘GOD commanded Saul and the Israelites, “This is what the LORD Almighty says: 'I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.'"
GOD ordered similar things when the Israelites were invading the promised land: Deuteronomy 2:34; 3:6; 20:16-18. Why would GOD have the Israelites exterminate an entire group of people, women and children included?
This is honestly a very difficult issue. We do not fully understand why GOD would command such a thing, but at the same time we trust GOD that HE is just – and recognize that we are incapable of fully understanding a sovereign, infinite, and eternal GOD. It can be because they are all of certain inclination or characteristics which they will always default to. As we look at difficult issues such as this one, we have to remember that GOD said in:
Isaiah 55:9 ‘As the heavens are higher than the Earth, so are MY ways are higher than your ways and MY thoughts higher than your thoughts.’
Romans 11:33-36 ‘Oh the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of GOD. How unsearchable HIS judgements, and HIS paths beyond tracing out. Who has known the mind of the LORD? Or who has been HIS counsellor? Who has ever given to GOD, that GOD should repay them? For from HIM and through HIM and to HIM are all things. To HIM be the glory forever. Amen.’
We have to be willing to trust GOD and have faith in Him even when we do not understand His ways.
Unlike us, GOD knows the future. GOD knew what the results would be if Israel did not completely eradicate the Amalekites. If Israel did not carry out GOD’S orders, the Amalekites would come back to “haunt” the Israelites again and again.
1 Samuel 15:20 “But I did obey the LORD,” Saul said. “I went on the mission the LORD assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king.”
Obviously Saul was lying, just a couple of decades later there were enough Amalekites to take David and his men’s families captive.
1 Samuel 30:1-2 ‘David and his men reached Ziklag on the third day. Now the Amalekites had raided the Negev and Ziklag. They had attacked Ziklag and burned it, and taken captive the women and all who were in it, both young and old. They killed none of them, but carried them off as they went on their way.’
The Amalekites and rescued their families, 400 Amalekites escaped. If Saul had fulfilled what GOD had commanded him, this never would have occurred. Several hundred years later, a descendant of Agag, Haman, tried to have the entire Jewish people exterminated (see the book of Esther). So, Saul’s incomplete obedience almost resulted in Israel’s destruction. GOD knew this would occur, so He ordered the extermination of the Amalekites ahead of time.
In regard to the Canaanites, GOD commanded, as recorded:
Deuteronomy 20:16-18 ‘However, in the cities of the nations the LORD your GOD is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. Completely destroy them — the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites — as the LORD your GOD has commanded you. Otherwise, they will teach you to follow all the detestable things they do in worshiping their gods, and you will sin against the LORD your GOD.’
The Israelites failed in this mission as well, and exactly what GOD said would happen, occurred: (Judges 2:1-3; 1 Kings 11:4-6; 1 Kings14:22-24; 2 Kings 16:2-4). GOD did not order the extermination of these people to be cruel, but rather to prevent even greater evil from occurring in the future. (Like the need to pull out a weed completely, making sure that every bit of its roots are also pulled out, otherwise it would grow again.)
Probably the most difficult part of these commands from GOD is that HE ordered the death of children and infants as well. Why would GOD order the death of innocent children?
(1) To halt the path the children would have followed, continuing in their parents’ ways.
(2) The children would have grown up as adherents to the evil religions and practices of their parents.
(3) By ending their lives as children, GOD enabled them to have entrance into Heaven.
It is believed that children who, within themselves are innocent, and die as such, are accepted into Heaven by GOD’s mercy and grace.
Psalm 5:4-6 ‘For YOU are not a GOD WHO is pleased with wickedness; with YOU, evil people are not welcome. The arrogant cannot stand in YOUR presence. YOU hate all who do wrong; YOU destroy those who tell lies. The bloodthirsty and deceitful YOU, LORD, detest.’
Psalm 51:5 ‘Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.’
Psalm 58:3 ‘Even from birth the wicked go astray; from the womb they are wayward and speak lies.’
Again, this answer does not completely deal with all the issues. Our focus should be on trusting GOD even when we do not understand His ways. We also need to remember that GOD looks at things from an eternal perspective, and that HIS ways are higher than our ways. GOD is just, righteous, holy, loving, merciful, and gracious. How His attributes work together can be a mystery to us – but that does not mean that HE is not who the Bible proclaims HIM to be.
Why did GOD Order the Destruction of the Canaanites?
One of the difficult problems posed by events recorded in the Book of Joshua in the Old Testament concerns the destruction of the Canaanites. When the children of Israel entered the Promised Land they destroyed the Canaanites as ordered by the Lord. The Bible records what happened when the Israelites conquered Jericho:
Joshua 6:21 ‘They devoted the city to the LORD and utterly destroyed with the sword every living thing in it; both men and women, young and old, ox, sheep and donkeys.’
Why did GOD order everyone destroyed including women, children, and animals? Does this not show a cruel and warlike attitude?
We must understand the historical situation:
While the loss of innocent life is something that is to be deplored, the situation must be understood with the following background in mind. The nation of Israel was chosen to be a witness to the world of the true and living GOD. The Israelites were to live in the Promised Land surrounded by the heathen nations, yet they were not to be influenced by the religions of other nations. GOD instructed HIS people that they were not to take to themselves any of the elements of the false pagan religions.
The Promised Land in which the Israelites were to settle was populated by the Canaanites who had corrupted and perverted GOD’s truth. They had corrupted themselves to the place where they were beyond saving. If any had been permitted to live, they would have infected Israel with their moral depravity.
Before Israel could establish itself in the region as a witness to the one true GOD, all remnants of the pagan culture had to be destroyed. The failure to totally eliminate all of the pagans in the Promised Land eventually led to the nation's downfall in the times of the Judges:
Judges 2:1-3 ‘Then the angel of the LORD came to Gilgal from Bochim, and said: I led you up from Egypt and brought you to the land of which I swore to your fathers; and I said, I will never break my covenant with you. And you shall not make a covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall tear down their altars. But you have not obeyed my voice. Why have you done this? Therefore I also said, I will not drive them out before YOU; but they shall be thorns in your side, and their gods shall be a snare to you.’
GOD ordered the destruction of the Canaanites because of the corrupting influence they would have if their false religious system was allowed to survive. Unfortunately, Israel disobeyed GOD and did not utterly destroy these pagan peoples. This disobedience eventually led to their own captivity.
The Canaanites were not innocent victims:
The people who lived in Canaan were not ignorant of the GOD of Israel. Many times the impression is given that GOD ordered the Israelites to swoop in and destroy innocent people. But these people were neither innocent nor ignorant. They had heard about the GOD of Israel but had rejected HIM.
When two spies were sent to spy out the Land of Promise they were told by Rahab the prostitute. “I know that the LORD has given you the land; that the terror of you has fallen on us and that all the inhabitants of the land are faint-hearted because of you. For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were on the other side of the Jordan, Sihon, and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. And as soon as we heard these things, our hearts melted; neither did there remain any more courage in anyone because of you, for the LORD your GOD, He is GOD in heaven above and on earth beneath. Now then please swear to me by the LORD that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you. Give me a sure sign that you will spare the lives of my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and that you will save us from death.”
Joshua 2:14 “Our lives for your lives,” the men assured her. “If you don’t tell what we are doing, we will treat you kindly and faithfully when the LORD gives us the land.”
Romans 1:18 ‘The wrath of GOD is being revealed from heaven against all the GOD-lessness and wickedness of people who suppress the truth by their wickedness.’
Romans 1:19-25 ‘Since what may be known about GOD is plain to them, because GOD has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world GOD’S invisible qualities, HIS eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. For although they knew GOD, they neither glorified HIM as GOD, nor gave thanks to HIM, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal GOD for images made to look like mortal people and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore GOD gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of GOD for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the CREATOR, WHO is forever praised. Amen.’
2 Corinthians 12:7b-10 ‘Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weakness, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.’
Revelation 3:19-20 ‘Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent.’
Here I am; I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears MY voice and opens the door,
I will come in and eat with them, and they with ME.’
The inhabitants of Canaan were neither ignorant nor innocent victims of an angry GOD. They had been committing terrible sin, knowing full well of the consequences, and the values of the true and living GOD. GOD judged them harshly because they rejected HIM and HIS forgiveness. They attracted the known consequences.