discipline

God tells the whole truth.

God tells the whole truth.

2 Kings 15

Well, what can you say about a chapter like 2 Kings 15? It’s nothing but a discouraging report of a succession of evil kings—each one seemingly worse than the last! Plus, it seemed to be the same story over and over again: A king comes to the throne, is evil, and doesn’t reign very long until he is assassinated. Then, the person who assassinated the previous king comes to the throne, is evil, and doesn’t reign very long until he is assassinated. Over and over again.

God knows what is needed.

God knows what is needed.

1 Kings 21

This chapter appalled me. More than once! I know I’ve read this chapter before, but it obviously didn’t make a lasting impression then. Today, it was as if I had read it for the first time. At first, I was appalled by Jezebel. She seemed to have absolutely NO problem forging her husband’s name and enlisting the help of false witnesses in order to engineer the death of an innocent man. Just when you thought you’d seen the depths of evil in Israel, that was a nasty surprise.

God disciplines because He loves.

God disciplines because He loves.

1 Kings 9

This is, I’m sure, a recurring theme we will encounter as we continue our journey through the Old Testament: God disciplines the ones He loves. And His discipline always carries a redemptive component (otherwise there’s no point to it). But often, I find that it’s God’s discipline that garners Him the most criticism. People tend to look at His "threats" of discipline in the Old Testament as something punitive, harsh, and retributive. And that’s how God gets a bad rap.

God doesn't coddle His difficult children.

God doesn't coddle His difficult children.

1 Kings 1

Several years ago, I did some substitute teaching at a local school. Boy, had it been a long time since I was in elementary! It seemed that some things have certainly changed. The first day I subbed, I noticed that two children in the classroom were carrying what I can only describe as little, wireless keyboards. At the top was a small digital row where they could see what they were typing. When they were finished, they would print out what they had typed on a printer in the hallway. They would go to the printer, retrieve their assignment, and return to the classroom to hand it in.

God deals with us according to our righteousness.

2 SAMUEL 22

In this song of praise from David, there was an interesting little line that jumped out at me: "The Lord has dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he has rewarded me." (vs 21) Doesn’t this seem totally contrary to what we always profess? We normally say that God doesn’t treat us according to our unrighteousness. That’s what we understand grace to be.

And, of course, there is truth in that. But I also think David is speaking something true about God, here. In a very important way, God does deal with us according to our righteousness. What I believe this means is that God will deal with us in the way He knows is absolutely appropriate to help us along in our journey of healing. If we are extremely unrighteous, then God will (out of necessity) do things differently with us than He will with—say—one of His creatures who has never rebelled.

Photo © Unsplash/Guilherme Stecanella

Photo © Unsplash/Guilherme Stecanella

Even when Jesus was here, He dealt with people differently, according to their righteousness. The thing was, the people who had "more" righteousness weren’t necessarily the people you might have thought. For instance, Jesus didn’t have many hard words for the prostitutes, outcasts, or "sinners" who flocked around Him. But He said shocking things to the Pharisees, to those who claimed to be the most righteous of all.

The good news, here, is that we don’t have to worry about our sin problems. We don’t have to try to diagnose our sin or figure out a plan of healing. God knows what we need, and He will deal with us according to our level of righteousness. If we don’t have any (which is the category I often think I fall into), that’s okay. He’s got a plan for that! Trust Him!

Photo © Unsplash/ahmed zid

Photo © Unsplash/ahmed zid

Sometimes God says no.

Sometimes God says no.

JUDGES 10

So, the Israelites are at it again... idolatry, that is. After the Abimelek fiasco, Israel enjoyed 45 years of peace—during which time, apparently, the Israelites began to feast at the buffet of Canaan’s gods. Finally, God gave up the Israelites once again to their idols, and they found themselves oppressed by the Philistines and the Ammonites.

God means what He says.

God means what He says.

NUMBERS 26

Just before entering the Promised Land, God had Moses take another census of the Israelites — men over the age of one month. And the census ends with this declaration: "These are the ones counted by Moses and Eleazar the priest when they counted the Israelites on the plains of Moab by the Jordan across from Jericho. Not one of them was among those counted by Moses and Aaron the priest when they counted the Israelites in the Desert of Sinai. For the Lord had told those Israelites they would surely die in the wilderness, and not one of them was left except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun." (vs 63-65)

God is fair.

God is fair.

NUMBERS 25

If you’ve already read the chapter for today, you might be wondering how you can find the "fairness" element in it. It’s a pretty gruesome chapter. The men of Israel went off whoring with some Moabite women — who subsequently took them to church in order to offer sacrifices to their god, Baal. What happened next wasn’t pretty: the ringleaders of this little jaunt were killed and publicly exposed, an Israelite man and Moabite woman were both run through with a sword and killed after acting in open defiance against the Lord’s command, and then a subsequent plague killed thousands of people.

God has a battle plan.

God has a battle plan.

LEVITICUS 26

I don’t know that I’ve ever had more utter respect for God than I have at this moment, after going through 26 chapters of Leviticus. There’s this image I have of Him in my mind as a strong, hulking man with bulging muscles who has encountered a rip-roaring, flooded river, and on a tiny piece of land in the middle of this rushing river is a huddled group of soaking-wet, desperate people who have no way to get out of their predicament. And with no thought for Himself, this strong God, with sleeves rolled up, strides mightily into the midst of that roaring river, dodging the debris and deflecting the uprooted trees, with every fiber of every muscle straining against the current to reach and save those people.

God practices commando-style parenting.

God practices commando-style parenting.

LEVITICUS 6

What is the big deal with yeast? I wondered that again as I read Leviticus 6. During the Passover in Egypt, the Israelites were strictly warned to eat bread prepared without yeast (Ex 12:20). And now, in the instructions for the sanctuary system, the priests are warned that none of the bread brought to the sanctuary as an offering is to be baked with yeast. In the New Testament, Jesus continues to bang that particular drum, warning people to be on guard against the "yeast of the Pharisees" (Mk 8:15).