God’s Discipline: When we persistently violate God’s will, we should anticipate our heavenly Father’s discipline. Here’s Dr. Gene Getz to explain: And we certainly see this played out in Jacob’s life. Going to Genesis chapter 32, verses 24 through 25: “Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. …” This is one of the most fascinating passages, I think, in the Old Testament, particularly as it relates to Jacob’s life. Because as you look at this passage very carefully, I think you’ll see that this was an Old Testament manifestation of Jesus Christ. We call this a theophany. And so in a sense, in a reality way, we see Jacob encountering Jesus Christ before Jesus Christ became flesh and dwelled among us, as being born of a virgin. Jesus would appear in various ways. Many times He’s referred to as THE angel of God. Any time you see that adjective, THE angel of God, not A angel, but THE angel of God, in most instances, it appears to be an Old Testament manifestation of Jesus Christ Himself. “Jacob was left alone, [and] a man wrestled with him until daybreak. [And] when the man saw that He could not defeat him…” Which certainly is an understatement. Because if this was Jesus, and God revealing Himself, which we believe it was. And Jacob believed it was. Certainly, God could have defeated him. But in some way, God restricted Himself in this situation so that He could really teach him a lesson. “…He struck Jacob’s hip as they wrestled and dislocated his hip socket.” Verse 30: “Jacob then named the place Peniel,” “For,” he said, “I have seen God face to face…” Now, that’s a strong indication that this was God. And that God was revealing Himself in human form. This man. “…I have seen God face to face, and I have been delivered.” “[And] the sun shone on him as he passed by Penuel–limping on his hip.” Going to the end of the passage: “That is why, to this day, the Israelites don’t eat the thigh muscle that is at the hip socket: because He struck Jacob’s hip socket at the thigh muscle.” So even to this very day, Orthodox Jews honor that particular situation when it comes to what they eat. Now, as I said, this is a fascinating story in relationship to Jacob. And it has to do, I think, with God’s discipline. Because God is really trying to get his attention even though Jacob is growing. Even though he is maturing, he has a long way to go in relationship to recognizing who God is and walking in God’s will. And so in this particular case, God chose to actually create a physical affliction that would stay with him the rest of his life. So that he could remember this situation nd remember what God wanted to do with his life. And we’re going to see that some neat things happened to Jacob following this situation. Let me say this. Before we go to a New Testament passage regarding discipline that we find in Hebrews, let me just simply share with you that I’ve heard messages on this passage delivered by various pastors, various Bible teachers. And one of the interesting things that– in terms of application. I’ve heard men say that what they have done, and what we all ought to do is: Lord, break me so I can be usable. Break me, so I can be usable. And I used to listen to those messages. And I said to myself: I don’t want God to have to break me, to put my hip out of joint, as it were, to get my attention. In other words, I want to be obedient. And I want to walk in Your will so You don’t have to put my hip out of joint. And I feel like the application is not: Lord, break me; it’s Lord, I come to You. I present myself to You. Here is my body. Here is my mind. Renew my mind. I want to renew my mind. I want to renew my heart. I want to walk in Your will. I want to remember You. Now the fact of the matter is that many times God does get our attention through affliction. It may not be the same cause-and-effect kind of situation, but we all learn through affliction. We all learn to trust God more. But here the point is not: Lord, break me. But the fact is that God will discipline us if we continue to walk out of His will. There’s no question about that. And we see that in Hebrews chapter 12, because here we read: “But if you are without discipline– which all receive–then you are illegitimate children and not sons. …” In that sense, discipline can be reassuring. Just as it’s reassuring to a child that you really care when it’s, obviously, appropriate discipline. That’s reassuring to a child. It’s a sign that you care, you love. People–parents who don’t restrict or parents who let children just go the wrong way–is not demonstrating love. And somehow, there’s an innate ability to perceive that and accept it as security and love. That is obviously, if it’s done appropriately and properly. It demonstrates that we’re not illegitimate children. This is our Father. And that’s true in our spiritual lives. And so he applies: “Furthermore, we had natural fathers discipline us, and we respected them. Shouldn’t we submit even more to the Father of spirits and live?” He bridges from this earthly situation, this earthly relationship, to the heavenly Father. And he says: “For they [that is, our earthly fathers] disciplined us for a short time based on what seemed good to them, but He does it for our benefit…” God’s discipline is for us. “…so that we can share His holiness. ….” And see, that’s what’s happening here in Jacob’s life. Jacob is continuing to walk out of the will of God, in some respects. He’s making progress, but he’s a long way from what God wants him to be. And God has a special challenge for him in order to be in the train of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob. To give birth to the Savior. And so God steps into his life and moves that process forward through this discipline. And notice the Hebrew letter says, “…No discipline seems enjoyable at the time…” It never is. “…but [it’s] painful. [But] later on, however, it yields the fruit of peace and righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” And Jacob learned some things that he never forgot. And certainly brought him closer to the Lord. The principle that comes from Hebrews is: When we walk out of God’s will, we should be reassured that we are His children when we experience His discipline in our lives. I’ve told [quote] “people who call themselves Christian” and they continue to walk out of the will of God. And nothing seems to happen. Well, I’ve said a couple of things. Number one is: God’s grace rope is awfully long. God allows His children to go towards the cliff, sometimes for a long time. Not according to our time table. But there will come a time when God says: No. That’s far enough. I’m going to pull you in. Why? Because you’re His child. But if He never pulls that rope. If He never disciplines. Then I’ve said to people: You better check to make sure you’re a legitimate child of God. You might be illegitimate. You may think you’re a child– that God is your Father–but He’s not. And so it’s reassuring, obviously, that when we’re disciplined that God loves us. And we can thank God for that. Because He cares. Now, a word of caution here. We must remember that most physical illnesses are not inflicted by God because we’re doing something sinful. That can be horrible, insensitive theology when someone has a physical problem. Whether it’s cancer. Or whether it’s an accident. Or whether it’s a heart problem. Or whether it’s like my brother who has Lou Gehrig’s disease– and one of the most horrible
diseases that hits individuals. It’s a horrible, horrible disease. But to say to my brother: There must be sin in your life. God is disciplining you. That would be horrible. But there are some Christians that are very, very insensitive about this. And that’s not the truth that comes out of this passage. That is not what God is saying here. Most illnesses we know are not inflicted by God because we’re doing something sinful. Now we get sick and we have physical problems, and mental and emotional problems because of sin. Yes. Universal sin. We live in a sinful world. It impacts us all. But it’s not a specific sin. You know, even in John chapter 9, when this man was blind and the apostle said: Who has sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind? And Jesus said: Neither his parents or this man but he’s ill for the glory of God [Jn 9:1-3]. So we have to be very, very, very careful about that. Some of the most godly people suffer from human tragedies. And they’re unexplainable from a human point of view. Unfortunately, all of us can become victims physically and psychologically because of the presence of sin in the world. So the principle that grows out of this is that not all physical problems are because God is judging us, God is disciplining us. God can use it, obviously, in our lives. But He’s not disciplining us for a specific sin that we have committed. Now the question is this: In what ways do you believe that God disciplines His children today because of persistent sin in their lives? And what I say there is: Be careful in applying this principle. Because we don’t know the heart. I’ve seen a few situations where it appears that the person is suffering because of just persistent, persistent, persistent sin. But only God can make that call. Not me. Now we do know that in the New Testament in the Corinthian church, for example, Paul said: Some of you are sick and some of you are asleep, you’ve died, because the way in which you are sinning against God. We know that that happened in some situations. But that is the exception, not the rule. The important thing is that God does discipline us when we continually walk out of His will. I think one of the ways in which He does that–I know in my own life– is the fellowship is broken with God. My fellowship with the Lord, the warmth, the sense of I’m walking with Him, and He’s please with me. When I know I’m walking out of the will of God, I don’t feel very good about my life. And I’m glad that I don’t feel good about my life because that’s a sign. Lord, you care about me. It interferes with the fellowship that I have with God. The peace that I have with God. And certainly, that is one way in which God disciplines us today.