Chapter Two Chastening - Aspects.

The chastening hand of God falls upon His saints in collective and individual capacities.

A group of believers meet together for the purpose of worship, testimony and service. To maintain the holiness, becoming such a testimony, it may be necessary at times, that God allows the hand of affliction to fall.

Each Christian in such a group bears a definite quota of responsibility towards God and his fellow-believers. He moves in a circle in which he is the sole representative of that testimony. Knowing that, a judgment is formed by the folks within this circle of the group to which this particular individual belongs. What, if he fails?

In the Tabernacle in the wilderness the Sanctuary of boards and curtains was surrounded by a linen wall of rectangular shape, in cubits 100 by 50. This wall was supported by sixty pillars, each of which carried 25 square cubits of linen. Should one pillar be out of alignment the entire wall would sag. Because of one pillar’s failure to properly support its portion of the wall the whole wall must needs be affected. All sixty pillars feel the single defection.

Unjudged sin in the life of a single believer can mar the united testimony of any group of Christians. That sin may be judged and put away sometimes necessitates a chastening hand be placed upon the assembly.

Evil had crept into the church in Corinth, and laxity prevailed. Sin in several forms remained unjudged. Judgment fell. The apostle Paul in his first letter to the saints explained what had happened; he said: “For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves we should not be judged. But when we are judged we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.” (1 Corinthians 11:29, 30). Perhaps some were innocent of the specific sins mentioned in the epistle, but the general laxity made all amenable to the general judgment.

In the church in Pergamos there were evils tolerated; these are stated to be the doctrine of Balaam and the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes. The Lord in His letter says to that assembly: “But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam… So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes.” (Revelation 2:14, 15).

The church in Thyatira are held responsible for two evils in their midst—a wicked woman is tolerated, and she is allowed to teach. The Lord’s censure is against the assembly. He says, “I have a few things against thee.” (Rev. 2:20).

To return to Corinth: Paul rebukes the saints for “reigning as kings” in a time of present distress, (ch. 4). Commenting on the case of gross immorality in their midst he rebukes them most sternly for their laxity. “And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you.” (ch. 5:2). This sinning one was still regarded in fellowship, even though at this point unrepentant. The extreme form of chastening had fallen upon some in Corinth; yet, none but the man of chapter 5 who was charged with the sin of incest. In the second letter we learn the wisdom of God in sparing him.

The saints have been stirred. There has been a deep exercise of soul, and evil has been judged. With joy in his heart the apostle wrote: “Though I made you sorry with a letter, I do not repent…for I perceive that the same epistle hath made you sorry…ye sorrowed to repentance… For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation, not to be repented of… For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter.” (2 Corinthians 7:8-11).

The assembly had been chastened, and emerging from the dark night of sorrow, sickness and bereavement they waken to the dawn of a happy day of clean and zealous testimony for the Lord.

Generally, however, chastening is a personal matter. The individual chastened is the object of Divine solicitation, and lessons to be learned are reserved for him. In the measure in which he is exercised therein the “peaceable fruits of righteousness” are experienced. Of such a one the Psalmist said, “Blessed is the man whom Thou chastenest, O Lord, and teachest him out of Thy law.” (Psalm 94:12).

Sometimes a saint has been afflicted to the puzzlement of his fellow-Christians; they wonder why the Lord has dealt thus with him. What goes on within the believer’s own heart? If he has been exercised before God he has learned the reason for his affliction; he alone appreciates what is strange and inexplicable to his friends.

King David had sinned, and dark days followed. Perhaps never a darker day dawned for him than the day that saw him weeping, barefoot and covered head, crossing brook Kidron, ascending by Olivet. At Bahurim, Shimei—one of Saul’s kin—came out and cursed him; as he cursed he cast stones. How poor David’s soul must have writhed under the man’s vile epithets. “Come out, come out, thou bloody man, and thou man of Belial” he cried. (2 Samuel 16:7).

A loyal henchman of the king, Abishai, revolted as the ugly words fell upon his ear. He sought the king’s permission to cut off Shimei’s worthless head, whom he described as “a dead dog.” (verse 9). Abishai might well have thought in rendering this service to David he would be pleasing the Lord. He likely never understood David’s reaction—his meek submission to the taunts and jibes—let alone his strange reply: “…so let him curse, because the Lord hath said unto him, ‘curse David.’ Who shall then say, Wherefore hast thou done so? … let him curse; for the Lord hath bidden him. It may be that the Lord will look upon my affliction.” (w. 10,11). David appreciates what Abishai does not. David is in the hand of Divine chastening.

Saints in affliction must guard at times against good intentions of their Christian friends. It is possible we may, because of their well-intended solicitations “fail to hear the rod and Who hath appointed it.” If I know of a reason for my affliction let me in true humility and contrition accept from the Father that which He has imposed. My soul may bleed, but let me learn the Divine lessons, e’en though kind Christian friends fail to understand.