Chapter Five The Reactions.

“Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous; nevertheless, afterward it yield-eth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby” (Hebrews 12:11).

There are three very interesting words in this verse: present, afterward and exercised. Chastening is an “exercise” in the “present” with the “afterward” in view.

When the Apostle used the word “exercise” he had in view a gymnasium training. One expositor makes an allusion to a gymnast seeking to compete in the Olympic games. He subjects himself to various hardships and rigorous self-discipline with a view to the stern conflict before him. This agrees with our understanding of the word Chastening in this paper.

God has an “afterward” in view for all His saints. There is a paternal wish, deep in the bosom of the Heavenly Father, that His children leave the school of training (gymnasium) perfectly equipped for the future He has planned for them. Much depends upon our attitude now. If we only see chastening in the light of the “present” ’twill be nothing more than a grievous experience; and we shall miss the goal of a glorious “afterward.” Let us keep the future ever before us, and present chastening shall result in a joyous future.

One has said: “As the mountains, near at hand, stand jagged and scarred, in the far distance repose in their soft robes of purple haze, so the rough present fades into the past, soft, sweet and beautiful.”

There are three attitudes a saint in affliction may adopt: (1) He may Despise it; (2) He may Faint under it; (3) He may Submit to it. (Hebrews 12:5, 9). Pharoah illustrates the first reaction; Jacob will illustrate the second; David will illustrate the third.

Pharoah knew the plagues falling on Egypt came from the hand of God, but, we repeatedly read, “he hardened his heart.” He was an unregenerate man, but there is in every saint the same heart of unbelief. The Apostle warned the Hebrew believers: “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God.” (Hebrews 3:12).

God could chasten His child, and that child harden his heart under the “rod” through unbelief. Needless to say the Divine lesson is lost upon him, and may have to be taught again. If the hard, indifferent attitude be maintained it is possible that that saint may forfeit for eternity a glorious portion, which otherwise would have been his.

When Jacob heard the strange story of the encounter his sons had with Joseph in Egypt when at first they went there to buy corn he was sore distressed. Simeon had been left in Egypt and a demand had been made by Joseph that the brethren return with Benjamin. Poor Jacob! He laments, “Me have ye bereaved of my children; Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, and ye will take Benjamin away: all these things are against me.” Later he protests, “My son shall not go down with you; for his brother is dead, and he is left alone: if mischief befall him by the way in the which ye shall go, then shall ye bring down my grey hairs with sorrow to the grave” (Genesis 42:36, 38).

Why did Jacob thus faint? First of all he spoke in ignorance. Simeon and Joseph were alive and well. His grey hairs were not to come down to the grave in sorrow; instead, perhaps the happiest years of his life —seventeen with beloved Joseph in all his glory—lay before him. Second, he had forgotten the promise of Bethel where God assured him that He would bless him, and keep him, and not leave him all the days of his life. Third, he was unreasonable. Had he traced his path as he later did in Egypt before Pharoah he would have realized all was not against him. If God had cared for him “all my life long unto this day” (Genesis 48:15), surely it was unfair and unjust to conclude God was against him in his grief.

Reader, can you throw a stone at Jacob? Have you not fainted in adversity? How often have we all spoken in ignorance, forgetfulness and unreasonableness. Why? The answer is in the proverb: “If thou faint in the day of adversity thy strength is small” (Proverbs 24:10).

Jacob does not stand alone. David fainted and declared one day he would “perish by the hand of Saul.” Elijah, fearless and bold at one time, also fainted and desired to die rather than live. When David was later crowned to reign over God’s people, and Elijah took passage for Heaven in a whirlwind, how foolishly must their fainting then have appeared!

So with us, dear believer. How we shall regret we ever doubted, forgot or questioned a loving Father’s heart when one day we see His purpose in all our trials. Let us keep before us the joyous “afterward.”

Elsewhere in this paper we have seen David in affliction and have noticed how he could submit to that heavy hand upon him. This same submission has been noted also in the case of Abraham and Job.

But, for perfect submission we must turn to our blessed Lord Himself. Strictly speaking, perhaps the submission of the saints mentioned was resignation more than submission; but, in the case of the Savior it was submission, pure and holy. He chose to suffer, but this could not be said of any saint when such affliction as we have noticed comes upon them.

The Lord Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane saw the cross with all its terrible involvement—suffering, sin, loneliness, forsaking of God and death—yet He prays from the depths of an anguished soul, “Not My will, but Thine be done” (Luke 22:42). But, we read, “an angel strengthened Him.” Amazing! How could an angel “strengthen” Him? Psalm 102 has been called the “Psalm of Gethsemane,” and, perhaps, we’ll find the answer there.

In that beautiful Psalm the Lord is seen in His loneliness: “I watch, and am as a sparrow, alone upon the housetop” (Verse 7). But, is it not the loneliness of Gethsemane? He cries, “He weakened My strength in the way; He shortened My days. I said, ‘O My God, take Me not away in the midst of My days.’” At this point God seems to give answer, and this may have been the angel’s mission—to remind the holy Sufferer of the glorious future, despite the cross that lies now athwart His path. “Thy years are throughout all generations. Of old hast Thou laid the foundation of the earth: and the heavens are the work of Thy hands. They shall perish, but Thou shalt endure: yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt Thou change them, and they shall be changed: But Thou art the same, and Thy years shall have no end. The children of Thy servants shall continue, and their seed shall be established before Thee” (Psalm 102:23-28).

When David was in hiding from Saul and feared him Jonathan went to him in the wood and assured him that he would not die at his father’s hand. The word says, Jonathan “strengthened his hand in God” as he reminded him of the wonderful promise of God that he (David) would sit on the glorious throne of Israel and Judah. David’s present affliction would change for coming glory. (2 Samuel 23:16, 17).

The Savior in the garden that awful night was “strengthened” as He saw the glorious future, and the Apostle tells us that in his epistle to the Hebrews: “ …Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Chapter 12:2).

Dear saint, let us learn the lesson. We are now being “exercised;” the present is grievous, but, there is a glorious “afterward.” James sums it up for us: “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation (trial): for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life” (James 1:12).

We must not despise; we must not faint; but, rather, submit (“be in subjection to the Father of spirits, and live,” Hebrews 12:9).