The key word in these verses is “chastening.” The writer viewed the trials of the Christian life as spiritual discipline that could help a believer mature. Instead of trying to escape the difficulties of life, we should rather be “exercised” by them so that we might grow (v. 11). When we are suffering, it is easy to think that God does not love us. So the writer gave three proofs that chastening comes from the Father’s heart of love.
The Scriptures (vv. 5-6): Verses 5-6 is the quotation from Proverbs 3:11-12, a statement that his readers had known but had forgotten (this is one of the sad consequences of getting “dull” toward the Word). This quotation is an “exhortation,” which literally means “encouragement.” Because they forgot the Word, they lost their encouragement and were ready to give up. God deals with us as adult sons and daughters because we have been adopted and given an adult standing in His family. The fact that the Father chastens us is proof that we are maturing, and it is the means by which we can mature even more. Satan wants us to believe that the difficulties of life are proof that God does not love us, but just the opposite is true. Sometimes God’s chastening is seen in His rebukes from the Word or from circumstances. At other times He shows His love by punishing us with some physical suffering. Whatever the experience, we can be sure that His chastening hand is controlled by His loving heart. The Father does not want us to be pampered babies; He wants us to become mature adult sons and daughters who can be trusted with the responsibilities of life.
Personal experience (vv. 7-11): If a child is left to himself, he grows up to become a selfish tyrant. The point the writer made in verses 7-8 is that the father chastens only his own sons, and this is proof that they are his children. Why do earthly fathers correct their kids? So that their offspring might show them reverence and obey what they command. This is why the Heavenly Father corrects us: He wants us to reverence Him and obey His will. A child who does not learn subjection to authority will never become a useful, mature adult. Any of God’s children who rebel against His authority are in danger of death! Verse 9 suggests that, if we do not submit, we might not live. God chastens us for our profit so that we might share His holy character.
The blessed results (vv. 11-13): No chastening at the time is pleasant either to the father or to his child, but the benefits are profitable. The Father does not enjoy having to discipline His children, but the benefits afterward make the chastening an evidence of His love. What are some of the benefits? For one thing, there is “the peaceable fruit of righteousness.” Instead of continuing to sin, the child strives to do what is right. The rebellion has ceased and the child is in loving fellowship with the Father. Chastening also encourages a child to exercise in spiritual matters – the Word of God, prayer, meditation, witnessing, etc. All of this leads to a new joy. Paul describes it: “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17).
Of course, the important thing is how God’s child responds to chastening. He can despise it or faint under it (v. 5), both of which are wrong. He should show reverence to the Father by submitting to His will (v. 9), using the experience to exercise himself spiritually (v. 11) The example of God’s Son, and the assurance of God’s love, certainly should encourage us to endure in the difficult Christian race. But there is a third resource, which we will study next week.
Hebrews 12:5-13 Reflection Questions:
Are you studying God’s Word daily? If so how has that kept you encouraged?
In what ways have you been chastened by God?
Are you exercising in spiritual matters (the Word of God, prayer, meditation, witnessing, etc.) or are you falling away?