At one time or another we all stray from the side of our shepherd, Jesus, and wander off the path along which He is leading us. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way.”1 We get caught up in our own plans and pursue our own interests. We act on our impulses and make important decisions with scarcely a thought or prayer about whether that’s what Jesus would want us to do. Worse yet, we do things that we know are wrong and contrary to God’s law of love and consideration for others, or in disobedience to the instruction in His Word. All of these distance us from our shepherd and guide.
As our shepherd, Jesus trains us in the way we should go. He instructs us through His Word and through the voice of His Spirit in our hearts as to what is right and what is wrong. Then He says to us what He said to His first followers: “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.”2 If we believe and take heed to what He tells us, we have His blessing.
But when we repeatedly ignore His instruction and we are unloving in word or deed towards Him or others, sooner or later He lets us suffer the consequences in the form of problems or afflictions. He does this to teach us right from wrong, and to keep us close to Him, listening to Him, and moving in the right direction. It hurts Him to see us struggle or fall, but as our loving shepherd He is duty-bound to help us learn and grow. Sometimes we give Him no choice through our wrongdoing.
God is above all a God of love.3 He loves us dearly, as a father loves his children. But, like any good father, He also disciplines His children for their own good when they willfully do wrong. “Whom the Lord loves He chastens,” the Bible tells us. “For what son is there whom a father does not chasten? Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”4
But whatever God does, He does in love. We may sometimes have to suffer the consequences of our actions when they are contrary to His “golden rule” of loving Him and others, but even then, He doesn’t hold it against us. He knows we’re just human. When we turn to Him, He is quick to forgive and forget, and lovingly encourage and comfort us despite our failings and mistakes. He promises: “I will forgive their iniquity [error], and their sin I will remember no more.”5
God’s spankings are sometimes hard to take, but they’re a token of His love, His “intolerable compliment,” and are good for us if by them we learn our lesson and are thus brought into harmony and happiness with Him.—D.B.B.
He chastens us for our profit, that we might be partakers of His holiness.6 In other words, through it He cleanses us, He purges us from the sins and impurities in our own hearts that cause all the trouble, and we’re made clean.—D.B.B.