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Discipline is a very important principle in God’s world. God disciplines us for our own good. God is a loving Father. God is also God and we do not always understand why things have gotten so hard.

It is a natural tendency to want to ignore correction and discipline. It does not lead anywhere good in our mind.  Jesus challenges us to be sons. Peace will come to us that way.

Whoever heeds instruction is on the path to life, but he who rejects reproof leads others astray.

English Standard Version. (2016). (Proverbs 10:17). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

Life,” the catchword in Proverbs, is abundant life in the sense of wisdom’s offer of health, security, and prosperity. Its contrast is not with death but with “punishment,” a word usually translated “sin,” a falling short of the mark. The idea of falling short may be used for inadequate income, the opposite of a reward. The Hebrew is difficult and could be translated, “A path to life, whoever observes instruction, but whoever rejects reprimand goes astray.”

The point is not so much whether one goes down a right path or leads another that way, for both usually go together. Rather, the main contrast sees that a person either heeds discipline and correction or abandons it; the choice determines whether one walks the path of life or wanders. Walking and wandering recount the major themes of Proverbs. The contrast with “life” is that one expects to read “death” but instead finds wandering or erring, a kind of “sin.”

This one in Hebrews is one of my favorites. We all want to be sons. With that goes discipline. We must take both the love and the discipline. The discipline is painful. It leads to life.

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

      “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us, and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness.

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

Hebrews 12:7-11 NIV

The author of Hebrews (we don’t know who it is) begins his exposition of the proverb [Proverbs 3:11–12] with the exhortation, “Endure hardship as discipline.” Apart from its four occurrences here in Hebrews 12, the word translated “discipline” paideia) is found in the New Testament only at Ephesians 6:4 and 2 Timothy 3:16.

  • The former verse speaks of a father training his children and the latter of Scripture as useful for “training in righteousness.”
  • The writer makes his focal connection between this proverb and the situation of the hearers.
  • They are to recognize in their current difficulties the Lord’s hand lovingly training them in right character.

The exposition that follows occurs in three movements. Discipline is a validating mark of their relationship to God as Father. The writer addresses the proper filial response to God’s discipline. Finally, we deal with the productivity, or benefit, of the Father’s loving discipline.

  • The original hearers of Hebrews could have interpreted the persecution they were facing as a sign of God’s inattention. The author of Hebrews asserts that nothing is further from the truth. Rather, the difficulties they face are a sign that they are true children of the Father. He asks, “What son is not disciplined by his father?” implying that discipline is a normal part of the parent-child relationship. On the contrary, he argues in verse 8, if a person does not experience discipline as a child, that lack of discipline is a mark of illegitimacy.
  • How then should one respond to the Lord’s discipline? The author uses an a fortiori argument or an “argument from lesser to greater” to answer this question. Such an argument reasons that if something applies in a less important situation, it certainly applies in a more important situation. The less important situation has to do with discipline given by a human father.
    • The author comments that human fathers are given respect in response to their discipline.
    • Since this is the case, therefore, God deserves even more reverence.
    • Indeed, we should “submit” to him as “the Father of our spirits and live.” The verb translated “submit” (hypotasso) means “to yield to, subordinate oneself to.”
    • The author suggests that in the face of difficult circumstances, we should bow our wills to the will of the Father, since his will is the path that leads to life.
  • The writer rounds out his exposition of the proverb by pointing out the benefits of divine discipline. “Our fathers” (i.e., our human fathers) did the best they could with discipline during the years of our childhood, but the author implies, their perspective was limited. God, on the other hand, “disciplines us for our good” (sympheron, which means something done for the advantage of another).
    • Specifically, his discipline is given “that we may share in his holiness.”
    • The whole context suggests that right parental discipline involves training or instructing in right living.
    • So, the discipline of God, when received in the right manner, trains the Christian in right character, purifying the heart.

The author admits that the experience of discipline is not pleasant but painful. However, the fruit of the discipline is worth the price of pain. Discipline from the Master Jesus “produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Paul wrote the believers at Thessalonica that their sufferings, even while condemning their persecutors, showed the sufferers as worthy of the kingdom of God. Thus, suffering is a blessing that the disciple of Jesus should consider a cause of joy because it has a positive outcome in one’s character and relationship with God.

Do we love discipline? Do we love what it produces in our lives?