Have you noticed this recurring theme in 2 Samuel? Sin brings consequences. Always.
God’s discipline of His sinful people is a theme that extends beyond 2 Samuel and the life of David. The Book of Proverbs admonishes: “Do not despise the Lord’s instruction, my son, and do not loathe his discipline” (Prov. 3:11). The next verse explains the reason behind the exhortation: “for the Lord disciplines the one he loves, just as a father disciplines the son in whom he delights” (Prov. 3:12).
The Bible not only offers examples of God’s discipline (as in 2 Samuel), it gives reasons God disciplines us:
1. He loves us.
Citing Proverbs 3:11-12, the writer of Hebrews wrote: “do not take the Lord’s discipline lightly or lose heart when you are reproved by him, for the Lord disciplines the one he loves” (12:5-6).
A note on Proverbs 3:11-12 in the Christian Standard Study Bible states: “To ask God to refrain from giving us discipline would be to ask him to love us less.” Discipline is an expression of love. Therefore, don’t be discouraged when God’s discipline falls on you. The very presence of the Lord’s discipline in your life is evidence that you are loved by God!
2. He is a good Father.
The writers of both Proverbs and Hebrews make the comparison between a human father’s discipline of a son and God’s discipline of us. God disciplines us “just as a father disciplines the son in whom he delights” (Prov. 3:12). “God is dealing with you as sons. For what son is there that a father does not discipline?” (Heb. 12:7).
Of course, we understand that human fathers are imperfect, and consequently, they discipline imperfectly. Even when their intentions are right, human fathers sometimes discipline when they shouldn’t, fail to discipline when they should, or discipline in the wrong way. (That’s the reason for Paul’s admonition in Col. 3:21: “Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so they won’t become discouraged.”) In contrast, everything God does is good and perfect. His discipline is good because He is good.
3. He wants what is best for us.
Our human fathers “disciplined us for a short time based on what seemed good to them” (Heb. 12:10). (What seemed good to them is an acknowledgement that they didn’t always get it right, even when their intentions were right.) In contrast, God always disciplines “for our benefit, so that we can share his holiness … it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (vv. 10-11).
Jerry Bridges put it this way “The purpose of God’s discipline is not to punish us but to transform us.” Billy Graham once said: “God does not discipline us to subdue us, but to condition us for a life of usefulness and blessedness.”
Here’s a final thought. This question was raised recently in a Bible study group I lead: How can I know whether the adversity I’m going through is God’s hand of discipline, or something else? (The “something else” may be the result of living in a fallen world or an attack from Satan.) I believe it would be mistake to attribute every pain and affliction directly to God’s chastisement of particular sins in our lives. (Consider Job.) It would also be a mistake to ignore the possibility that our affliction may indeed be God’s chastening. In any instance of suffering, we do well to ask two questions: What is God wanting to do in me through this? How can God get the glory in this?
Mike Livingstone works at Lifeway Christian Resources as content editor for Explore the Bible materials.