In our last post, we learned that affliction is a real and sometimes necessary part of life. And, of course, there are a few ways that affliction comes. Sometimes it’s from our enemies (we saw this in verse 61 last week). Sometimes it’s just a series of unfortunate events that seem random. (Think COVID or job loss.)
However, other times God Himself afflicts us.
Does God Afflict Us?
Wait…what are you talking about, Nathan? You heard me correctly. God’s plan to train us in righteousness is so important to Him that He will Himself afflict us if needed.
I’ve heard people in the Church today so reject this idea that they reinterpret the Bible. I’ve heard people espouse the idea that when Job said, “the Lord gives, and the Lord takes away.” that this was just his pitiful understanding of God’s character. They then assert that God would never do such a thing to anyone.
Sadly this is just another manifestation of faulty beliefs concerning God’s goodness. Do we really think that taking something away can never be good? Wrong. Have children, you’ll see. When we truly understand that God is good and that His ways are higher than ours, we will stop putting Him on trial, and we will start trusting every method He employs in his mission to bring about our righteousness.God’s plan to train us in righteousness is so important to Him that He will Himself afflict us if needed. Click To Tweet
God afflicted Adam after the Fall. He afflicted Moses in the wilderness. He afflicted David when he sinned with Bathsheba. He afflicted Jacob during their wrestling match. He afflicted Paul with a thorn in the flesh, and the list could go on. The truth is glaringly obvious unless we willingly shut our eyes against it, God both causes and uses affliction.God afflicted Adam after the Fall. He afflicted Moses in the wilderness. He afflicted David when he sinned with Bathsheba. He afflicted Jacob during their wrestling match. He afflicted Paul with a thorn in the flesh, and the list… Click To Tweet
In verse 75 of this very Psalm, David wrote, “I know, O LORD, that Your judgments are righteous, and that in faithfulness You have afflicted me.”
Who caused the affliction? God!
Jeremiah recorded Ephraim’s cry in 31:18-19 (NIV). It’s unlikely that these were actually the words of Ephraim himself, but rather the cry of the tribe of Ephraim. This is similar to Romans in that when we’re talking about Jacob, we are talking about the people of Jacob as opposed to the people of Esau—not the individual. But, back to Jeremiah:
“I have surely heard Ephraim’s moaning: ‘You disciplined me like an unruly calf, and I have been disciplined. Restore me, and I will return, because you are the Lord my God. After I strayed, I repented; after I came to understand, I beat my breast. I was ashamed and humiliated because I bore the disgrace of my youth.’” – Jeremiah 31:18-19
Notice, not only was it God who afflicted (aka disciplined) Ephraim, but it was for a specific purpose—restoration. Let’s also note the order of events: Ephraim strayed, the Lord afflicted him, and he repented after affliction—he beat his breast after coming to a right understanding and began again.
Affliction is the work of a good God, Church. Why? Because it leads to a good end, and that end is our righteousness. Notice Ephraim’s final line, “I was ashamed and humiliated.” It was through the shame, pain, and humiliation of his affliction that God brought about restoration, that God removed Ephraim’s condemnation. This is perfectly true for us as well within the Gospel—there is, therefore now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.
The Apostle Paul modeled this type of discipline in his interactions with the church at Corinth.
“For though I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it—for I see that that letter caused you sorrow, though only for a while—I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us.” – 2 Corinthians 7:8-9 NASB
Sorrow, shame, and affliction for affliction’s sake are never God’s aim. He isn’t mercurial or cruel. This is also never or at least shouldn’t be the aim of Church discipline. The goal of any discipline, God’s or ours to each other, is repentance unto fidelity. Paul didn’t revel in the idea of causing sorrow, but he was at peace with it in light of the repentance it produced. This is actually good, Church. So let’s get on board with God, David, Jeremiah, and Paul and reset our definitions of good.
How have you understood, or been taught, that affliction will bring good? Comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.The goal of any discipline, God’s or ours to each other, is repentance unto fidelity. Click To Tweet