Hebrews 12:3-12 is a great reminder of God’s love for us as His people; however, the love shown here is different from what we normally imagine. God is loving and compassionate, and He will protect us from all our problems and forgive us of all our shortcomings. No matter how many times Israel rebelled against God, He forgave and protected them, and He does the same for us today. This passage, however, shows us God’s tough love. We must understand that, although He protects us in our struggles and forgives us of our sins when we repent, He must and will chasten and rebuke us so that we may grow in righteousness just as a father does to his child in order to set him on the right path. These verses jump out at me because they help me understand the hardship that I’m experiencing in my life right now. I’ve been constantly questioning God as to why I must go through this, and why it’s taking so long. I believe God is answering me through His Word in these verses, showing me that I need tough love in order to grow stronger and become a better Christian.
The term chastening can be expressed as discipline, training, instruction, or correction (Strong’s Concordance; Thayer’s Greek Lexicon). This is the sense in which it is used in the passage. Verse 11 uses the word train, but the verb from which it is translated has a sense of physical exercise. Thus, we can understand from this that chastening is a long process that one endures. The word rebuke means to expose or to show to be guilty (Strong’s Concordance). For example, we know, according to Romans 7:7, that the law exposed fault and guilt, for which Paul was grateful because, without it, he would not have known what sin was:
“What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, ‘You shall not covet’” (Romans 7:7).
As we study this passage of Scripture, we must keep in mind that chastening and rebuke is a process of discipline and correction that allows us to recognize our mistakes in life and helps us to endure the hard times in order to grow stronger.
Hebrews is a letter written to who are believed to be the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem. These Christians are going through a time of struggle, in which they are being persecuted, but the Hebrew writer is reminding them that they should “not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the Lord loves He chastens” (verses 5-6). This theme is very common throughout the Scriptures (Job 5:17; Proverbs 3:11-12; Psalms 94:12; Revelations 3:19):
“Behold, happy is the man whom God corrects; Therefore do not despise the chastening of the Almighty” (Job 5:7).
“My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, Nor detest His correction; for whom the Lord loves He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights” (Proverbs 3:11-12).
“Blessed is the man whom You instruct, O Lord, And teach out of Your law…” (Psalms 94:12)
“As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent” (Revelations 3:19).
In the first clause of verse 7, they are being reminded that they are children of God and are being treated as such. Notice in the Old Testament that the Israelites are told the same. In Deuteronomy 8, Moses tells them to remember all that God had done for them during the forty years they were in the wilderness, which was a result of their rebellion. The Lord humbled them because of their transgressions and tested them. He allowed them to hunger and then fed them with manna. Their clothes didn’t wear out, and their feet didn’t swell (8:2-4). The Lord carried them through this struggle so they could experience His love and mercy, and know that they could bear none of it on their own.
We should readily accept the chastening of the Lord because it shows that we truly are His children (verses 7-8), and He wants the best for us just like a human father does for his son (verses 7, 9-10). Many of us, as parents, can take a lesson from this when dealing with our children. We cannot just let our children live life without correcting and training them if we say that we truly love them. Correction and training does no harm, but rather produces many fruits, which is why we all must experience it (Proverbs 13:24, 19:18, 23:13; Ephesians 6:4; Hebrews 12:8):
“He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly” (Proverbs 13:24).
“Do not withhold correction from a child, for if you beat him with a rod, he will not die” (Proverbs 23:13).
“But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons” (Hebrews 12:8).
Sometimes God will allow Satan to have his way with us in order to humble us. Job suffered extremely at the hands of Satan, but he did not lose hope because he knew the Lord would deliver him from his suffering. We, as His children, must have the faith that Job had and know that we are not the only ones who war against the devil (1 Peter 5:9):
8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. 9 Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.
2 Corinthians 12:7-10 shows us how God humbled Paul by giving him a thorn in his flesh and allowing Satan to strike him so he wouldn’t be boastful. Although Paul pleaded with God to remove this burden, He refused, but at the same time, gave him His grace so that he could be strong in his weakness.
“And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).
The one thing that should encourage us in our troublesome times is what we know about the ultimate result of that struggle – righteousness and holiness. Notice that when an athlete trains in his sport, the process is painful and tiresome, but at the end of the training, he is stronger and able to perform at a high level. Our spiritual training is just the same; it is not easy. It is rather painful at times, as we read in verse 11, “[N]ow no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful…” However, we should be joyful because the end result is righteousness and holiness (verses 10 -11; 2 Timothy 4:8, 3:16):
“For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness” (Hebrews 12:10).
“…nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11).
“Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8).
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness…” (2 Timothy 3:16).
And what is so beautiful about this is that it’s more than just righteousness; it’s the peaceable fruit of righteousness. Therefore, to those that have the opportunity to read this, I encourage them in their walk because I know it’s not easy. I pray that you would bear God’s tough love just a little bit longer because there is certainly a beautiful prize at the end.