In raising children, there is a place for both discipline and for punishment. There is also a difference. Discipline is like training. Discipline is doing the right thing over and over even when you don’t want to. Like cleaning your room, eating your vegetables, going for a run. It is important that children and adults are disciplined.
But what about punishment? Does it have its place? Yes. When rules are established and broken, when discipline is not achieving its desired effect, then there must be some intervention. That’s where punishment comes in.
But why? Because the rules matter! If the rules didn’t matter, then there would be no reason for punishment. But the rules do matter. When mom says “Don’t run into the street.” There is a reason. You will die. The rules are for your good. Mom says “Clean up your legos.” There is a reason. If you step on one…you will want to die.
Same with God. God lays out a few rules. He disciplines us, trains us so we can follow Him. But when we don’t respond, when we rebel, there is punishment. God said, “Don’t eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil”. We ate. There was a punishment.
So what happens when you swallow the whole fruit? What if what you find yourself in isn’t the soul training discipline of the Lord, but rather true punishment for a true mess up?
Well, first off, you wouldn’t be alone! Think Jonah and the whale, Israel in exile…
Second, don’t fight it! The punishment of God brings about peace and our salvation.
Take Jonah and the whale for example. Here’s a story of God’s punishment if I ever saw one. God says “Go to Ninevah”. Jonah runs the other way. Big storm. Swallowed by a whale.
Imagine what would have happened if Jonah had he not been swallowed by that whale? He would have surely drowned. He was already to the depths of the sea at which whales live. He wasn’t going to make it back up! The whale which we see as his punishment, was actually his salvation.
The Israelites underwent punishment. They were sent into exile. Taken away from their homes. They had to live under the rule of their enemy. But consider the alternative: when their enemies invaded their land, it was either kill the Israelites, or bring them back into their territory to live. Again, this punishment of the Lord, was the nation’s salvation. The ones who were left in Israel were killed. It was those who underwent punishment and discipline who were saved. It was through those Israelites that Jesus would be born and our salvation would come.
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.
Back to the beginning.
Adam and Eve were told “Do not eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” They did. Sin entered the world. God said to himself, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.”
That wasn’t against the rules in the first place, right? So, why now? Because now, sin was in the world. And God wanted to save His people from living in a sin filled world. Forever. In the beginning, God wanted man to eat from the tree of life. We were meant to live forever. That’s why there is this thing in our souls that rails against death. We know it’s wrong. It’s not the original plan. And our souls are right. But,
death. is. our. salvation.
It is at once our punishment, and the only thing that will bring us peace. Could you imagine, living forever, in this sin sick world? I for one can not. I look forward to death. (in a healthy, I can’t wait to see Jesus, not a morbid, I want to die kind of way!)
This is important to understand though. God’s punishment is not arbitrary, it is not strictly punitive. It is for our ultimate salvation!
Oh taste and see that the Lord is good!
Moreover, we have all had earthly fathers who disciplined us for a little while as they thought best. But God disciplines us for our good, so that we may share in His holiness.