Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me – That’s Discipline

Psalm 23_TitleGod’s discipline of his children.
Heb 12:5-10

Continually in the New Testament, when we get into circumstances of doubt and pain, we are brought back to the rich truth and comfort to be found in the fatherhood of God. Here, as elsewhere, à fortiori argument is employed. If an earthly father, being evil, gives good gifts to his children, how much more will the heavenly Father give his Holy Spirit to them asking him? And even so, if an earthly father disciplines his children, making them do and bear many hard things that they may grow into a useful manhood, how much more will the heavenly Father make his children to suffer hardness that they may be fit to run in the way of his commandments hereafter?


They were evidently a sadly tried community to whom this letter was written. What shall be done to comfort and encourage them? In the fourth verse there is a very common and not altogether useless ground of comfort suggested. Things are bad, no doubt, but they might be worse. “You have to suffer a good deal in resisting sin, but not yet have you resisted to blood.” This view of suffering, however, useful as it is for the moment, soon leads on to the question, “Why should others suffer, or seem to suffer, more than I?” And so the writer quickly turns to bid his friends remember that they are the children of God, and if they only recollect their character and destiny, and live under the ever-deepening influence of this recollection, then they will see that nothing can do them abiding harm. All the comfort of the exhortation passes away, unless it mingles with the assurance of the Spirit bearing witness with our spirits that we are indeed the children of God. Suffering must cast an ever-thickening gloom upon the heart unless the hopes of a child of God come in to shed abroad an amply countervailing light.


It is a serous thing for one who reckons himself a Christian to pass through suffering and difficulty. He is expected to be the better for it all. If he uses it aright, according to the wisdom communicated from above, then assuredly he will emerge front it with a purified heart and a clearer spiritual vision. The first rule is that suffering is to be escaped if possible. But if it cannot be escaped, it must not merely be endured. It must be received as an agent of God’s will in making us better and more capable children. Hence the plain truth that we shall be held responsible for all we have had in the way of pain.


Those here sought to be comforted were evidently suffering persecution. This is distinctly suggested in the expression “striving against sin.” And thus it is made manifest how the discipline comes in. Much suffering could have been escaped by yielding to the temptation of compromise, or of total retreat from the Christian’s position. Little do the enemies of Christ imagine the service they render his true people by the demonstrations of hostility. We are forced to a firmer grasp of truth and to a more penetrating and exact estimate of our spiritual possessions.—Y.

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