Trusting God: Hope; Doctrine of Suffering
1 Thessalonians 1:8
1 Thessalonians Lesson #013
November 11, 2014
“How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to Thy Word,” Psalm 119:9. “Thy Word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against Thee,” Psalm 119:11. “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path,” Psalm 119:105. “Jesus prayed to the Father, to sanctify them in truth, Thy Word is truth,” John 17:17 “For the grass withers and the flower fades, but the Word of our God shall stand forever," Isaiah 40:8.
Before we begin our study today we will take some time to make sure we’re in fellowship. Scripture teaches that a believer is to walk by means of God the Holy Spirit, but when we sin we default to walking according to the flesh. The only way to recover is to reboot and that means to confess our sins, which simply means to admit or acknowledge our sins to God the Father and at the instant that we do we are forgiven of those sins and cleansed of all unrighteousness and restored to fellowship so that we can resume our forward momentum in the Christian life. So let’s bow our heads together for a few moments of silent prayer and then I will open in prayer. Let’s pray.
Father, Your Word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path. Scripture says that it is in Your light that we see light. Only when we come to Your Word are we exposing our thinking, which is so often characterized by the darkness of the cosmic system, to the exposure of the light of Your Word. Father, we pray that we might be responsive as God the Holy Spirit shines the light of Your Word upon our thinking that we may come to understand how we so often fail to appropriate and to apply divine viewpoint principles and promises in our lives; and that we may learn to walk by faith and not by sight. Father, we pray that as we study today that God the Holy Spirit will make these things clear to us and that we’ll be able to apply them on a regular basis in our lives. We pray this in Christ’s Name, amen.
We are in a study of 1 Thessalonians, but for the time being we are doing a topical series related to the faith-rest life, claiming promises, learning how to walk by means of the truth of Scripture, part of the basic fundamentals of the Christian life. Today we are going to continue what we’ve covered before. I want to as always anchor this back to the Text in our series. In 1 Thessalonians 1:8 (slide 3) Paul praises the Thessalonians because their faith toward God has gone out. That is there is a reputation that has spread among the providences of ancient Greece and Acacia, as well as Macedonia, and people heard about how the Thessalonians were trusting in God, a walk by faith and not by sight.
As we’ve studied in the past, the basic elements of the faith-rest drill are to first of all claim a promise, which simply means that we are holding God to His Word. We are reminding Him, as it were, of a promise that He has made in Scripture, and that is focusing our attention in the midst of some sort of crises, some sort of adversity, upon something God has said in His Word. As we claim that promise, what we do is that we think through that promise, we rehearse it in our mind. It is a good idea also when we have the time, sometimes we are out driving or we are at work or in different circumstances or situations in life, but when we get the opportunity we should take the time to sit down and not just claim the promise, not just recite the promise, but go to the Scripture where the promise is located and read the surrounding context as we think through the basic rational that is embedded within the promise. Every promise is expressing thoughts and a reason, a rational base behind that promise; and so we are thinking through them.
One of the promises that we are looking at initially is in Isaiah 40:31, “They that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength.” We’ve been focusing on that word “wait” and that it means more than just sitting down twiddling our thumbs. It is not just a time word, but it is a word that is loaded with a connotation of hope, a confidence, a future expectation. It is not just the idea of holding time. It is an idea of waiting hopefully, expectantly anticipating what God is going to do. And so as we think about hope this is a concept that we find throughout Scripture. I suggested last time that one of the ways in which you can study through a passage as you are meditating on it is to look at the keywords that you have in a passage. One of the key words here is of course “waiting” for the LORD.
You can look up that word (“wait”) up in a concordance. If you use something like a Strong’s Concordance or there is a New International Version Concordance that is built on the same basic mode of operation or mechanics. New American Standard has a concordance on the same way; that is you look up the English word and it will give you a list of all the verses that have that English word in it. Then the right column will have a number. I forget which is which now, but an italicized number probably refers to the number for the Hebrew word in the dictionary at the back of the concordance and a regular number has a reference to the Greek word. So you can look at that number and turn to the back of the concordance and it will give you the Greek word. If you look at a list, for example, if you look up “wait” and you have a list of maybe 40 or 50 verses that have “wait” and you look at the right column it may have different Hebrew words that are translated “wait”. Well if you look at all of the verses that have the same number then those are all the verses that are using that same word that is used here in Isaiah 40:31.
You can then read those other verses. You will find some other promises that support the promise that’s here that restate the same principle, but it also gives you some other ideas on how God supports us when He doesn’t immediately answer our prayers. We did a little bit of that by looking at corollary passages last time. We saw the emphasis on “hope,” that it is a confident expectation of something. And so just by way of a little bit of review, one of the things that we said about “hope” is that it is not just sort of this hope that somehow, someway the universe is going to come together and things will work out; as if we live in a fatalistic universe. It is not a faith in faith or just a mindless hope that “just believe,” believe what? But that is what people say, “just believe” and they never talk about what you believe in. They do the same thing with “hope.” So it is not a hope that somehow, someway things will just work out, but a hope that a Christian has is because God is in control.
This takes us to the promise in Romans 8:28 (slide 4), “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” This reminds us that God is in control. It doesn’t say that all things are good. There are many things that bring suffering into our life, that bring adversity into our life for many different reasons, which we will look at a little later in this lesson. But we know that God uses these things to produce that which is good eventually, and that outcome may come in our lifetime and it may not come until the end times, until God brings judgment upon the earth and maybe not even until the great white throne judgment. But “all things work together for good” and then it says, “to those who love God.” Now this is not particularly a special promise to those who are mature enough to have a mature love for God. As we go on it is defined as “those who are called according to His purpose.” Those who love God are further defined appositionally in the next clause as “those who are the called according to His purpose.”
That is every believer! Every believer, whether you are a baby believer, whether you are a mature believer, whether you are a carnal believer, whether you are a spiritual believer, every believer is called according to the purpose of God. And every believer loves God. You look at an infant. You look at a baby that is a year and a half old. They have a year and a half old’s capacity for love. It is not great. It is based on the fact that they love you because you feed them, but we love God because He saved us and that is a starting point. It is a spiritual infant’s love. It is not a lot. It is not what it is going to be when we are a mature believer. It is not based on the breadth or depth of knowledge that we’ll have later on, but every believer should love God to some degree according to his growth at that particular time at his life.
If you come along and say, well this only applies to believers who have reached a certain level, then that is like minimizing the love that a three year old expresses to their parents when they say, “I love you, Daddy” or “I love you, Mommy.” You don’t want to say, “well no you don’t. You are not old enough yet to really love me. You don’t really understand what love means. You don’t know what is involved in love; wait until you are 25 or 30 or maybe 40 (years) and then we’ll talk about whether you really love me.” So this is, I think, a mistake in interpretation of the passage because Paul is basically thinking any believer at any point loves God to the degree that is appropriate to his maturity level.
We take comfort from this verse that God is in charge. That doesn’t mean that God overrides volition of individuals, but God works even in the chaos of fallen creation to bring about His plan. It tells us that we are called according to His purpose. It tells us that God has a preexisting plan. He has an intent to history. He oversees the direction of our life and this means that creation and the events of history are not the random chaotic events they might appear to be, but that they ultimately will be blended together into the outworking out of God’s plan. It tells us that the Creator is not just an impersonal force, but that the Creator has preexisting thought, which brings about this plan. That as a result of His preexisting thought He has instituted a plan. In history there is meaning, purpose, and that in terms of being a creature of God we imitate that since the Bible says we are created in His image and likeness.
Just as God makes plans, we make plans, even though ours are often tentative; and because our plans are not based on omniscience, we often have to change our plans due to varying circumstances. But because God is omniscient and omnipotent He knows all things so He can have a perfect plan. He is omnipotent, which means He is able to bring about His plan as He intends it. It gives us great confidence because we can say in the midst of chaos that “we know that all things work together for good.” Now we know it is not the “things” that are impersonally working things out, but it is God. Some few manuscripts put God as the subject of the verb and have it written, “we know that God causes all things to work together for good.” But that is really in only two or three manuscripts that are minor manuscripts.
But obviously a scribe would have inserted that for clarity, thinking, oh, I am going to make this passage a little more clear for the next person. This happened in the way Scripture was copied many times. Some scribe at some point would write something in the margin or make a note just for his own personal clarification, then 200 years later somebody copied it and copied the note into the Text. And then from that point on, that is how different words were inserted into the Text and how changes took place sometimes. Of course working through that is part of textual criticism. So you can go in if you have just one or two manuscripts that have a variation or variant in the wording, then usually something like that happened. But the best manuscripts, Majority Text, says, “We know all things work together for good.”
This is just the opposite of the kind of thinking that the world demonstrates. The world system thinks that everything runs either according to sort of this impersonal plan of the universe, a view we call fatalism, that somehow there is some determinism that is within the very warp and woof of creation, so things just go forward no matter what. Many people have sort of this blind or mindless trust in this impersonal universe. Then on the other extreme you have people who believe that everything is just purely random and everything is based on pure chance. There is no meaning, no purpose, no definition other than what we assign to events; that events really have no meaning and purpose in and of themselves. It is just as human beings. We just like order; we like purpose, so we assign meaning and purpose to things when there really isn’t any purpose to that. Those are two of the extremes that you find in cosmic thinking, but the unbeliever really can’t say that “all things work together for good” because he doesn’t have a thought system that allows him to come to those conclusions.
We all know that there are many unbelievers who want to believe that, but it is this sort of faith in an impersonal deterministic universe that they have that gives them hope when they have no reason for hope. If we are talking with people maybe we can ask the question, well, why do you feel like things are going to work out? What is your basis for that if you believe we live in a random universe governed by evolution? How can you have optimism if the basic mechanic of history is the survival of the fittest? It seems like there’s this constant struggle going on and those that are left lest fit are destroyed and die so that those who are more powerful can succeed. How can you justify even having the concept of good versus evil in a random universe where there is no ultimate morality? So there are different ways we can address this.
There is also the approach of unbelievers who just ay the same thing over and over again, sort of like self-hypnosis. In Hinduism you have a mantra and it just is a matter of convincing yourself of something even though there is no real basis for it. But for the Christian we look at this and we know that we have a personal God. He is a God of love. He is a God of omniscience. We are just thinking through the essence of God. It tells us that He is able to bring about His plans and purposes in human history. This is the same kind of thinking that underlies the promise of Isaiah 40:31 (slide 5), that “those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength.” They shall exchange their strength, as we’ve seen in the study of that word, their human finite strength for God’s infinite strength.
As we continue in our study of Isaiah 40, we are going to take some time to look at the background to this chapter and this verse. It is very important to understand that this is a section of Isaiah that brings comfort to the Jewish people, the original recipients of Isaiah’s prophecies, because they are about to go through a time of incredible national suffering. These warnings have been given by Isaiah in various prophecies in the first 39 chapters. In fact Isaiah 38–39 covers the period of the Assyrian invasion. Actually this started back in Isaiah 36 and there are a lot of parallels between this section and the chapters in 2 Kings 12–19. So there is the warning from Isaiah that God has brought this national calamity upon Israel. The Northern Kingdom has been defeated by the Assyrians and has gone out under the fifth cycle of discipline, and the Southern Kingdom has been defeated and there has been the siege of Jerusalem while Hezekiah is king, until God intervened as a result of Hezekiah’s prayer and returning to God, representing the nation as a whole. Turning to God and seeking His deliverance during this time of oppression.
There is a shift that takes place between Isaiah 39 and Isaiah 40. The last section of Isaiah, chapters 40–66, has quite a different tone than the first chapters. The first section deals with judgment. The second half deals with hope and that hope is based upon God’s plan, ultimately His plan of salvation through the Messiah. So there is this focus there that even though there is going to be discipline and suffering that is not the endgame. The endgame will be a complete restoration of the Jewish people to their homeland and God will ultimately fulfill all the promises that He made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The background to the promise of Isaiah 40:31 is the suffering that they will see in the interim period. This is a good place to address the doctrine of suffering. There are ten reasons given in Scripture for why we suffer. We are going to look at each one of these (slides 6–13):
1. The first reason we suffer. The reason everybody suffers is because we just live in a fallen world. We live in a world that has been corrupted because of Adam’s sin.
It is Adam’s responsibility. When Adam chose to disobey God in the Garden of Eden and he ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil it plunged the entire human race into sin. We are all corrupt as a result of sin. We are all guilty of Adam’s sin and this means we are all born corrupt. Every human being is corrupted by sin. We have a sin nature and we are all spiritually dead. But beyond that the universe has been corrupted. The animal kingdom has been corrupted. Everything has been impacted by sin and so everything is running down towards corruption. Because we live in a fallen world bad things are going to happen and have happened. Everything from the horrors of warfare to hunger, famine, child abuse, personal disasters related to relationships, such as divorce, a death, a financial loss, criminality, weather disasters, economic disasters, all of these things are a result of Adam’s sin. When Adam fell it impacted everything. So we live in an imperfect world and we live in an imperfect world with imperfect people.
In Genesis 2:17 God told Adam, “In the day that you eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you will surely die.” There was a certainty there. From that instant there was a change. In Genesis 3, when God came to walked in the Garden with Adam and Eve, after they had eaten of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, we see that there was an immediate change. That when God came on the scene they ran and hid because they were afraid. That was never the way it was before. They tried to solve their problem of their nakedness because they suddenly became aware of their nakedness, their vulnerability, and they tried to solve the problem by covering things up with garments they made from fig leaves. They tried to camouflage the problem; and this has been true of mankind ever since; is that we deny the responsibility for sin. This is the first thing that Adam did. He really blamed God. He said, well it is the woman You gave me, God. First her fault, second Your fault. That is why we’re in this mess.
Ever since then the human race has sought to deny that the problem is really us. The problem is our own sin nature.
Everything is a result of Adam’s sin. So it is not because of God. Many people, when they face disasters, especially disasters of an enormous scale, such as the Holocaust, that we want to blame God. But it happens in disasters of a small scale. You suffer a major financial loss. You suffer a loss of a loved one. We blame God. Why did You do this? We focus on the loss rather than on the fact that we had the blessing prior to the loss. We blame the loss on God and we say, why does God let these things happen. Well God lets these things happen because He allows freedom. And when He allows freedom of choice, then when people choose to do wrong things, then there are going to be bad consequences. So in order to allow freedom, God also has to allow the consequences from the misuse or abuse of that freedom.
What happens when bad things happen is people often respond by being bitter or angry with God instead of recognizing that the flaw is in Adam’s sin and we live in a fallen world. God allows these things to happen because He allows individual human volition and responsibility to work itself out. Now it is interesting because often we’ll hear from the unbeliever that if God is good how can He allow these things to happen? And the unbeliever is using terminology such as “good and evil” to express his objection to God, when he really doesn’t have a right to that terminology. If you are operating on the thought system of the pagan unbeliever that is built off of evolutionary concepts, where there is no personality overriding anything, everything is from the position of arbitrary chance operating in the universe, then they don’t have any basis for talking about what’s good or what is bad.
In fact, according to evolutionary theory, the basic mechanic of progress is the survival of the fittest. So survival means something survives and something else is destroyed and it is therefore on the basis of destruction and violence and suffering that the human race or that the evolution among all of the different genus and species, that that takes place as a result of suffering. So, if you are consistent in an evolutionary framework, suffering is important because that is part of the means of advance. But they want to twist things and say, well, how can you believe in a good God who allows suffering? They don’t even have a right to even think in those categories. They’re assuming the categories of the Bible in order to even express their thought of good and evil because they are living in a universe of their own construction that is built on random chance. In a random universe you can’t make an ultimate distinction between good and evil. So our starting point is to recognize that bad things are going to happen because we live in a fallen world that is corrupted by sin.
2. The second reason (slide 7) that the Bible gives for why we suffer is because of individual volitional responsibility.
We make bad decisions and because we make bad decision we are going to suffer. Now we make bad decisions for two reasons. We make bad decisions first of all because we are headstrong, stubborn, and we disobey God. We are willfully disobedient and we make willful bad decisions, and as a result there are consequences to that. Adam made a bad decision and willfully disobeyed God. That brought about certain negative consequences in His own life, not to mention all of the other things that his bad decision impacted, but it had impact on his own life. So he felt the negative consequences because of His intentional disobedience to God.
But sometimes we make bad decisions because we have insufficient information. Sometimes we look at all the data in our lives and we make what we think is a good decision, but because we didn’t get all of the data we should have; we didn’t ask all the questions we should have; we end up making what turns out to be a bad decision and we reap the consequences of that bad decision; whether we knew everything or not, whether our intentions were good or not, we still made a bad decision. My mother always told me that the road to hell was paved with good intentions. So even though our intentions might have been good, they can lead to bad decisions. For one reason or another we become responsible for the decisions that we made. We made them and this is indicated in the statement in Galatians 6:7, “Whatsoever a man sows that shall he also reap.”
In other words, you engage in planting seeds of bad decisions and over time you are going to reap the consequences of those bad decisions. The trouble is with bad decisions is that sometimes we may not see those consequences for five, ten, fifteen, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty years. We may make bad decisions when we are a teenager. We just don’t know any better, and yet we are going to reap consequences from that over the next forty or fifty years. We have no concept of that when we’re young. So this impacts us in many different ways and we have to take ownership and responsibility for the fact that we have made bad decisions and so we are going to reap certain consequences.
3. Now the third area of suffering (slide 8) [Divine discipline] takes the natural consequences from our bad decisions to an intensified level.
This is a situation where the negative consequences may be serious and then God says, but that’s not quite enough. You really need to learn your lesson, so there are going to be additional consequences on top of just the negative consequences. There are going to be additional circumstances that are going to bring intensification so that you will learn the lesson. God’s work in bringing discipline into our lives in terms of a punitive discipline is indicated in Hebrews 12:4-8. I have verses 6-8 up on the screen because that is the core for the passage, but let me begin with verse four. Hebrew 12:4 says, “You have not resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin.” We think we are struggling against sin, but the writer of Hebrews says you are really just putting up sort of a halfway effort unless you’ve resisted to the point of shedding blood.
In other words, unless you have come to the point of maybe even a possibility of death in your own life, as you fight against sin, you haven’t really taken it as seriously as you should. The truth there hurts because too often we just put up a mild resistance and then we cave in very easily. He goes on to remind us of a challenge in the Scripture in Hebrews 12:5, “And you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons.” This is from the Scripture addressing us as children of God. “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by Him.” Now that is a very interesting statement. First of all, we are to recognize when we are being disciplined by God. It is more than just the natural consequences of our bad decisions. We are not to treat it lightly or with a lack of respect. On the one hand that would be minimizing the significance of the discipline, on the other hand we are not to faint when we are reproved by Him.
When God lowers the boom in divine discipline, it may be a temptation to just give up. It may be a temptation to cave into thoughts of suicide and actions of suicide. That may be what is perceived as discipline is awfully harsh and we aren’t to faint. We aren’t to cave in because God has given us the tools needed in order to handle even the adversity that comes as a result of divine discipline because in one sense whatever the adversity is that we face in life, whether it is the result of our bad decisions, whether it is the result of someone else’s bad decisions, whether it is the result of divine discipline, the solutions to facing any adversity are the same. Basically, if we’ve sinned we need to confess our sin and get back in fellowship. Then we have to walk by the Holy Spirit. We claim promises. We orient our life to grace and to doctrine, and we orient to God’s plan for our lives in terms of our personal sense of destiny. We have personal love for God the Father. We show love for all mankind. We are occupied with Christ and we share the happiness of Christ. Those are the ten spiritual skills that I’ve talked about so many times and we will review some more as we go through this. That is the core.
Whether the suffering is our own fault, whether the suffering is somebody else’s fault, the solutions are always the same and we can turn cursing into blessing by starting to respond biblically to those particular problems. This is what the writer of Hebrews is emphasizing in Hebrews 12:5. Then he goes on to remind us of the core principle behind the divine discipline. Hebrews 12:6, “For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines.” Now whom does God love? He loves everyone who is a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, everyone who is part of His family. Those whom the Lord loves He disciplines. That means that He brings discipline into their life, both from the vantage point of punishment, but also in order to teach and instruct us. The idea of discipline often has that idea of training us in a particular path of life. It goes on to define this in context here as the negative discipline, “He scourges every son whom He receives.”
If you are a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, God is going to bring you to a whipping; and that is a metaphor, but its harsh and it describes the fact that God’s discipline at times may seem extremely severe, but it is motivated by His love and care for each of His children. Then we go on to read in Hebrews 12:7, “It is for discipline that you endure.” It is not pleasant to go through that suffering. We may, in fact, want to quit. We may want to faint, as he stated it in Hebrews 12:5. But here we are told that instead of fainting we are to endure. We are to hang in there. The principles of endurance are the same whether we’re enduring suffering brought about by our own bad decisions or from the circumstances of someone else. So it is for discipline that we endure. God deals with you. God deals with each of us as with sons, and then he asks the rhetorical question, “for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?” There are many today.
But in reality the norm is that a father should discipline his children because he loves his children. Then in Hebrews 12:8 he writes, “But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.” In other words, if you are not a believer God is not going to discipline you. The reality is that if you are a believer then God will bring discipline into your life and intensify the consequences. Now let’s look at an Old Testament (OT) example of how this took place. I want you to turn in your Bibles to 2 Samuel 12 in the OT. This describes one of the most detailed analyses of divine discipline in the OT. It is one of the great sins of the OT that started in 2 Samuel 11 when David, the king of Israel, the great king of Israel, succumbed to a great temptation. Instead of going out to battle with his army, which was his responsibility, he starts off being at the wrong place because of his failure in his own personal responsibility. That puts him in a position of weakness to begin with and it puts him in a position where he is going to be tempted because he sees a woman who is bathing.
Water was often collected on the roofs of the houses and a woman would go up there and bathe. She is going up there in broad daylight, so that she is visible. So there is some indication that there may be some culpability on her part. Her name is Bathsheba and David is going to invite her to the palace. He is going to seduce her and then she is going to end up becoming pregnant. Well David decides, like every great leader who succumbs to sexual lust, that it is time to have a little conspiratorial cover up. So he calls in his general Joab, who is also a relative; and he says you need to cover me on this. What we are going to do is we are going to put Uriah up front. He had tried some other things. Uriah wouldn’t cooperate. So now, I am cutting the story down. He decides to he is going to have to take Uriah out because he won’t come home and have relations with his wife to cover up the sin. So he ends up having Joab put Uriah at the forefront of the battle –the hottest part of the battle when they attacked at Rabbah, which is modern Amman Jordan.
The result of this is that Uriah is killed in battle and David thinks he is able to cover all of this up. He is guilty of adultery. He is guilty of conspiracy. He is guilty of murder; and as a result of that, God is going to bring judgment. He is not going to let His king, who’s over His people get away with this. So the Lord sends a prophet to David in 2 Samuel 12, a prophet named Nathan. And Nathan comes to David in a somewhat subtle way and he is going to give David a little parable to see how David would respond to the injustice in the parable. He is really setting David up and David walks right into the trap.
Nathan starts off in the beginning of 2 Samuel 12 with this little parable. It talks about two men, one is rich, the other is poor. The rich man had a great many flocks and herds. The poor man just had one small ewe lamb, which he cared for very much. He nourished and took care of and it was part of his household. It grew up with his children. It would eat of his bread, drink of his cup, lie in his bosom, and it was like a daughter to him. So a traveler came to the rich man and the rich man is suppose to open up his house, show hospitality to this traveler, this stranger, but he is stingy. He is tight. He doesn’t want to give of anything that he has, even though he has great wealth, and so he decides that he is just going to steal this lamb from his neighbor the poor man. He takes the poor man's lamb and kills it, prepares it for the stranger that is visiting him. At this point David reacts to the injustice of the whole situation. The Text says, “His anger burned greatly against the man.”
David just absolutely lost it at this point and he exclaims to Nathan, “as the Lord lives surely the man who has done this deserves to die.” Here is what we have in 2 Samuel 12:5–6. “David’s anger was greatly aroused against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this shall surely die! And he shall restore fourfold for the lamb.” So David in his reaction to the great injustice in the parable is going to articulate his own punishment. That there should be a fourfold discipline. Now David is guilty of committing a capital crime. Under the Mosaic Law adultery was punishable by death and murder was to be punished by death. Now this doesn’t involve the courts at all, so the courts don’t act as God, so they are to act under the principles laid down in Scripture unless there are some compelling reasons for mercy. But this is where God is commuting the sentence for David because God is the highest authority in the universe. He has the right and authority to do that. He is going to commute David’s sentence of capital punishment, but He is not going to commute the punishment.
David is still going to be punished and it is going to be a fourfold punishment. This then is explained by Nathan in 2 Samuel 12:11–12, “Thus says the LORD: “Behold, I will raise up adversity against you from your own house.” So this is the intensification of the discipline and it is going to come from within David’s own family. Then God goes on to say, “and I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun.” So David is going to be put in the place of Uriah, where his wives are taken by someone else. In this case, part of that will occur with his own son, Absalom. God says, “For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, before the sun.” So there is going to be a fourfold restitution or fourfold discipline (slide 11):
(1) The baby is going to die, 2 Samuel 12:14. The infant that is the result of the union between David and Bathsheba is going to die after the infant is born. That is the first thing. The result of their union is going to die, so death comes to the infant; death comes into David’s life. This brought about great grief for David and we read about this in the remainder of 2 Samuel 12. How David mourned, how he grieved, how he fasted, how he pleaded with God for the life of the infant, but then the infant died and at that point David resolved himself to God’s plan.
One thing we should note is that after Nathan confronted David with his sin, and after Nathan confronted David with his punishment, David’s response was that he confessed his sin. In 2 Samuel 12:13, David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” And Nathan said to David, “The LORD also has taken away your sin, you shall not die.” So this is when God commutes David’s sentence of capital punishment. David receives grace, but David is restored to fellowship with the Lord, which enables him to utilize the provisions that God gave him through the faith-rest drill and through the Word of God to handle the intensification of suffering that would come in the discipline. So there’s first of all the natural consequences of the sin, then God is intensifying this fourfold in David’s life. So the first payment is the death of the baby.
(2)The second consequence is David’s son Amnon raped his sister Tamar, 2 Samuel 13:14; and this took place over time. This is some years later that this takes place.
David’s son Amnon rapes his sister Tamar. We get the whole detailed story. Amnon is a half-brother. Tamar is a full sister to Absalom and she and Absalom are very close siblings and Amnon is just consumed by sexual lust for his sister. He sets up a little trap and invites her over to take care of him because he’s faking it, saying that he is sick. Then he ends up raping her. So this is the second payment. David’s family is visited by this sexual sin that is comparable to his sin with Bathsheba. In fact, some have suggested that he took advantage of his position as king and the initial liaison with Bathsheba might have bordered on rape. On the basis of the Text we can’t prove or disprove that.
(3) The third level of punishment is that his beloved son, his favorite son, Absalom, who is the crown prince kills Amnon, 2 Samuel 13:28–29.
(4) Later Absalom will lead a revolt against David and he will also take David’s wives from David’s harem and he will sleep with them. That was a sign that he has taken over as king and is exercising his kingly authority over the nation as he takes David’s wives. So that fulfills the prophecy of his judgment that was stated by God.
So there is a fourfold restitution that is given based on David’s own mouth. That is the third way in which we go through suffering is the divine discipline that God brings in our life because of sin.
4. The fourth reason (slide 12) we suffer is because we’re connected to someone involved in either reason two or reason three. We are connected to someone by marriage or maybe they are our parents, maybe they are our children, maybe they are a business associate, maybe they are the president of the United States, and they're making bad decisions.
God is going to bring the consequences of those bad decisions to bear upon him. If it impacts the whole nation maybe God is going to bring divine discipline upon the whole nation because of the decisions of the government and everybody in the nation suffers. We suffer because someone we are tied too is guilty of sin and so we are either going to reap the consequences of reason number two or we are going to reap the divine discipline by association; and so we go through discipline by association. Now we don’t have any personal responsibility in that, but nevertheless, we still go through the consequences and suffering and we have to utilize the same principles of claiming promises and trusting in God to enable us to survive during those circumstances.
5. The fifth reason (slide 13) that we suffer is that we just live in the kosmic system.
We live in a fallen world system. We are constantly going to be connected to people who are sinners. You may love your wife; you may love your parents; you may love your children, but they are corrupt little sinners and they’re going to make, at times, really bad sinful decisions. And part of your responsibility and mine is to love them in spite of that. That is called grace orientation. But what makes it really difficult is when that person to whom we are tied makes a devastatingly bad decision and we have to suffer the consequences for that. That really calls for spiritual maturity to trust in God and to forgive them and to move forward on the basis of the principles of God’s Word. But we live in the kosmic system, so things are going to go bad. The prize possessions are going to rust, or they are going to grow weeds, or they are going to need to get painted, or they are going to burn down.; But things in this world are all touched by the corruption of sin, and so there is always going to be suffering and adversity in life simply because we live in the world system.
These first five reasons are all related to the fallen nature of man. The next set of reasons that we give are not necessarily connected to personal bad decisions of our own or of somebody else’s; and we don’t necessarily know the cause for these. I am going to wait and cover those next five reasons next time. So let’s bow our heads and close in prayer.
Father, thank You for this time that we’ve had to study and reflect upon these causes for suffering and the promises we have in Scripture that teach us to wait upon You. To have hope even in the midst of horrible circumstances because we know that all things work together for good, even those that bring about intense suffering in our lives. We thank You for the examples of people like David, where we see their sins, their flaws, their faults. We see that they paid the consequences for their sins in terms of divine discipline, but even in the midst of that we see Your grace and sustenance for them; that they might be able to endure the difficulties, endure the discipline, which brought glory to You and strengthened them spiritually and was used by You to bring about spiritual maturity in their lives. Help us to have a divine viewpoint look at the suffering that we have in our life, trusting in You that You are fully aware of the suffering and that You are using it as part of the matrix of events in our lives that will bring about spiritual maturity to glorify You. We pray this in Christ’s Name, amen.