Often on these Wednesday nights I feel like I’m preaching to the choir. Rarely do we have a visitor, and some of you have been hearing me preach since the week you were born and even before. Many, many times I feel like I’m facing the wrong audience. The message should be preached more to lost people, to more young people or to newer Christians. And this is one of the blessings of our presence on the internet – our web page and Facebook page. At the very least, I can imagine a wider audience than the few of us who are here tonight. And I really need that reassurance tonight.
I would be remiss not to address this verse, while going through the Book of Proverbs. But most of us no longer have small children over whom we are responsible. Or we are parents in homes where the principles of this verse are already working well. Ah, but there might be someone who will run into our website tomorrow, and profit from Solomon’s wisdom even if no one here hears anything new. With this in mind, I ask you to pray for our internet ministry. There really are people on the other side of the world, who read and respond to our web pages. Having said that, don’t assume that you won’t hear anything new or that you can’t learn from this verse.
There has never been a child born – or born again – who has not been sinful – a sinner.
Our natural selves are unrighteous and self destructive – it comes with the human territory. Just as our parents gave us replicas of their hearts, they have given us replicas of their souls and spirits. Just as they have given us two legs, we find that our feet and the feet of our children are swift toward evil. And that is the reason all children need discipline – the rod. Sure they need love, just as they need food and air which is not polluted with cigarette and marijuana smoke. But just as important because they are naturally prone towards rebellion and sinfulness, they need discipline.
The point and purpose of the rod is to remind people, old and young, that sinfulness has its consequences. We are accountable for our actions – for everything we do – to God and also towards others as well. Intellectually, as ADULTS, we know– whether or not we always want to admit it. That knowledge is something WE have learned through time and experience. Children don’t have the blessing of time, so they must learn the consequences of sin through experience. It would be pointless to set a 5-year-old who keeps punching his baby sister before a judge and hear him being sentenced to 3 months in jail. But if that little boy has been warned against his punching before, then it should fall on his parents to spank him for continuing to do it. There are consequences for breaking the rules and hurting others. There are consequences for sin. And those consequences should actually hurt – there should be pain involved – without injury.
And with that we come to the importance of discipline. “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.” In the midst of all Solomon’s condemnation of foolishness and his praise of wisdom he says, “The rod and reproof give wisdom; but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.” The first verse in this chapter says, “A wise son heareth his father’s instruction; but a scorner hearth not rebuke.” A scornful spirit can be reduced or eliminated with proper discipline – spankings, the rod, or something equivalent. But discipline is not simply for the smooth and orderly operation of the home or even for a good society.
Correction teaches that we are not above reproach and that we are accountable for our actions.
How much responsibility do we have – and to whom are we accountable? We are responsible for all our sins, and it is God who is our judge. Unfortunately, our natural pride blinds us to our sins and tries to eliminate our need for a Savior. But discipline reminds us of the truth of our wretchedness, and teaches us our need for help. IF by your sin you have offended mother, how do you think the holy God feels about what you did? Until our children realize the seriousness of their selfish tantrums, their petty retaliations and their rebellion, they will never consider their need of Christ. In a sense, their salvation begins with mother and father’s spankings. Since salvation is the most important gift a child will ever receive, it is imperative that parents are leading their children to understand the need of that gift.
Proverbs 23:13 – “Withhold not correction from the child; for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.” Some people believe in discipline, but they don’t practice physical discipline such as spanking. They limit their correction to scolding (screaming) or perhaps the loss of privileges. However, the Bible is the final word on what is best; it is not mere opinion or theory. The word “rod” indicates a thin stick or switch that can be used to give physical pain with no lasting physical injury. A child should never be bruised or cut by a physical correction. And the Bible warns that parents should never abuse the power and authority they have over their children, because it may provoke them to anger and further rebellion (Ephesians 6:4; Colossians 3:21). Physical discipline should always done in love, never as a vent for the parent’s frustration or anger. It is also just one part of discipline and should be used when the child shows defiance to a clear limit. It should not be a knee-jerk reaction by the parent in the heat of the moment.
Nevertheless, “withhold not correction from the child; for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.” If you punish him with the rod correctly, “he will not die.” In the context of Proverbs 23:13–14, “die” refers to “spiritual death in hell.” Children who respect authority and feel sorrow for their sin are much more likely understand repentance before God and their need of a Saviour. “Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.” Proper home discipline of children is an important step towards their salvation.
But discipline doesn’t stop at a certain age.
Even after they have been saved, that native rebellion remains and emerges from time to time. The Christian sinners in Laodiecea had been living without discipline – self-discipline or otherwise. The Lord was forced to say, “Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked…” You should prepare yourselves for my rod, because “as many as I love, I rebuke and chasten; be zealous therefore and repent.”
Christian adults should never forget that they are children of God. The Lord instructs parents to parent their children the way He parents His children. Hebrews 12 tells us that God disciplines those whom He loves in order to perfect their righteousness. “Ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.” God disciplines only His own, which proves that Christians are His beloved children. Much earlier in Biblical history David said that the Lord’s rod comforted him in his time of trouble. It reminded him of God’s love.
No discipline feels good while it is happening, but afterwards the rewards are blessed. “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.” Godly character and peace with the Lord are rewards of God’s discipline properly received.
The same is true for our human children. Kids who have learned how to take responsibility for their actions – even when they are sinful actions – are much happier people. Proverbs 3 – “My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary of his correction: For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth. Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding. For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold. She is more precious than rubies: and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her. Length of days is in her right hand; and in her left hand riches and honour. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her: and happy is every one that retaineth her.”
The importance of the rod of correction is that it steers the heart of a child toward the Saviour and the forgiveness of sin He offers. When parents trust God’s methods over their own, they will see blessings for their children and for themselves.