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 (Manna 16)
God's Trial, Discipline and Judgment
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Christians, without exception, also suffer from afflictions in this world. They also fall sick, become poor and die. When that happens the first thought is: This is a trial from God or a discipline or a judgment from Him. This may be erroneous and may provoke the wrath of God (Job 16: 1, 2, 42:7, 9). The one who suffers must examine himself to find out the real cause of suffering.

God’s Trial

Trial comes from God. God tests His children, just like a goldsmith refines his gold. In the Bible this test is also known as the test of fire or “baptism of Life.” Why does God test His people?

1.      God wants to test the faith of the people.

Gold after being purified by fire will remain as gold, so also is steadfast faith which after undergoing testing will not be shaken. It is difficult to prove a believer’s faith in times of peace and prosperity. Faith can only be ascertained after being tested. God brought the Israelites out of Egypt but He did not take them to Canaan immediately. Instead, He led them through the wilderness for forty years, testing and trying them (Deut 8:2). Those with faith were not afraid but pressed forward. They appeared as though they had seen the beautiful land of Canaan. But those with no faith were disheartened and murmured against God (Num 14).

Job was perfect, upright and God fearing. But Satan said to God, “Doth Job fear God for naught? Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? Thou has blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the hand. But put forth in thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face.” (Job 1:9-11). Satan claimed that Job feared God because God had blessed him. To prove Job’s integrity, God allowed Satan to attack Job. He lost all his children and possessions and was himself inflicted with sores and boils all over his body. Despite all these, Job held on to his faith and did not sin with his lips (Job 1:13-19, 2:1-10). Job’s genuine faith was thus manifested. However, Job’s wife failed the test. She lost her faith completely and left God (Job 2:9).

2.       God wants His children to be clean.

God says, “And I will turn my hand upon thee, and purely purge away thy dross and take away all thy tin.” (Is 1:25). Gold nuggets just unearthed from gold mines contain impurities. It has to be sent to the goldsmith to rid them of the impurities before they can be made into ornaments. Similarly, if the minds of God’s children are filled with impurities such as pride, self-righteousness and self-esteem, He will purge them to make them purer than fine gold (1 Pet 1:6, 7). Job said, “When he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10). Thus, suffering is good for the soul.

After gold is refined it becomes pure gold. When believers undergo trials they must face them with patience to the end. James said. “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into diverse temptations. Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire wanting nothing.” (Jas 1:2-4). James went on to quote the examples of the righteous men and prophets to encourage and strengthen the faith of the Christians. He said, “Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord: that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.” (Jas 5:10-11). The righteous men and prophets of the past who had endured hardships were rewarded with blessings. We, too, must have patience so that when the Lord appears again we shall he rewarded with praise, glory and honor (1 Pet 1:6, 7).

When we are tried we must also ask God for mercy. Zechariah said, “And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined: they shall call on my name, and I will bear them: I will say, It is my people and they shall say, The Lord is my God.” (Zech 13:9). There will be great calamities in this world in the future. But no matter what we should beseech God for help and God will surely hearken to our prayer by opening a way for us to escape so that we shall be able to endure them (1 Cor 10: 13). Though God tries us with hardships and sufferings He will not forsake us because He is merciful and gracious. The prophet Isaiah said, “And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity, and the water of affliction, yet shall not thy teachers be removed into a corner anymore, but thine eyes shall see thy teachers: And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand and when ye turn to the left.” (Is 30:20, 21).

God’s Discipline

Discipline is done with a view to teach and to bring a person under control. Hebrews 12:5-6: “My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For when the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.” God’s discipline is done out of love and concern. He wants His children to be obedient. The Bible records. “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.” (Heb 12:10). Parents use rods or whips to discipline their children. When God disciplines His children He would chastise them with different tools depending upon the situation. God would first discipline men with His words. If men fail to realize their faults, He may use harsh words to rebuke them. If they still do not repent He may strike them with sickness, family discord, loss of earnings, and poverty. Under such circumstances, men should realize their wrong-doings, repent and ask God for forgiveness or else they would face the wrath of God, resulting in far greater chastisement.

When David was king over Israel, Satan stood up against Israel and provoked David to number Israel. David was not cautious in this matter. He had even rejected the advice of his general against doing it lest he should offend God. But David insisted on his own way. In the end God was very angry with David’s wrong-doing. God sent pestilence to Israel for three days and as a result seventy thousand people died (1 Chron 21:1-14). After this David realized his sin, and said, “Is it not I that commanded the people to be numbered? Even I it is that have sinned and done evil indeed but as for these sheep, what have they done? Let thine hand. I pray thee O Lord my God, be on me, and on my father’s house; but not on thy people, that they should be plagued” (1 Chron 21:17). Thus, discipline will make one realize his mistake and change.

The psalmist said, “Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept thy word.” (Ps 119:67). As children of God we should set our goal toward heaven, but some of us would choose to flow with the tide of the world. If God does not interfere we will fall into the trap of Satan. But God is love. He would not allow His children to fall prey to Satan. He disciplines those who have gone astray from his words.

When a person is being chastised by God, he must examine himself to see where he has offended God. Then he must repent. The psalmist says, “The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit. A broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” (Ps 34: 18, 51: 17). The tribe of Ephraim was the offspring of Joseph who found favor with God. They had sinned against God (Is 28:1-3; Hos 4:17, 18, 12:7). When God rebuked them, they were sorry and confessed their sins to God. The Bible records, “I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself thus: Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised as a bullock was unaccustomed to the yoke: turn thou me, and I shall be turned; for thou art the Lord my God. Surely after that I was turned, I repented; and after that I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh: I was ashamed yea, even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth.” (Jer 31:18, 19).

Confession and repentance precede forgiveness. If a believer has committed a sin he must ask God for forgiveness. In the past the Israelites, after having departed from Egypt, sinned against God while journeying through the wil-derness. It was Moses who petitioned to God for forgiveness. In the end God answered Moses request by forgiving the people (Ex 32:30-32; Num 14: 19; Ex 32:12-17; Num 14:20). Today, believers of God can pray directly to God. The Bible says, “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” (Ps 32: 1). Again, “The blueness of a wound cleanseth away evil: so do strips the inward parts of the belly” (Prov 20:30). Therefore, as long as we repent and ask God for forgiveness and rekindle our zeal to serve God, good will follow (Rev 3:19).

God’s Judgment

God is gracious and merciful to the righteous but is also just and can be severe in punishing those who willfully sinned against Him. If the sins committed by a person are not serious God will merely discipline him. But if the sins committed are grave the judgment of God can be severe as the author of the Book of Hebrews said, “For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins. But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which will devour the adversaries.” (Heb 10:26-31). Who does God judges?

1.      Those who sin repeatedly.

The Israelites were a people God loved very much. However, because they had sinned against God repeatedly, God had decided to punish: “Thus saith the Lord: For three transgressions of Judah, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment therefore: because they have despised the law of the Lord, and have not kept his commandments and their lies caused them to err.” (Amos 2:4, 6). Eventually, Judah and Israel were destroyed by the gentiles.

2.      Those who sin willfully.

Eli comes from a priestly home. Eli and his two sons were ordained priests who served God in the temple and well versed with the laws of God. But the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas were very wicked (1 Sam 2:12-17) and Eli was not strict with them (1 Sam 2:27-32). Ultimately, God sent punishment to the house of Eli. Eli’s two sons died on the same day in battle. When Eli heard of it he fell from his seat, broke his neck and died immediately (1 Sam 3:11-14, 4:16-18).

3.      Those who cause others to do wicked deeds.

King Solomon in his old age deserted God. God seized the ten tribes of the Israel and gave them to Jeroboam. So Jeroboam became the king of the ten tribes. As a leader of the people Jeroboam should be God fearing, do all the things which were considered right in the eyes of God. On the contrary, Jeroboam did not allow the people to go up to Jerusalem to worship God. Instead he made two golden calves, one of which he set in Bethel and the other in Dan. And he did became a sin for the people went to worship before the golden calf even up to Dan (1 Kgs 12:28-33). This provoked the great wrath of God. God spoke through prophet Aliyah saying, “Go, tell Jeroboam, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel. Forasmuch as exalted thee from among the people, and made thee prince over my people Israel. And rent the Kingdom away from the house of David, and gave it thee: and yet thou hast not been as my servant of David, who kept my commandments, and who followed me with all his heart, to do that only which was right in mine eyes; But has done evil above all that were upon thee : for thou has gone and made thee other gods, and molten images, to provoke me to anger, and hast cast me behind thy back : Therefore, behold, I will bring evil upon the house of Jeroboam, and will cutoff from Jeroboam him that pisseth against the wall, and him that is shut up and left in Israel, and will take away the remnant of the house of Jeroboam, as a man taketh away dung, till it be all gone.” (1 Kgs 14:7-1 1). The prophecy was fulfilled. The house of Jeroboam was completely destroyed (1 Kgs 15:29-30).