True Fatherly Discipline

This is what the Lord says:

Keep your voice from weeping
and your eyes from tears,
for the reward for your work will come—
this is the Lord’s declaration—
and your children will return from the enemy’s land.
There is hope for your future—
this is the Lord’s declaration—
and your children will return to their own territory.
I have surely heard Ephraim moaning,
“You disciplined me, and I have been disciplined
like an untrained calf.
Take me back, so that I can return,
for you, Lord, are my God.
After my return, I felt regret;
After I was instructed, I struck my thigh in grief.
I was ashamed and humiliated
because I bore the disgrace of my youth.”
Isn’t Ephraim a precious son to me,
a delightful child?
Whenever I speak against him,
I certainly still think about him.
Therefore, my inner being yearns for him;
I will truly have compassion on him.
This is the Lord’s declaration.

Jeremiah 31:16-20

Discipline is a topic we don’t like to talk about much these days. It’s not just that we want to avoid discipline for ourselves, but also that we often see examples of the abuse of discipline that make it hard to believe that discipline can ever be done properly. In this part of Jeremiah 31, though, we see what the heart of good fatherly discipline looks like. It is not done from an abusive or angry heart. It comes from the tender heart of a father who longs for what is best for his children. God’s discipline is presented in that way.

Immediately before this section of Jeremiah’s prophecy is the well-known verse, quoted in Matthew, about Rachel weeping for her children. The name of Ephraim, Rachel’s grandson through Jospeph, is used to represent all of the northern tribes of Israel. Thus Rachel’s weeping is first and foremost for the Israelite exiles taken captive by Assyria long ago. God does not ignore this mourning and promises that the children will return.

God then reaffirms His loving heart for Ephraim (and all the exiles of Israel) in the way that a good father loves and longs for his children even when he has to discipline them. Even as God speaks against the people of Israel for their rebellion, He thinks of them and longs for their return to right relationship with Him. In this context, the discipline is not focused on the wrath of the one handing out the discipline, but instead on the good of the one being disciplined and how to bring them back to a healthy relationship with their loving Father.

When we think of God’s discipline in our lives we need to think of it in this way. He is not trying to beat us down like an angry and abusive parent. His heart is for us and His primary goal is to see us restored to a healthier way of life. We also need to remember this in light of how we carry out discipline with people in our lives. We should not act out of anger because we want to make ourselves feel better. Our discipline should be other-focused and make the primary goal the restoration of the other person to a healthier relationship with themselves and us.

  • How can you view discipline in a better way?

Published by llongard

I grew up in northeast Wisconsin. After high school, I moved to Minneapolis, MN to attend North Central University and graduated 1992 with a degree in Biblical Studies and Humanities. I spent most of the next fifteen years in the Twin Cities area until my family and I moved to Indiana in 2007. For most of the first seventeen years after college, I was involved in university ministry either as a volunteer, bi-vocational, or full-time campus minister. Through those years, I also worked in the main street marketplace as a retail manager/trainer and as a service representative in the insurance industry. I've also worked in various education roles. Most recently, I have been working on various projects addressing homelessness in Indianapolis and as team lead for Diakonos Community, a Communitas International missional initiative. Through this ministry, we seek to build missional communities in Indianapolis that serve and bring the life of Christ to those on the margins of society. Our strategy is to collaborate with community agencies that serve those in need and share Christ through meaningful relationships. I am blessed with a wonderful wife, three amazing daughters, and two cats (can't forget the cats, LOL). As a family, we enjoy camping, hiking, gardening, and going to the YMCA together. I also enjoy fishing, riding bicycle, and being involved in whatever my daughters are doing. Though I have not lived in the Green Bay area for over 20 years, I am still a major Packer fan.

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