A Sinner in the Arms of a Merciful God

A couple of weeks ago, I said that I was confident that for the first time in my life, I could lose any possession, and react in trust. Yesterday, the Lord saw fit to put that to the test.

For reasons that I am not prepared to go into (and may never be, in public), I have found myself with a six month suspension of driving privileges. This one is different from the last, though – less than 24 hours after I was railing at God, begging Him to understand WHY He took away the greatest worldly joy in my life, I find myself in a state of calm trust.

and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons,

My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
Nor faint when you are reproved by Him;
For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines,
And He scourges every son whom He receives.”

It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons

Hebrews 12:4-8, NASB (biblegateway.com)

My mother reminded me of this passage when I was complaining about my suspension yesterday. I really don’t have anything to add, save that it is truly humbling to be reminded that I MUST see myself as a child on a daily basis. Without the trust of a child towards his father, how could I embrace the discipline that is given me?

Okay, this must simply sound like I’ve lost my mind. That’s okay, incidentally – if you’re not prepared to accept that I can be genuinely grateful for this, and GENUINELY trust (and I really can’t tell you how cool that part is) that this is what I need, this next part is going to sound REALLY nuts.

A few weeks ago, I was given a specific instruction about my personal behavior. There was a pattern I had adopted, and I was led, quite forcefully, to stop it. Naturally, being the obedient and trusting son I am, I complied without question, qualm, or hesitation.

If you believe that last sentence, I have some farmland in Arizona to sell you. Prime corn country.

In typical fashion, I dug in my heels, declared “NO! This isn’t that big a deal!” and carried on as before. Rather than abandon me to my rebellion, God took me by the scruff of the neck, rubbed my nose in the mess on the carpet, and informed me in no uncertain terms that He meant what He had said. The fascinating part (to me, at least) is how very quickly this has turned from discipline to instruction. I exhort you, brethren – do not leave the instruction of God aside. Not only is it easier to obey, prompt obedience and acceptance of discipline puts you in the right place to learn some lessons the easy way.

I was reading Charles Spurgeon this morning (always a worthwhile endeavor), and I was humbled by how I have been spared the more destructive kinds of excess (which is not to say I’ve been a paragon of moderation – far from it, in fact), despite my enthusiastic courting of… well, look at a list of “don’ts” in the Bible. Pick any list, it doesn’t matter which one. I’ll wait. If you’re having trouble coming up with a list, let’s go all the way back to the basics.

 Then God spoke all these words, saying,

 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

“You shall have no other gods before Me.

 “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth.  You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God,visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me,  but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

 “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not[d]leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.

 “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work,  but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.

 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you.

 “You shall not murder.

 “You shall not commit adultery.

“You shall not steal.

“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

Exodus 20:1-17, NASB (biblegateway.com)

I have deliberately and in full knowledge and disobedience (that is to say – after my conversion) sought to do at least half of these things, and despite the great specificity of some such lists (after all, they’re exemplary and not exhaustive) I am reasonably sure that that statement is true of ALL of them. God has seen fit to throw barriers in my path at every turn, preventing my rebellion despite my petulant demands that I be permitted to do what I want. For that, I am finally grateful.  Maybe I’ll manage to grow spiritually without metaphorically feeling like I spent six months of my life in a washing machine full of rocks, this time.

The title of this piece is the only relation it has to Edwards’ sermon, incidentally – I’ve not even read the text of Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God (an oversight I intend to correct… when my reading list opens up). I just couldn’t resist the parallel title structure.

Praise the Lord for His boundless mercy.

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