God's Discipline: A Curse or A Blessing?

In Acts 13, Paul is recounting to the men of Israel what God in his providence had done for the nation of Israel. God’s love and mercy for Israel is seen from v. 17: “The God of this people of Israel chose our fathers and exalted the people when they dwelt as strangers in the land of Egypt and with a high arm brought he them out of it.”

God continued his caring and nurturing for them in the wilderness for 40 years, even as they forsook him on numerous occasions. In vv. 18-19, Paul recounts, “…and about the time of forty years suffered he their manners in the wilderness and hone he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, he divided their land to them by lot.” God gave them the land of Canaan as he had promised to Abraham (Psalm 105.9-12); yet they continued in unfaithfulness (Psalm 106.34-39).

In Acts 13.20, Paul continues, “…and after that he gave unto them judges about the space of four hundred and fifty years until Samuel the prophet.” Through these judges, God continued in his faithfulness. Psalm 106-43-45 declares, “Many times he would rescue them; they, however, were rebellious in their plan, and they sank down into their guilt. Nevertheless he looked at their distress when he heard their cry; and he remembered his covenant for their sake, and relented according to the greatness of his mercy.” They should have been content and satisfied, but they were not.

In Acts 13.21, Paul says, “…and afterward, they desired a king.” This desire was not an act of trust in God but a rejection of him (1 Samuel 8.7). It was yet another act of discontent with life under God’s discipline. God’s discipline has a purpose. It is to reveal the truth about our hearts (Deuteronomy 8.2-3). Those who are discontent with themselves blame others for their misery. This is easier than repentance. The Israelites’ decision to have a king dod not result from seeking God’s counsel. It was made out of frustration and blame. No one owned up to their sins, but blamed one another. There would be severe consequences.

When we make decision in our lives without seeking God’s will, we too will suffer the consequences. Samuel proceeded to explain these consequences to the children of Israel before they made their final decision, yet they would don’t listen. In 1 Samuel 8.11-18, Samuel relayed to them the manner of the king who would rule. We find in v. 11 that the king would take their sons and put them in an army to go before him to fight. Under the judges, God fought for them, but now their families would be torn apart and their sons would have to go to war. The implication is that there would be no peace in the family or in the nation. Having a king meant war would be a factor. With a king nothing changed for the better, but only for the worse. Wars and fighting would now consume their sons. In v. 12, we find that the king would appoint leaders over them.

The corruption that they complained about to Samuel (1 Samuel 8.5) would not only continue but elevate to a higher degree. Making money dishonestly, accepting bribes, and perverting justice was also prevalent under the kings who ruled. That was why God set rules against it in Deuteronomy 1.12-17. We find that under a king, they would be in bondage or servitude to their dislike. They would plow and plant for the benefit of the king and he would reap of their harvest. They would make weapons of war and equipment for the king’s pleasure. Their daughters would be taken to be laborers as cooks, bakers, and ointment makers. The family would be torn apart and everyone would be in servitude to the king. Even their inheritance would be taken by the king. God had given the land to each tribe as an inheritance and it was a prized possession, not to be given to anyone outside of the lineage. But now they would have to surrender to the king their best fields and vineyards and give them to his officers and servants. Ownership of the land would go to someone other than people in their same tribe or lineage. The king would demand a tenth of their seed and produce to be given to his administration and servants. They didn’t work for it, but demand would be made to give it to them willingly. Their servants would be taken, thereby leaving more work for themselves to do, to produce for the king. He would take their best cattle and donkeys for his use. He would take a tenth of all their flocks.

The final summation was that the children of Israel would be enslaved by the very king that they wanted. The oppression from their king would be so great that it would cause them to cry out against their king to God. Israel wanted to direct their own steps but lacked the foresight to see where their decision would lead them. This history of Israel is written that we, under the new covenant, might not live and suffer as they did (1 Corinthians 10.1-14).

Let us be content with our lives under God’s discipline, as the Hebrew writer admonished: “Do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are punished by him; for whom the Lord loves he disciplines” (Hebrews 12.5-6). Let us heed the words of the psalmist: “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his mercy is everlasting. Who can speak of the mighty deeds of the Lord, or who can proclaim all his praise? How blessed are those who maintain justice, who practice righteousness at all times!” (Psalm 106.1-3).