Subjection under God's Chastisement
by Arthur Pink
"Shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father" Hebrews 12:9
By nature we are not in subjection to God. We are born into this world filled with the spirit of insubordination. As the descendants of our rebellious first parents, we inherit their evil nature. "Man is born like a wild donkey's colt" (Job 11:12). This is very unpalatable and humbling—but nevertheless it is true. As Isaiah 53:6 tells us, "We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way" and that way is opposition to the revealed will of God. Even at conversion, this wild and rebellious nature is not eradicated. A new nature is given—but the old one strives against it. It is because of this that discipline and chastisement are needed by us, and the great design of these is to bring us into subjection to the Sovereign Lord. We shall now attempt two things: explain what it means to be "in subjection unto the Father," and enforce this with reasons presented in our text.
I. the Subjection Designed
To be "in subjection unto the Father" is a phrase of extensive import, and it is well that we should understand its various significations.
1. It denotes an acquiescence in God's sovereign right to do with us as He pleases.
Psalm 39:9, "I was dumb, I opened not my mouth; because You are the one who has done this!" It is the duty of saints to be mute under the rod—and silent beneath the sharpest afflictions. But this is only possible as we see the hand of God in them. If God's hand is not seen in the trial, the heart will do nothing but fret and fume.
"If the Lord has told him to curse me, who am I to stop him? . . . Leave him alone and let him curse, for the Lord has told him to do it!" 2 Samuel 16:10-11. What an example of complete submission to the sovereign will of the Most High was this! David knew that Shimei could not curse him without God's permission.
"This will set my heart at rest,
What My God appoints is best".
With rare exceptions, many chastenings are needed to bring us to this place—and to keep us there.
2. It implies a renunciation of self-will.
To be in subjection unto the Father, presupposes a surrendering and resigning of ourselves to Him. A blessed illustration of this is found in Leviticus 10:1-3, "Aaron's sons Nadab and Abihu put coals of fire in their incense burners and sprinkled incense over it. In this way, they disobeyed the Lord by burning before him a different kind of fire than he had commanded. So fire blazed forth from the Lord's presence and burned them up, and they died there before the Lord. Then Moses said to Aaron, 'This is what the Lord meant when he said—I will show myself holy among those who are near me. I will be glorified before all the people.' And Aaron was silent."
Consider the circumstances. Aaron's two sons, most probably intoxicated at the time, were suddenly cut off by Divine judgment. Their father had no warning to prepare him for this trial; yet he "was silent!" O quarrel not against Jehovah. Be clay in the hands of the Potter. Take Christ's yoke upon you and learn of Him who was "meek and lowly in heart."
3. It signifies an acknowledgment of God's righteousness and wisdom in all his dealings with us.
We must vindicate God. This is what the Psalmist did, "I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are right, and that in faithfulness You have afflicted me" (119:75). Let us see to it that Wisdom is ever justified by her children. Let our confession of her be "righteous are You, O Lord, and upright are Your judgments!" (Psalm 119:137).
Whatever is sent—we must vindicate the Sender of all things. The Judge of all the earth cannot do wrong!
The Babylonian captivity was the severest affliction which God ever brought upon His earthly people during Old Testament times. Yet even then a renewed heart acknowledged God's righteousness in it: "Great trouble has come upon us and upon our kings and princes and priests and prophets and ancestors from the days when the kings of Assyria first triumphed over us until now. You are righteous concerning all that has come on us, because You have acted faithfully, while we have acted wickedly!" (Nehemiah 9:32, 33).
God's enemies may talk of His injustice; let His children proclaim His righteousness. Because God is good—He can do nothing but what is right and good.
4. It includes a recognition of His care and a sense of His love.
There is a sulking submission and there is a cheerful submission. There is a fatalistic submission which takes this attitude—this is inevitable, so I must bow to it. And there is a thankful submission, receiving with gratitude whatever God may be pleased to send us. "It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn Your statutes" (Psalm 119:71). The Psalmist viewed his chastisements with the eye of faith, and doing so he perceived the love behind them. Remember that when God brings His people into the wilderness—it is that they may learn more of His sufficiency! When He casts them into the furnace—it is that they may enjoy His presence.
5. It involves an active performance of His will.
Submission to the "Father of spirits" is something more than a passive thing. The other meanings to this expression which we have already considered, are more or less of a negative character. But there is also a positive and an active side to it as well. To be "in subjection" also means to walk in His precepts and run in the way of His commandments. It means being submissive to His Word—our thoughts being formed and our ways being regulated by it. There is a doing—as well as a suffering of God's will. God requires obedience from His children, a performance of duties. When we pray "May Your will be done" something more is meant than a pious acquiescence in the will of the Almighty; it also signifies, "May Your will be performed by me." Subjection unto the Father of spirits, then, is the practical owning of His Lordship.
II. Reasons for this Subjection
1. Because He is our father.
It is but right and fit, that children should be in subjection to their father. How much more so when we have such a Father! There is nothing tyrannical about Him; His commandments "are not grievous" but are designed for our good. How profoundly thankful we should be that the great God now stands revealed as our "Father"! This is one of the distinctive revelations of the New Testament. I very much doubt if Aaron or Eli, Job or David knew God in this relationship; yet they "submitted"! How much more ought we! May grace ever enable us to say with the Savior, "the cup which My Father has given Me—shall I not drink it!" (John 18:11).
2. Because this is the secret of true happiness.
I believe that the force of the last two words in our text (and live) are "and be happy". Such is its force in Psalm 119:116, "Sustain me as You promised, and I will live." That is, "I will live in happiness."
It is the fretful, the murmuring and rebellious, who are miserable and wretched. Making the will of God our haven—is the true resting place for our hearts. Submitting our lives to God's will—is the secret of contentment and joy. "Take My yoke upon you and you shall find rest unto your souls," declared the Savior. In keeping God's commandments there is great reward. "Great peace have they that love Your law", said the Psalmist. May the Spirit of God work in all of us; the true spirit of submission, even though it takes severe chastisement to effect it.