The most painful experiences of my life have come at the hands of other people. My life’s most excruciating moments have occurred when others hurt me, either intentionally or accidentally. It is a harsh reality of the human existence that people hurt one another. One of the aspects of heaven that has always been appealing is that there, people will no longer inflict harm upon others.
Yet I would hasten to add that most of the dramatic character change and personal growth I have experienced has also come at the hands of others. Ironically it is not uncommon for me to experience a spiritual or character growth spurt immediately following a painful period in my life. It is a peculiar characteristic of life that our greatest growth is often birthed out of our severest pain.
When God was assuring David that He would bless him with a dynasty, He promised to be a Father to David’s successor (2 Sam. 7:14). But then God declared: “If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the blows of the sons of men” (2 Sam. 7:14). God declared that He would utilize the “rod of men” in order to discipline and alert David’s descendants to their sin.
I don’t generally care for the rod of men! When people hurt me, I tend to immediately focus on the injustice. I wonder how anyone could be so cruel, or unkind, or thoughtless, or self-centered to do such a thing. I might even ask God why He allows such hurtful and wicked people to harm innocent, nice people like me. Yet this verse indicates that sometimes, God utilizes the painful rods of men and women in order to get our attention and to discipline us when we go astray.
I suppose it might be easier to receive discipline from an angel, rather than from people like me. If God dispatched an angel every time we needed correction, at least we would know that the one dispensing the pain was wholly sinless and simply carrying out divine orders. How do you argue with an angel? But receiving rebuke at the hands of a sinful person is an entirely different story. That seems unjust and downright unfair.
Yet the Bible tells many stories about how God conducted His work through the instrumentality of evil people. Joseph found his way to Egypt after his evil brothers sold him into slavery. God judged Israel through the hands of the wicked Assyrians and Babylonians. God allowed pagan Roman soldiers to crucify His Son. He later used Roman legions to destroy Jerusalem as an act of divine judgment. Thousands upon thousands of Jewish people were butchered at the hands of pagan soldiers. Yet they were merely serving God’s purposes. One of the reasons the Jews failed to heed the prophet Jeremiah’s warnings was because they could not imagine that God would use the cruel Babylonians to punish the far more righteous Israelites. Such a misjudgment came at great price.
Today’s Christians often seem bewildered when ungodly people, and even enemies of God, seem to prosper in their attacks on Christians and the Church. Why does God allow wicked people to triumph over servants of Christ? Certainly there are many reasons why this occurs. Darkness has been waging a relentless war through the millenniums to overcome the Light (John 1:5). Satan is the mortal enemy of God’s kingdom. We should not be surprised when God’s enemies strike at us. In fact, we should expect it. At times the only reason we have been attacked is because we live in an evil, sin-darkened world. Such wickedness should be resisted and overcome.
But there are other times when peoples’ attacks are a means by which God corrects us and gains our attention. Today’s Church seems to be under assault from every quarter. Many Christians are experiencing attacks from ungodly people. Don’t be too quick to merely batten down the hatches to wait out the unfair assault. Consider that these may in fact be the “rod of men” being wielded by the hand of God. It would be disastrous if God were disciplining us yet we assumed we were experiencing spiritual warfare!
The Bible claims that God loved Solomon (2 Samuel 12:24). Yet that did not prevent God from disciplining the king when his heart turned away from Him.
Consider what you are currently suffering. Is it merely the natural consequence of living in an increasingly evil age? Or, is God trying to get your attention? Beware the rod of men!