Dear friends, this is a difficult subject that is not covered much in our modern church. I have written on the subject of Biblical correction and you can read it here. The way that you handle correction reveals your heart. Discipline is a major part of our Christians life. God disciplines us for our own good and for His glory. His discipline conforms our character to the character of Jesus Christ. God has given us His Holy Spirit that responds to His discipline. God also places spiritual leaders in our lives who are to apply discipline for the good of the individual and the entire local body of Christ, also known as the Church. The Apostle Paul was one of those spiritual leaders whom God called to discipline the individuals in the body of Christ in Corinth, along with the local church. We learn about this subject in II Corinthians. Let’s take a moment to read the following verses and then, we will examine two examples from the Old Testament, two men whose sins were confronted and the two very different responses. You probably have guessed the two people. One was the first King of Israel, Saul. The second is the second King of Israel, David.
8 For though I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it-for I see that that letter caused you sorrow, though only for a while –
9 I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us.
10 For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.
11 For behold what earnestness this very thing, this godly sorrow, has produced in you: what vindication of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what avenging of wrong! In everything you demonstrated yourselves to be innocent in the matter. (II Corinthians 7)
When church discipline is applied, confrontation of sin, there are two basic responses. There is sorrow in both cases. There is worldly sorrow (I’m sorry that I got caught) and then there is godly sorrow (I’m sorry that I sinned against God). The difference is, one leads to repentance. Godly sorrow leads to repentance. Worldly sorrow just leads to sorrow. Let’s take a look at these two examples from the Old Testament.
I. King Saul
Before Saul was chosen as king, God told the people of Israel what kind of king that Saul was going to be. God wanted to be Israel’s king yet, they rejected Him because they want to be like the pagan Nations. God had called them out from among the Nations to be different. They wanted to give lip service to God and have the position of chosen nation among the Nations but, at the same time, they wanted to be just like the Nations. Because God is a loving God who allows people to choose, He honored their choice and gave them what they desired.
4 Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah;
5 and they said to him, “Behold, you have grown old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint a king for us to judge us like all the nations.”
6 But the thing was displeasing in the sight of Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the LORD. (I Samuel 8)
This displeased Samuel, God’s prophet and the last Judge of Israel, because Samuel knew that this was not God’s will. God reveals the true nature of Israel’s choice.
7 The LORD said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them. (I Samuel 8)
God offered freedom to the people of Israel yet, they chose the bondage of an ungodly leader. God warned them that their king would use and abuse them. They seemed to be okay with it and demanded a king.
As king, Saul abused his position and power and assumed a role that God did not allow him to have. Samuel has to confront king Saul and from Saul’s response, we see that in Saul’s case, he experiences worldly sorrow.
10 As soon as he finished offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came; and Saul went out to meet him and to greet him.
11 But Samuel said, “What have you done?” And Saul said, “Because I saw that the people were scattering from me, and that you did not come within the appointed days, and that the Philistines were assembling at Michmash,
12 therefore I said, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not asked the favor of the LORD.’ So I forced myself and offered the burnt offering.” (I Samuel 13)
Did you notice what Saul did? He did not accept the blame for his actions. Saul was more interested in the opinion of the people than he was in the Lord’s opinion. Saul was afraid that he was going to lose the people’s confidence so he sinned openly. When confronted, Saul actually blamed Samuel instead of admitting that what he did was wrong and confessing his sin. This confrontation did not lead to Saul’s repentance. As a result, God rejects Saul as the king. Saul was still able to be forgiven and walk in right relationship with God. He just could no longer be the king. Saul could not accept this. Therefore, God pronounces judgment on Saul.
13 Samuel said to Saul, “You have acted foolishly; you have not kept the commandment of the LORD your God, which He commanded you, for now the LORD would have established your kingdom over Israel forever.
14 “But now your kingdom shall not endure. The LORD has sought out for Himself a man after His own heart, and the LORD has appointed him as ruler over His people, because you have not kept what the LORD commanded you.” (I Samuel 13)
After this confrontation and judgment, Saul avoids Samuel, signifying his broken relationship with God. Saul should have repented, thanked Samuel for his courage and love for him, and then accepted God’s judgment. This would have been sorrow from the Lord that would have led Saul to repentance. This shameless act on Saul’s behalf broke Samuel’s heart. He loved Saul and wanted him to prosper.
1 Now the LORD said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul, since I have rejected him from being king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and go; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have selected a king for Myself among his sons.” (I Samuel 16)
Things get so bad for Saul, because he did not repent, that he ends up turning to the pagan practice of calling up people from the dead. Saul avoided Samuel the rest of Samuel’s natural life. Samuel died, and, in a last desperate plea, Saul goes to a spiritist/diviner to conjure up Samuel from the dead. Samuel is so disappointed in Saul because Saul ignored his advice while he was alive and now Saul commits the ultimate sin against the Lord, communing with the dead. This is why we need to be confronted by a spiritual leader, for our own good so that we repent and do not go deeper down the path of sin. Saul ignored Samuel’s advice, he did not repent, and he ended up doing terrible things. He tried to murder David. He also tried to murder his own son, Jonathan, because his mind was so far gone down the path of sin.
Have you ever had a spiritual leader come along side you and confront your sin so that you could repent, confess, and get back right with God? How did you respond? Saul tried to shift the blame back to Samuel. Saul never repented and went deeper and deeper into sin. Are you still going deeper and deeper into sin? Did the confrontation cause worldly sorrow or godly sorrow?
Let’s turn our attention to King David, a man after God’s own heart and see what we can learn about godly discipline.
II. King David
As I mentioned earlier, David is called a man after God’s own heart, by God Himself. That does not mean that David was perfect. He sinned secretly and openly. David needed to be confronted. His response to the confrontation was vastly different form Saul’s response. David experienced godly sorrow. David sinned willingly. How do we know this?
18 “Now it shall come about when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself a copy of this law on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests.
19 “It shall be with him and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, by carefully observing all the words of this law and these statutes, (Deuteronomy 17)
Before David began to reign as king over Israel, he had to write out the first five books of the Bible by hand. He had to read from that hand written copy every day and rule according to that Law. That means that King David had to write out the 10 Commandments. David started off on the wrong foot by having many wives. God had told the people not to do this, especially the king of Israel.
17 “He shall not multiply wives for himself, or else his heart will turn away; nor shall he greatly increase silver and gold for himself. (Deuteronomy 17)
David saw another man’s wife and he wanted her. He took her and had sexual relations with her. She became pregnant while her husband was away at war. David knew that he was in trouble. He tried to cover up his sin. This cover up led to more sin. David ended up murdering the woman’s husband, even though her husband, at one time, was David’s most loyal friend and warrior. So, David committed adultery and broke one of the 10 Commandments. He lied about it and tried to cover it up. He coveted his neighbor’s wife. He also murdered a man. By my count, David has broken 4 of the 10 Commandments. One could also argue that he stole another man’s wife. That would be half of the 10 Commandments. God sees all of this and He sends Nathan the prophet to confront David. Nathan has a plan and he ends up getting David to condemn himself based on his actions with Bathsheba and Uriah. Psalm 51 shows us that David’s godly sorrow led him to repentance.
- Admission of sin
The first thing that we see about David is that he does not try to blame others for his actions, unlike king Saul who tried to blame Samuel. David does not try and justify himself for what he did. The is so contrary to our modern worldview. We are trained to believe that nothing is our fault. We are who we are and we do what we do, not by choice, but, by circumstances. My socioeconomic background caused me to be who I am and therefore I do what I do. I cannot be held responsible. My parents did this, or, they did not do that, therefore, I am who I am and I do what I do. This is not a new tactic. Since David was familiar with the first 5 books of the Bible, he knew the way that Adam and Eve reacted when confronted over their sin. Adam tried to blame God and Eve. Eve tried to blame the serpent. This is where we get our excuse today, “the devil made me do it”. David did not respond that way. He acknowledged his sin. He owned his sin. He knew that he had sinned against God first and foremost, and then, against the people who are created in God’s image.
Have you ever been confronted because of your sin? How did you respond? Did your pride cause you to get angry and attack the messenger? Did you try to justify yourself? Did you play the blame game? Or, did you respond as David did and admit your sin?
- Asking for mercy
The definition of mercy is “not getting what you actually deserve”. Because of his sin, his attitude and actions, David deserved to die. He took another man’s wife, which was punishable by death. He had that man killed which makes David a murderer. Murders were punished by death. David deserved to die, but, he appealed to God’s character and asked for mercy. He did not deserve mercy. He did not show mercy, but, God chose to show mercy to David. This is what grace is, receiving what you do not deserve. None of us deserves mercy from God. He shows it anyway. None of us deserves grace from God. He gives us grace anyway. David is very grateful for the gifts that he received from God. He did not demand these things from God, as if God owed him anything. He simply asked. God responded and David was grateful. I cannot help but think that David probably thought about the goodness that Abraham showed to Lot and the lack of gratitude that Lot showed back to Abraham. Lot did not deserve what Abraham did for him. Lot benefited greatly from what Abraham did. Lot did not show his gratitude to Abraham . David benefited greatly from what God did in showing him mercy and grace. David should have died but God spared him. David chose to be grateful to God and show his gratitude.
Are you grateful to God for the fact that He shows mercy to you and gives grace to you? Do you feel like God owes you something? How do you show your gratitude to God for His mercy and grace?
- Announcing God’s goodness
The first thing that David does is let everyone know that God is able to forgive our sins. Many people carry their sins around with them all of their lives, not knowing that they can be forgiven and cleansed from the stains that sin leaves in our lives and on our minds. The next thing that David announces is that God can help us be faithful to Him and walk in obedience. We would love to be able to obey God on our own but we cannot do it. We need help. God will help us if we will learn to depend on Him. David also announces that God is able to give us joy in the midst of the worst situations in life. Finally, David announces that when sinners (all of us) hear the Word of God and the attributes of God as described in His Word, we can be saved (rescued) and transformed from the inside out. This is how David shows his gratitude to God, by telling the people around him what they can receive if they will repent and turn to God. David becomes a herald for the Lord. Are you letting the people around you know what God has to offer to them?
Have you repented? Have you experienced God’s mercy and grace in your own life? Are you showing your gratitude by telling others? Do you appreciate the spiritual leaders who care enough about you to confront your sin? Is there a spiritual leader whom you need to thank for helping you stop going down the path of sin and destruction?
Based on what we have discovered, do you associate more with Saul or David when it comes to having your sins confronted?
May the Lord bless us as we share Him with the people around us!