God's Parenting and Punishment

Beth at Red and Honey wrote a beautiful piece yesterday on her parenting philosophy that sparked a bunch of ideas in my mind. I love Beth's writing because I feel like even though we are different people in very different places in life, we share some heart loves, including making words tell our feelings, seeking beauty in the ordinary, and discovering that God's plan is bigger, deeper, harder and better than our own.

I love Beth's heart for her kids and have so many posts flagged in my mind to pull up in future times when my kids are eating play-doh and breaking their crayons. What challenged me most yesterday though was not her perspective on parenting so much as the connection of God parenting us. And all my thoughts swirling around are definitely too long to leave as a comment on her blog!

Beth says, obedience and compliance are inferior goals in parenting.
I totally agree, and I agree because I believe God's goal in our relationship is not obedience but rather fulfillment. Obedience is the path that God leads me toward knowing him and reflecting him, but it is not the final purpose. If it was, God could have made things a whole lot easier on everyone and left out the part where he gave us free will.

What I struggle with in Beth's piece is the dichotomy set up between Old Covenant and New Covenant, the idea that God used to punish us, but now he gently draws us back to what is right when we fall away. Of course, she is highlighting the difference between parenting philosophies, not theology. But it got me thinking...

Beth refers to a contrast between external controls (priests, temples, sacrifices) and inner controls (the Holy Spirit as conscience and guide) in two different paradigms of parenting, but I would love to talk about that grey area in between, where discipline happens, when something imposed externally changes the internal for the better. So I busted out my new favourite online tool - the interlinear Bible/lexicon! - to search up how "punishment" really looks in the Old Testament.

The word yacar means to chasten, discipline, or instruct. It appears 42 times in the Old Testament including

  • Leviticus 26:18 - 'If also after these things you do not obey Me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins.'
  • Leviticus 26:23 - 'And if by these things you are not turned to Me, but act with hostility against Me,'
  • Deuteronomy 4:36 - 'Out of the heavens He let you hear His voice to discipline you; and on earth He let you see His great fire, and you heard His words from the midst of the fire.'
  • Hosea 7:15 - 'Although I trained and strengthened their arms, Yet they devise evil against Me.'
Paqad is translated as punish, punished, or punishment 53 times in the NAS Bible (out of 297 uses of the word - to number is another common translation).
  • 1 Samuel 15:2 - 'Thus says the LORD of hosts, 'I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel...''
  • Exodus 3:16 - "Go and gather the elders of Israel together and say to them, 'The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, has appeared to me, saying, "I am indeed concerned about you and what has been done to you in Egypt."

From what I see in Scripture, God's heart toward the people he created does not change. His desire is for us to be all he made us to be, for us to know justice, faithfulness and love in this broken world, and to know it not only from Him but from each other as well! For this to happen, for God to make a people who are different and set apart for himself, discipline has to be involved, and it won't look the same for all of us! But I am not afraid to be punished by God because I believe Jesus took the punishment for my SIN, and God's punishment for my mess-ups (aka small s sins) will ultimately make me better.

Read more http://movingwithgod.blogspot.com/2012/02/gods-parenting-and-punishment.html