One thing that we see in both our readings for this morning is that when God starts working to redeem his people, it often feels at first like an inconvenience. It feels uncomfortable—and sometimes even a bit painful. Gideon’s actions in tearing down the altar of Baal and cutting down the Asherah pole get his neighbors so riled up that they want to put him to death. And the fact that the gospel is now going out to the Gentiles has stirred up no end of controversy within the largely Jewish church—to the point where a council has to be convened to address and attempt to settle the matter. As God begins to work. As his redemptive plan begins to be accomplished, and as the message of redemption begins to go out things start to get stirred up. Things get messy. People get upset.
Why is this? Well, I think that the obvious answer is that we sinners like to stay as we are. We are either comfortable in our idolatry like the people of Gideon’s day, or we are comfortable with our preconceived ideas about how and when God should do what he does. When God begins to work in ways that we don’t like or according to a timetable that conflicts with ours—like some of the early church—we get extremely uncomfortable and upset. We get jealous that God seems to be blessing those people with his grace—while we seem to be languishing in hard times.
Whether it’s because God is challenging our idolatry or exposing a lack of love for our neighbor—even though it is often painful, ultimately God is allowing us to experience that pain for our good. You may have heard the saying that God afflicts the comfortable and comforts the afflicted. And this is true. This is what his two words of Law and Gospel go forth to do. The law afflicts us by showing us our true lack of fear, love, and trust in God. It smashes our idolatrous altars. It reveals the coldness of our hearts and shows us how we fail to love our neighbors. But this is not God’s ultimate purpose. Not to destroy us. Not to leave us in misery. But to bring us to the point where we cry out for him. So that he can heal us through his words of promise. Through the gospel. So that he can remind us that he once afflicted his only begotten Son on our behalf. In our place. The Son who had worshipped no idols. The Son who had shown perfect love. But also the Son who stood in our place. Who was smitten, stricken, and afflicted for you and for me.
That’s why the writer of Hebrews admonishes us not to despise the discipline of the Lord. (12:5) The Lord disciplines the one he loves. The Lord’s discipline is proof that we are his dear children, and that he is our dear Father. The Lord’s discipline is the first step on the road to redemption.