The Step of Discipline
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles, please, to Psalm 129:

Psalms 129

1Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth, may Israel now say:
2Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth: yet they have not prevailed against me.
3The plowers plowed upon my back: they made long their furrows.
4The LORD is righteous: he hath cut asunder the cords of the wicked.
5Let them all be confounded and turned back that hate Zion.
6Let them be as the grass upon the housetops, which withereth afore it groweth up:
7Wherewith the mower filleth not his hand; nor he that bindeth sheaves his bosom.
8Neither do they which go by say, The blessing of the LORD be upon you: we bless you in the name of the LORD.

I remind you that this psalm is among a number of psalms which we have been considering together as the “Pilgrim's Staircase.” In our last lesson we stood upon the Step of Dividends, realizing that there is blessed reward in serving the Lord. We realized that we will have the opportunity of eating the labor of our hands and enjoying the result of the service that we render to the Lord.

One or More Steps of Discipline

It is good of God to let us stand upon the Step of Dividends before we stand on the step indicated by Psalm 129, which we call the Step of Discipline. Every believer will stand upon the Step of Discipline sometime in his life. Many of you can give testimony to the fact that there has been more than one step of discipline in your Christian experience, perhaps many.

Affliction of Israel

If we consider Psalm 129 primarily from an interpretinve standpoint, we find that Israel is describing her national affliction, an affliction which she suffered in the land of Egypt and is now suffering at this present hour. This is brought to our attention in verse 1:

Psalms 129

1Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth, may Israel now say:

God revealed to Abraham in Genesis, chapter 15, verses 13 and 14, long before Israel was ever born in the loins of Isaac, that Israel would suffer in the land of Egypt in the manner in which we have described. The affliction through which Israel went was not only affliction from the hand of the enemy, but it was discipline at the hand of God and it did have an “afterward” related to it. That connects it very closely with discipline for the life of the believer today.

Hebrews, chapter 12, verse 11, ties these two passages of Scripture together. In Genesis there is an “afterwards” in relation to the nation of Israel. In chapter 12 of Hebrews, there is also an “afterwards” in relation to the disciplining of the believer.

I suggest to you that, as we stand upon the Step of Discipline, we will be aware of the prevalence of discipline in the believer's life; we will be aware of the purpose of discipline in the believer's life; we will be aware of the peace of discipline in the believer's life.

Prevalence of Discipline

The prevalence is indicated to us in verses 1 and 2, where we read:

Psalms 129

1Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth, may Israel now say:
2Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth: yet they have not prevailed against me.

The phrase “many a time” is a translation of one Hebrew word, though the phrase is twice repeated, which speaks of multiplying something over and over again–multiplying it without number. The child of God must recognize that discipline is so prevalent in his life that he will many, many times be afflicted just as Israel was and he might as well expect it.

The Lord Jesus Christ Himself said that this would be the order of our lives. Turn, please, to the Gospel of John, chapter 15, to the so-called Upper Room Discourse. Our Lord was taking leave of his immediate Disciples and He told them a number of things which would be true of them and be true of all believers. In John, chapter 15, verse 18 He says:

John 15

18If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.
19If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.
20Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord….

The Lord Jesus Christ said there would be persecution and discrimination for the child of God. In order to endure that discrimination, it is not necessary for you to go around looking peculiar, babbling about how much you love the Lord. It is not necessary for you to go around with a Bible stuck under your arm. The very fact that you are related to the Lord Jesus Christ stirs up the enmity in Satan and his kingdom and God says that you can expect a hard time for that reason if for no other.

Purpose of Discipline - Correction

As we stand on the Step of Discipline, we consider not only the prevalence of discipline in the believer's life, but we consider the purpose of discipline as well. Now this is a wide subject and we are only going to think about two things which are suggested in Psalm 129. As far as this psalm is concerned, two reasons are given for discipline in the life of the child of God. One of the reasons is implied and the other is stated. The implied reason is found in verses 1 and 2.

Psalms 129

1Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth, may Israel now say:

If you are familiar with your Bible, you know that Israel's affliction was related to correction. The reason that God permitted the affliction was that they were disobedient. Something was wrong in their lives, and they needed correction. I say to you that the purpose of discipline is implied in the affliction of Israel and that purpose is correction.

Correction In the Life of a Believer

I do not believe I would be wrong to say that in the life of every believer there comes a time when there is a need for correction. At the moment of salvation God saves us, and then He lets us live at the direction of the Holy Spirit Who dwells within us. We may live at His direction or we may not live at His direction. We may walk in the Spirit or we may walk in the flesh.

In I Corinthians, chapter 11, we are told what happens when we walk in the flesh. Things get out of kilter and judgment is necessary. Correction is an absolute necessity. So God says, in verse 31 of that chapter:

I Corinthians 11

31For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.
32But when we are judged, we are chastened [disciplined] of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.

God says to me, “Joe Temple, that thing isn't right. You know that it isn't right, and you have known that it isn't right for some time. That thing in your life is not right. Now straighten it out!” And I straighten it out. How do I straighten it out? I John 1:9 is the answer:

I John 1

9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

If what I have been doing has affected someone else, I go to the someone else, and I get it straightened out also. The Bible says that if my brother has something against me then I am obligated to gain my brother–to go to him and get the thing straightened out.

Disciplining the Believer

God says, “Get that straightened out, Joe Temple.” God says, “If you don't get it straightened out, Joe Temple, I'm going to.” I turn a deaf ear, and then discipline comes. Then I realize that God is disciplining me for that thing which I refused to make right. By the time He is through with the disciplining, I make it right.

You see, God never makes you do anything you don't want to do; He just makes you want to do it. He has a way of doing that. When He makes you want to do it, you are glad you made the thing right.

Now God cannot condemn you; He has already saved you, but He is not going to let you get by with disobedience either. There is a purpose in discipline and that purpose is correction.

Disciplining to Produce a Harvest

Look again, please at Psalm 129 and notice another side of discipline. The discipline may not be solely for correction! There is stated reason suggested in Psalm 129. It is brought to our attention by what we read in verse 3:

Psalms 129

3The plowers plowed upon my back: they made long their furrows.

Now this is speaking about the affliction which the Israelites suffered when they were beaten with stripes, but it is an interesting thing that God chooses, four times in the Bible when He speaks of affliction, to use the figure of speech of a man plowing ground.

When you have time, read Isaiah, chapter 28, and you will find that God says, “Does the plower plow all the time? No, he doesn't plow all the time. He plows and then he breaks up the ground, and then he sows the seed.” God asks, “Why does the plower plow?” So he can sow the seed. God wants to reap a harvest. Because He wants to reap a harvest, He has to plow the ground and sow the see. There is not other way.

The Apostle Paul quotes from these same Old Testament passages of Scripture in I Corinthians, chapter 9, verse 10 and says that the man who plows should plow in hope. Why do you plow? You plow so that you can plant. Why do you plant? You plant so that you can reap a harvest.

Beloved, that is the reason that discipline comes. That is the reason that God disciplines us. He wants us to bear more fruit. He wants to reap a harvest, and the only way He can do it is to plow the ground.

May I remind you that as we stand upon the Step of Discipline that God does discipline us because we need correction. God does discipline us because He wants to cultivate the ground that there might be more fruit available. Don't despise discipline of the Lord. We must be exercised by it.

Peace In Discipline

Rest in peace in the midst of discipline because, as we stand on the Step of Discipline, not only the purpose of the discipline, but we consider the peace that is found in the midst of the discipline as well.

I suggest to you as you glance at verse 2 of Psalm 129 that the peace which we are able to have in the midst of discipline is related to the indestructability of the saints of God. We read in verse 2:

Psalms 129

2Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth: yet they have not prevailed against me.

“Over and over and over, the discipline has come,” he says, “but they have not prevailed against me.” The word “prevailed” is a very interesting word. It is a translation of a Hebrew word which is translated “overcome” and which is also translated “to have power over.” You know, some folk are overcome with the discipline. Some folk let that discipline have power over them. They become bitter because of it, and it doesn't accomplish its purpose. There is no discipline through which you and I will be called upon to go, Beloved, that will ever crush us.

When I think about the crushing that can be related to discipline unless we learn to yield to the blow, I'm reminded of what the Apostle Paul says in II Corinthians, chapter 4, verse 9

II Corinthians 4

9Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;

Someone has translated that phrase. “knocked down, but not knocked out.” Thank God!

Discipline is prevalent. It has a purpose, but you do not need to lose your confidence. You can live in peace because of the indestructibility of the saints. It can not prevail against you.

Dependability of the Savior

I would give you an added word of courage as we glance again at Psalm 129 and suggest that, in verse 4 there is another reason why the discipline will not be too much, another reason why you can live in peace. We read in verse 4:

Psalms 129

4The LORD is righteous: he hath cut asunder the cords of the wicked.

I suggest to you not only the indestructibility of the saints but the dependability of the Savior. Thank God for that. He is dependable. The Lord is good; the Lord is righteous, and He does cut asunder the bands of the wicked.

Inability of Satan

The third thing that I want to point out to you is that there is peace in the midst of discipline because of the inability of Satan and his hosts. I want to emphasize this. Sometimes we talk about the power of the Devil to such an extent that some people get the idea that he is more powerful than the Lord. They get the idea that he is more powerful than the Christian. They get the idea that the Christian is at his mercy, but that isn't true. Beloved, Satan is unable to win the victory over you and over me.

Ultimate Defeat of Satan

Satan and all of his hosts are described in verses 5 through 7 of this psalm. Now this paragraph bothers some people. They say a Christain should not pray like that. He should not pray, “Let all my enemies be confounded, let them all dry up and blow away.” Well, maybe he should not pray that way, but isn't that the way you feel about it a lot of times?

You don't need to be concerned about the psalmist doing something wrong. If we were reading this in the original text we would find that every one of the verbs are in a future, perfect tense. It is not suggesting that the psalmist is praying this way. It simply is suggesting that he is recognizing what is going to happen to the wicked and to Satan. The wicked and Satan are not going to last long.

The psalmist says, “I'll tell you one thing; the people who were against us, Satan and all of his hosts, are never going to reap a harvest.” So you see, they are not so much to be afraid of after all.

Certainty of Discipline

Are you standing upon the Step of Discipline right now? Is the Lord's hand resting heavily upon you? Have you been spending some sleelpless night? Have you been shedding some tears? Have you been groaning within yourself because there isn't anyone to whom you can talk about the disciplining hand of God that is resting upon you? Are you wondering how much longer it is going to last? Take courage as you stand upon the Step of Discipline. Be exercised by the discipline and be ready to reap the harvest.


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