In the immediate moment, children do not desire or welcome chastening. Deep within their hearts, however, they long for the security fostered by the parent who loves his child enough to enact discipline as necessary. Thus, the child reared without chastening may for a time like his father or mother who spare the rod. But he will never truly love or respect the parent who fails to protect him from the dangers imposed by his own waywardness.
"Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him" (Proverbs 22:15).
In similar manner, it would be impossible to love God if we did not realize and fear His willingness to chasten and scourge us. A weak and overly tolerant Heavenly Father would be no real father at all, and certainly one we could not respect. Scripture clearly states that Divine love inflicts loss and pain when necessary - "whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth." Conversely, failure to discipline would actually involve a tacit hatred - "he that spareth his rod hateth his son" (Hebrews 12:6; Proverbs 13:24). Properly understanding this Biblical definition of genuine love reconciles the fear of God with the lovingkindness of God. The latter may certainly bless us with a more pleasant contemplation and expectation of blessing. But the Scripturally astute mind understands the rightness of the former, and the necessity of its tempering influence.
The born again believer in the Lord Jesus Christ who recognizes with the Apostle Paul that "in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing" understands the place for both lovingkindness and fear in our spiritual understanding of God (Romans 7:18). Much of our Christian life involves motivation as fostered by our amazed discovery of the affectionate tendermercies that fill the heart of God for us. The fleshly inclinations for sin that remain in us, however, also make necessary the rod of God, and as importantly, the clear awareness that our Shepherd will perform His discipline as required. The New Testament declares this fullness of love no less than does the Old, and in fact, the writer of Hebrews plainly states the direct relationship of grace and fear:
"Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear" (Hebrews 12:28).
If we are genuinely having grace, the fear of God will be found mong the blessed fruits of such experience. We presently require this awareness and sensibility, and our Heavenly Father loves us enough to ensure that the need is supplied.
"What doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all His ways, and to love Him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul."
Tomorrow: the nature of God's chastening