An Unwanted Blessing?

By Mark D. Roberts

January 19, 2018

Blessed is the one you discipline, LORD,
the one you teach from your law…

Psalm 94:12


In Monday’s Life for Leaders devotion, we celebrated the fact that, in Christ, we have been blessed “with every spiritual blessing.” As you considered your many blessings, I’d be surprised if you included God’s discipline. According to Psalm 94:12, the one whom the Lord disciplines is “blessed.” (The Hebrew word used here, ’ashrei, can also mean “fortunate” or “happy.”)

A collection of neon sign words, with some attributes crossed out.We’re blessed when God disciplines us? That isn’t intuitive to me. When I hear the word “discipline,” a part of me winces. “Discipline” reminds me of unhappy times in my childhood, times when I was punished for doing something wrong. My parents were not unreasonably harsh with me, but, as you can imagine, I hated being disciplined. It never felt like blessing, that’s for sure.

As a parent, I had to discipline my children when they were young. I didn’t like being on the giving side of discipline any better, to tell you the truth. While, as a father, I realized that my kids needed to be disciplined for their own growth, I still hated being the one who made them feel bad.

So, when I come upon Psalm 94:12, my visceral response is negative: “Blessed is the one you discipline, LORD, the one you teach from your law.” How am I blessed when God disciplines me? Why should I feel happy about this?

The word translated here as “discipline” (yasar in Hebrew) can mean “chastise” or “punish.” Yet the dominant sense of yasar is one of instruction. We see this clearly in the parallelism of verse 12, where God’s discipline is lined up with God’s instruction. According to this psalm, there are times when God acts to discipline his people, not out of vindictiveness, but out of a desire to instruct. God’s primary mode of discipline or instruction is teaching through his revelation. But sometimes this teaching takes the form of negative consequences, even quite severe ones.

In my own life, there have been times when God’s instruction pointed out my sin. I have experienced the chastisement of God many times when I have read his Word with an open mind and heart. Moreover, the Spirit of God has convicted me of my sin more times than I would like to remember. Yet if I remember that God’s discipline is for my own good, and that it is an expression of God’s parental care for me, then I can receive it as a blessing (well, almost, anyway). As it says in Deuteronomy 8:5: “Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the LORD your God disciplines you.”

Something to Think About:

In most churches today, we don’t hear much about God’s discipline. Why not?

Have you ever experienced what you believe to be God’s discipline? When? What happened? How did you respond?

Something to Do:

Take time to think about your life and relationship with God. Is God disciplining you in some way? If so, how are you responding? How might you learn what God wants you to know?


Gracious God, you know the notion of your discipline is an uncomfortable one for me. I don’t like being disciplined. Most of all, I hate feeling ashamed when I have failed. Perhaps the worst part of such discipline is having to confront my own shortcomings and bad choices.

Yet Psalm 94 encourages me to think of your discipline as a blessing. So I thank you, Lord, for caring enough about me to discipline me. Thank you for instructing me through your Word, so that I might avoid more painful discipline later on. Thank you for using negative experiences to mold and form me. Help me, I pray, to receive your instruction with an open, willing, humble heart. Amen.


Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentary:
The God of Vengeance?

Mark D. Roberts

Senior Strategist

Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders,...

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