As I’ve thought and prayed lately about my son and the struggle we are walking in (you can read a little about that here), one verse has consistently came to mind:
Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of correction will drive it far from him. -Proverbs 22:15
In the past, I went to this particular word often. Lately, as I reflect on my son’s younger days, I recall having to physically discipline him day after day after day. For longer than I care to admit, there was not one single day that the physical rod was not used on my son’s rear-end. Wherever we went, the rod went. It was horrible, but it was consistent, done in love (most of the time), and it worked! Even my son knew it worked, as he would tell me at times that he needed to be placed back under God’s umbrella of protection by receiving some discipline. (Here is a blog post I came across that explains this concept, originally taken from TeddTripp’s Shepherding A Child’s Heart.)
There came a time that we slowly ceased using that rod as discipline. Part of the reason is because he was learning obedience and didn’t need it as often. Another reason was because our foster children came to live with us, and since we were unable to discipline them in a way that utilized anything physical (believe me when I say this may have been the most difficult issue of my life), we resorted to other methods such as time-outs. As time went on, I found myself sending my son to ‘time-out,’ something we hadn’t previously done with our children. Eventually the physical discipline disappeared altogether.
Now my son is ten, and the years of physical discipline have passed. To use the rod at this point would only produce in him frustration, humiliation, and eventually bitterness and a hardened heart. As Proverbs 22:15 repeatedly came to my mind without fail throughout this past week, I kept disregarding it, thinking it simply didn’t apply any longer to the discipline of our children. However, I finally decided to seek God and the scriptures for an understanding of the rod as it pertains to my children, and I was drawn to the story of Moses.
In Exodus, Moses converses with God at the burning bush, when God informs him that he is to return to Egypt and release the Israelites from bondage. Moses responds by asking what he’s supposed to do if the people don’t believe he was sent by God (Ex 4:1). This is when God points out the rod in Moses’ hand, turns it into a serpent , back into a rod, and then proclaims “that they may believe that the LORD God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you” (Ex 4:5). This spoke to me in such a powerful way! The purpose of the rod in this situation was to make known who God is, and the authority He placed in Moses.
In chapters 7, 8, 9, 10, and 14, Moses and Aaron are commanded to use the rod for one purpose: “By this you shall know that I am the Lord” (Ex 7:17). After the Israelites are freed from the bondage of Egypt, we find them complaining of thirst in the desert. God sends Moses with the rod before the people to strike a rock, which springs forth water for all to drink (Ex 17:1-6). Moses is instructed on a later occurrence to again take the rod and go with Aaron before the people. This time however, God tells him to simply speak to the rock. Instead, Moses loudly proclaims the Israelites to be rebels and rather than speak to the rock, he strikes it not once, but twice, and water gushed from the rock, relieving the thirsty Israelites (Num 20:7-12).
This too spoke strongly to me regarding the rod and my children. I’m beginning to see the rod as more than just a physical device of discipline. God used the rod to show Himself to His children and to proclaim the authority He bestowed upon Moses as their leader. There were times for striking with the rod, and there were times for simply speaking the words of God. Yet, while Moses was to merely speak, he never ceased to bear the rod- the authority of God over the people. Could the rod of correction at times be the Word, which is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness (2 Tim 3:16) and spoken by the one holding God’s authority in another’s life?
The use of the rod must be backed with purpose and that purpose is to gently restore my children in their relationship with God, with me, and with others (Gal 6:1). Yet, I am an imperfect parent, and I fall short. However, even when I misrepresent the Lord to my children, and abuse the authority He has given me, as Moses did by striking the rock, God continues ministering to my children and providing for my children just as He did for the children of Israel. And just as Moses received a sever consequence (not leading the Israelites into the Promised Land) I too will be unable to receive God’s promises in my life, unable to lead my children in areas of blessing.
So how does Proverbs 22:15 and the use of the rod apply to me and my children? How do I take this word and use it in our home? I compiled a list of ten applications:
1. Don’t be surprised or caught off guard by my children’s foolishness and sin (Pro 22:15)
2. Remember that sin is a heart issue and things take time to ‘unbind’ (Pro 22:15)
3. Feed my children the word of God at all times and believe God for who He is (Deut 6:7, Num 20:12)
5. Take my role of authority seriously, leading by example, and not abusing that roll (1 Pt5:2-3)
6. Be quick to confess to my children and ask forgiveness when I fall short (Matt 5:23-24)
7. Be gentle during times of discipline, always purposing to bring reconciliation (Gal 6:1, Matt 5:24)
8. Be aware that harsh discipline has the potential to provoke my children to wrath (Eph6:4)
9. Don’t misrepresent God to them (Numb 20:12)
10. And, of course, Pray with and for them (Col 4:2)
Well, that sums up today’s novel. What are your thoughts on the rod and discipline, specifically for those children who are beyond the years of physical discipline?
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me –Psalm 23:4
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