chastisementLet’s face it, nobody likes to be chastised. To be corrected and told to repent and change is embarrassing, humiliating, and hard to hear. Who actually likes to be told they are wrong and that they need to change? The truth of the matter is this, if we want to return home to our Father in Heaven, we will be corrected, and often. The sooner we learn to appreciate these required course corrections, and the spirit in which they are given, the better. Chastisement is meant to be a blessing.

Note: This article is longer than most you will find on this site. It is longer because there is much here that is meant to be instructional. Please read it in a spirit of receiving important instruction.

First, some background

How long have we been hearing from the Lord that he wants to chasten us? The earliest  verse I found was in Leviticus 26. I’ll get to this chapter and cover it in some detail in a moment. First, I would like to talk about why the Lord feels a need to be “cruel to be kind” as the old adage goes.

The word chastise in the 1828 Webster’s Dictionary is the meaning of the word as Joseph Smith would have understood it to be. It has this 3-part definition:

1. To correct by punishing; to punish; to inflict pain by stripes, or in other manner, for the purpose of punishing an offender and recalling him to his duty.

2. To reduce to order or obedience; to restrain; to awe; to repress.

3. To correct; to purify by expunging faults; as, to chastise a poem.

The purpose behind a chastisement is to be reminded of our duty, to bring us back into a state of obedience, and to expunge or erase faults (to purify us). The Lord does not chastise us because he is actually vengeful, spiteful, or because he just likes to see us suffer. When he makes us suffer he has a specific goal in mind, and it is completely motivated by love. If He has to punish us it is only because we will not listen to Him and we have broken the covenants we have made with Him.

Chastisement and covenants

First and foremost we need to remember that God wants all of his children to be happy. The basic 10 commandments are found in almost every culture on earth in one form or another. Only when a society reaches a state of great wickedness does He step in and punish them because they aren’t adhering to even the most basic rules of decency.

But it is His children who make covenants with Him through the priesthood that he holds to the highest standards of behavior. Covenants are serious business. Only those who make covenants with God, and uphold those covenants through their obedience to God have claim on the highest blessings of eternity. The children of Israel may have had the basic 10 commandments to live up to, but they were a covenant-making people, so when they violated those covenants the punishment was harsh. Keep this in mind, because we are also a covenant people, and we have made far higher covenants than the children of Israel ever did.

Let’s look at Leviticus 26. This chapter will give you a pretty clear picture of just how seriously the Lord treats the keeping or breaking of covenants. Keep in mind as we go through these verses that we are also a covenant people. This chapter talks about the importance of keeping the Sabbath day holy, along with the importance of not placing idols ahead of God in our hearts. If you think His punishment for violating these covenants is harsh for them, think about what we will have to suffer if we violate these same commandments!

1 Ye shall make you no idols nor graven image, neither rear you up a standing image, neither shall ye set up any image of stone in your land, to bow down unto it: for I am the Lord your God.

2 Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am the Lord.

3 If ye walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments, and do them;

4 Then I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit.

5 And your threshing shall reach unto the vintage, and the vintage shall reach unto the sowing time: and ye shall eat your bread to the full, and dwell in your land safely.

6 And I will give peace in the land, and ye shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid: and I will rid evil beasts out of the land, neither shall the sword go through your land.

7 And ye shall chase your enemies, and they shall fall before you by the sword.

8 And five of you shall chase an hundred, and an hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight: and your enemies shall fall before you by the sword.

9 For I will have respect unto you, and make you fruitful, and multiply you, and establish my covenant with you.

10 And ye shall eat old store, and bring forth the old because of the new.

11 And I will set my tabernacle among you: and my soul shall not abhor you.

12 And I will walk among you, and will be your God, and ye shall be my people.

13 I am the Lord your God, which brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, that ye should not be their bondmen; and I have broken the bands of your yoke, and made you go upright.

These are some pretty solid promises. No enemy can conquer God’s people. He will show his might in protecting his people. They will live in peace. They will have bountiful harvests and never be taken captive by outside enemies. They shall have peace from nature in that it will rain when it is supposed to rain and they will be blessed with plenty of food. In other words, there will not be anything to destroy their happiness. They will have no reason to live in fear. How many countries today would figuratively give their right arm to have these promises?

But, if the people abandon the covenants they have made with God, He will turn on them and fight against them. And who can fight against God? Remember, they had already made covenants to obey God. If they don’t obey Him in all things then they have violated the agreement and trust set up between them and their God.

14 But if ye will not hearken unto me, and will not do all these commandments;

15 And if ye shall despise my statutes, or if your soul abhor my judgments, so that ye will not do all my commandments, but that ye break my covenant:

16 I also will do this unto you; I will even appoint over you terror, consumption, and the burning ague, that shall consume the eyes, and cause sorrow of heart: and ye shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it.

17 And I will set my face against you, and ye shall be slain before your enemies: they that hate you shall reign over you; and ye shall flee when none pursueth you.

18 And if ye will not yet for all this hearken unto me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins.

When He says they will be punished seven more times for their sins, remember that the number seven refers to completeness. There will be no escaping the consequences of their traitorous behavior. They have made covenants with God. They have violated those covenants and spurned Him. This is the list of His punishments for their prideful behavior.

19 And I will break the pride of your power; and I will make your heaven as iron, and your earth as brass:

20 And your strength shall be spent in vain: for your land shall not yield her increase, neither shall the trees of the land yield their fruits.

21 And if ye walk contrary unto me, and will not hearken unto me; I will bring seven times more plagues upon you according to your sins.

22 I will also send wild beasts among you, which shall rob you of your children, and destroy your cattle, and make you few in number; and your high ways shall be desolate.

Note the number of times in this chapter that the people are promised complete (seven) desolation if they persist in their evil. Next we see why the Lord punishes (chastises) His people. He wants to reform them, to bring them back into compliance with the covenants they have made. Why? Because obedience and compliance with our covenants brings peace and happiness.

23 And if ye will not be reformed by me by these things, but will walk contrary unto me;

24 Then will I also walk contrary unto you, and will punish you yet seven times for your sins.

25 And I will bring a sword upon you, that shall avenge the quarrel of my covenant: and when ye are gathered together within your cities, I will send the pestilence among you; and ye shall be delivered into the hand of the enemy.

What is the “quarrel of my covenant?” A covenant is a contract. When we make a covenant then break that covenant we have broken a law that was privately made between us and God. The punishments He talks about are the just recompense for our breaking His laws.

26 And when I have broken the staff of your bread, ten women shall bake your bread in one oven, and they shall deliver you your bread again by weight: and ye shall eat, and not be satisfied.

27 And if ye will not for all this hearken unto me, but walk contrary unto me;

28 Then I will walk contrary unto you also in fury; and I, even I, will chastise you seven times for your sins.

29 And ye shall eat the flesh of your sons, and the flesh of your daughters shall ye eat.

30 And I will destroy your high places, and cut down your images, and cast your carcases upon the carcases of your idols, and my soul shall abhor you.

31 And I will make your cities waste, and bring your sanctuaries unto desolation, and I will not smell the savour of your sweet odours.

32 And I will bring the land into desolation: and your enemies which dwell therein shall be astonished at it.

33 And I will scatter you among the heathen, and will draw out a sword after you: and your land shall be desolate, and your cities waste.

34 Then shall the land enjoy her sabbaths, as long as it lieth desolate, and ye be in your enemies’ land; even then shall the land rest, and enjoy her sabbaths.

35 As long as it lieth desolate it shall rest; because it did not rest in your sabbaths, when ye dwelt upon it.

36 And upon them that are left alive of you I will send a faintness into their hearts in the lands of their enemies; and the sound of a shaken leaf shall chase them; and they shall flee, as fleeing from a sword; and they shall fall when none pursueth.

37 And they shall fall one upon another, as it were before a sword, when none pursueth: and ye shall have no power to stand before your enemies.

38 And ye shall perish among the heathen, and the land of your enemies shall eat you up.

39 And they that are left of you shall pine away in their iniquity in your enemies’ lands; and also in the iniquities of their fathers shall they pine away with them.

His promises that the people would eat their own children were literally fulfilled more than once in the history of Israel. There were times when Jerusalem was under siege and the starving people began to eat each other. Remember that prophecy is not prediction. Prophecy is a statement of fact. It is the truth about what will happen in the future given the conditions the Lord gives His people either being met or being ignored. There is never a good reason to ignore a prophecy, because every prophecy happens just as it was delivered to the prophet.

In these last verses of the chapter the Lord tells them how to turn away his wrath over their breaking of the laws they agreed to with Him. Notice that the conditions of appeasing the Lord include requiring that they accept His punishments as being just, and they must confess their sins and turn from their wicked ways and keep the commandments once again. If they will do these things He will restore them and bless them as He did in the beginning.

40 If they shall confess their iniquity, and the iniquity of their fathers, with their trespass which they trespassed against me, and that also they have walked contrary unto me;

41 And that I also have walked contrary unto them, and have brought them into the land of their enemies; if then their uncircumcised hearts be humbled, and they then accept of the punishment of their iniquity:

42 Then will I remember my covenant with Jacob, and also my covenant with Isaac, and also my covenant with Abraham will I remember; and I will remember the land.

43 The land also shall be left of them, and shall enjoy her sabbaths, while she lieth desolate without them: and they shall accept of the punishment of their iniquity: because, even because they despised my judgments, and because their soul abhorred my statutes.

44 And yet for all that, when they be in the land of their enemies, I will not cast them away, neither will I abhor them, to destroy them utterly, and to break my covenant with them: for I am the Lord their God.

45 But I will for their sakes remember the covenant of their ancestors, whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the heathen, that I might be their God: I am the Lord.

46 These are the statutes and judgments and laws, which the Lord made between him and the children of Israel in mount Sinai by the hand of Moses.

The blessings of chastisement

Proverbs 13:18 says: “Poverty and shame shall be to him that refuseth instruction: but he that regardeth reproof shall be honoured.” As an example of this, look at the story of Saul, David, and Solomon. Saul was chosen by the Lord and given great promises, but he rejected the instructions he received from the prophet (he refused instruction) and did what he wanted, so the Lord took away his throne and gave it to David. David was also given great promises, but committed great sin, so when he wanted to build a house to the Lord, he was told that he couldn’t, but his son (Solomon) could. The Lord told David, through the prophet Nathan, that he would have a special covenant relationship with David’s son. But if he committed sin he would be chastened, but he wouldn’t take away his throne as He had done with Saul. 2 Samuel 7:13-15

13 He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever.

14 I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men:

15 But my mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before thee.

Even the mighty Solomon, the greatest king in all the earth was punished by God because of his sins against the covenants God made with him. And why does God punish those who make covenants then break them? As mentioned earlier, it is because a covenant is a private law (and all laws have blessings and punishments attached) between God and the person making the covenant. The covenants offer blessings not available to those who are not willing to enter into this special relationship with God. God has a special love for a covenant maker and covenant keeper, because that is the person He can bless the most.

The chastisement is given to the covenant breaker in order to remind them of their duty to the covenant and to give them an opportunity to humble themselves and be obedient once again. The only thing the Lord gets out of the covenant is a child who works hard to come home and live with Him. What we get out of keeping our covenants is eternal glory and increase in the presence of God and Christ with our loved ones for eternity. We have everything to lose through disobedience and everything to gain through obedience. It all depends on what we choose to do about the covenants we have made.

Again, the chastisement isn’t just to cause us to suffer. The purpose of the chastisement is to remind us of our duty and to humble us so we can repent and be blessed. Let’s look at Hebrews 12:5-11.

5 And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:

6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.

7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?

8 But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.

9 Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?

10 For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.

11 Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.

This beautiful passage reminds us that when we have violated the commandments of God and we are suffering for our sins, that we should not give up just because life is difficult at that point. The Lord requires that anyone who wants to be called his son must be willing to be corrected by Him as our Father. If we claim to be the sons and daughters of God, but are not willing to take correction from Him then we are no better than a bastard child who refuses to acknowledge our Father as our legitimate bloodline. Note that we make ourselves bastards by making covenants then breaking our promises and not repenting of our sins.

We are willing to be corrected by our own earthly fathers, and we still love and respect them, then why not our heavenly Father? He says in verse 10 that God chastens us for this reason, that we might become partakers of his holiness. He admits that being chastened or corrected is grievous, but that the fruits of that correction, accepted and profited from by the child, yields righteousness. Isn’t that the very reason we are here in mortality?

In 2 Timothy 3:16-17 we are told that all scriptures are given for reproof and correction. This is why we are told to study the scriptures and search them for understanding. It is by accepting their teachings, and living them, that we see the error of our ways and repent, bringing into our lives the joy of righteous living.

16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

Modern lesson on God’s chastisement

The Sunday School lesson #18 in the 2017 manual is about establishing a house of the Lord in the early days of the Church. Some of the people who had made covenants had sinned against their covenants, and the Lord starts section 95 of the Doctrine and Covenants with this explanation of why He chastens his people.
1 Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you whom I love, and whom I love I also chasten that their sins may be forgiven, for with the chastisement I prepare a way for their deliverance in all things out of temptation, and I have loved you—

This is so beautiful! We know that the Lord loves all people, but he particularly loves those who are willing to make covenants with Him. He tells us that the reason he chastens us is so our sins can be forgiven. That means, of course, that we must first acknowledge our sins and repent of them. But if He didn’t point out our sins and tell us how to fix them, we probably wouldn’t repent.

The next big point is that we are always given a way to escape the temptations that have ensnared us by listening to God’s chastisement. By listening and hearkening to his counsel He prepares a way for us to be delivered out of temptation. Why? Because He loves us.

I titled this article with a question. “Why Should I Be Grateful for God’s Chastisement?” The answer is, quite simply, because He loves us enough to show us the error of our ways and give us an opportunity to repent. Might we have to suffer a lot because of His chastisement? Sometimes we will. It all depends on how badly we have violated the covenants we have made with Him. But the purpose of our suffering is to enable our repentance so that ultimately we can experience joy in forgiveness and live in the glory of God’s eternal blessings, and bask in His endless love.

Chastisement is an opportunity to become better. It is an opportunity to correct mistakes and repair a damaged relationship with God. If we are smart, we will relish the opportunities that come from God’s correction. He only corrects those who seek Him, and those who seek Him receive the highest blessings He has to offer.

This article is a companion to the Gospel Doctrine Sunday School Lesson 18 – Establish … a House of God.