The Punitive / Chastitive Will of God

The punitive will of God involves God’s judgement over those who take Him lightly and question His Word. The classic Old Testament example of the punitive will of God in action is found in Numbers 22. Balak, the king of Moab desired the prophet Balaam to curse the children of Israel. He sent messengers to seek out the prophet in order to hire him for the nefarious work. However, God warned Balaam strictly not to go to Moab and curse the children of Israel (Numbers 22:12). The force of the command was the same as that of the Ten Commandments. It was a clear and explicit message to Balaam not to proceed with the messengers from Moab. Thus, Balaam told the servants of Balak that he was forbidden to go with them.

Nevertheless, Balak did not give up. This time he sent men more honourable than those from the first instance, promising to promote Balaam with very great honour. Balaam, being a false prophet, was swayed by the promise of an enormous “pay packet”. He thus decided to consult the LORD a second time whether he should go with the princes of Moab. This time the LORD told Balaam to go with the messengers of Moab.

Did the LORD change His mind concerning the messengers of Moab? In no way! The Scriptures explicitly teaches us that God is immutable and unchangeable in His character. “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?” (Numbers 23:19 KJV) Balaam should have heeded God’s warning the first time and not asked God the second time for permission to go with the princes of Moab. All this only reveals the heart of Balaam, that he was a false prophet motivated by material gain.

Why then did the LORD ask Balaam to go with the princes of Mo-ab? This command to “go” was not that of promotion, but of destruction – not “go and be blessed” but “go and die”! This is the punitive will of God in action.
As Balaam journeyed on to Moab, the ass of Balaam tried to prevent him from proceeding, choosing to crush Balaam’s foot against the wall in order to avoid the sword of the Angel of the LORD. When the angel of the LORD finally revealed Himself to Balaam, He rebuked Balaam, saying, “Thy way is perverse before me.” (Numbers 22:32). Balaam confessed that he has sinned. However, he still proceeded to go with the princes of Moab. That certainly sealed the end of Balaam. In Numbers 31:8, we read of Balaam’s death at the hands of the children of Israel. The LORD punished him for his rebellion and iniquity.

The New Testament counterpart to Balaam is seen in the traitor Judas Iscariot. Despite hearing Christ’s gracious teachings, he still sought to betray his Master for thirty pieces of silver. At the last supper of Jesus with the disciples, Christ told Judas, “That thou doest, do quickly.” (John 13:27) What was the end of Judas? He ended his own life by hanging himself on a tree on a cliff. When he fell to his death, his bowels burst, illustrating the severity of his condemnation. O let no one be found a traitor in the eyes of the Lord!

On the other hand, the punitive will of God is not operative in the lives of true believers. Rather, they will experience the chastitive will of God. When saints stray from the way of righteousness, God will apply His “divine sugarcane” (Timothy Tow) to bring them to a right fellowship with Him. While the punitive will leads to the destruction of reprobates, the chastitive will leads the believers to a sweet restoration with the Lord Jesus Christ.

“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: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.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? 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. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless after-ward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed.” (Hebrews 12:5-13 KJV)

When I was studying in university, I did not keep the Lord’s Day holy thinking that I could steal some time for my studies. Alas, despite my hard work, the Lord gave me the worst results I ever had for my tertiary studies. By the divine sugarcane, I learnt never to steal time for myself on the Lord’s Day, and to devote it wholly unto the Lord. It was a painful lesson, yet very sweet!

The chastitive will of God is also applied corporately as seen in church discipline. Church discipline can take the form of admonishment, rebuke, suspension, deposition or excommunication (Constitution 8.2). This is done not to destroy, but to protect the purity of the church, and restore the sinner. “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” (Galatians 6:1 KJV)

Lovingly in Christ,
Preacher Clement Chew