Do you remember the last time you had a sliver? The entire experience of removing a sliver has changed greatly as an adult, hasn’t it? Now, when I have a sliver in my finger or in my hand, I get out the pocket knife or tweezers and dig it out. But as a child, when my father attempted the same approach, I thought I might die! I would scream and cry and beg my dad to just “leave it alone!” However, he couldn’t. With a sliver comes the possibility of infection and, if left alone, that little sliver could become a big problem. The pain of removing that sliver isn’t pleasant, but it is necessary to deal with the corruption present and to avoid an even more painful situation. Which brings me to Thomas Watson and the discussion of a far more serious form of corruption.
Last week, we began looking at Thomas Watson’s answers to the question: “Why does God let his people be in the house of bondage or in an afflicted state?” Watson raised this question and answered it as he worked through Exodus 20 and the Ten Commandments. You will remember that God reminds His people of their redemption (“I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage” Exodus 20:2) before He sets forth the model for their obedience. However, that phrase “house of bondage” does raise the question of why God would allow His own, His chosen, His children to undergo pain and suffering. Here is Watson’s second answer:
For purgation; to purge our corruption. ‘And this is all the fruit, to take away his sin'(Isaiah 27:9). The eye, though a tender part, yet when sore, we put sharp powders and waters into it to eat out the pearl; so though the people of God are dear to him, yet, when corruption begins to grow in them, he will apply the sharp powder of affliction, to eat out the pearl in the eye. Affliction is God’s flail to thresh off our husks; it is a means God uses to purge out sloth, luxury, pride, and love of the world. God’s furnace is in Zion. (Isaiah 31:9). This is not to consume, but to refine. What if we have more affliction, if by this means we have less sin!
When I read through this second answer, it reminds me of my duties as a father. I love my daughter and I try to always have that love be my motive for disciplining her. I don’t want sin to run unchecked in her life because I know that it will only grow and, eventually, seriously harm her. Although the discipline is uncomfortable for her (and me too!), it is so much better than the alternative. And the same is true for us. God will use the “house of bondage” to make us holy, as He uses the affliction to drive us to Him and away from sin. The trials are His way to remove the slivers of corruption and make His people -His children- healthy, sound, and more like Him.