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Month 5:20, Week 3:5 (Chamashee/Teruah), Year 5935:134 AM
Gregorian Calendar: Friday 19 August 2011
Abusive Discipline
What the Bible Does Not Teach

    Many of you will no doubt have been as shocked as I was by the story by reporter Gary Tuchman released three days ago by CNN of the girl spanked to death in the name of God. It has got me to do a lot of thinking and to prepare the theme for today's devotional.

    Seven year-old Lydia, the adopted daughter of 'Christians' Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz now serving long-term prison sentences for torture and murder, had beaten her for seven continuous hours on her bottom, back and feet, with piping of some sort. Such brutal discipline was commonly dished out to their seven children, with 11 year old Zariah nearly going the same way as her younger sister and narrowly escaping death. The parents claimed as justification for their actions the passages in the Book of Proverbs which read:

      "Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him" (Prov.22:15, NIV).

      "Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish (nakah) him with the rod, he will not die. Punish him with the rod and save his soul from death" (Prov.23:13-14, NIV).

      "The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother" (Prov.29:15, NIV).

    The Hebrew word nakah which our English Bible translations render as "punish" (NKJV), "correct" (RSTNE), or "beat" (KJV, RSV) is used throughout scripture and not just of parental disciplining. It carried with it no particular weight and is used both of light and harsh discipline, as well as literally and figuratively. The Hebrew shebet which our Bibles render as "rod" always refers to a thin, flexible stick or cane.

    Corporal punishment is rapidly disappearing from the West. In Western Europe, caning survives only in French schools as a means of discipline. I grew up with it at the boarding school I went to though never got anything more harsh than a half-a-dozen whacks with a bedroom slipper on the rump for talking after lights-out, with my attempts to pad my derriere with handkerchiefs to soften the blow a failure. Others I knew got the cane but then their crimes were a lot worse, like smashing property. My father, who went to the same school as I did, recounted the time he got caned (for what, he never told me) and couldn't sit down for days after.

    As to whether corporal punishment works or not, that is hard to say. For many it acts as a deterrant but it can hardly be said to deal with the real issues of many who misbehave for a variety of reasons, for whom counselling is without doubt better and for whom beating just compounds the problem. There is good evidence that much of the brutality of Mao Tse-Tung and Hitler was caused by the cruel corporal punishment of their fathers though in the case of Mao, who was bone idle as a boy while his father slaved to feed his family, he quite clearly deserved it.

    I have never had to use corporal punishment on my children for I am of the belief that if you train them well in emet (truth) and love them, you will never need to. It is, in any case, illegal in the country where I live and so it is not an option anyway. A Christian couple here is serving time in Sweden and their children given permanently into forster case because of very light and brief spanking. However, in England where uncontrollable youth have been wildly rempaging the streets of London and other cities, burning down houses and attacking innocent civilians (including the teen ambassador to the London Olympics!), one wonders whether the rod might actually do them some good. I have no doubt that a lot of Britons are thinking along those lines as they reap the fruit of the lax moral system that has engulfed the United Kingdom since the 1960's. Releasing them as the courts have done is surely folly in the extreme and a product of wishywashy liberal thinking.

    There can be no doubt that what the Schatz's did was pure evil. It was not discipline but torture. It was sadism. You do not love and cherish a child by treating them in such a monstrous and violent way. And there is no way this couple can even remotely call themselves 'Christian'. This is the kind of behaviour you expect from devil-worshippers, extreme Islamists, fascists and communists.

    Even under the Old Covenant, adult men could not be beaten in such a way - there was an absolute limit so that they would not be humilated or have their lives endangered:

      "If there is a dispute between men, and they come to court, that the judges may judge them, and they justify the righteous and condemn the wicked, then it shall be, if the wicked man deserves to be beaten, that the judge will cause him to lie down and be beaten in his presence, according to his guilt, with a certain number of blows. Forty blows he may give him and no more, lest he should exceed this and beat him with many blows above these, and your brother be humiliated in your sight" (Deut.25:1-3, NKJV).

    It is important in examining these passages that we seek balance and ask ourselves some serious questions. For it is also written in Torah:

      "You should know in your lev (heart) that as (in the same way) a man chastens his son, so Yahweh your Elohim (God) chastens you" (Deut.8:5, NKJV).

    Scripture also talks much about Yahweh using the rod of discipline against sinners though obviously a literal rod is not implied here. Discipline comes in many forms. Nathan, giving a prophecy to David about Messiah and also hinting at his son Solomon, said:

      "When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his Father, and he shall be My son. If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men and with the blows of the sons of men" (2 Sam.7:12-14, NKJV).

    Solomon apostacised, as we know, and suffered for it. He was not beaten with literal sticks but in other ways.

    It is also important to realise that the chastisement of Yahweh is always followed by healing - this is the model that we are ourselves to use:

      "Behold, happy is the man whom Elohim (God) corrects; therefore do not despise the chastening of the Almighty. For He bruises, but He binds up; He wounds, but His hands make whole. He shall deliver you in six troubles, yes, in seven no evil shall touch you" (Job 5:17-19, NKJV).

    What a contrast to the penal systems in secular society! Did the Schatz's treatment of their children remotely follow the biblical tavnith (pattern)? No! They have probably scarred their surviving children for life.

    I suspect the CNN report had a double agenda, with the first being to rightly report on and condemn an abusive couple and the second to target Bible-believing Christians in general by discrediting false ones. The second half of their interview focussed on Michael and Debbie Pearl of No Greater Joy Ministries, a copy of whose book, To Train Up a Child, was found in the Schatz house. The judge concluded that it was the Pearl book that had warped the Schatz's minds.

    Now whilst I don't fully agree with the the Pearl's view of corporal punishment I do know that as people they cannot be remotely compared to the Schatz's. Debbie Pearl's book, Created to be His Helppmeet, is without doubt biblically correct and inspirational and is a standard text in this ministry and one I highly recommend (I detail it on our Marriage page).

    There are two important things we need to remember when we cite passages from the Old Covenant when it comes to discipline and punishment, a large subject I don't have time to go into today, so these are but summaries for a more detailed study another time:

    • 1. The Torah punishments are still justly deserved for our iniquity but Yah'shua (Jesus) has taken these on Himself if we will but repent and seek His fogiveness and agree not to repeat our iniquity - our deterrant ought to be not to keep on recrucifying Him through sin;

    • 2. The "rod" of discipline - which is absolutely necessary for a healthy society - comes in many forms and does not necessarily have to be the same today as it was anciently.

    Yahweh's provision of Messiah for us ensures that His chastening of us, though painful (as Paul mentions), leads not to death (as in the case of Lydia Schatz) but to salvation. A punishment that does not work is not a chastisement but something else.

      "Surely He (Messiah) has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by Elohim (God), and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our shalom (peace) was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and Yahweh has laid on Him the iniquity of us all" (Isa.53:4-6, NKJV).

    There can be no doubt that the Schatz's, and others like them, have got major spiritual issues and should not be bringing up children at all. At the same time, government authorities should not grin in self-righteousness because from what I have seen, the modern state is guilty of no less. Torture, though denied, is practiced by Western governments. State kidnapping and trafficking of children that leads to psychological torture and death is also the responsibility of governments, and worse - recall the recent 28 year sentence and imprisonment of Pennsylvania Judge Mark Ciavarella. Pointing out the sins of deviants like the Schatz's does not absolve the authorities of their own crimes, nor shall we allow them to stereotype and demonise all Bible-believing Christians and Messianics because of some rotten apples here and there else what is to stop us saying that every judge is corrupt like Ciavarella?

    What this horrible story does do, though, is give us the opportunity to search our souls and review the very important topic of discipline. We are fools if we "spare the rod and spoil the child" but we are bigger fools if we use the rod unrighteously and ruin the child completely, as the Schatz's did. Right now both the Schatz's children and the Schatz's themselves need our prayers, and anyone else who may be in a similar situation or who are the survivors of such abusive activity done in the name of Elohim (God). One thing we can be absolutely sure of is that the Elohim (God) of the Bible had nothing to do with what the Schatz's did, even if dishonest people try to blacken His Name because of the evil deeds of bad talmidim (disciples).

    In the meantime let us understand the rod as something good when applied properly, even as Paul wrote:

      "My son, do not despise the chastening of Yahweh, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom Yahweh loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.

      "If you endure chastening, Elohim (God) deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of ruachim (spirits) and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it" (Heb.12:5-11, NKJV).

    We ignore this at our peril, as politicians, social wokers, teachers and the parents of the children vandalising London and elsewhere must, I hope, surely now be starting to realise. Discipline is not the problem, only a lack or excess of it.

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    This page was created on 19 August 2011
    Last updated on 19 August 2011

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