The psalmist writes the following about one of God’s greatest promises: “If his children forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments; if they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments; then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. Nevertheless my loving-kindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail” (Psalm 89:30-33).
God promises to never remove his loving-kindness from us, no matter how badly we may fall. Yet many believers skip lightly over the heavy warning in this verse: If we forsake God’s law and refuse to keep his commands, he’ll visit our transgressions with his divine rod.
The Bible tells us that whomever the Lord loves, he chastens. We see this truth illustrated vividly in David’s life. Consider how the Lord dealt with this man, a faithful servant who enjoyed God’s favor. At one point in his life, David sinned awfully—justifying it and keeping it hidden for months on end. Finally, God said, “Enough”—and sent a prophet to expose David’s sin. The prophet, Nathan, used an analogy to tear apart every excuse David had until finally the king admitted, “I’ve sinned—I’m guilty.”
David wrote, “My strength faileth because of mine iniquity, and my bones are consumed” (Psalm 31:10). Like a hole in the oil tank of a car, your sin will slowly drain you of all resources. Your peace, joy and strength will literally drip away until they’re gone completely. David confessed, “Neither is there any rest in my bones because of my sin” (Psalm 38:3). He was saying, “All my strength is gone because of my sin. My body has become weak because of what I’ve done. My iniquity simply won’t allow me to rest.”
David was experiencing God’s piercing arrows. He wrote, “Thine arrows stick fast in me, and thy hand presseth me sore” (38:2). Yet this beloved servant was being taught the fear of God. And part of his painful lesson was that he had lost the peace of the Lord. Now he cried out, “He weakened my strength” (Psalm 102:23).
I know Christians who lead lives of utter confusion because they continue to indulge in sins. These hollow souls are always downcast, weak, forever struggling but getting nowhere. I also know ministers who can’t sit still because of their sin. They’re constantly busy, working, never entering into the Lord’s rest.
It doesn’t matter who you are—if you harbor a secret sin, you’ll experience continual disturbances in your life, your home, your family, your work. Everything you touch will be out of kilter. You’ll become increasingly restless, confused, tossed about by endless worries and fears. And all of your peace and strength will be drained from you.
God does not want to expose his servants; rather, it is in his heart to forgive, cleanse and cover our sins. Exposure of secret sin is God’s last attempt to save a rebellious, hypocritical child who has determined to cover his sin, indulge, and play the part of a spiritual man. God’s rod is reserved only for unrepentant, unconverted, hardhearted, false believers. In love he will discipline his righteous one but the rod, the stripes, are for the lawless.