Monday, November 11, 2013

Weapons of discipline (part 2) - The Instructor

This is a continuation of my series on Clement of Alexandria and his book, "The Instructor." If you are new to this series or are unfamiliar with Clement and his book, you may want to first read the introduction to this series.

In our previous post, Clement started to identify some of the key types of disciplinary speech God uses to get our attention and to instruct and guide us in our lives. Here Clement concludes his list. Once again, they are presented with minimal commentary.
"Denunciation is vehement speech. And He employs denunciation as medicine, by Isaiah, saying, 'Ah, sinful nation, lawless sons, people full of sins, wicked seed!' And in the Gospel by John He says, 'Serpents, brood of vipers.'" (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 9)
There is the story of the man who sold another man a mule, but the new owner could not get the mule to do anything. He went back and asked the original owner what to do and he gave him a 2x4 piece of wood. The new owner asked, "What is this for?" and the previous owner said, "to get its attention first." Sometimes God needs His verbal 2x4 to get our attention when we are acting like mules.
"Accusation is censure of wrong-doers. This mode of instruction He employs by David, when He says: 'The people whom I knew not served me, and at the hearing of the ear obeyed me. Sons of strangers lied to me, and halted from their ways.' And by Jeremiah: 'And I gave her a writing of divorcement, and covenant-breaking Judah feared not.' And again: 'And the house of Israel disregarded Me; and the house of Judah lied to the Lord.'" (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 9)
When Satan condemns us we just have a vague sense we've done something wrong. We feel bad but have no idea of how to feel better. However, when God convicts us we know exactly what we have done wrong and what He requires of us to set things right.
"Objurgation is objurgatory censure. Of this help the Divine Instructor made use by Jeremiah, saying, 'Thou hadst a whore’s forehead; thou wast shameless towards all; and didst not call me to the house, who am thy father, and lord of thy virginity.' 'And a fair and graceful harlot skilled in enchanted potions.' With consummate art, after applying to the virgin the opprobrious name of whoredom, He thereupon calls her back to an honourable life by filling her with shame." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 9)
While, in our language, "Objurgation" simply means a harsh or severe rebuke, Clement seems to identify with it the sense of feeling our own shame and disgrace that results from our sin. Having felt the depths of the shame we have brought upon ourselves, we then can call out to God to be restored to our honorable place with Him.
"Indignation is a rightful upbraiding; or upbraiding on account of ways exalted above what is right. In this way He instructed by Moses, when He said, 'Faulty children, a generation crooked and perverse, do ye thus requite the Lord? This people is foolish, and not wise. Is not this thy father who acquired thee?' He says also by Isaiah, 'Thy princes are disobedient, companions of thieves, loving gifts, following after rewards, not judging the orphans.'" (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 9)
James says that, "we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well." (James 3:2) Sometimes, even when we are attempting to follow God's ways, we still stumble and fall. However, when we willfully replace God's good ways for base and sinful ways, calling evil good and good evil, then we rightfully earn God's indignation. This is the same indignation that God has stored up for the last days. "For the day when I rise up as a witness. Indeed, My decision is to gather nations, to assemble kingdoms, to pour out on them My indignation, all My burning anger; for all the earth will be devoured by the fire of My zeal." (Zephaniah 3:8)

Having completed his list of disciplinary speech, Clement then proceeds to show us how God uses all these for our salvation and benefit. However, that will have to wait for another day.

David Robison

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