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  1. The pain of the Crook produces conviction of sin.

God often uses difficulty in life to alert us to the presence or persistence of unrepentant sin. The relationship between the advent of the pain and the recognition of sin may vary from circumstance to circumstance. For instance, in Psalm 32, the crook of physical and emotional pain seems to be a pang of conscience:

Psalm 32:1–5 (ESV)
1 Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
2 Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
3 For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah
5 I acknowledged my sin to you,
and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah

In other instances, the consequences which naturally flow from sin, such as illness from excessive abuse of drugs. In Deuteronomy, the Lord promises that living in accord with the law will protect against particular diseases, “And the LORD will take away from you all sickness, and none of the evil diseases of Egypt, which you knew, will he inflict on you, but he will lay them on all who hate you.” Deuteronomy 7:15 (ESV)

We can think of other examples. When one neglects his family, he will likely suffer the consequence:

Proverbs 27:8 (ESV)
8 Like a bird that strays from its nest
is a man who strays from his home.

bird’s nest in a forest author: Jan Helebrant location: Czech Republic http://www.juhele.blogspot.com license CC0 Public Domain Dedication

A bird without a nest will certainly suffer for it.

A third relationship may be that pain itself causes us to search for the cause of the pain and to examine our life more fully:

Thirdly, Conviction of sin. As when one, walking heedlessly, is suddenly taken ill of a lameness; his going halting the rest of his way convinceth him of having made a wrong step; and every new painful step brings it afresh to his mind: so God makes a crook in one’s lot, to convince him of some false step he hath made, or course he hath taken. What the sinner would otherwise be apt to overlook, forget, or think light of, is by this means, recalled to mind, set before him as an evil and bitter thing, and kept in remembrance, that his heart may every now and then bleed for it afresh.

There can also be the pain of shame resulting from being found out:

Thus, by the crook, men’s sin finds them out to their conviction, as the thief is ashamed when he is found, Numb. 32:23. Jer. 2:26.

And as an example, he points to Joseph’s brothers,

The which Joseph’s brethren do feelingly express, under the crook made in their lot in Egypt, Gen. 42:21. “We are verily guilty concerning our brother,” chap. 44:16. “God hath found out the iniquity of thy servants.”

Typically, there is some relationship between the crook (which comes to bring repentance) and the sin which occasioned it, so that the pain causes one to remember the sin:

The crook in the lot doth usually, in its nature or circumstances, so natively refer to the false step or course, that it serves for a providential memorial of it, bringing the sin, though of an old date, fresh to remembrance, and for a badge of the sinner’s folly, in word or deed, to keep it ever before him.

He then gives examples from the life of Jacob, where God brought sorrow matched to Jacob’s sin:

When Jacob found Leah, through Laban’s unfair dealing, palmed upon him for Rachel, how could he miss of a stinging remembrance of the cheat he had seven years at least before put on his own father, pretending himself to be Esau? Gen. 27:19. How could it miss of galling him occasionally afterwards during the course of the marriage? He had imposed on his father the younger brother for the elder: and Laban imposed on him the elder sister for the younger. The dimness of Isaac’s eyes favoured the former cheat: and the darkness of the evening did as much favour the latter. So he behoved to say, as Adonibezek in another case, Judg. 1:7. “As I have done, so God hath requited me.”

In like manner, Rachel dying in child-birth, could hardly evite a melancholy reflection on her rash and passionate expression, mentioned Gen. 30:1. “Give me children, or else I die.”

And Job says, in his pain he remembers his sin:

Even holy Job read, in the crook of his lot, some false steps he had made in his youth many years before, Job. 13:26. “Thou writest bitter things against me, and makest me to possess the iniquities of my youth.”

The application of this point is clear. When in trouble, we would be wise to seek to see whether the trouble has come to cause repentance. This by no means should be taken as saying that all trouble is a result of sin. Job’s friends seemed to believe such a thing. Often there is no clear connection. But when we see ourselves plunged into depression, anxiety, fear, financial troubles, personal troubles, it would be wise to look around and ask, is there a sin of which I refuse to repent?