The Book of Hebrews
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”
Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.
Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. Even though he sought the blessing with tears, he could not change what he had done.
You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, because they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.” The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.”
But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven? At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain.
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.”
You are not alone in this journey. There are many who have journeyed before you and have been great examples of faithfulness. Make them proud by enduring to the end regardless of the obstacles, the trials, and the hardships. They are cheering you on and await your victory!
Chapter 12 could be called the encouragement chapter of Hebrews. Having rebuked, and taught and pleaded to his audience throughout this letter, the writer begins his closing with encouragement by reminding them who they are as children of God and as descendants of these heroes of faith. As their focus was God, so let your focus be Jesus who has reclaimed your birthright and made it possible for you to have faith. Jesus also by faith focused on what was ahead –God’s promise of salvation for us and because He remained focus was able to endure the present pain and complete his work. Don’t throw in the towel because the journey is not as smooth as you thought it would be or would like it to be. You have not resisted sin and borne hardships to the point of death as He has. So resist some more and set aside the things that take you off track, the things that keep Him from being your focus. As your forefathers were tried and tested, you will be too. But consider it a blessing because “whom the Lord loves, He disciplines.” The pains of discipline are temporary, but they lead to the result of our faith which is redemption and a life of righteousness.
He lets them know to expect hardships and that more than bring a normal part of the journey, it should be welcomed as a sign of God working in their life. Hardships come to us from various sources: by consequences of our own choices, by the actions of others, by the testing of God, or just by virtue of living in a sinful world. The source is irrelevant. What you do in those times of hardship is key. Focusing on God in all circumstances, will create in you behavior which is pleasing to Him and develop a life of faith which in turn brings your reward of joy. Make sure you don’t allow life’s pleasures and comforts or a desire for them distract you from your training towards righteousness and your ultimate reward, lest you end up like Esau, Jacob’s brother, and lose your God-given birthright and eternal rewards for the things which have only temporary rewards.
The writer lets his readers know that they can’t go down two paths choosing Christ-the new covenant, and Judaism—the old covenant. They must choose Christ, and by faith accept what their chosen path brings, knowing that God has a track record of rewarding faithfulness and giving His best to all His children. Surely we do not want to go back to the terrifying ordinances of the old covenant when we have this new covenant of grace. Remember, the Jerusalem in the new covenant is the real thing-the one in heaven where God lives and you are part of the family!
Questions to ponder:
- Did you ever see yourself as part of a lineage of heroes? How does it feel knowing that you have this large family cheering you on your journey?
- Now that you know that being faithful is part of your DNA, what measures can you take to regain, or keep your focus?