Today’s Text: Hebrews 12
This chapter begins with the word “therefore” connecting it with what has just preceded it.
“These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” (He. 11:39-40)
12:1-3: Since all of the heroes of faith from the Old Testament are to be made perfect with us, and since they are ‘watching’ we must throw off anything that can hinder us in running the race in this life. This again is language used to describe an athletic contest, and the idea is that those people of faith from the OT who have been commended for their faith are in the grandstands watching; cheering us on to victory. Verse 2 reminds us of how we are to compete: Fix your eyes upon Jesus, the One who has made it all the way through the sacrificial process and who now sits at God’s right hand… that is where we are running to. Finally in verse three, we get to the point: As we move through life, having tossed aside anything that impedes our progress, we must keep in mind the fact that Jesus had to do the same thing, and His reward was literally out of this world.
12:4-6: This section is a word of encouragement; however much any of us has suffered for their faith in Christ, it has not yet come to the shedding of blood (death). Proverbs 31:11-12 is quoted here, and even though it is about discipline, it is intended to be considered an encouragement because in disciplining us, God is treating us not as subjects, pawns or slaves, but as “sons”. In this parent-child scenario, the believers are asked to view their struggles in this life as the discipline that a parent gives to a child; loving. The idea is that as a parent applies discipline to a child to teach and nurture the child’s development, so too do the struggles of this life aid us in growing, learning and making a complete break from the life of rebellion against God.
12:7-17: In the process of struggling through life, God is treating us as His children. Consider the struggles that most of us went through during our teen years for instance. While we didn’t enjoy every minute of those years, we grew up and became the people we are as adults because (and sometimes in spite of) those experiences. Those of us who fought our parents and teachers had a more difficult time, while those of us who made an extra effort to cooperate usually grew up faster than those who didn’t. Think about that in contemplating your Christian growth. While our parents disciplined us as best they could, God definitely and without question makes all of the right moves in this regard; we should endure and learn. The text goes on to give some practical suggestions of things we can do in order to make the process easier; easier in the sense that if we don’t fight with our Heavenly Father we will grow up more quickly. The practical advice is fairly obvious in meaning.
12:18-24: This section is once again an encouragement. It contains a contrast of two mountains: Mt.Sinai and Mt.Zion. In the first case, the author makes clear that the OT people came to a mountain that was a real and physical mountain; Mt.Sinai. The scene was terrible in its fearfulness that made evident God’s inapproachability. Even Moses trembled with fear. The second mountain is the one that we have come to, Mt.Zion. Mt.Zion is the location of the city of Jerusalem, but this Mt.Zion is not a physical city. While in the OT God’s presence dwelt in the Holy of holies in the temple on Mt.Zion in the city of Jerusalem, our goal, and the goal of those people of faith in the OT is not a physical place, but the very dwelling place of God in Heaven; this is the Mt.Zion described here. At this place, God judges all, but at His side is our Superior High Priest who has already brought a superior sacrifice that makes us “perfect” (without sin) in God’s sight; thus we have nothing to fear. The children of Israel in the OT approached Sinai with fear and trembling, we approach Zion with joy and praise.
12:25-29: The final verses in this chapter are a warning: do not refuse God! In the OT, the people refused (disobeyed, sinned, rebelled against) God and did not escape His wrath. We of the NT, having received superior promises and a superior sacrifice, not to mention having seen in reality what they could only imagine will not escape God’s wrath if we “refuse” Him, therefore, persevere, endure and live.