Sunday: Hebrews 12 (introduction)
The same faith that conquers kingdoms and obtains promises (11:33) also brings hardship (11:35-38). Waiting for God to act can be a long wearying process (11:7, 11); remaining loyal to Him can bring violent persecution (11:35-38); and obeying Him always leads to much self-denial (11:23-27). The truth is, walking with God is hard and requires deep personal change. It demands the same kind of endurance as an athlete running a long race. Many temptations to quit or grow bitter flood the mind and have to be resisted. Resolutions to stay the course have to be made over and over again. Thats why the author pleads with his readers like a coach exhorting weary athletes. Many of them were being persecuted for their faith, and for some the pressure to quit had grown so strong they felt unable to resist any longer.
Monday: Hebrews 12:1
Verse 1: He reminds them that the life of faith is a tough challenge for anyone. Having just shown them a panorama of the great men and women who preceded them, he tells his readers we have so great a cloud of witnesses lying around us. In effect he is challenging them to re-read the scriptures and see for themselves that the world has never welcomed believers. The walk of faith has always been costly, so it should come as no surprise that they too must face hardship. By using the term cloud of witnesses he doesnt mean these past saints have the capacity to view from heaven the activities taking place on earth. He uses the word witnesses because their lives have witnessed to their faith. And there are so many of them that their names rise up from history like a great cloud.
Tuesday: Hebrews 12:1
Verse 1 (continued): He compares the life of a believer to an athlete running in a long distance race. Success will require total commitment and daily sacrifice. The race must be run with endurance all the way to the finish line, which for a believer means until he or she dies or the Lord returns. The image of a runner would have been quite familiar to his readers who were surrounded by Greek and Roman culture, but as Jews they might also have applied the image to someone in their own history, like Elijah who girded up his loins and outran Ahabs chariot over a distance of about 20 miles (1Ki 18:45, 46). In either case, the long-distance runner would have to lay aside any unnecessary weight in order to dedicate every available ounce of energy to running. In the same way those running the race of faith must be continually laying aside every weight, meaning that we must let go of the worldly things to which we cling (He 13:4, 5).
Wednesday: Hebrews 12:1
Verse 1 (continued): The author also tells his readers to lay aside the sin which has firmly surrounded you. Though the word sin is often a general term describing all types of misbehavior, in this instance he seems to have a specific sin in mind, one which he warns is (literally) standing well around them. Whatever this sin is it has surrounded them and is strong enough to conquer them like an army besieging a city. In the case of his readers this must be the sin hes already warned them about over and over again in his letter (He 2:1-4; 3:7-4:11; 5:11-6:8; 10:26-39). In chapter three he called it
an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God (He 3:12). That he can define it as standing well around them lets us know some of his readers were in danger of abandoning Christ altogether.
Thursday: Hebrews 12:2
Verse 2: In explaining to his readers how to endure in the life of faith the author not only tells them to lay aside sin, but also to look to Jesus. They must look away from what they had been looking at in the past and focus their attention on Jesus because He is the author/beginner and perfecter/finisher of faith. The phrase author and perfecter carries at least two layers of meaning. First, it points to Him as the ultimate example of someone who ran the race of faith with endurance from start to finish. At no point did He grow bitter or turn aside from the path God asked Him to travel. Second, He is also the author and perfecter of our faith in the sense that every believer must draw constant spiritual strength from Him, by means of the Holy Spirit, if we are to successfully endure in faith for the rest of our lives (Jn 14:15-20, 26; 15:4-6; Php 1:6; He 13:20, 21). This is certainly part of what He meant when He said He is the vine and we are the branches (Jn 15:1-6).
Friday: Hebrews 12:2, 3
Verse 2 (continued): He describes Jesus as the One who because of
(Greek: anti) the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of God. The joy which Jesus considered to be of far greater value than the shame of the cross must have been the knowledge that His substitutionary death on the cross would make it possible for sinful people to return to God. His heart rejoiced in the knowledge that He would delight His Father by bringing many sons to glory (He 2:10). The Fathers response to His Sons enduring faith was to resurrect Him and place Him at His right hand in fulfillment of Psalm 110:1 (He 1:3, 13; 10:12, 13). Verse 3: We are told to look at the One who endured such hostile things said about Him by sinners so that those who are weakening will not collapse. Jesus example above all others should encourage us to endure the hardships associated with faith. After all, if God was willing to let His Son suffer more abuse than we will ever suffer, then we must never think that by allowing such adversity to come our way that He has failed to protect us. He is simply treating us like His own Son. And like His own Son, He will also reward our endurance by raising us from the dead and inviting us to boldly enter His presence (He 6:19, 20).
Saturday: Hebrews 12:4-6
Verse 4: The author says his readers had not yet stood their ground to the point of martyrdom in their struggle against sin. The word sin as he uses it in this context must refer to their weakening commitment to Jesus. His statement about blood may be simply an observation that no one in their churches had yet been martyred, but it is also possible that it contains a note of disapproval that when pressed severely they had always compromised to avoid being executed. At any rate, the author implies that in the future God might still allow them to pay that price. Verses 5, 6: By quoting Proverbs 3:11, 12 the author reminds them that Solomon had told them that God would allow believers to suffer persecution and the trials associated with the life of faith. Solomon had likened God to a human father who disciplines all his children. The author is addressing these words to people who were grumbling about the suffering that following Jesus had brought to them. They assumed something must be wrongthat persecution was abnormal. So the author says, You have completely forgotten the exhortation in which He reasons with you as sons, My son, do not think lightly of the discipline (a word meaning the training and correction of children) of the Lord, nor weaken when being rebuked (lit: exposed) by Him. For whom the Lord loves, He trains like a child, scourging every son whom He takes by the hand and draws to His side (literal).