Daily Bible Studies & Sermon Notes

Hebrews 12:12-14
Pastor Steve Schell
Sunday: Hebrews 12:12, 13
It’s already evident from the tenor of this letter that a number of people were waning in their commitment to Jesus. Their faith was failing and apparently would not last over the remainder of their lives. The effects of persecution, theological confusion, relational strife and worldly temptation had taken its toll. Like exhausted runners who lack the energy to make it to the finish line, many seemed close to collapsing on the sidelines. For these Jewish believers in the Messiah Jesus it meant returning to traditional Judaism, or maybe even functional atheism, as sometimes happens to those who are badly wounded by religion. The author has already compared the Christian life to a long distance race telling his readers to lay aside those things that would prevent them from running with endurance (Heb 12:1). Now he returns to that image of a race.

Monday: Hebrews 12:12, 13
Verses 12, 13: Having just said that persecution and the trials of faith are a normal part of the Christian life (Heb 12:5-11) he now says, “…straighten up the hands that hang limp and the knees that are paralyzed, and make straight paths (“tracks”) for your feet so that those who are crippled will not fall to the side, but rather be healed” (literal). Judging from the plural verb he chose, he’s directing these commands at all his readers. He’s telling the weak and the strong alike to “strengthen your faith and don’t vacillate between Christianity and Judaism because you are causing those who are following you to stumble.” The weak must find God’s strength (Heb 12: 2, 3) and quit entertaining in their minds the option of abandoning Christ, and the strong must take the initiative to strengthen the faith of those who are weaker. They must not passively ignore those around them who are struggling. They must do what they can to help. In particular they must accept the fact that their example affects others. Their single-minded devotion to Christ will be a healing influence to those weakened by doubts.

Tuesday: Hebrews 12:12, 13
Verse 12, 13 (continued): The author’s exhortation in these verses appears to be drawn from two Old Testament passages. The first is Isaiah 35:3, 4. There Isaiah tells those awaiting Messiah’s arrival to “encourage the exhausted and strengthen the feeble. Say to those with anxious heart, take courage, fear not. Behold your God will come with vengeance; the recompense of God will come; He will come and save you.” Isaiah is telling the people of Israel to speak words of encouragement to each other, reminding each other that God will faithfully do what He’s promised. Isaiah goes on to picture the miraculous transformation that will take place when Messiah comes (Isa 35:5-10). He then concludes this passage by saying the ransomed of the Lord will come to Zion where Messiah is enthroned, with “gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing will flee away” (Isa 35:10). Surely this is exactly the message the author of Hebrews wants to convey. Along with Isaiah he wants believers to remind each other of what awaits them in the future; if they will remain faithful.

Wednesday: Hebrews 12:12, 13
Verses 12, 13 (continued): The second Old Testament passage from which he draws is Proverbs 4:25-27. There Solomon exhorts his son, “Let your eyes look directly ahead and let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you. Watch the path of your feet and all your ways will be established. Do not turn to the right nor the left; turn your foot from evil.” This is what the author means when he tells his readers to “make straight paths for your feet….” Solomon wanted his son to be single-minded, to refuse to be diverted by temptation which would assault him from the right and left. And in the same way the author wants his readers to fix their gaze on Jesus (Heb 12:2) and not vacillate over whether or not Jesus is the Savior. By listening to such doubts, some were wandering back and forth in their faith, confusing not only themselves, but those they influenced as well.

Thursday: Hebrews 12:14
Verse 14: Next the author tells his readers to “pursue peace with all….” He is saying they must not allow the bitter arguments that had arisen to continue. We can only imagine the angry exchanges that took place when some claimed that Jesus was not the divine Son of God (Heb 1:5-14) or that He couldn’t be the Messiah because the true Messiah would never suffer and die (Heb 2:9-18) or that returning to a Judaism without Jesus was perfectly acceptable to God (Heb 2:1-4). In order to “pursue peace” the author wasn’t telling believers to passively allow such teachings to go unchallenged, but he did want the debate to remain respectful and calm. Very likely he wanted his readers to respond in the same manner as that in which Paul instructed Timothy, “The Lord’s bondservant must not be quarrelsome, but kind to all… patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition…” (2Ti 2:24-26). Paul told Timothy to confront false teaching and correct it (1Ti 1:3, 4) and even disciple when necessary (1Ti 1:20), but through it all to maintain a peaceful attitude (1Ti 6:11; Ro 12:18).

Friday: Hebrews 12:14
Verse 14 (continued): The author of Hebrews also tells believers to “pursue... the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” By “holiness” he means the moral transformation of a believer’s heart and life. Each of us is being conformed into the image of Jesus Christ (Ro 8:29). We are not simply forgiven, we are truly changed by the indwelling Spirit who puts God’s laws into our minds and writes them on our hearts (Heb 8:10). Yet, we still have a responsibility to actively participate in the process by making the right choices and doing what is required in order to obey.

Saturday: Hebrews 12:14
Verse 14 (continued): Not only was relational strife present, the believers also faced worldly temptations like those he will mention shortly (Heb 13:4, 5). In order to endure in faith for a lifetime these also must be consistently avoided. Yielding to the appetites of the flesh (Ga 5:16-21) can over time quench faith by imposing on it a growing weight of guilt. If this is not addressed properly through repentance and confession a person can become increasingly alienated from God. It’s possible to become enslaved again to sinful appetites to the point that a person will not “see the Lord” (Mt 5:8), meaning join Him in the resurrection. Peter describes this return to enslavement in unmistakable terms (2Pe 2:19-22) and Paul makes it clear there are behaviors that will not be accepted by God (1Co 6:9, 10). None of these passages intends to teach us that we must reach a state of sinlessness to go to heaven, but they point to the fact that when a person is truly transformed by the New Covenant his/her attitudes and behaviors show profound change. In other words, they are becoming “holy.”

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