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Hebrews 12

April 22nd, 2012 by Vic

April 22, 2012

Hebrews 12

“Prepare for the BIG ONE”

 

I saw a news feature this week on the preparations being made for the big earthquake that will happen soon on the west coast.  A university in Southern California constructed a building on a sliding foundation that would simulate earthquakes.  It was about a 6 story building filled with hospital equipment.  They are concerned that hospitals survive and remain functional after an earthquake.  They had cameras and sensors throughout the building to record the movement.

 

The Bible says there is coming a massive shaking of the heavens and the earth like has never happened before.  Those who fear God and give thanks cannot be shaken.  They will survive.  The apathetic drifters will not survive.  This chapter is a serious warning to Christians.  God is speaking still today.  We must listen and obey.  We must honor Him and give thanks.

 

12:1-13 Christians are encouraged to endure like runners in a race.

 

Chapter 11 reminded us of several witnesses to God’s faithfulness.  Each received confirmation in their hearts that they would receive an inheritance beyond this life.  They are still witnessing today that God has already prepared a place for us in the new heaven and earth.

“Therefore” since we have this huge crowd running with us to the goal of our inheritance let us lay aside all excess weight and the sin that so easily distracts us and let us run with endurance the course marked out for us (1).  The Christian life is compared to an athletic contest.  The footrace was one of the contests in the pentathlon.  It was not a race of speed, but endurance.

 

Whatever interferes or weighs you down unnecessarily needs to be laid aside.  You can’t do everything you would like to do.  You can’t have all the toys you’d like to have.  Greek runners did not take smart phones with them probably because they did not have pockets.  We are running toward a goal and faithful people are running with us.  You would be foolish to carry a backpack of stuff.

 

Get rid of the sin that distracts you.  The word ‘sin’ is singular and refers to sin as a heart condition that needs to be cleansed so we are not distracted.  The plural word ‘sins’ refers to specific sins.  There is a ditch that distracts on both sides of the road.  We must keep our gaze on Jesus.  Don’t listen to those calling for you on each side.  Don’t be distracted by lesser things.

 

This is not a race that we have mapped out.  God has planned our course.  Jesus is pictured as standing at the finish line.  He is the champion and perfecter of our faith.  He is our example (1 Pet 2:20; Eph 5:1-2).  He is our forerunner, our anchor.  He was our example for endurance.  Instead of submitting to the temptation to call down angels and enjoy all the good things possible in the present, He obeyed the Father and suffered a humiliating death on a Roman cross.  He deliberately chose to renounce the joy proposed to him by satan in order to share in the race planned for us.  He could have avoided a shameful death and pursued His own pleasure.  Instead, He despised the shame of the immediate and 40 days later sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

 

Compare and consider (3) your situation with Jesus’.  Falsely accused.  Misunderstood by those who claimed to know God.  Denied His rights as a citizen in a corrupt legal system.  Friends denied Him and betrayed Him.  Mocked.  Beaten.  Whipped.  Robbed.  He did not grow weary, lose heart, and collapse with exhaustion until He had crossed the finish line.  “It is finished.”

 

The final event in the pentathalon was the boxing match.  It was not like our boxing, but more violent with some kind of weapon.  It was a bloody event.  Seneca, a stoic philosopher said, “The true athlete was the man who saw his own blood.”  The sufferings of the church community were insignificant in comparison with those endured by Jesus.  Our struggle against sin is the struggle against hostile opposition we receive from sinners just as Jesus did.  Don’t get discouraged by opposition.  God can use it to discipline us.

 

Have you forgotten the reason for discipline?  God disciplines us to make us better.  “As a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you” (Deut 8:5).  God desires only good for His children.  Adversity and hardship are designed by God to encourage His children to trust Him and obey.  According to Prov 3:11-12 discipline is a sign and proof of sonship.  Don’t take lightly the disciplines of the Lord (5).

 

Parental discipline is necessary (7-8).  The appropriate response is humility (9).  We must submit to discipline in order to benefit from discipline (10-11).

 

Parental discipline is an integral aspect of family life.  For the Jews the father was responsible for the discipline.  An absence of discipline would indicate a father’s rejection of the child.  An orphan did not enjoy the privileges and protection of a father.

 

From our fathers we learned respect as the appropriate response to correction.  (It was not wise to sass back.)  God trains His children for their enjoyment of abundant life.  A much greater degree of respect is due God.  He has a right to discipline us and the wisdom to know what is best for us.  The judgment of parents is imperfect and subject to their discretion for a short time.  God disciplines us so we can develop His character, the fruit of the Spirit.  Godly discipline is related to godly character.

 

No discipline seems pleasant at the time (11), but if we learn from it we will find joy.

 

Therefore, as an athlete in a race, when you get discouraged, exhausted and weary keep putting one foot in front of the other.  Keep pumping your arms.  Move in a straight path toward Jesus.  Run with others who have their eyes on Jesus.

 

12:14-29  In the last half of this chapter the writer turns to a new focus from Proverbs 4:25-27.  “Make straight paths for your feet… and God will lead your ways forth in peace.”  The focus now turns to the pursuit of peace.  The writer concludes his sermon with the assurance that “the God of peace… will equip you with everything good for doing his will (13:20-21).”

 

This sermon or letter started with the fact that God has spoken in the past and is still speaking (1:1).  In chapter 2 the writer warned us that it is not smart to ignore God and not listen.  Now in the last half of this chapter we are warned about refusing to listen to God.  He is still speaking.  We worship a God who speaks.  The example of Esau is given.  His preoccupation with personal gratification (16-17) made it impossible for God to bless him.

 

Because of the cross, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, Christians have received the gift of peace and they are to be peacemakers.  By faith in Christ we can be forgiven and receive a clean heart and have peace with God.

 

Peace is an expression of the unity we have in Christ as a community, a Church, the body of Christ.  The church demonstrates in our neighborhood what the new age can be in Christ.  Peace is both a gift and an evidence of God’s presence (14).  Holiness is that quality that identifies us as belonging to God and being used by God.  Holiness is a character attribute of God that we share as His children.  We should resemble our Father.  Without holiness we cannot come into God’s presence.  Only the pure in heart see God.

 

Unity implies mutual concern and responsibility for one another (15).  Watch carefully that no one forfeits grace.  Watch that no bitter roots are allowed to grow.  Watch that no secularism is accepted.  We are to admonish one another in love.

 

Disregarding grace is like turning your backside toward God.  Dishonoring God or a child of God will alter the character of the church.  Vigilance and effort is required to live in peace and holiness.  The character of the church is changed by one person’s bitterness.  The bitter root is the person with a stubborn disposition who produces the noxious fruit of apostasy (from+stand).  He has renounced his belief.  Defilement is contagious.  Bitterness is alien to Christ.

 

Esau was immoral, irreligious and secular.  He was preoccupied with his personal gratification (16).  For him life was about him and the present moment.  He was not future oriented like the men and women of faith in chapter 11.  Esau despised a blessing that would have benefitted his children.  He did not want to endure an empty stomach for a couple hours.  He represents all who reject God’s Gift and new covenant for immediate gratification.

 

Afterward he sought the blessing, but without repentance (change of mind).  He wanted the inheritance God had promised him, but he still held contempt for God.  His secular thinking still had not changed (17). If he had sought repentance rather than the blessing with tears he could have received forgiveness and a blessing.  The phrase literally reads “for he found no opportunity for repentance”.  There is no indication that Esau recognized his sin or guilt for rejecting God’s gift.  He only recognized the extent of his loss.

 

Verses 18-24 compare and contrast the old covenant introduced at Mt. Sinai by Moses and the new covenant introduced at Mt. Zion by Jesus.  The verb “come to” is repeated.  But the access to God has changed.  The touch, the fire, darkness, gloom, storm, trumpet, and “the sound of words” that obscured God’s voice was terrifying to the people and even Moses was afraid.  The people were separated from God and could not hear His words clearly.

 

In contrast, the atmosphere at Mt. Zion is festive.  The angels are rejoicing.  The people and angels have come together.  The people have their names written on the title deed of their inheritance.  They have unlimited access to the judge of all men.  They have been made perfect and lack nothing in their relationship with God.  The heavenly city is real to the eyes of their faith.  Heaven is not just an abstract or spiritual idea as Plato suggested.

 

Just as Moses inaugurated the first covenant with the blood of the sacrifice, so the new covenant was activated through the blood of sacrifice.  The blood of Abel spoke a curse.  The blood of Christ secured a blessing.  Christ’s blood speaks more clearly and effectively.  Those who pursue peace and holiness will be welcomed into the city built by God.

 

God is still speaking.  Because God is with no ending His Word also is.  Here is our warning (25-29).  Be careful!  We have a qualitatively greater responsibility than Israel did to listen attentively to the clear voice of God that came in Jesus.  God is speaking His final word through His Son (1:1-2).  We are to respond appropriately with worship and thanksgiving.

 

At Mt. Sinai God’s voice shook the ground (26).  But there is coming a greater shaking.  Are you ready for the Big One?  Earthquakes in the Scripture are sometimes a metaphor for God’s judgment when people are thrown into confusion.  Whether this next shaking is literal or figurative the writer is warning that it will cause mass confusion, fear, and devastation.  It is a warning of the collapse of the monuments man has built for himself.  It is a warning that this shaking will make an impact on heaven as well as the earth.  Nations and governments will be overthrown in such a way that God gets the glory.

 

Some things cannot be shaken.  It depends on their relationship with God.  What is shakable will be removed.  What is unshakable will remain and endure.  All opposition to God’s sovereign rule is shakable and will be removed.  The children of God have built their lives on the Rock and will remain.  Christians have become and will remain citizens of an unshakable kingdom.

 

Here’s the good news (28).  Therefore since we are already receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful and worship God appropriately with respect and awe.  By faith in Christ we have unhindered access to God.  We can worship God moment by moment and give thanks without ceasing.  We can please God through personal obedience and thankful heart.

 

Our God is a consuming fire.  God’s essential character gives us good reason to worship in fear and awe.  Worship is a grateful response to the blessings and promises we have already experienced and to the certainty of our citizenship in the kingdom of God.  Failure to listen to what God is saying can only be catastrophic.  There will be a shaking.  When your heavenly Father speaks, don’t sass back.  The discipline intended for your good may become judgment that will shake you and remove you.

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