Hebrews
1-4 The Author and Perfecter 5-11 God Deals With Sons 12-21 Pursue Peace and Sanctification 22-29 We Have Come To Better Things
The Author and Perfecter

1Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. 4You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin;

V11Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,. In this letter you have already paid attention to many persons. In chapter 1 it was the angels, in chapter 3 it was Moses and Aaron. Also Joshua and Levi were mentioned. They were excellent people. But the writer continually put them aside by drawing the attention on Him Who is far more beyond the angels and Moses and Aaron and the others.

It is also like that with the many persons in the previous chapter that he here calls “so great a cloud of witnesses”. In the following verses this cloud disappears from the view to make room for “Jesus”, Who exceeds beyond everybody and everything. Stars shine, till the sun rises. The believers from the Old Testament are stars that in great faith, though also in weakness and in part, have trusted in God. The Son is the sun. He has perfectly and continuously trusted in God. With Him there is no reference to a certain work of faith, an exceptional deed out of which His confidence of faith appears. His whole life was altogether confidence of faith.

You are surrounded by that great cloud of witnesses that you saw in the previous chapter. The previous chapter closed with the message that they had not received the promise yet and that they were still not made perfect. That goes for you too. Therefore their example is presented to you as an exhortation to imitate them. It is as if they are sending a call to you from the Scriptures to encourage you to continue the path of faith undiminished and unimpeded and not to allow anything to stop you from that aim. I believe that it is not so much the intention that they watch how you do that, but rather that they witness to you. Their witness is the inspired report of the various lives in the Scripture and points to God’s faithfulness whatever and wherever they trusted Him for.

That cloud of witnesses around you makes the writer call you to be freed from each hindrance. Cast off each burden of sin from you as useless and harmful dead weight. If you see upon the Lord when you do that, it will be easy, but if you don’t fix your eyes on Jesus it will be impossible. Looking upon Jesus determines what a ‘burden’ is. With ‘burden’ the point is the daily and often good things of the earthly life that a walker may enjoy, but the runner cannot. Those are not the difficulties of life, for you cannot lay those aside, but you can indeed prevent that they keep you occupied in such a way that you have no room to see anything else. A burden concerns the earthly things which you freely take, but which you can also freely forsake.

You are allowed to enjoy earthly things, for the Lord has given them. You are allowed to enjoy good food and good health with a heartfelt gratitude to the Lord. However, you may run the risk to see those things for themselves and spend much time, money and energy to get them or to keep them. If that’s the case with you, then I hope that you acknowledge that and lay that attitude aside. Start to view those things again in the proper perspective. In this context I sometimes hear somebody ask the question: ‘How could that be harmful?’ But I think that the question should be: ‘Is it a weight, a burden (something that pulls you down) or is it a wing (something that lifts you up)?’

Laying aside sin is totally different. Sinning is doing whatever, independently of God. Here you read that sin can easily ensnare you. To be ensnared means that you are wrapped by something. In the picture we have here you can imagine your legs being wrapped by something that hinders you to walk or even causes you to fall. When for example, a sinful thought comes up, then you have to cast that away immediately, to ‘lay that aside’. In case you keep on going with that thought, then that has the result that you lose sight of God and His plan with your life, which means that your race has ended. In the race the point is perseverance. The point is that you should not become sluggish or weak during the race. To prevent that you should pay close attention to the aim.

V22fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.. The point is that in your mind your target should be Jesus all the time. The writer exhorts us to look upon Him alone. ‘To look upon’ here literally means ‘to look away’, which implies to forsake all other things and fix your eyes upon one object alone. The name ‘Jesus’ reminds us of Him Who in humiliation on earth also has run the race, but Who has achieved the goal already. He has endured all difficulties and has overcome by submitting Himself to the path that the Father had determined for Him. He is the Author, the Chief. He leads you on the path of faith until you achieve the final goal, the perfect salvation. He is the great example in the race. He exceeds above all things. He is also the Perfecter, the Completer, the Accomplisher. He guides the believer along the path of faith to perfection.

He passed the whole way in perfection and He entered the glory. Through His example and His strength He brings the believers into the glory. The Lord Jesus also had a glorious goal in mind when He went His way here. He was looking forward to the joy of the heavenly glory on the right hand of God. He persevered on that way. He endured the cross persistently. This doesn’t point to the propitiation work on the cross, but to the reproach and shame that are a part of the believer from the side of the world. It is the same as what He desired of somebody who desired to be His disciple: “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple” (Lk 14:2727Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.). He has set the perfect example in His life regarding this.

The Lord didn’t despise the cross. He “endured” it; He accepted it as the will of His Father. He indeed “despised” the shame that men put on Him (although He was certainly not insensitive to what men did to Him). Now He is in glory He doesn’t have to go a path of trust anymore. He has sat down, once for all. There will come an end to the path of faith for you too.

His place is “at the right hand of the throne of God”. He is entitled to that because of His perfect life on earth. There is also the thought that after the suffering the kingdom, the throne, comes. He is already connected to the throne. Him is given all power in heaven and on earth. He shortly will openly accept His kingdom.

V33For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.. Consider Him. You can look unto Him in His life on earth, for therein He is your example and your Leader. You can also look unto Him in heaven, for there He is your target and the Perfecter. The calling ‘consider’ means that you consider by comparison. Therefore “consider Him” means that you consider how He endured the hostility from sinners and that you, who are now in a comparable situation, may draw courage from that to keep on going yourself.

The expression “sinners” shows that in fact the whole sinful human race is meant, summarized in the Jewish and Gentile leaders. The Lord had nothing to do with sin Himself, but He had everything to do with sinners who surrounded Him and who tried to hinder Him in His walk. In that way these believers also had to do with families and friends who continually wanted to exert their influence on those believers, in order to make them return to the old. Incessant “hostility” is very hard to endure. The incessancy of it makes you tired. This causes you to run the risk of giving up the fight.

V44You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin;. ‘But’, the writer seems to say, ‘let’s be honest: You have not, like He did, lost your life yet in order to glorify God and to serve Him.’ The Hebrews not only haven’t lost their life yet, but they have not even shed one drop of blood yet for the sake of the Name of the Lord Jesus, as the Lord Jesus and a lot of heroes of faith did in former times (Heb 11).

With “striving against sin” is not meant that you should fight against the sin that dwells in you. The believer is not being called for that fight. For that fight the Scripture doesn’t give instructions. On the contrary, the Scripture says that you should consider yourself to be dead for the sin that dwells in you (Rom 6:1111Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.).

Therefore it is not about the fight against the sin that dwells in you, but about the fight against the sin around you. This fight is connected to the hostility against Him that the Lord Jesus had to endure from sinners. He absolutely had shed blood in resisting this hostility. They were not that far yet, however. They were running the risk of giving in to the pressure; He surely did not.

In the Scripture you still find other forms of fight:
1. You read about the fight between the law that is given to man in the flesh, and the new life (Rom 7:2323but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members.). That fight happens in the believer as long as he stays under the yoke of the law.
2. Another fight that happens in the believer is that of the Spirit against the flesh (Gal 5:1717For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.).
3. There is also the struggle in the heavenly places against the spiritual forces of wickedness (Eph 6:10-1810Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.11Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual [forces] of wickedness in the heavenly [places].13Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.14Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,15and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace;16in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil [one].17And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.18With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints,).

It is a good thing to consider and be aware of these different forms of fight, for it will help you to be able to deal with a certain fight. Then you will certainly not allow any fight upon yourself that you are not supposed to have. That will keep you from the deceit of the enemy, that you may continue your path of faith by striving and in triumph.

Now read Hebrews 12:1-4 again.

Reflection: What is your daily practice of looking unto Jesus?


God Deals With Sons

5and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, Nor faint when you are reproved by Him; 6For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, And He scourges every son whom He receives.” 7It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom [his] father does not discipline? 8But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? 10For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He [disciplines us] for [our] good, so that we may share His holiness. 11All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

V55and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, Nor faint when you are reproved by Him;. The writer encourages the Hebrews that they should not give up too easily. For all opposition, resistance and affliction they were enduring, they had an example in the Lord Jesus. By looking unto Him they were able to persist. But they also forgot something, namely a certain exhortation. That was because they had become dull of hearing (Heb 5:11-1211Concerning him we have much to say, and [it is] hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.12For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food.).

The point is, that there was external pressure and that they had become forgetful. They had forgotten something that was written in the Scripture and what was meant for them. In the quoted text Solomon is addressing his son, but here it is said that the exhortation is addressed to them, the Hebrew believers. This is an important starting point if you read the Scripture. Then you are to consider that the voice of God addresses you. Because the Hebrews had forgotten that they dealt wrongly with the difficulties that they endured on their path of faith.

Here you learn that when you have to endure trials, because of being faithful, God uses those trials to chasten you. With chastening you may easily think that it happens because there is something wrong and that you should be punished or chastened for that. That may be the case sometimes, but is not necessarily always so. Here the chastening is not corrective but preventative, in order to prevent deviation. The chastening is also educative here with the intention that the believer will more and more look like God. He wants you to partake of His holiness (verse 1010For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He [disciplines us] for [our] good, so that we may share His holiness.). With the Lord Jesus this chastening was not necessary. He always perfectly partook of the holiness of God, because He Himself was the holy God.

Just like you’re fixing your eyes unto the Lord Jesus on the path of faith, in that way your eyes are fixed on the Father with the chastening. He doesn’t use a whip to chasten you, but the pruning knife (Jn 15:1-21“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.2Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every [branch] that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.). He chastens us (see Job in the book of Job), but He does that as a loving Father. It gives a lot of rest if you consider that what happens to you, is not caused by people, but that it comes from the hand of a loving Father. That is also what the writer wants to tell the Hebrews. He wants them to realize that they are addressed as “sons”. In chapter 2 they are also addressed like that, as sons who are on the way to the glory (Heb 2:1010For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings.). Chastening or education is the proof of sonship.

Now, you may respond in two ways to the chastening of your heavenly Father. Solomon said that in his wisdom to his son (Pro 3:1111My son, do not reject the discipline of the Lord
Or loathe His reproof,
). On the one hand you may ignore the chastening of the Lord. That means that you act as if the difficulties and trials do not bother you. You keep on acting indifferently and stoically about that. They have no special meaning for you. You may also consider them as situations that can happen to anybody. In itself, it surely is, but you are not anybody. You are somebody with whom God deals with as a son. God is interested in you and educates you. Therefore He has His intention with the things that happen to you. And that’s why you certainly cannot ignore that.

On the other hand you do not need to take them that heavily that you become wiped out and exhausted. It is not that God uses them to pour out His full wrath over you. You may experience it like that, but that is surely not true. No, you may know that God acts out of love.

V66For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, And He scourges every son whom He receives.”. Chastening is a proof of His love and is certainly not intended to discourage you. When chastening serves as punishment, then that means that God wants to convince you of something that is wrong, so that you may take away the wrong things out of your life. That is not necessarily something that you do wrong, but something that can cause you to do that. After all, some Hebrews were running the risk to leave the path of faith.

As it is said, chastening doesn’t always mean that one should be punished for something. When you see chastening like that, whether it concerns you or others, you will draw the wrong conclusion. The outward, physical circumstances are not always the result of the condition of the soul. The friends of Job drew that wrong conclusion. They saw what happened to Job and were convinced that he had committed a great sin. But God punished them because of their remarks on this. With Gaius you see how chastening happens, regarding the body, while the soul prospers (3Jn 1:22Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers.).

That chastening hurts, is indicated by the word “scourges”. Hereby you may think of the thorn in the flesh Paul had (2Cor 12:77Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself!). That thorn was painful in the exertion of his ministry. It made him despicable (and this he endured for the sake of the Lord), but that thorn also kept his flesh in control. This is how God deals with “every son whom He receives”. In the word ‘receive’ joy is sounding through. The word means ‘acknowledge with joy’.

A real son is somebody in whom his father is well pleased (cf. Mt 3:1717and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.”). In this way the Father desires to have us as sons, according to the good pleasure of His will (Eph 1:55He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will,). We are sons; God has given us this place on the ground of the work of His Son. He also desires that we live up to this in practice. In order to achieve this He chastens us, for chastening serves to remove things that are not pleasing to Him out of our lives, so that we may be more pleasing to Him.

V7-87It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom [his] father does not discipline?8But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.. Therefore, in all chastening you should see the loving interference of God, Who deals with you as with a son. Be sure that this happens to every son. Sometimes it is quite visible, but even when certain believers visibly prosper, they surely have part in the chastening, although it is not seen at first glance. “All”, those are all believers, are partakers. Every son is chastened by his father. God also dealt with Israel, His firstborn son like that (Exo 4:2222Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the LORD, “Israel is My son, My firstborn.; Hos 11:11When Israel [was] a youth I loved him,
And out of Egypt I called My son.
; Deu 7:88but because the LORD loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers, the LORD brought you out by a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.; 8:55Thus you are to know in your heart that the LORD your God was disciplining you just as a man disciplines his son.).

If the Hebrews had no part in the chastening, they should have to worry about that instead of worrying about the chastening they were going through at that moment. If they were not partakers, that would mean that God was not interested in them and that He would have dealt with them as illegitimates. Illegitimates are not real sons. Therefore, if they would have missed the chastening, it would mean that they were Christians in name or fake sons. Now they were really chastened, it was the proof that God had received them as sons.

V99Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live?. With the word “furthermore” the writer adds a comparison between God and an earthly father. In this comparison it becomes clear that God is so much more than an earthly father. Our corporal fathers, “earthly fathers”, also corrected us. That belongs to the education. Because of their correction we paid them respect. How much more do we have to pay respect to our heavenly, spiritual, Father. That Father is the origin of every spiritual life (Num 16:2222But they fell on their faces and said, “O God, God of the spirits of all flesh, when one man sins, will You be angry with the entire congregation?”; 27:1616“May the LORD, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation,; Ecc 12:77then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.).

Just like you as a child had to (or perhaps still have to) submit to the chastening hand of your earthly father, in that way you should also submit yourself to the chastening of God. If you submit yourself to that, you will “live”! The point is not that you should learn to deal with the difficulties of life, but how you can enjoy the true life. Only then you really live the way God has intended you to.

V1010For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He [disciplines us] for [our] good, so that we may share His holiness.. Now, your earthly father is fallible, but God is not. God never makes mistakes. The correction of your earthly father is also limited to “a short time”, which are the days of your youth, while God corrects you through your whole life. Ultimately His chastening is never meaningless, but is always for your benefit, for your improvement and advantage. His ultimate purpose with His chastening is that you may partake “of His holiness”.

Your spiritual well-being depends on that. That contains more beside your position, with regard to being set apart (Heb 10:1010By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.). It implies that you separate yourself from evil, just as God is separate from it and that you learn to be totally devoted to God in everything. He doesn’t demand holiness here, but He works that. The chastening is His means for that. That enables you to perfectly have joy in God.

V1111All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.. The first response to chastening is not joy. If chastening was to give joy, it would miss its effect. All positive aspects of the chastening that the writer has demonstrated in the previous verses do not change the fact that the chastening in itself is not something that makes you happy. It is not pleasant. If that would be the case, it would not mean chastening. On the contrary, the unpleasing thing about it should teach us to change our walk in such a way that we don’t have to be chastened anymore. Therefore the chastening is intended for “the moment”. When the chastening has achieved its goal, then there is a reason to be joyful. Then it is profitable.

By chastening you are being “trained”, which means that you are taught how to deal with it. By training you learn how to control something. If you are willing to accept chastening in that way, if you can handle it like that, then that will bring you closer to God. The result is that you will enjoy more of the peace and that you will grow in bringing righteousness into practice.

The “peaceful fruit of righteousness” will soon be reality to Israel in the millennial kingdom of peace, after they have gone through the sufferings of the great tribulation. God wants to work that fruit now already through His education in your life (Jn 15:2,82Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every [branch] that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.8My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and [so] prove to be My disciples.).

Now read Hebrews 12:5-11 again.

Reflection: What chastening do you recognize in your life as God’s dealings with you, in order to enable you to partake of His holiness?


Pursue Peace and Sanctification

12Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, 13and make straight paths for your feet, so that [the limb] which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed. 14Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. 15See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled; 16that [there be] no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a [single] meal. 17For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears. 18For you have not come to [a mountain] that can be touched and to a blazing fire, and to darkness and gloom and whirlwind, 19and to the blast of a trumpet and the sound of words which [sound was such that] those who heard begged that no further word be spoken to them. 20For they could not bear the command, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it will be stoned.” 21And so terrible was the sight, [that] Moses said, “I am full of fear and trembling.”

V1212Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble,. The word “therefore” with which this section starts, indicates the connection with the previous part. In that way the writer says that you can take courage, because the chastening is for your benefit and it serves a wonderful purpose. Your hands, knees and feet can be strengthened again to continue the path of faith to the wonderful ultimate goal (Isa 35:33Encourage the exhausted, and strengthen the feeble.
). Should your hands hang down feebly, being discouraged by so much contradiction and resistance, then you know now that God uses the difficulties to put you back to work for Him.

Through physical exercise you get stronger muscles. Through spiritual exercise you get more spiritual resilience. Instead of feeble knees you get strong knees. Strong knees you can bow to pray and stretch to walk.

V1313and make straight paths for your feet, so that [the limb] which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.. When you have feeble knees your feet cannot make “straight paths”. You will not be able to make firm footsteps on the right course to the goal. It is necessary for your own walk that you establish your way (Pro 4:2626Watch the path of your feet
And all your ways will be established.
).

But your established walk is also necessary for others who are limping. He who is limping cannot have an established walk. Such a person rather stumbles. If you also shuttle hither and thither helplessly, you surely cannot offer the limping one any support. On the contrary, your wavering can have the result that the limping one totally gets paralyzed and powerless. But when you follow the right path you are of support to those who cannot make it through on their own. When there are good examples that follow the right course, then the limping ones will not drop behind further, but they will continue their way with new courage.

There is not only mention of power but also of healing. Only on the path that God has for us, power and (spiritual) health are to be found. We should walk there where He can be with us.

V1414Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.. In the spiritual race we need one another. On the one hand you should walk individually as if you are the only one who could win the prize (1Cor 9:2424Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but [only] one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.). On the other hand you walk together with others who pursue that same prize. Those are not competitors whom you should be ahead of all the time, but they are fellow fighters with whom you want to cross the finishing line together. Regarding your efforts, you should walk as if you are on your own, but what the goal concerns you should realize that you are on the way together with others. You are dependent on them and they are dependent on you. We need one another. We need to care for one another and for the whole companionship of Christians with whom we are on the way.

If you are aware of that you will see that not everybody is at the same pace and also that not everybody is following the same course. If we lose sight of that, there is a huge risk that it will cause distance, which means that it will drive a spiritual wedge between brothers and sisters. That risk can be tackled by pursuing “peace with all men” (Psa 34:1414Depart from evil and do good;
Seek peace and pursue it.
). Then the runners will slow down a little bit to encourage those who lag behind and support them in any way it is necessary. In that way the whole will stay together.

Therefore you are able to show your connection with your fellow believers by seeking peace with them. But there is one more thing you should pursue and that is “sanctification”. In seeking peace you are focused on others, in pursuing sanctification you are focused on God. It is about your relation to others on the one side, the other thing is about your relation to God. Sanctification indicates an action. It means that you are totally devoted to God and therefore you separate yourself from everything that is in contrast to God. If you continue to tolerate things in your life that are in contrast with God’s holiness, then they will hinder your sanctification. Sanctification concerns the nature of God (verse 1010For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He [disciplines us] for [our] good, so that we may share His holiness.); sanctification has to do with the devotion to the service of God.

V1515See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled;. Interaction with one another is also shown in something else and that is when we carefully see to it “that no one comes short of the grace of God”. ‘To see to’ has some character of the shepherd; it has got to do with overseers who look after the flock (1Pet 5:22shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to [the will of] God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness;). The awareness of God’s grace is essential to keep on going on the path of faith. If someone gets disconnected from that and doesn’t pay attention to grace anymore, then the reverse of pursuing will happen. Such a person will quit and give up the race; he will no longer join the Christian companionship. ‘To come short’ has got to do with to lag behind, missing the connection, that a person ultimately will not reach the finish with the platoon.

The point is that you look around to see if everyone is still partaking of the Christian company, by keeping the connection with the grace of God. When someone among the Hebrews would be impressed by the opposition in such a way that he lost sight of God’s grace, then he would come short. He would therefore run the risk to fall back in Judaism. If you or somebody else misses the connection with the grace of God, then the danger is great that you return to the world. By speaking with one another about that grace and by pointing one another to that, we encourage each other that the grace of God is most present in the darkest moment.

When someone falls apart from the grace of God and pays no attention to it anymore, because he feels to be tossed to and fro by the hardships he can only see, then a root of bitterness will arise (Deu 29:18b18so that there will not be among you a man or woman, or family or tribe, whose heart turns away today from the LORD our God, to go and serve the gods of those nations; that there will not be among you a root bearing poisonous fruit and wormwood.). A root has the character of growing. If this root is not radically taken away by paying attention again to the grace of God, it will exercise a corruptible influence. Such a root causes troubles and defilement that grab around more and more. Many people will be infected by it. A root of bitterness does not only separate from God, but it also introduces immoral practices.

V1616that [there be] no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a [single] meal.. Therefore the next step in this process is fornication. Corporal fornication is an unacceptable and condemnable sexual unification of a man or a woman outside marriage. God will judge that (Heb 13:44Marriage [is to be held] in honor among all, and the [marriage] bed [is to be] undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.). The spiritual view of fornication is the connection of the believer with the world in a way that God is set aside (Jam 4:44You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.).

Therefore it is not surprising that after fornication comes “a godless person like Esau”. The profanity of Esau is that he despised the blessings of God concerning the future and preferred a momentary fleshly enjoyment. He was not interested in the future. He wanted to enjoy here and now. Therefore he gave up his birthright and all the additional privileges. The example of Esau was meant to have a terrifying effect on the readers of the letter.

V1717For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears.. The writer reminds the readers of Esau’s end. This example says: He who rejects the blessing regarding the future in favor of a momentary pleasure, will later seek the blessing in vain, no matter the tears there are shed. The Hebrews are being warned in that way, that they will not fall away from the living God. He who falls away from the living God, will once realize which blessings he has given up and will want to put everything back in order. But then it will be too late for ever.

Esau had no remorse. He didn’t want to repent, he wanted the blessing. Each person who draws near to God with repentance, will surely receive forgiveness. However, Esau did not cry because he was remorseful about selling his birthright, but because he had lost the blessings that went together with the birthright. He didn’t cry because he was a sinner, but because he was a loser. Such tears will be found in hell.

V18-2018For you have not come to [a mountain] that can be touched and to a blazing fire, and to darkness and gloom and whirlwind,19and to the blast of a trumpet and the sound of words which [sound was such that] those who heard begged that no further word be spoken to them.20For they could not bear the command, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it will be stoned.”. After this grave word about the consequences of falling away from the grace of God, the writer starts to encourage again. To illustrate his encouragement he uses the picture of two mountains. A mountain is a symbol of power. The one is Sinai, which stands for the power of the law and represents the old covenant. The other mountain is Zion, which stands for grace and represents the new covenant.

They did not come to the mountain of Sinai, as Israel did in former days (Deu 4:1111You came near and stood at the foot of the mountain, and the mountain burned with fire to the [very] heart of the heavens: darkness, cloud and thick gloom.). To that mountain abhorrence, frightening weather phenomena and death threat were related. The unbelieving Israel, whom the Hebrews left, was spiritually still there and is still abiding there. But the Hebrews did not need to be afraid of the words of God. They could fearlessly draw near to God to speak with Him. Under the new covenant there is no fear to tread a territory that could cause them to die.

V2121And so terrible was the sight, [that] Moses said, “I am full of fear and trembling.”. Under the old covenant even Moses was very impressed by the sight and was exceedingly afraid and trembling. The fear of both Moses and the people was prompted, because of the fact that a righteous God, Who was announcing His holy demands to the people, would come to them with wrath and judgment, when they would trespass these demands. This indeed happened when the people made the golden calf and worshiped it.

Now read again Hebrews 12:12-21.

Reflection: In what way will you be able to pursue and look after the things mentioned?


We Have Come To Better Things

22But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, 23to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of [the] righteous made perfect, 24and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than [the blood] of Abel. 25See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned [them] on earth, much less [will] we [escape] who turn away from Him who [warns] from heaven. 26And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heaven.” 27This [expression], “Yet once more,” denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. 28Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; 29for our God is a consuming fire.

V2222But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels,. The word “but” indicates that what now follows, is in contrast with what is said previously. To the Hebrews it is demonstrated that they haven’t come to the mountain of Sinai with its accompanying horrors. Now it is demonstrated to them what they actually have come to. This ‘have come to’ indicates the sphere of the relation we are entering. As the sphere at Sinai was characterized by fear and trembling, the sphere at the “Mount Zion” is one of grace and peace, of inviting love and the absence of every fear (1Jn 4:1818There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.). He who has once entered this sphere and experienced its significance can never ever be tempted anymore to return to Judaism, the old system of the threatening Sinai.

In the millennial kingdom of peace the literal Mount Zion is the place of God’s rest and the seat of the royal power of the Messiah. But the Hebrews have now already come to that mountain. That means that here it is not about the earthly mountain, but it is about the subject of which this mountain is the symbol, namely of grace and heaven. The Mount Zion represents the new covenant with all its aspects: the new kingdom, the new priesthood, the new worship service, the new dwelling place, the new resting place.

The new priesthood is related to Zadok (2Sam 8:1717Zadok the son of Ahitub and Ahimelech the son of Abiathar [were] priests, and Seraiah [was] secretary.; Eze 40:4646but the chamber which faces toward the north is for the priests who keep charge of the altar. These are the sons of Zadok, who from the sons of Levi come near to the LORD to minister to Him.”), a priest from the line of Eleazar, the third son of Aaron. This indicates the priesthood of the resurrected Christ. The number three refers to the third day as the day of the resurrection. The new kingship is also related to Christ, the great Son of David, who was the king after God’s heart (Psa 132:11-1411The LORD has sworn to David
A truth from which He will not turn back:
“Of the fruit of your body I will set upon your throne.
12“If your sons will keep My covenant
And My testimony which I will teach them,
Their sons also shall sit upon your throne forever.”
13For the LORD has chosen Zion;
He has desired it for His habitation.
14“This is My resting place forever;
Here I will dwell, for I have desired it.
). Christ is the true King-Priest (Zec 6:1313Yes, it is He who will build the temple of the LORD, and He who will bear the honor and sit and rule on His throne. Thus, He will be a priest on His throne, and the counsel of peace will be between the two offices.”‘). He is the true center of all blessing both in the millennial kingdom of peace in future and now already in spirit for everyone who is on the way to that wonderful situation.

After Mount Zion the writer presents more impressive matters that have come within reach of the believing Hebrews. But faith is necessary to see those. When faith sees them, they will be of great encouragement for the road they still had to go. The writer explains to the Hebrews what they had also come to, so were brought within the sphere of, “the city of the living God”, that is “the heavenly Jerusalem”. They had turned their back on the earthly Jerusalem, but they entered the heavenly Jerusalem by faith.

Abraham and other Old Testament believers had seen the city from afar and that encouraged them (Heb 11:10,1610for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.16But as it is, they desire a better [country], that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.). The privilege that the Hebrews had was beyond that: they had already come that far. They knew its sphere and enjoyed the privilege of being in the presence of the living God. That city is the center of the government over the earth that is not openly being exercised yet, but will definitely become reality. In that city death has no entrance, what actually will be the case in the earthly Jerusalem and also in the millennial kingdom of peace.

The Hebrews are physically still on earth. But when they approach the city in spirit, they discover that there are inhabitants in the heavenly Jerusalem. There, first of all, are “myriads of angels”. When you imagine yourself entering the heavenly Jerusalem from outside, you see the angels first. They form the external circle of the inhabitants of the city, in order to protect them as it were. That is also appropriate for the task they have towards the believers on earth to whom they have been given to serve (Heb 1:1414Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?).

V2323to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of [the] righteous made perfect,. The further description, “the general assembly”, has the meaning of a joyful assembly. When the law was given at Mount Sinai, the angels also played a role (Acts 7:5353you who received the law as ordained by angels, and [yet] did not keep it.”). Through their mediation the law was given. As you have seen, there was not directly anything joyful about that, but the angels are rejoicing in the sphere of grace (cf. Lk 2:13-1413And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
14“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”
).

After the external circle our attention is drawn to the internal circle. In the midst of the multitude of angels we see the people of God, here called “the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven”. Those who had no place on earth, are at home there. On earth their names meant nothing. They were erased from the worldly and religious registers, but that didn’t matter to them. It was much more important that their names were enrolled in heaven. That means that they are indelible and that they are familiar to God; that they are known by Him (Lk 10:2020Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven.”; Phil 4:33Indeed, true companion, I ask you also to help these women who have shared my struggle in [the cause of] the gospel, together with Clement also and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.; Rev 3:55He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.; 21:2727and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.).

The word ‘assembly’ is found in this letter only here. It has the sense of the family of God. The further description ‘firstborn’ indicates the fact of sonship and heirship. This is in connection with the fact that they are called brethren of Christ (Heb 2:1111For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one [Father]; for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren,). As firstborn the Hebrews were entitled to the eternal inheritance; they were fellow heirs of Christ, the Firstborn (Heb 1:66And when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says, “And let all the angels of God worship Him.”).

Then we see there “God, the Judge of all”. All heavenly citizens are there on the ground of God’s justice. They have suffered much injustice, but they have trusted that the Judge of the whole earth will do justice (Gen 18:2525Far be it from You to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are [treated] alike. Far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?”). Also the Lord Jesus has entrusted “[Himself] to Him Who judges righteously” (1Pet 2:2323and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting [Himself] to Him who judges righteously;). Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness shall be satisfied, because God is the Judge (Mt 5:66“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.).

The “spirits of [the] righteous made perfect” are the first ones who experience that. These are the Old Testament believers who are asleep and who are now having a spiritual existence and who will, at the resurrection, be made perfect. They have finished the walk of faith and are only waiting for the glory. But they now already have their resting place and part in heaven.

V2424and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than [the blood] of Abel.. Then we see “Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant”. This new covenant will be established with Israel, but the spiritual blessings of the new covenant are now already enjoyed by all who belong to God’s people. What would the future world be worth, both in heaven and on earth, without Him? He is the Mediator between the holy God and the sinful man.

He has made the way for the implementation of the new covenant and certainly through His blood. In that way forgiveness became a part of each who belongs to the new covenant and to whom the blessing of the millennial kingdom of peace is surely guaranteed. The first blood that was shed, was the blood of the righteous Abel (Mt 23:3535so that upon you may fall [the guilt of] all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.). However, that blood could not serve as a restoration for the blessings that were lost. On the contrary, a cry for vengeance came out of it (Gen 4:1010He said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground.).

The blood of Christ, however, is blood that speaks a better language, which is the language of forgiveness, because it is the sacrifice blood. It is wonderful that the description of all wonderful things to which the believers have come under the new covenant concludes with what forms the basis: the blood of Christ. In that way also the everlasting duration of the new covenant is established.

V2525See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned [them] on earth, much less [will] we [escape] who turn away from Him who [warns] from heaven.. After he has presented these glories, which are in connection with the new order, the writer now again continues with some concluding exhortations. God had spoken (Heb 1:11God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways,) and is still speaking, just like the blood does. What a foolishness would that be to reject this God. It was already a foolish thing to do to reject God when He spoke on earth. He had given His instructions in the law and had presented them the way to live and to be blessed. But man did not want to listen.

Ever since the Holy Spirit has come, God speaks from heaven. To reject Him means to reject grace. This is what Stephen accused the unbelieving people of and therefore the people became furious and stoned him (Acts 7:51-5951“You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did.52Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become;53you who received the law as ordained by angels, and [yet] did not keep it.”54Now when they heard this, they were cut to the quick, and they [began] gnashing their teeth at him.55But being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God;56and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”57But they cried out with a loud voice, and covered their ears and rushed at him with one impulse.58When they had driven him out of the city, they [began] stoning [him]; and the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul.59They went on stoning Stephen as he called on [the Lord] and said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!”). In this way they rejected God’s last offer of grace and sealed their own rejection.

V2626And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heaven.”. God’s speaking by giving the law with which the old covenant was initiated, was accompanied by a quaking earth (Exo 19:1818Now Mount Sinai [was] all in smoke because the LORD descended upon it in fire; and its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked violently.). Also the establishment of the new covenant will be accompanied by a shaking earth, but the shaking of heaven will be added to that. God had announced it like that at the end of the Old Testament (Hag 2:77I will shake all the nations; and they will come with the wealth of all nations, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the LORD of hosts.). The introduction of the millennial kingdom of peace will be preceded by terrible earthquakes during the great tribulation (Rev 6:1212I looked when He broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth [made] of hair, and the whole moon became like blood;) and at the return of Christ there will be signs in heaven (Mt 24:2929“But immediately after the tribulation of those days THE SUN WILL BE DARKENED, AND THE MOON WILL NOT GIVE ITS LIGHT, AND THE STARS WILL FALL from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.).

V2727This [expression], “Yet once more,” denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.. That will result in “the removing of those things which can be shaken”, “things” that are made and that are temporal. The old is being removed and something new, which cannot be shaken, will replace it. Judaism belongs to the old order and shall therefore disappear. The church belongs to the new order and will remain. This is how everything shall remain that God has said (1Pet 1:2525But the word of the Lord endures forever.” And this is the word which was preached to you.), just like everyone, who has accepted His Word, will remain (1Jn 2:1717The world is passing away, and [also] its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.).

V2828Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe;. The unshakable kingdom that the Son will establish, will be received by Him from God’s hands (Dan 7:1313“I kept looking in the night visions,
And behold, with the clouds of heaven
One like a Son of Man was coming,
And He came up to the Ancient of Days
And was presented before Him.
; Psa 2:88‘Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance,
And the [very] ends of the earth as Your possession.
) and we will receive it from Him and with Him (Lk 12:3232Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom.; 22:2929and just as My Father has granted Me a kingdom, I grant you. This kingdom remains to eternity (Rev 22:55And there will no longer be [any] night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever.) and it is based on pure grace that we may receive it.

We must hold on to that grace, for otherwise we will slide away. At the same time grace provides us with a clear motive to serve God. Grace is the right mind therefore. Therein He finds His pleasure. The believer will serve Him “with reverence and awe”, for He is an awesome and holy God. This is not an intention to terrify you, but to fill you with the right reverence.

V2929for our God is a consuming fire.. People who miss this reverence are to be aware that God is “a consuming fire”. The fire consumes everything that is not in accordance with God. This is a serious word to everyone who is in danger to drop out and return to a formality service.

Now read Hebrews12:22-29 again.

Reflection: Explore once again what you are come to, which is where you belong to and thank the Lord for that company and those unchangeable truths.


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