Hebrews 12 (New International Version)
God Disciplines His Sons
1Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses,
This has to be in my Top Ten List of Wonderful Hymns! “For All the Saints.” The words were originally written (1864) as a processional hymn, and the hymn tune, written by Ralph Vaughan Williams and known as Sine Nomine, is considered by many to be one of the finest hymn tunes of the 20th century. Can you see the “cloud of witnesses” marching towards the Throne of God accompanied by this piece?
1. For all the saints, who from their labors rest,
who thee by faith before the world confessed,
thy name, O Jesus, be forever blest.
2. Thou wast their rock, their fortress, and their might;
thou Lord, their captain in the well-fought fight;
thou in the darkness drear, their one true light.
3. O blest communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
yet all are one in thee, for all are thine.
4. The golden evening brightens in the west;
Soon, soon to faithful warriors comes their rest;
Sweet is the calm of paradise the blessed.
5. But lo! there breaks a yet more glorious day;
The saints triumphant rise in bright array;
The King of Glory passes on His way.
6. From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast,
through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
singing to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost:
let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
from Whispers of His Power, by Amy Carmichael:
Hebrews 12:1 — Let us run with patience the race that is set before us.
Hebrews 13:5-6 — He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my Helper, and I will not fear.
Watching an obstacle race made me think of the race we are called to run. While we are in the middle of loops and tires and ladders and sacks we may be tempted to forget that they did not put themselves there. They are there on purpose. What would be the point of an obstacle race if there were no obstacles? It would be foolish to say, “Couldn’t you clear these obstacles off the field, and make the race nice and easy?”
And yet that is exactly what we often ask God to do for us. “Please make it a bit easier, it’s too hard for me.” That is a poor sort of prayer, and there is not a single promise in the Bible which we can take and spread before our Father and say, “See, my Father, You promised to make the race easy.” So it cannot be the kind of prayer He likes His runners to bring to Him.
There are many promises that we can bring. Here is one. It was written in a letter to people who were running in an obstacle race, and the obstacles were simply tremendous. The author wrote about being properly prepared for the race, and about running with patience. He wanted to give them a strong word of comfort too, so he wrote: “God has said, I will never leave you nor forsake you. So you may boldly say, The Lord is my Helper, I will not fear.”
Next time we feel like giving up as we jump our bars, or scramble up our ladders, or dive through our rings, or struggle through our old tires, or stagger along in our sack, let us listen and we shall hear that word, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
2Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of Earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.
4In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons:
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
6 because the Lord disciplines those he loves,
and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.”
7Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? 8If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. 9Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! 10Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. 11No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
Suffering for the believer is a privilege, because suffering is a refining. Why do the godly suffer? They suffer that they may be purified and cleansed. Such is the message of God’s Word. It is a refining process. How clearly that is brought out in the twelfth chapter of Hebrews.
Suffering is a refining process, and even as heat is applied to precious metals to bring all the dross to the top in order that the pure metal might remain, so your life and mine are often subjected to the heat of suffering by the great Refiner who knows just how much heat to apply.
We read in Zechariah 13:9, “I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried.” God thus gets rid of the dross and we become partakers of His holiness. That is a great promise and a great privilege!
–Rev. Dr. Robert W. Lazear
in Stones of Remembrance
2 Corinthians 1:20 (The Message)
Whatever God has promised gets stamped with the Yes of Jesus. In him, this is what we preach and pray, the great Amen, God’s Yes and our Yes together, gloriously evident.
12Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. 13“Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.
Warning Against Refusing God
14Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. 15See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.
from Experiencing God Day-by-Day,
by Henry T. Blackaby and Richard Blackaby
Bitterness has a tenacious way of taking root deep within the soul and resisting all efforts to weed it out. Bitterness occurs for many reasons. It might come from deep hurts you received as a child, hurts you cannot forget. Time, rather than diminishing the hurt, only seems to sharpen the pain. Bitterness can result from the hurtful words of a friend or co-worker. Often the person who hurt you is unaware of the extent of your bitterness. You find yourself rehearsing the offense over and over again, each time driving the root of bitterness deeper within your soul. Bitterness can derive from a sense of being unjustly treated.
Bitterness is easy to justify. You can get so used to a bitter heart that you are even comfortable with it, but it will destroy you. Only God is fully aware of its destructive potential. There is nothing so deeply embedded in your heart that God’s grace cannot reach down and remove it. No area in your life is so painful that God’s grace cannot bring total healing. No offense committed against you is so heinous that God’s love cannot enable you to forgive.
When you allow bitterness to grow in your life, you reject the grace of God that can heal you. If you are honest before God, you will admit the bitterness and allow God to forgive you. God will replace your bitterness with his peace and joy.
16See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. 17Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. He could bring about no change of mind, though he sought the blessing with tears.
18You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; 19to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, 20because they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned.”21The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.”
22But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, 24to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a BETTER word than the blood of Abel.
25See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven? 26At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain.
28Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29for our “God is a consuming fire.”
from this Day with the Master, by Dennis F. Kinlaw:
Our God is a consuming fire. –Hebrews 12:29
Sin has a transcendent character. It rises above natural law and personally affronts the Holy One. God is holy, he is the Almighty, and the difference between right and wrong begins and ends in him. If you do not have the triune God, it is impossible to distinguish truth from error, and everything blurs together in a great gray mass of confusion. We tend to be frightened of the holiness of the Father, Son, and Spirit, but in reality his holy nature provides the security of the world. We want God to be angry when a child is hurt or when a person is discriminated against because we do not want evil to win. We are glad that God gets upset when rich people take advantage of poor people. God finds sin offensive because he is holy and he does what is right—always.
When the Holy Three-in-One comes into our midst and begins to make us like himself, we should be filled with ecstasy because his holiness offers the only chance for our crooked world to ever be made right. God’s holiness is the dream of all the utopian philosophers, whether they acknowledge it or not. He is the One in whom there is no falsehood, no wrong, no pollution. He is the Just One: absolutely true, completely good, and always right.
Images courtesy of:
cross window and verse 2. http://pleasantword.net/media/wallpaper/Hebrews_12-2.jpg
runner and verse 1. http://www.preceptaustin.org/hebrews12_1_new.jpg
woman’s face with beautiful eyes. http://farm1.static.flickr.com/192/514545523_0aa2f8ed2e.jpg
fire on the mountain. http://www.lutheranscience.org/images/Mt_Sinai.gif
heavenly Jerusalem. http://gbcdecatur.org/files/NewJerusalem.jpg