Hebrews 12:4-17

In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.

Observation

  • The recipients of the letter were struggling against sin.
  • The recipients of the letter had not struggled against sin to the point of shedding their blood.
  • We are not to regard the discipline of the Lord lightly.
  • We are not to be weary when God disciplines us.
  • God disciplines the ones He loves.
  • God disciplines every son he receives.
  • The Hebrew recipients of the letter had endured because of discipline.
  • They were treated as sons because they were disciplined.
  • Fathers discipline their sons.
  • Everyone has been disciplined
  • If we are not disciplined then we are illegitimate.
  • If we are illegitimate children we are not sons.
  • We have earthy fathers who discipline us.
  • We respect our earthly fathers who discipline us.
  • We should be more subject to our heavenly Father than to our earthly father.
  • Our earthly father’s discipline for a short period of time.
  • Our earthly fathers discipline us as it seems best to them.
  • God disciplines us for our good.
  • God disciplines us so we may share His holiness.
  • All discipline is painful while it is being administered.
  • Discipline yields righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
  • We are to stand up straight and make the way easier so what is lame may be healed.
  • We are to stand up straight and make the way easier so what is lame is not harmed further.
  • We are to strive for peace with everyone.
  • We are to strive for holiness.
  • Without holiness no one will see God.
  • We are to see to it no one fails to obtain grace.
  • We are to see to it that bitterness does not spring up and cause trouble.
  • Bitterness causes many to become defiled.
  • We are to see to it that no one is sexually immoral
  • We are to see to it that no one is unholy like Esau.
  • Esau sold his birthright for one meal.
  • After the meal Esau wished he had not sold his birthright.
  • When Esau tried to inherit the blessing, he was rejected.
  • Esau found no chance to repent.
  • Esau had no chance to repent even though he greatly regretted his action.

Interpretation

As the writer addresses His audience and mentions that they struggle against sin, sin is not an impersonal force. When taken in context with verse 3,”Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.” It is clear that the writer is referring to an external persecution. When placed in the broader context these are the same people whom the author in 10:34 mentions has suffered the loss of their property joyfully for the sake of the Gospel. Even so, they had not yet been persecuted to the point of death.

The author reminds them it is through faith that God rewards us. Yet the loss of property and persecution does not sound like much of a reward. Why do we suffer even while we trust in the promises of God? As Christians we know the answer. It is the result of sin. All the evil in the world, especially death comes from sin. Therefore, all the suffering we endure for the sake of the Gospel is the result of sin. But this is not the point the author is making. The sufferings we endure for the sake of the Gospel are useful to us. Suffering is actually a means of grace. Through it we partake and share in God’s holiness. We do not suffer for the Gospel as a punishment for sin. Christ took our punishment. Instead we suffer in order to be made holy.

Remembering that in the middle of a crisis is not easy. That is why the author is reminding and encouraging the recipients of this epistle. That is one of the reasons why we need each other. We need to encourage each other and remind each other that God keeps His promises. In the mist of suffering we do not want to standup and shout for glory. Suffering is unpleasant. That simple fact is acknowledged by the author, “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant”

The fact is, the discipline of God is actually good for us. The author argues that God’s discipline is a sign of His love for us. If we despise it we are ungrateful. It is through discipline God allows us to share in His holiness.

Now you may be thinking, “Now hold on there Buster. If the reason for suffering is not punishment but to cause us to share in God’s holiness, why do the non-elect suffer? I think you are a little mixed up there.” The author actually addresses that reasoning. The reason the elect suffer is for discipline. The reason those non-elect suffer is for punishment. In others words the difference is God’s intent and the outcome not the actual suffering. The difference is what results from the suffering. Suffering for the elect is discipline to and make them holy. It is to purge them from ungodliness and to bring them to repentance. Suffering for the non-elect is punishment for their sin. Since discipline is a means of grace, we actually reject the grace of God when we seek to withdraw from the discipline of God.

The author uses the example of our earthly father. Our fathers discipline us for our good. They do the best they know. But they are flawed and err in both directions, too much and too little. But our heavenly Father’s discipline is perfect.

Having taught that God is interested in our salvation and holiness, the author now encourages his audience to not be slothful. There are many who would be willing to profess their faith, to contend for God’s glory and justice in private and in public hold a fear of persecution. This is what the author means when he says, “lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet.”

We are told to strive for peace. Peace is one of those things we desire but sabotage every opportunity we get. We are born in sin therefore we seek our own interests, our own way. We do not care about others. Unless we strenuously labor and work for peace we shall never retain it. However, peace cannot be maintained with the ungodly without approving of their sinfulness. That is why the author adds, “and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” No matter what happens we are not to forsake holiness because without holiness we will not see our Lord.

The author indicates it is extremely easy to fall away from the grace of God and require discipline when he says, “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.” As soon as Satan sees us thinking we are secure, he instantly recognizes that we are weakened. He uses our smugness to attack us. Our own feeling of security can be the root of bitterness when we think we are obedient and therefore not in need of discipline. When it arrives we then turn bitter rather than understanding it is the means by which we will share in the God’s holiness.

When we focus on the suffering we endure we take our eyes off of Christ and His glory. That was the sin of Esau, thinking only of the here and now. Esau sold his birthright for a meal because he was hungry. He gave away what was to come for what he could have right now. To Esau the value of his birthright in the future was worth no more than a single meal right now.

The author warns us about acting like Esau concerned about the here and now and forgetting about what God has promised us. Esau lost his inheritance even though he cried and was truly sorry. The birthright now belonged to Jacob.

Application

Christ died for our sins. He has promised us an inheritance, an inheritance not a reward. An inheritance is something given to sons and daughters. I had a rich uncle, despite all the stories about receiving a surprise inheritance from rich uncles, when he died I did not receive a penny. The inheritance all went to his children. Inheritances goes to the testator’s children. We have been adopted as God’s sons and daughters. As God’s children he is raising us to be conformed in His image. Therefore we occasionally need to be disciplined. He disciplines us because he loves us, just as our fathers discipline us. I remember one time I was spanked by my father. I do not remember why but I am sure I deserved it. But I remember being very defiant and thinking I was not going to let him affect me. I also remember my father saying just before I was bent over, “This is going to hurt me more than it does you.” I thought to myself, “Yeah right!” After I received my spanking, I stood up turned around to glare at him. When I did, I saw tears in his eyes. I knew then and there he loved me and he was doing what he thought was in my interest. God disciplines us perfectly and disciplines in a way that is in our best interest.

 

Our discipline from God is perfect and is meant for our correction. When Christ took our punishment, it hurt Him more than His discipline hurts us.

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