Hebrews 12:12-13 (NIV) 12 Therefore, 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.
On verses 12-13: Continuing with the theme that God is our personal trainer who allows pain and pressure to make us stronger, the writer of Hebrews tells us to “strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees” (v12). When you allow pressure and pain to make you stronger, you “make level paths for your feet”, as the writer of Hebrews says quoting Proverbs 4:26. But even more, when you allow pressure and pain to make you stronger, God can use you to be a blessing to others “so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.” (v13)
Hebrews 12:14 (NIV) 14 Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.
On verse 14: With His blood Jesus gives us a peace we cannot manufacture and holiness that we could never attain on our own. Still, the writer of Hebrews tells us to make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy. It’s as if the writer of Hebrews is saying, “Now that you have a peace from Jesus that you cannot manufacture, make every effort to preserve and protect that peace with others. And now that you have been made holy by the blood of Jesus, make every effort to live in a way that reflects that holiness to others. For when you live an exceptional life typified by God’s peace and holiness, you experience God more and others experience God more through you.” On the contrary, “without holiness no one will see the Lord” (v14).
Hebrews 12:15 (NIV) 15 See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.
On verse 15: Here the writer of Hebrews identifies two things that can ruin a person’s life. The first situation is where a person, after receiving Jesus Christ as their Saviour, forgets about the grace that God has shown that person and instead keeps focusing on his or her own performance, or the performance of others, thus being very merciless and uncharitable toward themselves and toward others. The second situation that can ruin a person’s life is by choosing to stay bitter against those who have hurt them in the past. Here the Bible compares bitterness to a weed that is planted and grows in a person’s heart. If you don’t remove that bitterness, like a weed it will grow and ruin the environment where it was planted. Don’t allow bitterness to ruin your life. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
Hebrews 12:16-17 (NIV) 16 See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. 17 Afterward, 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.
On verses 16-17: Here the writer of Hebrews mentions a third and a fourth situation that can really damage a person’s life. The third situation is sexually immorality, where a person sleeps with someone they are not married to, thinking that it will make them or the other person happy, but not realizing the pain they cause and the blessing they forfeit in doing so. The fourth is what the writer of Hebrews calls godlessness, where you forfeit God’s greatest blessings for the sake of temporary physical pleasure. We have a choice: we can either follow the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11 like Moses who valued Christ over the temporary pleasures of sin, or we can follow someone like Esau who sacrificed long-term blessing for the sake of short-term pleasure. Faith is about choosing short-term pain so you can have long-term gain.
But praise God! Though all of us have at some point been like Esau, there is grace for our failures, as we will see in the verses that follow.
Hebrews 12:18-24 (NIV) 18 You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; 19 to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, 20 because they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned.” 21 The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.” 22 But 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, 23 to 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, 24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
On verses 18-24: Here the writer of Hebrews compares worship under the old covenant or Old Testament (v18-21) to worship under the new covenant or New Testament (v22-24). Notice that worship under the old covenant was filled with “darkness”, “gloom” (v18) and fear (v21). The focus was on a specific location where people would worship God: first it was Mount Sinai (v18) and then it was Jerusalem. Under the old covenant, people were afraid to draw near to God because of their sins (v19-20), even Moses himself who led people under that old covenant (v21). But under the new covenant that Jesus established, worship is about being in “joyful assembly” (v22). Instead of being focused on a physical location like Mount Sinai or the temple in Jerusalem, it’s about “Mount Zion” (v22), another name for the people of God, and being part of God’s heavenly Jerusalem. It’s about having the security of knowing that our sins are fully forgiven, that we have an unshakable status as God’s “firstborn” children (v23), that our “names are written in heaven” (v23), and that we have been declared righteous and perfect in God’s sight (v23) through Jesus.
By the way, when the writer of Hebrews says that Jesus’ “sprinkled blood…speaks a better word than the blood of Abel” (v24b), what does he mean exactly? When Abel was murdered in Genesis 4 by his brother Cain, God said to Cain, “your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground” (Genesis 4:10). In other words, when Abel died, he cried out to God for justice, retribution, judgment and revenge. In contrast, when Jesus was killed on the cross, he cried out to God a different message: a message of forgiveness, mercy and grace. About those who killed him Jesus said, “Forgive them, Father, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). In other words, under the new covenant, God’s mercy triumphs over God’s judgment. The word of mercy Jesus spoke was greater than the word of judgment Abel spoke. Under the new covenant all of us who have sinned can rest assured that God has made forgiveness available to us, and thus we can approach God not with fear but with confidence.
Hebrews 12:25-29 (NIV) 25 See 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? 26 At 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.” 27 The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken–that is, created things–so that what cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29 for our “God is a consuming fire.”
On verses 25-29: Praise God that while the old covenant did not last, God’s kingdom under the new covenant will last forever and “cannot be shaken” (v28). May we have a soft and open heart toward the Lord (v25), being thankful , reverent, intentional and awe-filled in our worship (v28), and knowing that God is immensely holy and powerful, “a consuming fire” (v29).
Lord Jesus, thank You that because You shed Your blood for our sins, we can approach You as holy, acceptable, and flawless in Your eyes. Thank You that in You we have a kingdom that cannot be shaken. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!