The great crowd of witnesses — 12:1
Although it isn’t likely that those who have gone on before can really see what the current world is doing, the figure of speech here does motivate us to faithfulness to think that great, faithful men and women, who themselves overcame the trials they had encountered, are cheering us on – “You can do it!” This is the reason for the long list of faith heroes, who brought to their attention a wide spectrum of trials overcome – if they could overcome, so can you!
Consider Him – 12:3
Jesus becomes, then, the greatest overcomer. To those Jewish Christians it was important for them to consider and that they we’re not being called upon to do any more than the Lord Himself had already done – enduring the cross, its shame, and the hostility of the Jewish people’s leadership. There’s important stuff for us to consider here, too, even if we aren’t Jewish. Family, friends, associates, neighbors, and others can and do pressure us to abandon His way and commands. But we mustn’t lose heart, and one of the ways we can do this is by considering Him.
A Father’s discipline – 12:4ff
But to help these Jewish Christians make a bit more sense of of their trials, the writer very effectively throws the easier-to-understand illustration of a father and his children alongside their sufferings. Certainly we can learn something from this, too. God isn’t negligent, He is quite active in our lives. Our suffering isn’t evidence that God doesn’t love us, but quite to the contrary. The pain of the discipline isn’t pleasant, but we know how we have each grown from the discipline of earthly fathers and even more so the discipline of our Heavenly Father.
So what? – 13:1ff
Like any good sermon, the sermon to the Hebrews has actionable application. The writer isn’t wordy with his application of his doctrine, however; it was brief and to the point – almost to the point of be proverbial or bullet-pointed. But as brief as they are, they are also clearly connected to the foregoing doctrine.
- Love – the church is the family of God, we are in covenant together, and we need to provide the love and encouragement for each other – Jews and Gentiles alike – because the trials are hard.
- Be hospitable – welcoming brethren, especially Gentile brethren, could easily have been a point of contention among those who sought to bring the church within the circle of Mosaic Law.
- Sanctify marriage – with the rejection of the Mosaic Law, there appear to have been those who mistakenly thought that Christian liberty allowed sexual immorality (see 1 Cor. 5 and 6 for example) and they needed to be reminded that moral behavior still was applicable.
- Never depend on money – given that many we being economically oppressed the Jewish Christian audience needed to be reminded that it was God that they must depend on.
- Remember the example of faithful brethren – who did not cave in to the persecution
- Beware of false teachings – specifically the Judaizing kind, but it applies widely to other ideologies the will try to supplant Christ.
- Offer a sacrifice of praise – away from the Temple of Jerusalem and in the Temple of God’s church
- Be benevolent – sojourners on their way to a better country are always glad to be generous, because they know that the “legal tender” of this world has no value in the next, and the only “currency exchange” to Heaven’s “legal tender” is benevolent generosity (Matt. 6:20.21)
- Obey your leaders – those who would keep you within the fold of Christ the good shepherd
- And pray for us – anyone who opposes false teachers will find themselves persecuted and tempted to be silent
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.