Today: [Hebrews 12:] Looking to Jesus and Receiving the Chastening of the Lord. In Hebrews 12 we see that we are to follow Jesus as our example. The heroes of the Old or New Testament may look on, but we are not to follow them but follow after the example of Jesus who says that we will do His works and greater. If we are to do with works of Jesus, we must first receive the chastening of the Lord that aligns us with His heart and His mind? Do you believe this and is it thus evident in your life, your words and others testimony of your character in Christ?
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[Heb 12:1-17 KJV] 1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset [us], and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of [our] faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. 4 Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. 5 And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: 6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. 7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? 8 But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. 9 Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected [us], and we gave [them] reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? 10 For they verily for a few days chastened [us] after their own pleasure; but he for [our] profit, that [we] might be partakers of his holiness. 11 Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. 12 Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; 13 And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed. 14 Follow peace with all [men], and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: 15 Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble [you], and thereby many be defiled; 16 Lest there [be] any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. 17 For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.
After lauding the faith of the Old Testament saints in the previous chapter, they are described in v. 1 as a great cloud of witnesses cheering the New Testament believer on in the Christian race. Does this mean that our loved ones are watching over us from heaven? As Billy Graham once said God doesn’t answer all our questions about heaven, but this verse implies strongly that in fact, those that have gone on are aware of our lives here on earth. Not to base that thought on just one scripture we also reference Moses and Elijah who communicated with Jesus on the Mount of Ascension in Luke 9:30-31. Also in Rev. 6:9-11 we see the souls of martyred saints crying out to God in behalf of the living who are suffering on the earth during the time frame we refer to as the tribulation period. The extreme form of this belief leads to the practice of praying to the saints which is not scriptural but suffice to say in this passage (v. 1) there is suggestion then that believers once departed remember their lives and associations on earth and have at least some knowledge of events taking place. The writer uses this as an encouragement to us as living believers to patiently endeavor in our walk with God so as not to shame ourselves before those who have finished their race.
In making the declaration that our departed loved ones are looking on v. 2 goes on to admonish us not to look to the saints but looking to Jesus who is the author and finisher of our faith. If we are looking to a departed loved one’s example, we have set our sights too low. If we use Abraham or David as an example, we are not maintaining proper focus. Jesus is the only legitimate example for us in our Christian walk. Abraham did not die for us. David did not expiate our sins as Jesus did. Mary was not virgin born or sinless either. There is no record in early Christian doctrine that suggests otherwise. We are to look to Jesus not only as our Lord and Savior but as our guide for He said Himself that the works that He demonstrated we would likewise do. To believe otherwise is to embrace defective, insipid faith. Let us remember John 14:12:
[Jhn 14:12 KJV] 12 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater [works] than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.
This is the faith of Jesus Himself. Are His prayers to be answered? Then there is a generation of men on the earth who will fulfill this confidence before the consummation of all things. We are to consider such things in times of challenge. We to remember that we are to endure contradiction against our testimony of faith even as Jesus endured the contradiction of sinners against Himself lest we grow weary and faint in our minds. Does that mean we face what Jesus faced? Not quite so, because Jesus was sinless and pure enduring the insults and defamation of sinful, corrupt men against His person. If we so suffer we can only say we do so as Paul suggested as sinners ourselves. Jesus deserved none of the mistreatment he faced. As those born in sin, we cannot lift ourselves up even as believers to the point that we feel we are better than even those our persecutors lest we become high minded and fall away into the deception of pride.
The believer’s striving is against sin, and the contradiction of sin is in ourselves being bought by the blood of Christ but still manifesting the motions of sin in our character and our persons on a much too regular basis. It is a contradiction to be born again and yet continue in sin even as an occasional happenstance. In many things, we offend all, but the outpouring of the Spirit of Grace is not only to forgive our failings but also to empower us consistently to live above them. This is not taught in Christianity today. Christian leadership today holds no consistent standard of holiness before the people for the people tend not to brook any encroachment upon their personal choices and lifestyles even though their peccadillos fly in the face of the demand of heaven that we be Holy even as He is Holy.
Because of the contradiction in our character against the nature of Christ v. 5 reminds us that as children we are subject to chastening. What is the chastening of the Lord? Does the Father who said “by His stripes, ye are healed…” become angry and put sickness upon us? Would an earthly parent do this? If a mother or father injected their children with a deadly pathogen, they would be condemned and sentenced to prison. Why do we accuse God in lofty theological treatises of doing what no earthly parent would do? Let us remember the words of Jesus:
[Luk 11:11-13 KJV] 11 If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if [he ask] a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? 12 Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? 13 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall [your] heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?
The scorpion reference speaks of the sting of death and all that springs from the consequence of sin. Let us be forever clear – God will never use the consequences of the fall to beat His children into submission. What then is the chastening of the Lord? We know that even in the Judgment Seat of Christ – where the righteous only are found that Jesus said in Luke 12:47 that some will be beaten with many stripes and some with few.
There is chastening in God. We are to endure chastisement as we expect our children to do likewise when they are punished after our own judgment. We don’t justify a disciplined child in running away or divorcing the parent because they despise the restrictions placed upon them. If we are without chastisement (v. 8) we are bastards and not sons. The popular teaching today that we are all suffering from an “orphan spirit” is a sanitized description of a people who embrace not the chastening of the Lord. This is the other side of that issue. A person who sees himself as a victim suffering an orphan spirit very often is the same person who receives no correction or chastisement wrapping themselves in a cloak of victimhood as an excuse for being of an incorrigible character.
We are to lift up the hands that hang down and strengthen our feeble knees. The writer is describing the consequences or aftermath of the Lord’s chastening. We have a definition then of God withdrawing His perceived presence from us in times that He determines to get our attention for correction, and repentance. This is not for the purposes of crippling us in life (v. 13) but instead that we might be healed of our backslidings. Thus when the peace of God lifts – we are being chastised, and our response is to be (v. 14) to follow after peace and holiness that we might see (openly perceive in our daily lives) the manifest presence of God as our strength for our work and walk.
If we despise being anything other than coddled children getting our way it opens the door for a root of bitterness (v. 15) that will trouble us and trouble those around us. Let the word be the discerner. Are you troubled? Verse 15 suggests a troubled spirit may often arise from an undisciplined heart. Are you troubled – examine yourself before you point the finger at others. Many feel troubled and use a false gift of discernment to deduce something is wrong with everyone but them because they do not allow the Spirit of God to expose to them their own corrupt and finite nature. I’ve heard people say “there is something wrong in the church…” because they have lost their peace, and then shortly after they exercise their higher discernment to withdraw they make shipwreck of their lives. Thus we see that the trouble was not outward but inward and because they wouldn’t entertain any suggestion other than how lovely they were the root of bitterness took over and damaged them and all those connected with them. To reject chastening and the commitment to self-examination above all else is to sell your birthright as a son of God for the morsel of pampered flesh that was what in truth brought on the difficulty blamed on others. It was God withdrawing your sense of His presence to get your attention to draw you back closer to Him in character and in spirit. These are circumstances that once they lay hold on our lives, we cannot withdraw at our will as Esau (v. 17) understood the consequences of his actions yet never found a place of altered trajectory because he waited too late.
[Heb 12:18–29 KJV]
18 For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, 19 And the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which [voice] they that heard intreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more: 20 (For they could not endure that which was commanded, And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart: 21 And so terrible was the sight, [that] Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:) 22 But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, 23 To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, 24 And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than [that of] Abel. 25 See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more [shall not] we [escape], if we turn away from him that [speaketh] from heaven: 26 Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven. 27 And this [word], Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: 29 For our God [is] a consuming fire.
All of these descriptors of the Lord’s chastening we are reminded of by the writer are in the context of the larger realities of God’s purposes connected with our lives. We do not come to some physical location of God’s residence on earth (as Moses on the mountain that burned with fire…). That was the similitude. We have come to the substance cast by that shadow of the true Mount Zion, the city of the Living God and not the testimony of a departed Moses. We are being dealt with not as inheritors of a narrative passed into the annals of history but we are being dealt with as members of the church of the firstborn, and to God the judge of all and to the spirits of just men made perfect. You might contend that we are not perfect but be assured that God will bring you into proximity in this life to men and women walking out perfection in a level to that which you have not attained. This is what apostolic accountability is all about.
We are come to Jesus – on a daily, moment by moment basis who continually mediates the reality of the New Covenant as our apostle and High Priest after the order of Melchizedek. The blood that Jesus sprinkled from his own body on the altar in the heavens never dried up or evaporated. It cries out still which we why we are not consumed. It cries out a better thing than that of Abel’s blood slain by his brother Cain. Abel’s blood cried out for vengeance. Jesus’ blood cries out “Father forgive…” and we are spared along will all of creation that God otherwise would be justified in dissolving in a moment of time but He does not – for Jesus sake acting as our mediator and high priest.
In light of the enormity of the ongoing work of redemption wrapping around us in cosmic dimensions of glory that it would be impossible to exaggerate we are to see that we refuse not (v. 25) Him that is speaking for if we refuse the verse tells us we shall not escape. What shall we not escape? The chastening hand of God according to the context of the passage. The voice of God that once shook the earth in Moses day speaks still shaking the heavens. For what purpose is the shaking? To remove from us those things that can be shaken (those things not of eternal value) that those things that cannot be shaken (originating in the cross) that they might remain.
These declarations thus far in our chapter are an intimate declaration of the immensities of the kingdom that works within us. Seeing we have received this kingdom (v. 28) that cannot be moved let us have grace, cooperate with grace and receive grace that we might serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear for our God is a consuming fire. Thus we see it is possible to serve God unacceptedly without divine approval or approbation. How? On our own terms and not by the Spirit’s leading and wooing us to the place of yielded lives led as drink offerings poured out on the altar in the heavens where our salvation was bought for us with so great a price.
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