“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2
We just studied the “hall of faith” as I’ve heard it called. We studied a long list of Old Testament people who had faith in God. They communicated and knew Him differently than we can now. Because of the faith that they exhibited the writer is saying let them be our witnesses and let’s lay aside those things that are holding us back from our run. We all have a race set before us. And all of our races are different. But if we keep our eyes on Jesus, “the founder and perfecter of our faith”. The NKJV says “author and finisher”, the NIV says “pioneer and perfecter”, what they are all saying is that when our faith is grounded in Jesus, He is the founder, the author, the pioneer and he is the perfecter, or the finisher. He is the reason for us to have faith to start with and he is the reason for us to endure to the end with it. That, even Jesus endured the cross, despising the shame of it for the joy of sitting at the right hand of His Father at the end of it. WOW! When you stop and think of what Jesus did on the cross in relation to anything we are going through ourselves, well there is really no comparison. I am not trying to negate anyone’s trials and struggles, but I know for me personally, if I line mine up to the cross, no comparison!
The writer here also goes on to say that some of our struggles could be considered discipline from the Lord. When we feel that we are being disciplined by the Lord we shouldn’t despise it, but should look again to Jesus, who endured much more hostility than we receive. Think on the crowd who days before had laid palm branches at His feet and then they were yelling “crucify him”. Again, I dare say most of us can’t lay them side by side. But if we feel we are being disciplined by the Lord we have to remember that God disciplines those He loves!
“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?” Hebrews 12:5-7
Our earthly fathers discipline us for a short time, but as time goes on we grow to adulthood and that discipline stops but our heavenly father disciplines us so that we will grow in our faith and that we may be set apart as holy.
“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.” Hebrews 12:11
Let the discipline of the Lord work in you, so that you may bear good fruit. This is not to say that all hard times are discipline from the Lord, but there is a part of hard times that could be considered discipline. But when we feel that to be true, we can ask the Lord to show us what we need to learn and we can be grateful that He loves us enough to want us to learn.
The next verses are explaining the difference in the Israelites when they would approach Mount
Sinai and the people (us included) who because of what Jesus did on the cross who now get to approach Mount Zion and the city of the living God. The writer was speaking in terms that these new christians would understand. They knew the stories of the Israelites who could not approach Mount Sinai because of God’s holiness, and they knew that God’s holy city was Jerusalem. The writer here wants them (and us) to realize that while the Israelites couldn’t approach Mount Sinai, we do get to come to Mount Zion, because of Jesus and the blood He shed. He had used the reference in Chapter 11 about the blood of Abel is still crying out from the ground, well if that is so the blood of Jesus speaks a better word to us.
“and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven.” Hebrews 12: 24-25
Please don’t reject Him, please see HIs holiness. Please listen as His blood speaks a better word to us. God’s holiness can shake the mountains, it can shake us up. But God’s kingdom cannot be shaken! Praise Him because when your world feels like it is shaking and falling apart we live in an unshakable kingdom of God.
“Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” Hebrews 12:28:29
This reminded me of a quote I have heard on a podcast. Emily P. Freeman quotes it often on her podcast and I heard it first as I felt my world falling apart and I memorized it and I internalized it and I wrote it down and I quoted it to myself over and over. It goes like this:
“I am one in whom Christ dwells and delights. I live in the unshakeable kingdom of God, the kingdom is not in trouble. And neither am I” ~James Bryan Smith