Thursday May 9, 2019
HEB 12:11 All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.
Discipline is not joyous; it is grievous when the believers suffer it. Nevertheless, the end product is a good thing and it will result in holiness and righteous fruit.
HEB 12:12 Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble,
HEB 12:13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.
Vv. 12-13 entreat us to respond properly to the discipline. Strengthen and walk straight rather than continue in the sin that brought the discipline.
He is writing to Jews who would know the passage in Isaiah. Many of them were probably discouraged by the suffering they faced by leaning back towards Judaism.
They were persecuted by unconverted Jews for becoming Christians, and those that had held their ground on the truth would have rejoice over suffering undeserved, but those who were succumbing to the persecution from their kinsman and started to compromise the faith felt another type of suffering within themselves that compromise and conflict inevitably bring, as well as suffering from God in whatever form He would choose.
ISA 35:3 Encourage the exhausted, and strengthen the feeble.
The Septuagint is closer to the Heb quote: “Be strong, you relaxed hands and paralyzed knees.”
ISA 35:4 Say to those with anxious heart,
"Take courage, fear not.
Behold, your God will come with vengeance;
The recompense of God will come,
But He will save you."
In their case the weak hands and the feeble knees represent their compromising with the Mosaic Law. Others were being pulled into the idea that Jesus of Nazareth was not born of a virgin and nor was He God. We know of a sect called Ebionites comprised of Jews who called themselves Christians who denied the virgin birth and the deity of Jesus, and who adhered to the Mosaic Law.
This letter was written to Jewish Christians who were in danger of being pulled away from their worship of God in the church due to the severe persecution they faced from other Jews. They could ease the persecution if they compromised some of the core revelations of Christ.
The fact that the incarnation, God becoming a man, was completely alien to Israel, the profession of it by Jews to other Jews was a blasphemy worthy of death. So then, some Jews who said they had become Christian denied His deity and also the virgin birth.
To strengthen the hands and feet and make straight paths would mean to respond to discipline and outright reject the compromises concerning the person and work of Christ.
They would have to stand on the foundation of Christ’s church, living in and proclaiming all His doctrines, knowing that blessed are those who are persecuted for Christ’s sake.
There are many astounding things about God becoming a man and revealing Himself as the promised Messiah, and one of them, often overlooked, is that this idea was not the result of human speculation, however earnest and enlightened, but of impressions made from without, by God Himself, on the history of a people. No one thought up the incarnation. God performed the incarnation and then showed Him to Israel, and that event, that Person, changed the hearts of those who thought it impossible, changed a nation, and in short time changed the whole world.
In the sacred books of other religions, we have hymns full of devotional feeling and thoughts about God which are sometimes beautiful and even surprising, but in the Bible we have mainly a history of what God Himself has done in the world to pave the way for His appearing in it. It is the Divine Being who moves the history, and makes Himself felt at every critical time of it, who by doing so communicates the knowledge of Himself, His ways, and His purposes. It supplies, that is to say, the very element which constitutes revelation as distinguished from conjecture or research, and unquestionably that very element which has always been lacking in other religions.
All other religions lack a real invasion by God into the world, where by grace, He made men the sons of God.
In Christianity, men are not coming to know doctrines so much as they are coming to know a Person, a Person who is one of us, human, and God, deity, and possessing boundless love. The honest historian and the honest observer of people, see in all of mankind an instinctive craving for this one God. Even the polytheistic natural religions tend to have a supreme god in recesses of the pantheon, a background monotheism.
Leading into this passage, the writer states:
HEB 12:3 For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you may not grow weary and lose heart.
HEB 12:4 You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin;
Jesus was also persecuted for His truth, His proclamation of the truth, and His adherence to it. He resisted it to the point of death, being obedient the entire way. The original readers of this letter, nor we, have remotely suffered to His intensity or frequency, and yet, as we consider Him, we are inspired to not fear, no matter how much or how often they threaten us.
The reality is that at times we will cower from fulfilling the will of God and compromise the truth. I don’t think that an isolated instance is in view here, not that that is condoned. In an isolated instance of rebellion or fear it is obvious that I have done my own straightening, or else I would still be on that path.
It is when we have taken a continual course of compromise with the truth and our obedience to it that God has to make weak hands, feeble knees, or lame limbs, hindering our way.
It is true that a shepherd will break the leg of a lamb that continually strays, but then also, the shepherd will care for that sheep dearly and heal it. The Prodigal Son didn’t turn back the next day. The first son in the parable of the sons did recognize his error quickly and he went to work. He didn’t even allow time for God to discipline him. It is when we take a road that we should not, lying to ourselves that it is still pleasing to God, having some truths lived and other denied, that God has to break something. What we do with that broken limb will determine the course of the rest of our lives.
Similarly to HEB 12:5-13, the psalmist says:
PSA 119:65 Thou hast dealt well with Thy servant,
O Lord, according to Thy word.
PSA 119:66 Teach me good discernment and knowledge,
For I believe in Thy commandments.
PSA 119:67 Before I was afflicted I went astray,
But now I keep Thy word.
PSA 119:68 Thou art good and doest good;
Teach me Thy statutes.
PSA 119:69 The arrogant have forged a lie against me;
With all my heart I will observe Thy precepts.
PSA 119:70 Their heart is covered with fat,
But I delight in Thy law.
PSA 119:71 It is good for me that I was afflicted,
That I may learn Thy statutes.
PSA 119:72 The law of Thy mouth is better to me
Than thousands of gold and silver pieces.
Remember the definition of meekness - accepting all of God’s dealings with us as good. The son of God who accepts discipline at the hand of God as something designed by his heavenly Father for his good will cease to feel resentful and rebellious; he has calmed and quieted his soul, which thus provides fertile soil for the cultivation of a righteous life, responsive to the will of God.
The final verse:
PSA 119:176 I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek Thy servant,
For I do not forget Thy commandments.
Psa 119, an acrostic, has 22 strophes for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet, each containing 8 verses that begin with the same Hebrew letter. The name Yavah occurs 22 times.
An old German version of the Bible has the following inscription: “The Christian's golden A B C of the praise, love, power, and use of the word of God.” This is appropriate, for here we have set forth in inexhaustible fulness what the word of God is to a man, and how a man is to behave himself in relation to it. It was discipline that opened up the man’s eyes to that fact.
PSA 131:1 A Song of Ascents, of David.
O Lord, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty;
Nor do I involve myself in great matters,
Or in things too difficult for me.
We should state that this doesn’t mean that a man or woman of God could not be involved in great matters, but rather they don’t lust for them. This short song is about David who was Israel’s greatest king and a type of Christ. That is a great matter. But David did not seek the throne nor his calling. He was called to it by God and he accepted it.
PSA 131:2 Surely I have composed and quieted my soul;
Like a weaned child rests against his mother,
My soul is like a weaned child within me. [content and satisfied]
PSA 131:3 O Israel, hope in the Lord
From this time forth and forever.