Hold It Together

I had a particularly good time reading my Bible and praying this morning, and saw some really interesting things in Hebrews 12. In particular, the word “weary” which the author uses a couple times (verses 3 and 5), is an emphatic form of λύω which is the Greek word used in the beginning verb paradigms. For Greek students it’s sort of funny because it doesn’t seem as if you see λύω very often in actual New Testament sentences. By itself luo means “I loose,” so I wonder if this kind of “weary” could be loosely translated as “not holding it together.”

Verse 3 gives a plan for not being weary: consider Christ. And verse 5 quotes wisdom from Proverbs 3 and commands God’s children not to be weary. In other words, hold it together, son!

I also forget about the running illustration in verses 1-2. I like running. I really miss when I can’t run. The exhortation is: “with endurance, run!” And specifically we’re to run “the race that is set before us.” God is obviously the one setting the course, and with every step we should be acknowledging Him as the one who laid out route, including the interruptions and opportunities and difficulties. So, run, son!

The Goodness of God’s Discipline

None of us have endured the sort of hostility that Christ endured, not even one. He is an example par excellence that we “may not grow weary or fainthearted” (Hebrews 12:3). Keep running the race. He did, so we should.

Hostility and difficulty prove the grace we’ve received; joyful responses are not natural but supernatural. Struggles also train us to grow up in Christ. The author of Hebrews has a lot to say about this training and, in particular, about the goodness of God’s discipline.

God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? (Hebrews 12:7)

A son left to his own, says Solomon, is hated (Proverbs 13:24). A loved son is a corrected son.

We have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not must more be subject to the Father of Spirits and live? (Hebrews 12:9)

God the Father knows best. Really. He knows where we need to be in life and how to help us get there.

He disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. (Hebrews 12:10)

He’s imparting His own nature, sharing it with us.

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)

God does not deny that there are painful parts. Sometimes learning and growing hurts. But He does tells why He’s doing it.

He loves us as His children. He sent His Son to die for us. Because Jesus died for us, He will correct us and consecrate us for His family. For Christians, discipline is a feature, not a bug.

Big Brother

Jesus is a much better big brother than Esau. Both were willing to give something up, but one gave up to his shame, the other to His glory.

Esau despised his birthright. He was born into a special position but it meant nothing to him, so he basically gave it to his brother. Jesus is the firstborn of creation and the firstborn from the dead. He did give up glory, in a way for a time (see Philippians 2:5-11), but not because He despised His position. Instead it was so that He could eventually share more glory with His brothers.

Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. (Hebrews 2:17)

Even though Jesus had and has a unique place in the heavenly Father’s heart, Jesus did not rub that in. He doesn’t flaunt His exalted position or work to make us feel that we don’t have it. He identified with us, He was “made like his brothers,” in order to “make propitiation,” meaning that our older Brother won His Father’s favor for us by dying for our sins.

At our remembrance of Him in communion He brings us closer to the Father and to each other. He overcomes our grasping for preeminence, our tantrums and envy and posturing. He feeds us. He Himself is our food and our drink by faith. Our Brother did not despise His birthright, but despised the shame of the cross and is the founder and perfector of our faith.

A Profanity Problem

In a paragraph of instruction about how we ought to treat one another, the author of Hebrews named names. In particular, he named the name of one man that we must not be like. There were many men and women of faith to be imitated in chapter 11, but in chapter 12 we must not be like Esau.

Starting in Hebrews 12:12 we’re told to pursue peace and holiness. We are to help everyone obtain grace. We’re to weed out bitterness that causes trouble and that defiles. And then we’re to be careful:

that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal.

The Old Testament doesn’t ever refer to sexual immorality by Esau, so, while there is a connection between the two sins in verse 16, Esau especially embodies the latter. His sin was that he was “unholy” (ESV), “godless” (NAS), or “profane” (KJV). The Greek word is  βέβηλος, an adjective describing something worldly without transcendent significance. Eating stew could have been good if Esau had received it from God with gratitude. It was no good for him to eat it without thanks, without humility, and to trade something special for it. That’s profane.

Esau didn’t just eat in panic, he ate out of proportion. He desired the bowl in order to fill his belly more than he desired God’s blessing.

That wasn’t the end of the story. The very next verse, Hebrews 12:17:

For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.

The “afterward” wasn’t after the meal, it was years after when Jacob stole the blessing. But the process started when Esau bartered away his birthright. His life was represented in the act of grasping the things of earth instead of receiving God’s gift in the things of earth.

There are many in the church today with a profanity problem, not just in the worldly language they use, but in despising the privileges God has given them that go beyond the immediate and the visible.

Internal Adornment That Shows

Moses does not paint a flattering picture of Sarah, Abraham’s wife, in Genesis. Twice she resents and punishes others in her household. Twice she followed her husband’s lead and lied to those outside her household. Once she even laughed at the promise of God. She did praise the LORD for the birth of her son Isaac, but the very next thing she did was lash out and demand that Abraham “cast out this slave woman with her son.” She couldn’t even bring herself to use their names.

Yet there must be more to her life. The author of Hebrews wrote, “By faith, Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised” (Hebrews 11:11). Initially she doubted, but her heart turned around.

And at the beginning of 1 Peter 3, Peter used Sarah as an example, even exalted her as the “mother” of all faithful women who “do good and do not fear anything that is frightening” (1 Peter 3:6). Sarah illustrated internal adornment and the sort of external conduct that can “win without a word” a husband who does not obey the word (1 Peter 3:1). Respectful and pure conduct adorn women who hope in God, and this is a powerful testimony.

Ladies of faith, what have you learned from your “mother,” Sarah? How do you view your husband, and your future? If you’re not married, how are you practicing heart obedience to your dad? Are you repenting from Sarah-like pettiness and resentments? Above all, are you pursuing Sarah-like faith in and obedience to the LORD?

The Top of the Faith Chart

When we co-opt the apostle John’s language and talk about faith as victory that overcomes the world, we do so without smirking or crossing our fingers behind our back because our faith is in victory that overcomes death. If your god can’t do something about death then he can only offer so much.

Abraham believed in the God who overcomes death.

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. (Hebrews 11:17–19)

Faith that believes in resurrection power is at the top of the faith chart. What is more impossible than being raised from the dead? In Abraham’s case, he was prepared to act based on it. In our case, we are prepared to eat and drink based on it.

There is no “figuratively speaking” with the resurrection of Jesus because He died. He wasn’t almost sacrificed. He carried the wood of His altar, was bound by nails to it, and though God could have sent 10,000 angels to take Him off the cross, a “close to death” would only made us close to salvation. He died and was three-days-buried dead.

But then He rose again in accordance with the Scriptures. The angels told visitors to His tomb: “He is not here, for He has risen, as He said.” He was “declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead.” This is literally speaking.

When we eat the bread and drink the wine we proclaim His death but not because He’s dead. He lives! Our faith is in the resurrection and the life! May your faith be nourished by such a meal in such a powerful Savior who has overcome death for us.

Everything in Subjection

Though David wrote Psalm 8 about man as in mankind, the author of Hebrews also recognized a unique application for the God-Man, Jesus Christ.

For it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking. It has been testified somewhere,
“What is man, that you are mindful of him,
or the son of man, that you care for him?
You made him for a little while lower than the angels;
you have crowned him with glory and honor,
putting everything in subjection under his feet.”
Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. (Hebrews 2:5–9)

God gave man dominion on earth, but God gave His Son dominion over the dominion-takers, the history-makers, and even over the nay-sayers. “At present we do not see everything in subjection to him.” Sinners still live and sin and stand against the Son of Man. Men still reject their Creator and suppress the truth they know about Him.

We have not reached the final chapter, but we will see all things in subjection, we will see God’s will on earth as it is in heaven, because Christ’s dominion is not potential. It is established; He is risen from the dead.

All things, including governments and businesses and neighborhoods, will be in service to the Son because He already suffered, died, and rose again. He did it as grace. He did it as a substitute. He did it to redeem “many sons” and bring them to glory through sanctification (Hebrews 2:10).

He is helping the tempted now (Hebrews 2:17-18). He is changing us now. He is identifying with us, unashamed to call us brothers now (Hebrews 2:11), even as He invites us to eat His flesh and drink His blood.

At present we do not see everything subjected to Him. But the world ought to see us in subjection to Him as we gather at His Table.