Hebrews 12:12-17 Rehab for The Weak and Lame Soul
At times, we soar with eagle's wings on the winds of adversity. At times, we run the race of life with an easy, well timed stride. At times we simply put one foot in front of another, step-after-step, struggling to get from point A to point B without falling or fainting.
The admonition of our first sentence in this passage (v. 12-13) sounds like a good workout or, especially for we who are older, it sounds more like rehab--strengthen the hands, strengthen feeble knees, make a straight path for a limb that is lame or out of joint. The result sought in the exercise is the healing and strengthening of the body enabling us to accomplish everyday tasks as well as the exerting of our capabilities when we are faced with the greater tasks. Some tasks do take a stronger grip, a steadier gait, a limpless forward motion. The same is true of our walk in faith.
We understand the intent of this verse when we realized the wisdom of Proverbs 4:26, "Watch the path of your feet and all your ways will be established." For the Christ-follower, there is no greater desire than to be established in our relationship/walk with Christ. We desire our hands strong in the work of fulfilling our calling and commission from Christ. We desire a walk in the footsteps of our loving Lord. We do not want to stumble. We do not want an uneven path that puts pressure on our hips so that we will begin to feel pain. Rather, we desire the healthy life of a strong and productive faith. We want the safest and shortest route to our destination.
Furthermore, let us remember that in every congregation there are those who are feeble, weak, and/or in need of new strength. You see, this passage isn't just dealing with us as though we are the one who needs the therapy; rather it encourages and enables us to be the therapist working with another who is week using the plan devised and prescribed by the Great Physician to restore faith health. As faithful/faith-filled Christ-followers, we are to fulfill the call given in Isaiah 35:3, "Encourage the exhausted, and strengthen the feeble". It is our call to put fresh energy and strength into the listless hands and feet of fellow believers who are weakened. Great joy comes for them and us when we strengthen the life of that one or ones faltering due to weariness or emptiness in life. When we see those who were near despair and failure now roused by the hope that is born within by renewed Holy Spirit strength, we are made to rejoice with them. To help a blind one see and the lame walk are the miracles that fill the heart as well as heaven with the joyful hallelujah shouts of the angels.
What is the exercise that we are to carry out that will enable us to strengthen our lives and to walk a level path? We may know what makes us strong but we have to exercise the plan. Here is the plan/the faith work out schedule this passage provides:
Pursue peace with all. Why, because it builds your life and the life of those with whom you live in peace. (Romans 14:19) How do we pursue peace? a) By loving and not offending our brother...b) by preventing the boiling over of quarrels into full-scale breakdown of relationships in our day-to-day life.
The therapy plan/faith work-out schedule this passage provides also includes:
Pursue sanctification (Matthew 5:8) The pure in heart will see God.
Pursue grace for all: Consider Paul addressing Peter at Antioch. When Peter first arrived in Antioch during the first major expansion of the early church, the Apostle began eating meals with the Gentile believers there. However, when Jerusalem’s Pastor James sent a group of Jews from the church there, Peter withdrew from meals with the Gentiles and even Barnabas was influenced to separate from the uncircumcised Gentile believers. Paul in his letter to the Galatian believers (2:14), reminds them of the story and states that he openly confronted Peter about the hypocrisy saying "...knowing that a man is not justified by works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Chirst Jesus, that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified." Although Peter was one of the original 12 disciples and Barnabas was the Son of Encouragement to the church, how could they encourage and strengthen fellow believers when the pair began to endorse building a life on a foundation of the Law/works (circumcision) and not grace? They were now walking an uneven path and would soon be out of joint/lame in their walk. How can you call one to "salvation by grace through faith" (Ephesians 2) if you are living out a legalistic prejudice against fellow believers? Paul actually fulfilled the call to healing as his confrontation with Peter led to a council in Jerusalem (Acts 15) to settle the question regarding salvation for the Gentiles. That decision resulted in “by grace” and not law. What did Paul do that led to this healing? Galatians 6:1 "even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted."
Poison the root of bitterness which defiles others when bitterness springs up and causes trouble. There are those whose corrupting influence can infect a whole body of believers. In I Timothy 1:20, Paul says Hymenaous and Alexander, who had been co-laborers with him had been delivered over to Satan meaning they had been dismissed from the church so that further sin on their part would not cause others to “suffer shipwreck in regard to their faith.” Their faith had weakened and their lifestyle had changed. Hymenaous and Philetus were teaching that the resurrection had already occurred which was “upsetting the faith of some” (I Timothy 2:16-18). Paul reminded Timothy to “...avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene.” Paul admonishes (I Timothy 6:20) “O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called “knowledge”[Gnosticism]-which some have professed and thus gone astray from the faith.”. How vital it is that the church seek to root out these before they destroy the good fruit. Gossip, complaints, unfounded accusations, anger that tears down instead of building up can infect a body of people with bitterness as did those who murmured against Moses from time to time. Find the root of bitterness and set about the task of restoration to right relationship with God and man.
Have no place for immorality and godless behavior. (v. 16-17) The Hebrew tradition saw Esau as a sensual man who desired the pleasures of this world more than the presence of God. He threw away his inheritance. He pursued women who did not know God. He determined to kill his brother not because of his brother's error but because of Esau’s own sin--meeting his hunger need in the wrong way. It is difficult to face bad choices made. We must be ready to bring those who have strayed from God to repentance and right relationship with God.
Too often the Christian is the stumbling block to the lost. A poor life-testimony can cause irreparable harm. The rehabilitation of the physical body, the church body, and personal faith health begins with confession and prayer--James 5:16, "...confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much."