Hebrews 12:12-17

Hebrews 12:12‑17  •  6 min. read  •  grade level: 7
The apostle resumes his exhortation after the episode of divine discipline which had occupied the previous verses, wholesome for any but especially for such as confessed the Lord Jesus from among the Jews. Christianity deepens that personal training which Job opens to us from early days and on the broadest ground; as the book of Proverbs, which is here applied, carried it home with minute care and sententious wisdom in Israel, where Jehovah's name was known. But the figure is now enlarged, from running the race to the straight paths for the walk, specially desirable for the weak in the way; and we know from Rom. 14; 15 whence these came, and wherein weakness consisted in collision with Gentile brethren.
“Wherefore lift up the exhausted hands and the enfeebled knees; and make straight paths for your feet, that what is lame be not turned out of the way, but rather be healed. Pursue peace with all, and holiness without which no one shall see the Lord; watching [it] lest any one lack the grace of God, lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble [you] and through it many1 be defiled; lest [there be] any fornicator or profane person as Esau, who for one meal sold his own birthright. For ye know that, even when afterward wishing to inherit the blessing, he was rejected (for he found no place for repentance) though he sought it earnestly with tears” (Heb. 12:12-1712Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; 13And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed. 14Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: 15Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled; 16Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. 17For 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. (Hebrews 12:12‑17)).
We see here the all-importance of faith for the walk, as Hebrews 11 had illustrated from of old, and the Epistle throughout had urged as the spring of power and hinge of blessing for the Christian. It is failure in this respect that exposes to all feebleness; and confidence in God and the word of His grace that kindles the spark into a steady flame. To this the Jews were peculiarly prone from their system; and the thought it nourished disposed to look for immediate effects and displayed power. As Greeks seek wisdom or philosophy, Jews ask for signs; and this was apt to affect unconsciously the baptized; and disappointed expectations, which had no warrant from the truth, left them jaded, weary, and weak. Hence the call to restore the exhausted hands and enfeebled knees; and to make straight paths for their feet, that what was lame should not turn aside but rather be healed. The joy of present love and of future glory are set before us with the strongest assurance; the needed sorrow in our experience is turned into blessing by the way; and our chastening shown to be the fruit of divine love for profit, that we might be partakers of His holiness Who loves us. For so we read here of that which we are not to regard only in the light of requirement. Such is the object and end of His discipline.
But if His love be lost sight of, the hands hang down and the knees are paralyzed. Faith has no energy save in the confidence of His grace. So it is everywhere as a matter of teaching from Romans to Hebrews, and from Hebrews to the Revelation. It was always true; it is clear as light since Christ came. He Himself is the unflagging witness of it in sufferings beyond all comparison. And none can forget it without immediate loss.
Further, the word is “pursue” (which is stronger than “follow") “peace with all and the holiness without which none shall see the Lord” (Heb. 12:1414Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: (Hebrews 12:14)). Having peace with God through our Lord Jesus, we are exhorted to seek it diligently in practice, where there are so many sources of disagreement; and this not only with one another but with all. God Himself is the God of peace; and His children are to reflect His character. But there is a still more imperative warning attached to the exhortation to “holiness,” “without (or apart from) which none shall see the Lord.” Here it is ἁγιασμός, not merely the quality in its abstract form, but in its action or its result as applied to us; and so found throughout the N. T. (Rom. 6:19, 2219I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness. (Romans 6:19)
22But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. (Romans 6:22)
; 1 Cor. 1:3030But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: (1 Corinthians 1:30); 1 Thess. 4:3-4, 73For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: 4That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honor; (1 Thessalonians 4:3‑4)
7For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness. (1 Thessalonians 4:7)
; 2 Thess. 2:1313But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: (2 Thessalonians 2:13); 1 Tim. 2:1515Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety. (1 Timothy 2:15); and 1 Peter 1:22Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied. (1 Peter 1:2)). There is nothing to alarm the most timid in this, more than in all the scriptures which insist on conformity to God's will in all that are His (Rom. 2:7-117To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life: 8But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, 9Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; 10But glory, honor, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile: 11For there is no respect of persons with God. (Romans 2:7‑11); 1 Cor. 6:9-10; 9:279Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, 10Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9‑10)
27But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway. (1 Corinthians 9:27)
; Gal. 5:19-20; 6:7-819Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, (Galatians 5:19‑20)
7Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. 8For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. (Galatians 6:7‑8)
; Eph. 5:5-75For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. 6Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. 7Be not ye therefore partakers with them. (Ephesians 5:5‑7); Titus 2:12; 3:812Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; (Titus 2:12)
8This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men. (Titus 3:8)
; 1 Peter 1:14; 2:314As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: (1 Peter 1:14)
3If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious. (1 Peter 2:3)
; 2 Peter 1; 1 John 2:33And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. (1 John 2:3); Jude; Rev. 21:8; 22:158But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death. (Revelation 21:8)
15For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie. (Revelation 22:15)
This is only strengthened by what follows: “Looking to it lest any one lack (or fall short of) the grace of God.” Without the heart's resting on His grace and consequently on Christ and His work, all is vain; because all is man, and fallen man, presuming otherwise to seek acceptance with God. In such a condition there never can be an adequate sense of sin any more than of holiness. Grace, the grace of God, enables the soul to judge itself unsparingly, and to delight in the unsullied nature of God; because it gives in Christ the life which suits God perfectly, and the propitiation which blots out our sins. This indeed is love, not ours (though we do love) but His in its blessed display. It is sovereign grace; of which souls fall short, who dare to approach God in virtue of their own doings or of acts done for them by mortal man, to both of which Israel had recourse, perhaps as much as the heathen.
If self-righteousness be excluded, and outward rites be in lieu of Christ, more evidently hateful to God is “any root of bitterness” which springing up should trouble, and thereby the many or mass be defiled. For such is the effect of evil, as is shown in 1 Cor. 5 and Gal. 5 under the figure of leaven, as here by a root of bitterness. It might take a variety of forms; and here we have specified carnal impurity, and profanity, both intolerable where God is and is known. Of the latter evil Esau is the instance, who for one meal sold his own birthright. Every Hebrew was familiar with a tale, humbling indeed for all concerned; but Esau stood on unhallowed ground, where God's promise yet more was despised than his own birthright. What a warning to those Hebrews in danger of giving up incomparably better blessings with Him Whose kingdom did not immediately appear, as they fondly hoped! It was not repentance that Esau earnestly sought with tears, but the blessing which his father even had wished wrongly to alienate from Jacob, the heir designated of Jehovah from before their birth.