Looking Unto Jesus

Hebrews 12  •  9 min. read  •  grade level: 5
Hebrews 12
There is one thing remarkable in this epistle, that whilst it is full of warnings, still in none is encouragement and full confidence in God so remarkably set forth. And nothing brings a soul into entire confidence in God but encouragement in grace. So here, the apostle says, You are not come to the Law, but to Zion—to grace. He does not pass by the difficulties—he takes them all up; but he shows that the true way of over-coming difficulties is to treat them as none at all.
"Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight," &c. As if he said, As for all that hinders you, why, throw it off. How strange to a soul that is toiling under the burden! But remember it is with difficulties he is dealing -not with standing;—that is settled in chapters 9 and 10. Now there are two things that hinder in running this race—a weight and an entanglement. How simply the apostle treats either! Just throw it aside.
When a soul has got into weakness it has simply got away from Christ. That is what the Hebrews were doing. They were looking to something visible, to ordinances and the like, and had forgotten an invisible Christ. They had known Him once as the portion of their souls: for we read in chap. 10, ver. 34, "Knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance." Now that is the point he is pressing here. It is to this principle of faith that the cloud of witnesses were bearing testimony. The reason why any difficulty gets power is because we have got away from Christ. If I have got Christ for my portion, what is difficulty? Nothing. Paul speaks in Phil. 3 of having suffered the loss of all things, and of counting them as dross for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lord. If Christ is my joy, it is no hard thing to throw away dross.
The Hebrews had all those other witnesses to living by the power of unseen things—Abel, Enoch, Abraham, Moses, &c. But in Christ we have the beginner and perfecter of faith, one who has run the whole course, so that there is not a single step in the life of faith that has not been trod in the person of Jesus. He had everything against Him. Yet for the joy that was set before Him He endured the cross; &c. The joy was not His motive. His own love was His motive. Reward is never presented as motive for our conduct, but as an encouragement when we are in the course. Christ, God's love, is motive. Now herein is the power of running this race, of throwing off every hindrance—it is in having Christ as both our motive and our power.
But this supposes that we are clearly on the ground of grace—on the ground of this, that " God is for us." It is not at all a question of conscience. The ground here is the ground of a Christian's course. There is no proper Christian course till we are brought to God in grace. There may be exercises of conscience, but these are in order to acceptance. If I am connecting acceptance with glorifying God, I do not know what grace is—I do not know what a righteousness, not my own, and yet mine, is, It is so hard to give up everything that we are, and to believe that by one man's obedience many are made righteous. And if it is by the obedience of the Lord Jesus Christ, it is as perfect as God can make it. That is why, so long as a soul is hankering after something in itself, it can never be happy. It is not submitting to the righteousness of God. But when I do submit, and Christ is made of God to me righteousness, then I have to walk as a Christian. That is what we have in this chapter. Now we get the race. Jesus did not run in order to be accepted. Why? He was the blessed Son of God every step of the way.
Well, in running this race the very difficulties with which faith is exercised become chastening. Faithfulness may bring us into trials; but the Lord uses the very trials of faith as a moral discipline for the killing of the flesh. The chastening is discipline—correction; not necessarily on account of sin; but even the troubles which come from our faithfulness serve to detect and correct the flesh. And everything in us hinders from the full enjoyment of what God is for us. See the grace of God in marking out and noticing every step of the walk—the constant care of love and wisdom to discipline us, to the breaking down of everything that hinders from the full enjoyment of Himself. We have admonition and warning here. Why? That we may be partakers of His holiness—that His own nature may be practically realized. What could be higher? His own holiness! Every step is toward this—and yet, alas, we often do not like the means! It is not requiring holiness; (of course it is required;) but here it is grace making us partakers of it,—positive grace communicating the essence of the divine holiness. His people He is to make like Himself—to enjoy Himself. For He has given us the nature that can do so, and His own love. Well, in bringing us to this He says, I must break down this, and that, and that.
But, be goes on to add, Do not be discouraged by it. Why? God is for you through every step of the way. " Therefore, lift up the hands that hang down," &c, If you were at Sinai you might fear and quake. I could not tell you to lift up, if you were at Sinai. I should say, Do not go too near. For no man can stand before God's glory when it is requiring that He should answer to it. But ye are not come to the mount that might be touched, &c., but ye are come to Mount Zion. What is the character of this Zion? Israel had entirely failed—the ark of God was among the Philistines. The ark was where the mercy-seat was, and on the mercy-seat the blood was sprinkled.
So Israel could not offer a sacrifice—for the very place where the blood was presented was in the enemy's hand. Now what is Zion? It is sovereign, royal grace. It is God coming in, and bringing back the ark and setting it on Zion. It is victorious grace in power accomplishing all the promises when Israel had failed.
In this passage (22-24) we get every part of the millennial glory—the whole fruit of God's counsels concerning Christ.
First, we have Mount Zion—full, royal grace. Then the heavenly city Jerusalem—the heavenly capital of the kingdom. Then the innumerable company of angels—the general assembly—the whole host of heaven. Then He singles out what is most blessed among this company—the Church of the First-born—those with us united to Christ. Next, God the judge of all; and he gives Him this character because in connection with His displayed glory. The spirits of just men made perfect-Old Testament saints, who had run their course, but were not yet glorified—who had not yet got their bodies. Now He comes away down to earth again, when He speaks of the new covenant in blood crying from the earth. " To Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant," because it is through that that Israel is brought in then. The blood of sprinkling, &c. Earth had received Christ's blood as it had Abel's. But now he has got on the ground of grace, and so it speaks better things than that of Abel.
Thus we have here all the counsels of God for the glorifying of Christ:- the mount of' royal grace, the heavenly city, the heavenly host, the Church of God, God Himself, the Jews resting in the new covenant, Jesus its mediator, and His peace-speaking blood. There is where I have been brought, therefore I am to have courage. " You are come." It is not hope. If I am thrown back on hope I am thrown on effort. But I am not thrown on hope, for I have got it;—got it, it is true, in the midst of trial, but look at all those witnesses, or rather at Jesus, "who for the joy," &c. We are in connection with all this—not merely conversant with it by faith, but livingly associated with it. Herein is strength. For we are come to what cannot be shaken. Grace has brought us to everything connected with the display of God's counsels for the glorifying of Jesus.
The Lord sees it needful for us to learn what we are; but the moment we get Jesus, we get the strength of Jesus and an object. Lay aside every weight. How can I? the soul may say. It is very easy for you to speak so who are not burdened so. But why have these things this power? Because your heart is on them and not on Jesus. When the heart is on Jesus they lose their power. Do not despise the chastening; there is a needs-be for it—something to be done in you; but do not faint, for it is love that is doing it.
The thing that rests on the heart is the wondrous grace that is incessantly occupied with us—with all our folly and failing. The great thing is to be with Jesus; not merely to run to Him when we have got into a fault. We may then not find Him all at once. If I have been long away, I shall get exercise before restoration. But be with Him. Therein is the power of throwing off these difficulties. Be with Jesus for His own sake, and then you have Him for everything.