Musings on the Epistle to the Hebrews: Hebrews 12

Hebrews 12  •  10 min. read  •  grade level: 6
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We will now read Hebrews 12. We have looked at the doctrine of the epistle. We are now eminently in the practical part of it; yet the blessedness of the doctrine shines out too. I would just say this first, we have been looking at the various characters in which the Lord has entered heaven. Now here in verse 1 we get Him in heaven in another character. Do not many crowns belong to Him? Will not you put a royal crown — a priestly crown — on His head? Can you put too many crowns there? What a cluster of glories fill the eye as we look at Christ in heaven by the light of this magnificent epistle!
Now among other characters we see Him there as the One who perfected a life of faith on earth — "the author and finisher of faith." The counsel of God is busy in crowning Jesus. It is the delight of the counsel of God to crown Him — it is the delight of the Spirit of God to exhibit Him as crowned — and it is the delight of faith to see Him crowned. God, the Spirit, and the faith of the poor, believing sinner, all gather round Him, either to crown Him or to delight in seeing Him crowned.
Now we see Him owned in heaven as the One who perfected the life of faith. He passed through it to perfection from the manger to the cross and is so accepted in the highest heavens. That of course put Him in collision with man. “Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself." This is beautifully pregnant with the thought that He was “separate from sinners." You would not dare to take that language to yourself. It is too lofty a style for any but the Son of God to take. Was anything like that said of Abraham or Moses? No; the Spirit would not have talked so of one of them. So when you put the Lord Jesus in the wear and tear of life in company with martyrs, you see Him, as in all other things, taking the preeminence.
It is so natural for the Spirit to glorify Christ! If He is looking at Him officially, as in the first part of this epistle, it is easy to look at Him with many, many crowns upon Him. Or, looking at Him here, it is easy for the Spirit to put this crown of peculiar beauty on His head. He “endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself." It is a description which your heart would condemn you for taking to yourself, though you might be called to the stake.
The cross, in one aspect, was martyrdom. Jesus was as much a martyr at the hand of man as He was a victim at the hand of God. It is as a martyr we see Him here — and as such we are put in company with Him “Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin." You have no deeper enemy than your own heart to strive against. It was sin in the Pharisees — sin in the multitude — sin in the chief priests — that carried the Lord Jesus to the cross. But He never had a bit of sin in Himself to strive against. It was sin in others.
The apostle then goes on to put you, as a chastened sufferer, in company with the Father. Here we drop company with Christ. For He never was under the chastening of the Father. The moment I get under the scourging and education of the Father, I have dropped out of company with Christ. I am deeply in His company when traveling the path of the martyr. I am not a step in His company when I am under the chastening of the Father.
So from verse 5 onward you are in company with your heavenly Father. Oh! these sacred, divine touches — that know when to introduce Christ and when to let Him disappear! How, or in what form of excellency to display Him, and how to let Him out of sight! There is a glory, a completeness, in the very way in which the task of the Spirit is executed. He walks through life enduring the contradiction of sinners. I walk through it striving against sin. Then I am in company with the chastening of the Father — all resulting in a blessed participation in His holiness, but Christ is not there with me. If you put all the wit of aggregated intellects together, could it give you these divine touches that glitter in the book of God?
In verse 12 we are exhorted not to let our hands hang down. There is no reason why it should be so. Though you are under the scourge there is not one single reason why, your hands should hang down or your knees be feeble; for the Spirit has shown you yourself first in company with Christ and then with your Father who loves you. Is there any reason why you should travel as if you did not know the road? This is a beautiful conclusion. We all know how the hands will hang down; but I set my seal to every word of this and say, “Truth, Lord." There is no reason that we should be faint-hearted. Then having come to that he looks round. Do not let your own hands hang down; and in connection with others follow peace — in connection with God follow holiness. “What communion hath light with darkness” — “what concord hath Christ with Belial?”
“Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you." If you consult at your leisure Deuteronomy 29, you will find a root of bitterness there spoken of; but it is a different kind from this. There it arose from some man taking up false gods — here it is failing of the grace of God. The whole epistle has it as its bearing and purpose, to nail your ear, in scripture language, to the doorpost of Him that is speaking of grace. It is not a lawgiver that is heard, but One who is publishing salvation from the highest heavens. Angels and principalities and powers are made subject to the Purger of our sins; and the Purger of our sins has taken our conscience up to the highest heavens and every tongue that could lay a charge against us is silenced, as we read in Romans 8 (See also 1 Peter 3:21-2221The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ: 22Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him. (1 Peter 3:21‑22)).
Now take care lest you fail of the grace thus published. It may end in the profaneness of Esau. It has been said by another that this reference to Esau must have been very striking to the mind of a Jew. “If you fail of the grace of God, you will be left in the position of one whom your nation repudiates." I do not care what you take up in His stead, if you slip away from Christ you may be tomorrow in the position of the reprobate Esau. How does Esau stand before you? As the type of that generation who by-and-by will say, “Lord, Lord, open to us." But their tears will be as ineffectual as Esau’s by the bedside of his dying father. He came too late. So when once God has risen up and shut to the door they will find no place of repentance. This verse 17 is very solemn. It tells me that that action of Esau is the presentation to our thoughts of that which is still to be realized in an Esau generation — and only in such — "Behold ye despisers, and wonder and perish." Esau despised his birthright, and this generation have refused the grace of God and despised the Christ that has passed through the world and died for sinners.
After this, in verse 18, we get a magnificent sight of the two dispensations. It is as if the apostle had said, “I have been showing you a martyr path, but now I tell you that the moment you look to God everything is for you.” The martyr path and the chastening of the Father are only further proofs of love.
Now, leaving Christ and the Father, we come to God; and you see that all the eternal counsels of God have clustered to make you a blest one, as they have clustered to make Christ a glorious One. Do not be afraid. You are not come to the mount that might be touched and that burned with fire. Turn your back on it. The more advisedly I have turned my back on it the more advisedly I have met and answered the grace and wisdom of God and rendered the obedience of faith. Am I to be turning round my head — to be looking over my shoulder — to be giving it some glances? Is that the obedience of faith? Then as to my face. Where is that turned to? To a cluster of blessedness. I was introduced by my own self-confidence to law and found not a thing for me. Now I have turned my face right round and I see everything for me. “Ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn, and to God the Judge of all." The Lord, even in judgment, is for us, for it is one office of a judge to vindicate the oppressed. Then, “the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling " Everything is for you. And that is where your face is undivertedly to direct itself. Let your face be right fully turned to the one hill, and your back be right fully turned to the other hill.
But here at this place, in Hebrews 12, you are at the very beginning of the epistle again. In Hebrews 2 we read, “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord."
Now we read, “See that ye refuse not Him that speaketh." From the beginning to the end the Spirit is nailing your ear to the door of the house of the Master of grace.
Then it very solemnly closes: “Our God is a consuming fire," that is, the God of this dispensation. From the fires of Sinai there was a relief by turning and taking refuge in Christ; but there is no relief if God’s relief is despised. If you turn away from the relief this dispensation brings in, there is no more relief. “Our God is a consuming fire."
What, I ask you, puts you in company with God like simplicity of faith? As we said before, the purpose of the eternal counsels and the joy of the Spirit is this, to put crowns on the head of Christ; and when I am simple in faith I am delighting to fill the field of my vision with these glories. Thus I am put in the most dignified company I could be in — God and the Holy Spirit. The Lord grant that you and I may be there! If we know these things, happy, thrice happy are we if we rest in them!