The author of Hebrews urges Christians to grow and develop in their relationship with God. They should trust God more, especially when they have troubles. And they should avoid sin (evil behaviour in their lives).
This reminds the author of the runners in a race. We are sure that the first Christian leaders did not approve of those races. It was at such events that the government in Rome chose to kill many Christians (see 1 Corinthians 15:32). The crowds drank too much wine; and people were praying to false gods. For example, they prayed to the god of luck, or to the god of success. But there was a lesson to learn from the attitude of the runners there.
The runners acted as if nothing else in life mattered, except the race. Christians should have a similar attitude: only Christ matters to them. The runners took off the clothes that might cause them to run more slowly. In the same manner, Christians should avoid all wrong and evil behaviour. It is like a weight that will stop the progress of their relationship with God. The runners continued to run, even if the race was long and hard. And Christians must continue to trust God, even when they have serious troubles.
A vast crowd encouraged the runners and urged them to run well. Sometimes so many clouds fill the sky that we cannot even begin to count them. That became a word-picture for a very large crowd, so the author refers to a ‘cloud of witnesses’. Most Bible teachers think that these witnesses are the people in Hebrews chapter 11. But I am not sure. They are not here to encourage us now. Hebrews 11:39 says that someone else witnessed their trust in God. But it does not say who did this. So perhaps those witnesses are the angels, God’s special servants from heaven (Hebrews 1:14). They are there to help us when we have troubles (Mark 1:13).
Next part: Joy in Jesus (Hebrews 12:2)
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© 2014, Keith Simons.