Hebrews chapter 12 begins with the word-picture of a race (Hebrews 12:1). Now the author returns to that same word-picture, but in an extraordinary manner.
There is a prize to win Ė and it is a great reward. It is righteousness (2 Timothy 4:7-8; Hebrews 12:11). That means that God will declare us to be righteous, in other words, good, right and holy. And that is a wonderful honour which God wants us all to receive.
So we should not be lazy. And we should not be slow to learn (Hebrews 5:11; Hebrews 6:12). God wants us to trust him for the rest of our lives, and especially when we have problems and difficulties (Hebrews 10:35-36). So the author urges us to be like runners in a race. And that is when his description becomes extraordinary.
The author describes the runners. We expect to read about strong, healthy young men. But these runners cannot even walk! They are too weak even to lift their arms! Such runners cannot even begin the race; they certainly cannot win it! God does not want his people to be like that.
The author may be using humour, but he has a very serious message. His readers are much too weak in their relationship with God. But this is a race that every Christian can win. Every Christian can win the reward that God will declare him or her righteous. There is no reason to lose hope. God began his good work in their lives, and he is able to complete it.
In fact, the authorís extraordinary word-picture is not new. He is referring to Isaiah chapter 35; Hebrews 12:12 refers especially to Isaiah 35:3 and Isaiah 35:6. That chapter describes the effects when God acts to save his people.
When God saves his people, he changes everything completely. Flowers grow in the desert (Isaiah 35:1). Even people who are weak and afraid become strong (Isaiah 35:3-4). Blind people see, and deaf people hear (Isaiah 35:5). In other words, God changes his peopleís lives completely. Things that seemed impossible for them, they can now do. So people who could not walk can jump (Isaiah 35:6).
Isaiah 35:8-10 also describes a road for Godís people to travel along, as Hebrews 12:13 does. It is called Ďthe holy roadí. Only people whom God has saved can go on it. It leads to Godís house. And joy will fill the hearts and minds of all Godís people.
The author of Hebrews tells people who cannot walk to be strong. Like Isaiah chapter 35, he urges them to follow a holy life. A journey is a frequent word-picture in the Bible for how people live their lives.
The authorís description of these people is also a word-picture. He does not really mean that his readers cannot walk. He means that their relationship with God is too weak. But he believes that God can change their situation. He believes that God changes everything.
Like all the first Christians, he had seen God do such things. It was not merely a word-picture when God cured the man in Acts 3:1-8. It really happened. That man, who could not walk, became able to walk and to jump! God wanted to change the lives of the original readers of Hebrews like that. And he wants to change our lives like that, too.
Next part: Peace and holiness (Hebrews 12:14)
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© 2014, Keith Simons.