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Bible Commentaries
Hebrews 12

Bell's Commentary on the BibleBell's Commentary

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Verses 1-3

  1. Intro:
    1. April 17th, 2000 Kelly ran the 104th Boston Marathon w/16,000 others. I found it interesting that for most, running it wasn’t about winning the Boston (only maybe a few dozen are real hopefuls), it was all about finishing the race & winning their own personal race”.
      1. It was about doing what they set out to do.
      2. The Key was staying in the race…all the way to the end. And, doing their best…all along the way. [Runners call it their P.B.]
    2. Scene change in Hebrews - Our focus is now brought to a sports stadium where a distance marathon is being run. * Read Text
      1. ​​​​​​​The Runners = the readers of this epistle (including us) who run this grueling race.
      2. The Race = life itself [ps: it’s not a 100yr. dash]
      3. The Goal = the end of life, whether it be death or the rapture.
      4. The Venue = a great stadium.
      5. The Crowd = many witnesses (including ch.11 saints & Jesus). The spiritual athletes of the past (Gold medal winners).
        1. We gain Inspiration & Motivation from the saints of old, through their dedication & perspiration.
        2. These witnesses bear testimony the race can be run successfully & the rewards are great.
        3. Unlike the end of Kelly’s race where, being 1 of the coldest Boston races ever, I let down my wife more then ever, we couldn’t get over to her. Where were you? [she was bluer than a Smurf]
          1. I wish I had it to do over again.
        4. See, the End of the race in heaven is the best (we will be greeted w/a warm blanket, kiss & hugs, from Jesus Himself)
  2. LET US LAY ASIDE (1a)
    1. ​​​​​​​With all these guys watching don’t you want to run well? Finish strong?
      1. Picture them along the last mile with their encouragements.
        1. Example: At Boston (diff. groups, wheel chair competition)
        2. “You can do it!” “You’re going to make it!” “Strong kick!”
      2. What would they be yelling to you in your spiritual race if you could hear them today?
        1. “Get off your...couch!” “Don’t just sit there!” “Quit looking back!”
      3. See, salvation is free, but seeing God’s glory will cost you everything.
    2. EVERY SIN
    3. It must be cast aside immediately upon recognition, as it springs from its ambush to entrap.
    4. Ensnares – Picture the Venus Fly-trap
      1. As the fly lands, the plants sticky hair-like fingers touch its wings. The more the fly struggles to be set free it only gets more coated w/the sticky substance. Then the leaf closes in 1 second…then the next few hours its life is sucked out of him. In the end what is left is only its empty dry carcass.
      2. And so our end if we play with sin in our lives.
    5. Remember, what might be a vice for one, might not be even a temptation to another.
      1. To 1 it might be sensuality, to another jealousy. (Dishonesty, temper, covetousness, criticism, laziness, hatred, lust, Pride)
      2. Which is your Achilles’ heel?
    6. However, not every weight/hindrance is sin
    8. ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​A hindrance is something, otherwise good, that weighs you down spiritually.
      1. It could be: a friendship, an association, an event, a place, a habit, a pleasure, an entertainment, an honor.
      2. Is there a place you need to stay away from? Because of your past sins acquainted w/it. Is there a person you need to stay away from? Because of your past relationship w/them.
    9. He is speaking of what is unnecessary/nonessential. One cannot run well in an overcoat, tuxedo, or in skinny jeans. (...you need Dolphin shorts, ha!)
    10. An athlete in ancient times would lay aside unnecessary weight 2 ways:
      1. By removing his extra flesh (bulk, mass, fat)
      2. He would also remove all of his clothes (maybe Dolphins aren’t that bad)
    11. Each runner must honestly decide what is unessential or excessive.
      1. Unfortunately, many denominations would be happy to come up w/that list for you.
      2. In this world we have legitimate pleasures. Ravi described it as, “A legitimate pleasure is something that refreshes along the journey w/o distracting from your ultimate goal.”
        1. ​​​​​​​This is different from running with your car keys, can of pepper spray, cell phone.
    12. Again, what is clearly sin allows of no individual choice, but here we are to consider unnecessary baggage.
      1. Robot Camel Jockey’s (a weight issue). I thought this was hilarious.
        ​​​​​​​I learned camel racing has been a tradition in Arab countries for 1000’s of years. Then I learned there has been some 5-40,000 children trafficked to be camel jockeys as young as 2 yrs old, best age & weight? 4 yrs old! (starved to be as light as possible)
        UAE 1st to outlaw this, started using robots. [I’m so glad they laid aside this weight/stolen children]
      2. ​​​​​​​Kelly said at the beginning of the Boston there was a bunch of free food in their tent where they waited for the start (bagels, cream cheese, fruit, etc.) & She said the people were pigging out! [she never eats before she runs]
        1. What is impeding your running? What is slowing you down? What is getting in the way of your Christian faith-race?
        2. The mundane, not making the time for intimacy w/God, priorities, busyness, lack of contentment of God, fast pace culture, working too much, or playing too hard, peer pressure, ambition of other things, hobbies, laziness, pre-occupied w/figuring out your future? [Away with it! (shake it into the fire)]
  3. LET US RUN (1b)
    1. ​​​​​​​WITH ENDURANCE
    2. ​​​​​​​Run with perseverance - in 1981 Bill Broadhurst entered the Pepsi challenge 10,000m race in Omaha, Nebraska. Surgery 10 years earlier for an aneurysm in the brain had left him paralyzed on his left side. Now, on that misty July morning, he stands with 1,200 lithe men and women at the starting line. The gun sounds! The crown surges forward. Bill throws his stiff left leg forward, pivots on it as his foot hits the ground. Its slow plop – plop – plop rhythm seems to mock him as the pack races into the distance. Sweat rolls Down his face, pain pierces his ankle, but he keeps going. Some of the runners complete the race in about 30 minutes, but 2 hours & 20 minutes later Bill reaches the finish line. A man approaches from a small group of remaining bystanders. Though exhausted, Bill recognizes him from pictures in the newspaper.
      He is Bill Rogers, the famous marathon runner, who then drapes his newly won metal around Bill’s neck. Bill Broadhurst’s finish was as glorious as that of the worlds greatest – though he finished last. Why? Because he ran with perseverance. (Hughes, Hebrews, Vol.2, pg.160,161)
    3. The race is not for sprinters who burn out after 200 meters.
      1. It’s pushing through the pain where every muscles screams, “stop” “ok, that’s enough”, “your fit now”. And you get to the other side where its now smooth running.
    4. It is for the faithful plodders. Fast or slow, strong or weak. All must persevere.
    5. YOUR RACE - The race set before us (i.e. individually)
    6. We each have a specific course mapped out for us.
      1. Some are straight, others many twists; some have flat land, others hilly; some low altitude, some high; all are long, some are longer.
      2. But each of us can finish the race set out before us.
      3. Then we too can say as Paul, I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.
  4. LET US FOCUS (2)
    1. ​​​​​​​Actually this is 2-fold: It encompasses both the looking away from one thing & concentrating on another.
      1. Especially in a race, it’s not falling into the looking back trap that killed Lot’s wife in her feeble race, where she ended up turning into a pillar of salt.
      2. Which as 1 Sunday School boy, when hearing of this story said, that’s nothing, my mom turned into a telephone pole once!
    2. On August 7th, at the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Vancouver, Roger Bannister of England competed against John Landy of Australia for the first time in a race billed as The Miracle Mile. They were the only two men in the world to have broken the 4-minute barrier, with Landy still holding the world record. When they came into the last turn the crowd roared, so loud Landy couldn’t hear John’s steps any longer. Landy looked over his left shoulder to gauge Bannister's position and Bannister burst past him on the right; Bannister won in 3 min 58.8 s, with Landy 0.8 s behind in 3 min 59.6 s.
      1. A larger-than-life bronze sculpture of the two men at this moment was created in 1967 from a photograph by Vancouver Sun photographer Charlie Warner. Regarding this sculpture, Landy quipped that "While Lot's wife was turned into a pillar of salt for looking back, I am probably the only one ever turned into bronze for looking back."
    3. ON JESUS
    4. Who is the supreme example of the preceding chapter of One of faith.
      1. As a hunter keeps his animal in his scope’s cross-hairs. As a baseball player keeps his eyes on the ball. As a parent keeps their eye on their toddler in a crowd. As a carpenter, on the front edge of his saw blade.
    5. Not looking unto self – “I don’t repent enough...I don’t believe enough...I don’t feel worthy enough.”
      1. ​​​​​​​It is true we don’t have any of these, but it is wrong to look for any in ourselves. So, It isn’t, “looking unto Brian….”
    6. Its’ learning to be Christocentric!
      1. It’s looking to Jesus who is the goal of our journey & the companion along the way.
      2. It’s only looking unto Jesus who is the originator & the finisher of our faith.
    8. And His attitude was joy. So, what was the joy set before him?...namely, of presently after sitting down at the right hand of the throne of God; including besides His own personal joy, the joy of sitting there as a Prince and Savior, to give repentance and remission of sins, for our salvation.
    1. ​​​​​​​His race? His endurance of opposition? (well, Pharisees, Herodian’s, Sadducees, Caiaphas, Herod, Pilate, Judas to name a few)
      1. And of course he handled each situation like velvet-steel.
    2. Lest we become weary & discouraged (more sports lingo). To be weary & faint.
      1. The 1st, referring to a sudden breakdown in endurance. [i.e. hit the wall, or even stop]
      2. The 2nd, a more gradual relaxation of vigilance. [i.e. looking around & daydreaming, instead of racing]
    3. Are you becoming weary in your race? Listen to the shouts of encouragement. Look down the road & see the crowd lining the streets…
      1. There’s Stephen (black-n-blue & bleeding from his stoning).
        There’s John the Baptist (holding his head in his hands).
        There’s Isaiah(cut in½,beside himself)
        There’s Luke (who was hanged from a tree).
        There’s Mark (flesh hook marks still in his thighs from where they drug him to his death).
        There’s Barnabas (who was char-broiled).
        There’s Peter (still upside down).
        There’s Thomas (baked well done in an oven, then stabbed thru w/spears).
        There’s Matthew (who was crucified, stoned, & decapitated).
        And there’s Jesus (with the marks in his hands, feet, side, head, back).
      2. Don’t give up saints for you have not yet…(read vs.4)
        1. Are you bleeding yet???
      3. (msg) Do you see what this means - all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running - and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed - that exhilarating finish in and with God - he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging/weaker in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls.

Verses 4-11

  1. Intro:
    1. Regarding discipline: A little boy who wasn’t getting good grades in school, made his teacher quite surprised. He tapped her on the shoulder and said, I don’t want to scare you, but my daddy says, if I don’t get better grades...somebody is going to get a spanking!
    2. Rock climbing analogy. You cannot make your children back-slid-proof no matter how many years they live with you. But, what we can do is provide as many hand and foot grips as possible, & provide them w/as many tools as possible, so that they will not slide down life’s slippery slope.
      1. Every discipline gives them, one more hand grasp, one more foot hold, to keep them from sliding back.
      2. It also helped them to climb one step closer to The Top.
      3. No home can function in a scriptural way w/o discipline.
    1. Teleological - The branch of philosophy that deals with ends or final causes. Aristotle claimed that an acorn's intrinsic telos is to become a fully grown oak tree. In our context today God’s discipline towards us is always w/an end in view!
    2. The proverbial Woodshed is where one would be taken for their correction. 
 [Although, my dad didn’t need any woodshed, any place would do for him]
    3. Do you ever see suffering/trials/discipline as signs of God’s disfavor?
      1. The recipients of this letter might have jumped to that conclusion as they started to face opposition & persecution.
    4. Chastening - means discipline. To teach or instruct as one would a child.
 It is the discipline for the purpose of education/correction.
      1. There is a difference between punishment & correction.
      2. Sometimes discipline is corrective, other times preventative, other times still…instructive.
      3. Discipline can come when we are doing poorly, but also when we are doing well (e.g. Job)
      4. God is like a wise coach who brings greater stress & challenge to us that we might ascend to undreamed levels of spirituality.
        1. Interesting we expect our soccer/football/track coaches to run our kids tails off, & get them into shape & condition; yet we get nervous or upset when God does the same for their/our spiritual lives. 

    5. The writer here gives us 7 reminders regarding Gods loving parental discipline:
      1. DON’T FORGET IT (5a)
        1. Yes, many have forgotten today the importance of disciplining children.
        2. Parents seem too distracted & too exhausted to protect & care for their children in this way.
        3. The ancient world found it incomprehensible that a father could possibly love His child & not correct him. 

      2. DON’T DEPISE IT (5b)
        1. Some despise it by blowing it off, regarding it lightly.
        2. Physical discipline: Spanking/corporal punishment. It’s not like the new mini-series “The Slap”. It’s not disciplining out of anger. It’s not punishment. It is correction. It is the parent representing God & disciplining out of love, not anger. It gives a sting (painful) but never a mark. It’s bathed with prayer & forgiveness. [explain my process]
          1. It is an ongoing process of helping your children ultimately to become self-controlled & self-disciplined.
        3. Spiritual discipline: in all of our discipline/trials/chastisement from God…We remember God has brought or allowed it. We are to welcome it from Him. We are to glorify Him in it. We are to look for Him to make it a blessing. 

      3. DON’T BE DISCOURAGED BY IT (5c,6)
        1. The other pitfall is to go completely the other way.
          1. e.g. “My trouble is more than I could bear.”
          2. Yet forgetting…“God is faithful; He will not let us be tempted beyond what we can bear”; forgetting…"His grace is sufficient for us, for His strength is made perfect in weakness."; forgetting…“ that all things work together for good to those who love God,”.
          3. They become paralyzed by discipline.
        2. Note: this is all cuz He Loves You. [you don’t discipline the neighbor kids]

      4. ENDURE IT (7,8)
        1. Patiently endure it – “It is the divinely ordained path to a deepening relationship w/God & a growing love w/Him!” (Kent Hughes, Hebrews 12)
        2. Slide12a Tom Landry, former coach of the Dallas Cowboys, said, “The job of a coach is to make men do what they don’t want to do, in order to be what they’ve always wanted to be!”
          1. If you have a boy you have a man-in-the-making; 
 If you have a girl you have a woman-in-the-making.
        3. It is a fact of forestry that very often when small trees are cleared away, some of the big trees will subsequently come down. Why? The smaller trees shielded the trees from nature’s assaults & thus the large trees never developed to stand alone. :(
          1. So, God regularly allows his children to undergo hardships to prevent their falling.
        4. Immunity from Gods discipline is the badge of the reprobate.
        1. God is concerned w/our attitude with His discipline. 
 Is your attitude complaint or surrender?
          1. 14a Sometimes we accept it w/resignation - They believe that, since nothing happens outside the will of God, I guess I have to accept it. This is accepting not the fathers love, but only his power.
          2. 14b Sometimes we accept it w/self-pity - I’m the only one that’s ever disciplined/hurt/given trials/etc.
          3. 14c Sometimes we accept it w/let’s get it over w/mentality - I’ll take this discipline & struggle thru it w/defiance but not w/gratitude
          4. 14d Sometimes we resent God for it - Some only see God as vindictive, they ask, “what did I do to deserve this?” Instead of, “What is God trying to teach me & to do w/me through this experience?”
          5. 14e Other times we accept it gratefully - from a loving father. 
 Jerome said, “The greatest anger of all is when God is no longer angry w/us when we sin!” The supreme punishment is when God lets us alone…as unteachable.
        2. Every earthly father will admit he has meted out imperfect discipline at best. We’ve all learned by doing. Sometimes we were too severe other times too lenient. Other times showing favoritism. Sometimes the kids got it because we got it that day. Ever punish the wrong child?
          1. Yet God, makes no mistakes, is never ill-informed, nor ill-tempered. None of His discipline has ever been misplaced.

        3. Talk about the rod, spanking: [Explain what I mean by proper spanking]
        4. The problem is, the child is a sinner. [we are not sinners because we sin, but we sin because we are sinners]
        5. Distinguish between behaviors & accidents. [spilled milk & defiance]
        6. Don’t bribe your child. (Johnny if you come over here I’ll give you a candy)
        7. Slide15 It’s a heart issue. Prov.22:15 Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of correction will drive it far from him[rod 9 x’s in Pr]
        8. Children challenge authority. But look whose authority you are letting them buck when you don’t discipline them…God’s. Will you continue to let them live under their own authority? They don’t want you to rule them.
        9. Other methods of disciplining children. Time-out, for helping them to foresee evil. Natural consequences, the removal of a privilege, or paying for the broken toy.
        10. Give both communication & discipline. Each parent seems to be really comfortable w/1 of these. [Discipline only & no communication lack kindness; Communicate only & no spanking lack firmness]
          1. Slide16a To do only one is like a cargo ship w/all its cargo on one side…it won’t sail well.
        11. Slide16b Quote from Ann Landers [Letter by a Father to his son]
 Dear Son, As long as you live under this roof you will follow the rules. In our house we do not have a democracy. I did not campaign to be your father. You did not vote for me. We are father and son by the grace of God. I consider it a privilege and I accept the responsibility. In accepting it I have an obligation to perform the role of a father. I am not your pal. The age difference makes such a relationship impossible. We can share many things but you must remember I am your father. This is a hundred times more meaningful that being a pal. You will do as I say in this house. You are not to disobey me because whatever I ask you to do is motivated by love. This may be hard for you to understand at times. But the rule holds. You will understand perfectly when you have a son of your own. Until then, trust me…Love, Dad
      6. PROFIT BY IT (10) [partake of, have share in]
        1. All of God’s disciplines for us have one grand aim…which is nothing less than to make His people like Him…HOLY.
          1. So the most holy of us have endured the most discipline.
          2. What a gift then discipline is.
        2. How do the values of God’s discipline listed here help us to respond to discipline? (holiness & peace & rt.)
        3. The profit? – Holiness & the fruit of peace/shalom.
        4. (vs10) Contrast: Earthly fathers for a short time & for immediate ends And our Heavenly Father for both holy lives & eternal ends.
        5. God’s goal for us…discipline for maturity.
        6. Rev.3:19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.
        7. Job 5:17 Behold, happy is the man whom God corrects; Therefore do not despise the chastening of the Almighty.

      7. BE TRAINED BY IT (11) [be exercised by it]
        1. Christian suffering is not sheer circumstantial misery or the result of blind chance.
        2. Paul says, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. Rom.5:3,4 NIV
        3. Peter put it this way, These(trials) have come so that your faith - of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire - may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 1 Pet.1:7
        4. “Oh that we would not only bear…but kiss the Rod.” William Jay
        5. The peaceable fruit is when the hurricanes of life our blowing on the surface but deep down w/in you…all is serene…all is quiet…all is well.
          1. The Christian life is not a life w/o waves, but simply a life that lives below them.
    6. Discipline: It’s Source is Love. It’s Aim is at Good. It’s Recipientsonly His Children.

Verses 12-17

  1. Intro: Title: Finish Well
    1. Last week: We move from God being the disciplining parent to the demanding track coach.
    2. Here the writer deals with very practical everyday Christian living.
      1. He knew that sometimes it is given to a man to mount up w/wings as an eagle; sometimes man is enabled to run & not be weary; but he also knew that of all things it is hardest to walk every day and not to faint. (William Barclay, Hebrews, pg.179)
    3. Outline: Finish Strong. Guard Against…
  2. Slide5 FINISH STRONG (12-14)
    1. Here the writer runs back to his running analogy. (vs.1 let us run w/endurance the race set before us)
      1. Remember, the spiritual life is a long distance run.
    2. Slide6 RUN TOUGH (12)
    3. The call here is to tough it out, suck it up, gut it out!
    4. The picture is that of a runner nearing the finish line, completely exhausted, wanting to give up, blistered feet, cramping calves, dry mouth, & heavy legs.
      1. Read Story: Last page.
    5. Isaiah said, Strengthen the weak hands, And make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who are fearful-hearted, Be strong, do not fear! Behold, your God will come…35:3,4.
    6. This is what we call Muscular Christianity.
      1. Slide7 THE U.S. COAST GUARD CUTTER HEALY is designed to break 4 ½ feet of ice continuously at 3 knots and can operate in temperatures as low as -50 degrees F. The ship slams against the wicked ice of the Northwest Passage. From inside the vessel's belly, the ice seems to be fighting back, roaring, screaming, pounding against the steel hull. The ship is stopped cold in the frozen tracks of the passage. It pauses, backs up in black water, then rams the great white frozen ridges again. The weakened ice finally bends and gives way. The Healy, the newest icebreaker in the U.S. Coast Guard, moves slowly forward, as if putting a foot through the throat of the Arctic. But to either side of the ship, the ice is untouched, six feet thick, looking like a frozen extension of land. Push on!
        1. No it’s not a do-it-yourself Christian Life...but Christians must will to tough it out by God’s great grace.
    8. Straight paths – the track made by the feet of the runners. Or it’s speaking of the running lane.
    9. (NIV) Make level paths for your feet, so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed. Help everyone finish the race! :)
      1. The idea is clear...put the paths in better order so as to make the race easier for the Lame. [As soon as hurdlers were finished, get hurdles off track for next race]
      2. The image is of the weak runners helping the weaker runners at the end of the race. And it is the strong runners coming back after their race, to help those struggling to finish.
      3. The call here is to corporate toughness in helping each other to run well.
        1. What a great snapshot of Church life.
    11. This kind of peace is to be pursued. It requires effort; it is not something that just happens. It is a product of mental & spiritual toil & sweat.
      1. Matter of fact, Peace is not made with friends. Peace is made with enemies. ((Sept. 13, 1993). Christianity Today, Vol. 37, no. 12.) [Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, quoted in Newsweek]
    12. Here we need the runners lean at the finish line…because frankly, some people are just difficult to live peaceably with.
      1. Rom.12:18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (NIV)
      2. Peace with all people is something we must pursue. It’s a choice. It’s intentional.
    13. Holiness – the root meaning is always difference & separation.
      1. Yes, we live in this world, but we are to be different from it & separate from it.
        1. In this epistle holiness has already been explained (10:14,22) as a drawing near to God w/a cleansed conscience.
      2. Our aim is not to stand well w/men; but to stand well w/God.
      3. Sin will grow w/o sowing, but holiness needs cultivation.
      4. Pursue it, as a hunter pursues his prey. [pursue: to hunt, to follow after, to pursue]
    14. No one will see the Lord? – holiness is referring to the sanctifying process that occurs in the life of the true believer. He is not speaking of perfection already attained.
      1. Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God. Mt.5:8
    15. Slide10 e.g. When an observatory is about to be built, the site selected is always on some high mountain. The aim is to find a place where there is a clear, unobstructed view of the heavens. Similarly, faith requires for its heavenly vision the highlands of holiness and separation, the pure sky of a consecrated life. (A. B. Simpson in A Larger Christian Life. Christianity Today, Vol. 41, no. 8.)
  3. GUARD AGAINST... (15-17)
    1. Slide12 GRACELESSNESS (15a)
    2. Looking carefully - taking oversight. Lest anyone - care for your brother, be your brothers keeper. So they don’t fall short of the grace of God.
    3. Who can & how do you fall short of the grace of God?
      1. It’s like the group that left Egypt, but came up short of the promise land.
      2. It’s the person today who for a time makes an attempt at trying the Christianity thing, yet comes up short of experiencing the grace of God, never truly become possessed of it or by it. Adapted, Andrew Murray, pg.50
        1. Now he names 2 things by which one can fall short of the grace of God.
    1. Slide13 BITTERNESS (15b)
    2. This is taken from Deut.29:18 that there may not be among you a root bearing bitterness or wormwood. Or(NIV) make sure there is no root among you that produces such bitter poison.
      1. Gall was the bitterest substance, from a plant, in biblical times. Thus why it is often used in the same context. Amos 6:12 you have turned justice into gall, And the fruit of righteousness into wormwood.
        1. Gall was some bitter poisonous plant, probably the poppy. [took the edge off at crucifixions]
      2. Is there any root of bitterness planted in your hearts soil?
        1. We all know how the roots of weeds spread rapidly, they go undetected & deprive crop-producing plants vital nutrients & the result yields a reduced harvest.
      3. Every plant can only bring forth what its root supplies…
        1. If you have gossip roots, be guaranteed you’ll grow a poisonous plant.
        2. If you have envy & jealousy roots, be guaranteed you’ll grow a toxic tree.
    3. And many become defiled - This is a warning against the infection from the world.
      1. Defile conveys the idea of giving something color by painting or staining it.
    4. GODLESSNESS (16,17)
    5. Fornicator – pornos. Profane – godless, irreligious.
    6. Esau (means hairy, but also called Big Red, from the red lentil stew he sold his birthright for)
      1. (msg) Watch out for the Esau syndrome: trading away God’s lifelong gift in order to satisfy a short-term appetite. You well know how Esau later regretted that impulsive act & wanted God’s blessing - but by then it was too late, tears or no tears.
      2. Esau was completely earthbound. All his thoughts were on what he could touch, taste, feel. Instant gratification sums up his life. He was void of spiritual values. He was godless.
        1. Kent Hughes summed him up best. Esau was a pornos subject to the whims of his Tomcat nature. He was the archetype of the 20th century testosterone man. He was focused on food, fun & females. A sensual man who put the needs of his body 1st.Esau was like a living beer commercial. [The Most Interesting man, Dos Equis Commercial]
      3. He describes the man whose mind recognizes nothing higher than earth, for whom there is nothing sacred, who has no reverence for the unseen.
        1. This profane/godless/irreligious/unhallowed life is a life w/o any awareness of, or interest in, God.
    7. There is a choice placed before all of us of which world we’ll choose: earth/heavenbound
      1. This world down here, includes a life of living a profane/godless/irreligious/ unhallowed life, w/o any awareness of, or interest in, God. Or…
      2. The world to come, includes relationship with God, things sacred, holy, beautiful, godly, and a life full of forgiveness & Grace.
        1. Everyone is cast into eternity...into a place of perfect union w/God, or a place of ultimate pain, apart from Him.

By now, the rigors of having run nearly 20 miles are beginning to tell. My strife has shortened. My legs are tight. My breathing is shallow and fast. My joints are becoming raw & worn. My neck aches from all the jolts that have ricocheted up my spine. Half-dollar-size blisters sting the soles of my feet. I’m beginning to feel queasy and light-headed. I want to stop running I have “hit the wall.”

Now the real battle begins. Up the first of many long inclines I start to climb, 1-2, 1-2, 1-2, right–left, right–left, right–left. I keep watching my feet move, one after the other, hypnotized by the rhythm, the passage of the asphalt below…shoulder cramps, leaden legs, seating blisters, dry throat, empty stomach, Stop – Keep moving – must finish…

A radio-listening spectator reports that the races is over. 6 miles away, Bill Rogers has won again. His ordeal is done; the most intense of my own is about to begin.

“Heartbreak Hill” - the last, the longest & the steepest, a half–mile struggle against gravity design to finish off the faint and faltering. Hundreds of people standing along the hill, watching…[urging] the walkers to jog, the joggers to run, the runners to speed on to Boston.… Slowly, ever so slowly, the grade begins to level out…

The last 4 miles are seemingly endless. Some runners, their eyes riveted catatonically to the ground, trudge alone in their bare feet, holding in their hands the shoes that have blistered & bloodied their defeat. Others team up to help each other, limping along, arm-in-arm, like maimed and battle-weary soldiers returning from the front.

Finally, the distinctive profile of the Prudential Building looms on the horizon. I begin to step up my pace. Faster, faster…smoother, smoother. Suppress the pain. Finish up strong. Careful – not too fast. Don’t cramp…

I can see the yellow stripe 50 yards ahead. I run faster, pumping my arms, pushing off my toes, defying clutching leg cramps to mount a glorious, last–gasp kick…40 yards, 30 yards, 20 yards… Cheers and clapping…10 yards…finish line… an explosion of euphoria… I am clocked in at 2 hours, 50 minutes and 49 seconds. My place: 1,176. I find the figures difficult to believe, but if they’re accurate, then I have run the best marathon in my life.

While times and places are important, and breaking a personal record is thrilling (especially as you grow older), the real joy of the Boston Marathon is just finishing…doing what you have set out to do.

Art Carey, Beating Agony and the Marathon, Philadelphia Inquirer, April 12, 1978. From Kent Hughes, Hebrews Vol.2 pg 177,178.

Verses 18-29

  1. Intro:
    1. The Lord seems to believe a picture is worth a 1000 words.
      1. Here the writer downloads 2 pictures for us, comparing: 2 different mountains. 2 different covenants. 2 historic people. 2 important principles.
      2. Note all the words that are contrasted when we read: Sinai/Zion; heaven/earth; new/old cov.; terror/joy; shake/unshaken; not come/come; distance/closeness; law at Sinai/grace & glory at Zion.
    2. God gave the Jews a picture they’d never forget back in Exodus.
      1. Really, a picture of Himself regarding His Holiness.
      2. Let’s take a peek at our 1st Peak. The time period, about 14 centuries before Christ. The place, Mnt. Sinai. The reason, to give them the 10 commandments. The picture?…Let’s read (vs.18-24).
  2. TWIN PEAKS (18-24)
    1. SINAI (18-21)
    2. A Mnt that sits near the base of the Sinai Peninsula. Others believe on the Arabian coast.
      1. The last 22 ch’s of Exodus, all Leviticus, & Numbers ch’s 1-11 contain the record of all that transpired at Sinai.
      2. Show Map of 2 poss locations - Where the Red Sea forks up with the Gulf of Suez to the West, & the Gulf of Aqaba to its East (tradition supports).
    3. read Ex.19:16-20
      1. As Carole King wrote in a little different context, I feel the earth move under my feet. (what seismic tremors they must have felt)
      2. Gods purpose for this horrific display?…the absolute unapproachableness of God – It was to instill the proper fear of God…Did He accomplish this?
      3. Why would God want man to fear Him?…read Ex.20:18-21
        1. To understand that God is Holy and man is a sinner...is to stand at the threshold of Grace. (Kent Hughes; pg.189)
    4. What was the big problem of Sinai? It provided no power to overcome sin.
      1. As one put this dilemma to poem, To run & work the law commands, Yet gives me neither feet nor hands.
    5. Today we aren’t tempted to go back to Sinai, in the sense of returning to the law.
      1. Yet we do have a tendency to build our own synthetic Sinai’s.
      2. Here’s how it works. I go stand on my own little spiritual Sinai, God speaks to me a word of conviction, on…let’s say…spending too much time on social media. But then I run down the mountain & try to share my personal conviction of “0” social media now, but instead I make it a thus saith the Lord for everyone. Voila, I have returned to Sinai.
      3. Oh, how our lists elevate us, while we place all others mercilessly in our judgmental miss-calibrated-scales.
    6. ZION (22-24)
    7. Formerly the Jebusite fortress on the S.E. hill of Jerusalem.
      1. The name later included the City of David; then the Temple; later all Jerusalem; figurative of Judah; then the whole of Gods people; to finally his spiritual kingdom which includes all believing Jew & Gentiles; a.k.a. the city of the living God & the New City Jerusalem.
        1. Here we have Mount Zion exalted to the heavens...literally!
    8. Note: you have come...Have Come! (perfect tense) emphasizing our permanent, continuing state.
      1. ​​​​​​​Same word as in: 4:16 come boldly to the throne of grace. 7:25 He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him (Christ). 10:22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith.
    9. Listen to the writers 7-fold list of the Glories that await us:
      1. God’s City (22a)
        1. When David took the city from the Jebusites, he brought the Ark of the Covenant there for its new home. Thus making this place the place where God dwelt w/His people
        2. If you are a believer you already are a citizen. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Phil.3:20
        3. We are citizens of Zion who have left Sinai & marching toward our new home/Zion.
        4. That new city Jerusalem will have beauty unfathomable; food delectable; fellowship incredible; joy unbelievable; & a love inconceivable.
      2. Angels (22b)
        1. Angels everywhere.
        2. General assembly = festal gathering/assembly.
          1. In ancient culture this spoke of the great national assemblies.
        3. Oh the glory of singing & worshipping with these terrific beings that have ministered to us, watched over us, passing in & out of our lives.
      3. Former-Fellow-Believers (23a)
        1. In ancient days the kings kept a register of their faithful citizens (like king Ahasuerus having the Book of Records, read to him, & ran across the faithful citizen Mordecai)
        2. Firstborn – all rights of inheritance go to the 1st born, to us who are co-heirs w/Christ.
        3. Bishop Westcott says, we are a society of eldest sons of God. [there are no 2nd, 3rd, 4th sons & daughters in the church]
        4. We all received the Big fat Inheritance.
      4. God (23b)
        1. Though the scene in Zion is very joyous festival…it is not a casual thing.
        2. We come to Zion to meet the God of Sinai, who is judge of all. (ibid; pg.193)
        3. How does a drill sergeant 1st interact w/his new recruits?
          1. He wants to show them he has: Absolute ownership of them; Total authority over them; & demands continual respect from them.
          2. Now let’s move a few years down the line to the battle field, as they find themselves fighting shoulder to shoulder w/their sergeant.
          3. There is a different relationship now. He’s turned them from little girls, into true soldiers.
            1. They now have total respect, trust, & allegiance to their leader.
            2. He may now be very personable with His men…But they NEVER cross the line & consider him a buddy, but always have respect for the bars on his sleeve.
          4. Thus w/God…we grow more & more personal with Him, but never to a point of thinking of him as your little buddy, nor the Man upstairs.
            1. He is God the judge of all.
      5. The Departed Faithful (23c)
        1. Anyone heavenward you’re looking forward to seeing again?
          1. They will not be made perfect apart from us. Heb.11:40
      6. Jesus (24a)
        1. Moses was the mediator of the Old cov., but as great as he was he trembled w/fear.
        2. But through Jesus, the mediator of the New cov., we draw near w/confidence.
      7. Sprinkled blood/i.e. Forgiveness (24b)
        1. Abel’s warm blood cried from the ground vengeance…judgment, but Christ’s blood shouts forgiven…peace w/God.
        2. Part of Zion’s mountain range is Calvary, the mountain of Love.
      8. This is a 7-fold list of the Glories that await us…can you add to it?
    10. The end of the Poem I read earlier says: To run and work the Law commands, Yet gives me neither feet nor hands; But better news the gospel brings: It bids me fly, and gives me wings.
    11. We have Twin Peaks. Both mountains. Both reveal the true God. One pointing to His consuming fire…the other to His consuming Love.
      1. You must start at Sinai understanding Gods holiness…then from their run w/ endurance your marathon race that is set before you to Zion.
  3. TWIN DUTIES (25-29)
    1. ​​​​​​​OBEDIENCE (25-27)
    2. Do not refuse the voice of Christ speaking through the Gospel.
      1. If trouble came to those who refused to hear the voice of God at Sinai…how much greater to refuse the message from His own Son.
    3. (27b) What are you holding onto that can be shaken...that will be moved/removed?
      1. Everything that is wrong will be done away with. Sin won’t remain. Anything that is earth bound.
      2. Can be shaken? Rise or fall of the markets. Breaking of banks & bankruptcies. Loss of property. Loss of houses. Your fig tree may not blossom, and the flocks may cease from your field. See the wreck of everything earthborn.
        1. ​​​​​​​Don’t trust anything with the label made on earth. Did you know there were 11 millionaires that went down w/the Titanic? 1 man that survived said, “I had about $300,000 in $, jewelry, & securities left in my cabin, at the time the money seemed like a mockery, I picked up 3 oranges instead.”
      3. So what is unshakeable?
        1. Everything Heaven bound…like you and I and spiritual investments in God’s Kingdom that we send ahead of us. Salvation. Being His child. Jesus’ love, My Beloved is mine, and I am his. The disciples we make. Our best portion and richest heritage we cannot lose.
        2. Our relationship w/Him will never be shaken. It’s living for the oranges.
      4. If everything earthbound was striped away today, what would you be left with?
    4. WORSHIP (28,29)
    5. (28) Serve God – or worship God (lutreo)
      1. Ignatius Loyola prayed, Teach us, Lord, to serve you as you deserve, to give and not to count the cost, to fight and not to heed the wounds, to toil and not to seek for rest, to labor and not to ask for any reward save that of knowing that we do your will. (Ignatius Loyola. Leadership, Vol. 12, no. 2.)
      2. What I am is God's gift to me; what I do with it is my gift to Him. (Warren Wiersbe)
    6. (29) Our God is a consuming fire – I once watched an old Victorian house be completely consumed by flames, when I lived in Whittier. (uptown, stood across the street)
      1. The flames were so powerful. Flaming Mount Sinai shows us God [a picture is worth a thousand words] Note: God is, not God was.
    7. This morning: If you haven’t visited Sinai, do it, but make it quick. Then start your journey to Zion today. Consuming fire – Consuming love.
Bibliographical Information
Bell, Brian. "Commentary on Hebrews 12". "Bell's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cbb/hebrews-12.html. 2017.
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