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The opening of this Chapter contains an earnest and an affectionate Exhortation to the Church, from the View of the Faithful, which had been given in the preceding Chapter, to be steadfastly looking unto Jesus. To this succeeds a striking Account of the Difference between Mount Sinai and Mount Zion.
(1) Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, (2) Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Surely, there never was a more persuasive wherefore, neither a more powerful motive to what the Holy Ghost hath here recommended, by his servant the Apostle to the Church, than in following up the history given before of the faithful Patriarchs in the preceding Chapter, with holding forth the glorious Person of Christ in this; and making Jesus what He really is, the whole of all arguments, and the sum and substance of every persuasion to a faithful life. Precious Lord Jesus., I would say, be it my portion so to look to thee, so to behold thee, so to hang upon thee with my whole heart, and soul, and affections, as the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, and not only the Author and Finisher of faith, but the Author and Finisher of salvation; yea, salvation itself, in all its blessedness, for time, and for eternity!
And, Reader, I pray you to pause with me over these words, and consider their beauty. A cloud of witnesses we are said to be encompassed with. And let it be remembered, that they are God's witnesses, which are the most honorable of all witnesses. They witness to God the Father's faithfulness, in his everlasting love to the Church. They witness to the Person, Godhead, Offices, characters, relations, redemption-work, and finished salvation of the Lord Jesus Christ. And they witness to the Person, Godhead, and Ministry, in the regenerating, soul-quickening, soul-sustaining, and soul-comforting influences of God the Holy Ghost. Surrounded, therefore, with the testimony of others, and enabled by grace to give in our own, those grand and momentous truths; the Lord is looked unto to strengthen them in their Christian warfare, and to lay aside the besetting sin of unbelief, which cleaves to all men by nature, until grace gives them new minds, and new hearts, to receive God's testimony of himself', and to run with patience the race that is before us; eyeing Jesus in every step of the way. And, oh! the blessedness of thus seeing the Son by faith, and believing on him! John 6:40 . Seeing him, as One with the Father, over all, God blessed forever. Seeing him as the Christ of God, the Sent of God, the Sealed of God, full of grace and truth. And, in this blessed view of beholding Jesus, when he, who is the Author and Finisher of faith, gives faith, to believe the record God hath given of his dear Son. The regenerated child of God beholds him, and accepts him on his bended-knees, in holy joy and rapture, as Jehovah's One and only one appointment and ordinance of salvation, on whom the soul may rest secure, for all the peace and happiness of the life that now is, and that which is to come. Reader! just pause to ask your own heart, are you so looking to Jesus? Is He, in your view, both the Author and Finisher of faith? Many there are, who seem very willing to make him the Author, but feel somewhat reluctant to accept him as the Finisher. And what is this but pharisaical pride? I humbly conceive, such men, if under divine teaching, might soon learn the danger of this error. Let them ask themselves this one simple question, How did I first look to Jesus? Was it not as a poor, helpless, friendless, needy, self-condemned sinner? And have I anything of my own now, to recommend me any otherwise? Let this question be fairly applied to the heart, under divine teaching, and sure I am there will not be a child of God upon earth, if truly taught of God, but what will be then as ready to make Jesus as much the Finisher as the Author both of his faith and salvation.
(3) For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. (4) Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. (5) And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: (6) For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. (7) If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? (8) But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. (9) Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? (10) For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. (11) Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. (12) Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; (13) And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed.
There is somewhat truly blessed in what is here said of the Lord Jesus. What joy could be set before him, which could increase his own joy, in the glories of his own essential power and Godhead? And if it be meant, the joy of giving everlasting happiness to millions, in giving them a Being in himself, and a blessedness of being in himself abstracted from all personal interest, what a view doth it give of the love of Christ? Moreover, when we are enjoined by the Holy Ghost to consider Him, in order to prevent our becoming faint under exercises, what an argument ariseth here - from, to give confidence to the soul, in the consideration, that as he was, so are we in this world. And the argument runs thus: If Jesus, for our sakes, endured such things against himself, what ought we to endure, if needful, for ourselves. Oh! who shall count the contumacy, reproach, and scorn, which the Son of God sustained, in his Person, Offices, and characters, when he became man for our salvation? How sweetly the Apostle argues from it in the next Chapter, to go forth without the camp, bearing his reproach? Hebrews 13:13 . And how sweetly he adds to this argument another; in that, though some of them might, and would be called to suffering, yet hitherto they had not. Reader! there is nothing so truly accommodating, to bring a child of God into a blessed frame of mind, when at any time exercised with sufferings, as the consciousness of Christ's sorrows. The path is made sacred, which we are called upon to walk in, when we behold the footsteps in it of the Lord Jesus, and those footsteps marked with blood.
There is somewhat very affectionate and endearing in the application of that passage from Proverbs 3:11 , to the cases of the Lord's suffering family. The character of a father, in the tenderness of one, is happily chosen, to represent the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort. And the contrast, to the case of bastards, who are disregarded by their father, as being ashamed to own children un-lawfully begotten, is as striking, to set forth the vast difference, between the children of the bond-woman, and the children of the free. Reader! it is astonishing to observe, what a decided, and marked attention, is uniformly observed through all the Bible, by way of showing the Church, the delight the Lord takes to mark the precious from the vile; and to instruct the Church, how to know him that serveth God, from him that serveth him not.
Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:
I wish the Reader to look at this verse by itself, as so much perversion hath been made of it, that it demands this attention. Follow peace with all men. What peace? If it be supposed to mean the peace of God in Christ, or Christ himself, who is our Peace; this cannot be a mere precept directed to all men; for all men have not faith; neither do all men follow peace, or Christ: neither is this scripture addressed to all men; but to the Church, who are supposed to be following Christ in the regeneration. And holiness. What holiness? Not, as some have supposed, holiness in the creature, for there is none holy, no, not one. And moreover, it would be in this sense, a precept to follow it, and not as if possessing it. The latter part of the verse, in my view, explains the whole, when it is said, without which, no man shall see the Lord. Now, the uniform language of scripture is, that without Christ, there can be no peace with God; neither any approach to God, but in the holiness of Jesus. No man, saith Christ, cometh to the Father but by me, John 14:6 . And our entrance into the holiest is by the blood of Jesus; and in him we have boldness to enter, Hebrews 10:19 etc. Christ, therefore, is our peace, by the blood of his cross; and through him we have access by one Spirit unto the Father, Colossians 1:20 ; Ephesians 2:18 . Hence, the Church, (and it is the Church all along in this Epistle which is spoken to,) is called in one whole body to follow Christ, who is both the peace, and the holiness of his people; and without which, no man shall see the Lord, 1 Corinthians 1:30 ; Hebrews 7:26 .
(15) Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled; (16) Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. (17) For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.
In these verses we have the Church called upon, to behold the safety of the Lord's people, by looking at the contrary character, in such as have not, neither ever had, the grace of God. Here is an earnestness recommended to the faithful, to look diligently in their assemblies among the mere professors, which form, to public view, part of the visible Church, but in reality do not, neither ever did belong to it. Such are of the bitter root, which, by springing up, and mingling with the true seed, like weeds in a garden, defile what is pure. And the case is instanced, in the history of Esau, who is here called a profane Person, that is a reprobate, Malachi 1:3 . And this reprobation is accounted for, in despising his birth-right, which included Christ. Hence his rejection by the Lord. And what was it he sought carefully with tears? Not Christ, and the promised blessing in him, but the earthly blessing, which his father had settled upon his younger brother, in making him his lord. This as what he sought carefully with tears, hoping, by his exceeding bitter cries, to prevail upon his father to revoke this gift given to Jacob. And which, indeed, though not revoked, he obtained, when Jacob soon after, was obliged to flee for his life, from his fury; not returning again for many years. But the blessing of spiritual mercies in Christ, even the promised seed, Esau neither sought for, nor regarded. Hence, it is said, He found no place of repentance; or, the margin of the Bible more strongly expresses it, no way to change his mind; though he sought it carefully with tears. Let the Reader turn to the history, Genesis 27:0 throughout; Genesis 27:5 . Reader! behold the repentance of Esau, the worldly sorrow, as an Apostle calls it, which worketh death; and learn to distinguish it from that sorrow, which is after a godly sort, and which worked life. The one, the effects of nature; the other the fruits of grace; the one man's labors, the other God's gift. Esau's and all like Esau's, ending in despair; Jacob's, and all the spiritual seed of Jacob's, leading to Christ, and life in him eternal, 2 Corinthians 7:10-11 .
(18) For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, (19) And the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard entreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more: (20) (For they could not endure that which was commanded, And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart: (21) And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:) (22) But ye are come unto mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, (23) To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, (24) And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.
Within the compass of these verses, we have the most striking description drawn, and by the pencil of the Holy Ghost himself, of the vast difference between Mount Sinai, and Mount Zion; that is, the law, and the Gospel; a Covenant of Works, and a Covenant of Grace. And it is such a description, as is enough under divine teaching, to arrest the heart, with the most sensible apprehension, of the awfulness of the one, and the blessedness of the other; the soul's approaches unto God.
The first account is of Mount Sinai. And the very solemn and awful demonstrations, of the Lord's presence, in giving the law; are described in characters so terrible, as even in the recital, makes the flesh to tremble. Moses himself was so overwhelmed, that he said, I exceedingly fear and quake. And all Israel cried out, and said unto Moses, speak thou with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die, Exodus 20:18-19 . Nothing can be more plain, than that the leading design of the Lord, in those manifestations, of thunderings, and lightnings, and the like, were to impress the Church of God, with an holy awe and reverence, in the consciousness of the divine presence. And also to shew them, the blackness, darkness, dread, and horror, which every soul must feel, through divine teaching, when brought under the conviction of having broken the Lord's precepts.
And, on the other band, in the most blessed and gracious description, given of Mount Zion, the Church is taught the high privilege of the Lord's redeemed ones, who now may come, and who indeed do come, to the assembly of the first-born; yea, to God himself the Judge of all, when coming in the name of Jesus., the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling. And here is implied, in being come, that there is an holy familiarity, and acquaintance, in this approach; a birth-right, by the new-birth; a redemption, an adopted-character, by Jesus's blood, and righteousness; and the Covenant faithfulness of God the Judge of all. So that this is the Gospel privilege of God's redeemed ones: their stated daily, hourly, minutely mercy; to which they are supposed to come boldly, and find mercy, and grace to help in all time of need, Hebrews 4:16 .
One point I would beg however to remark, on this different description of those Mounts, in the dispensation of the Law and the Gospel. The Holy Ghost hath most graciously and blessedly taught the Church, in this divine scripture, from the different manifestations in which the Lord was pleased to make himself known to Old Testament saints, and New Testament believers; how blessed an alteration is made, in the mode of worship, by the open revelation of Christ; but it must not be understood from thence, that the way of acceptance with God in Christ, differed in the Old Testament Church from the New. Both were one, and the same. The former, was a shadow of good things to come; but then, as now, the body was Christ. And blessed be God, our fathers, both under the Law, and before the Law, as well as their children under the Gospel, in every ministration, and in every service, had an eye to the Lamb slain from the foundation of the World. Their services, and all the vessels of the sanctuary, yea, the Book of the Law, and all the people, were sprinkled with blood, Exodus 24:6-8 ; Hebrews 9:19-22 . And hence we find Old Testament saints chanting their hymns of salvation to God, and the Lamb. Job knew, that his kinsman Redeemer lived, Job 19:25 . David sung his dying love song, in the believing views he had of a Covenant ordered in all things and sure; and which was all his salvation, and all his desire, 2 Samuel 23:5 . And indeed, all the faithful, in every age of the Church, from the first dawn of revelation, in Abel's faith offering, down to Zachariah's day at the Altar of Incense, in the moment of Christ's coming, blessed God, in the soul-living expectation of the mercy promised, Luke 1:72 . Reader! learn to estimate, the high privileges of redemption in Jesus; and be it your daily song of thanksgiving, and praise, that you are not come to the Mount that might be touched, (that is on which the Lord by his descent might be said to touch, though not touched by man,) and that burned with fire; but you are come to Jesus the Mediator; and to the blood of sprinkling! Oh! the blessedness, the preciousness, the unspeakable greatness of the mercy! Jesus, your Jesus, if so be you have tasted that the Lord is gracious; to whom coming, 1 Peter 2:3-4 . And in, And through, and by Jesus, to God the Judge of all.
(25) See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven: (26) Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven. (27) And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.
What solemn, but yet soul comforting views, are here given of Christ? In order to impress upon the Church, the vast, and infinite importance of hearing Christ, (which God the Father more than once gave such testimony concerning, accompanied with this express command; hear ye him, Matthew 17:5 ) the Holy Ghost, hath in these verses first drawn a line of eternal distinction, between Christ and Moses; and then shewn, somewhat of the outlines of the Son of God, in our nature, in testimony both of his eternal Power and Godhead; and of his office-character, as God-Man-Mediator. I beg the Reader's close attention for a few moments to this subject.
First. The line of eternal distinction between Christ and Moses. The Lord the Spirit calls Moses the man on earth. They escaped not, who refused him that spake on earth. Christ, as is elsewhere declared, is the Lord from heaven, 1 Corinthians 15:47 . And John the Baptist hath given a blessed testimony to the same, when speaking of himself, in comparison of his Lord. He that cometh from above, saith John, is above all. He that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth. He that cometh from heaven is above all. Ye yourselves bear me witness that I said I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him, John 3:31; John 3:31 .
Secondly. Look at the outlines, drawn of the Son of God in this scripture; and may the Almighty Author of such a delightful scripture make it blessed to our view, whose voice then shook the earth. When was this? In order to answer the question, when was this that his voice shook the earth, we must read Haggai's prophecy, in the second Chapter, from verse the fifth to the seventh (Haggai 2:5-7 ); from whence this quotation by the Apostle is made. According to the word that I covenanted with you, when ye came out of Egypt, so my Spirit remaineth with you; fear not. For thus saith the Lord of hosts, yet once it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land: And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come. Reader! pause. Here is the Lord of hosts, the same Lord, which covenanted with his People when they came out of Egypt, declaring that his love, was still with his people, and his Spirit remaining with them. He then declares, that when the desire of all nations should come; which is a well known name, and character of himself, he would shake the heavens and the earth, meaning the hearts and minds of his people, by the sovereignty of his grace. And here in this scripture, the Holy Ghost by the Apostle refers this sovereign act of grace, to the same Person as shook the earth, when he came down on Mount Sinai, whose voice then shook the earth; but now he hath promised, saying, yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven. Hence it must be inferred, by the plainest, and most palpable evidence, that it was the Son of God, in his representative character of Mediator, which then shook the earth, who in the prophecy of Haggai declares he will again shake, not only the earth, but the heavens. The phrase once more and again, hath a most decided reference to the same, or similar act, having been done before. And nothing can be more evident, than that both were the deeds of one, and the same Person. In the relation of that solemn scene at Mount Sinai, we are told that the Lord descended upon it in fire; that the whole Mount quaked greatly; that when Moses spake; God answered him by a voice, Exodus 19:18-19 . And the Lord bid the children of Israel by Moses, to observe those tokens of his presence. Ye have seen that I have talked to you from heaven, Exodus 20:22 . How clear then is this blessed portion of the Holy Ghost by Paul; that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Almighty Lord, which is Spoken of in both scriptures. Indeed, who should it be, but Him? He, and He only, is the visible Jehovah, in all revelations made to man.
No man hath seen God at any time; but the only begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father he hath declared him, John 1:18 .
Oh! ye deluded miserable men, who deny the Government of Christ! What can possibly prevent the awful consequences prophesied of an heresy so awful, living and dying in the hardened state of unbelief. Some of God's children indeed have been found, led away by the temptations of Satan and long in this state, whom sovereign grace hath recovered. Should the Lord, in his mercy, direct the eyes of such an one, to this blessed scripture; and carry conviction from it to his heart, to acknowledging of the Lord that bought him. Oh! The greatness of the blessing, in recovering all such from the snare of the Devil, who are taken captivity captive at his will. Kiss the Son! lest he be angry and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are they that put their trust him, Psalms 2:12 .
(28) Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: (29) For our God is a consuming fire.
In relation to the first of these verses, let the child of God take to himself all the comfort the Holy Ghost designed the Church, from the assurance of belonging to an immoveable kingdom, amidst all the moveable and dying circumstances of everything here below. And let him take to himself the further comfort, that this kingdom, and the interests in it, he hath received, not for merit, neither working, but from the free gift of God. This sweet scripture saith to the Church, that it is receiving a kingdom, which cannot be moved. All the blessings connected with the subject confirm it, Fear not, (saith Jesus to his people,) little flock, it is your heavenly Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom, Luke 12:32 . And how fully all the scriptures of our God, bear testimony to the same. The kingdom of grace, and the kingdom of glory, are both originating in the Father's love by gift; in receiving all the blessings for time and eternity, from the fullness that is in Christ Jesus; being brought into an happy, an blessed participation, by the Holy Ghost. Well therefore might the Apostle add; let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably, with reverence and godly fear, Let us have it? But how? By receiving it, as we receive the kingdom, which is immoveable. The citizenship of this kingdom, ensures all the privileges of it. We already have it in Christ our head; and from him, we are brought into the enjoyment of it, from day to day:
The last of these verses, and with which the Chapter ends; is a striking one indeed. None more so in the Bible. It hath been commonly paraphrased by saying, God out of Christ is a consuming fire. But this according to my apprehension, is an unwarrantable alteration of the word; and not strictly true. It is very certain, that without an eye to Christ, we could have no to do with God in the essence of his divine nature alone, than with a devouring fire, Exodus 3:6 . But we have no authority, from all eternity, to consider Jehovah, but in Christ, 2 Corinthians 5:19 . And all the Persons of the Godhead are included, in this mysterious union. The figure therefore of fire, is here evidently meant to express God's nature, and essence, as he is in himself; and in his threefold character of Person; in which God the Son, as God, is as inaccessible without a Mediator, as either the Person of the Father, or of the Holy Ghost. Upon so solemn a subject, I presume not to speak, but with the greatest humility and reverence; but I venture to conceive, that the Holy Ghost as pleased by this expression, after the many blessed and gracious things which he had been bringing before the Church, in the former part of this Chapter, to shew the vast privileges in Christ. And as such, nothing could impress the mind of the Lord's people so solemnly, as the sacred truth with which the Apostle hath closed; For our God is a consuming fire.
READER hear what God the Spirit saith to the Churches! Behold, what animating prospects are opened to New Testament saints, in the contemplation of Old Testament believers. And while we are encompassed with such a cloud of witnesses, 0 Lord the Spirit! do thou give thy people grace, to pass on through all besetting difficulties, looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith. And oh! thou precious Lord Jesus! give thy people grace, to consider, and very blessedly to improve, under the sweet influences of thy Spirit, in marking what a contradiction of sinners thou didst endure against thyself. Lord! who can faint when beholding the Son of God, in his unequalled conflicts? Surely, if Jesus learned obedience, by the things which he suffered, well may his brethren desire to be trained in the same school. Then will they know their sonship, and be sanctified under the hand of a tender Father. Let the Esaus, and the profane persons of every age, relinquish, as they always do, the blessing; but, Lord, let no root of bitterness spring up to trouble thy Jacobs, and the Israel thy people.
Blessed be God, that Mount Sinai is no more; but the Church is come to Mount Zion. There may thy people, 0 Lord, daily come. There are the firstborn. There the assembly of the faithful. There Jesus, the Mediator of the New Covenant, and the blood of sprinkling. And there God the Judge of all. And, Lord, while through thy grace, thy people come to thee in faith; do thou help them to look forward to thy coming to them in glory. Jesus will shake both heaven and earth. But Jesus's redeemed belong to Him and in Him they receive a kingdom, which cannot be moved. Precious Lord! grant all thy grace, to serve God acceptably, with reverence and godly fear.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Hebrews 12". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25