Hebrews 12:12–17 (NKJV)
After discussing the value of Godly discipline in the previous passage, the author moves to a discussion of dealing with the effects of trouble and/or chastening. He further elaborates on the peaceful fruit of righteousness lifted up in the previous discussion of discipline as well.
12 Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed.Hebrews 12:12-17
14 Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: 15 looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; 16 lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. 17 For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears.
The writer begins by encouraging those who have experienced trouble to be strong, and perhaps encouraging those around them to help strengthen their friends in time of trouble. When hands hang down and knees are weak, it may be a sign of discouragement or pain. It is important to strengthen what has been weakened, to walk straight, and to be healed. The immediate aftermath of discipline can be painful, but the result makes one stronger if they will pursue that end. Just like running or strength training with weights, pushing one’s self can result in soreness and discomfort, but going back and working out again will make one stronger through the process of pain. One motivational trainer said that pain is weakness leaving the body (Marine Corps recruitment campaign). If so, then pain can be a tool to help one become stronger in the long run.
After this discussion of how to become strong, the writer turns his attention to the attributes that should grow out of such discipline. He instructs the Hebrews to pursue peace with all men. Contention is not usually productive, and should be avoided when possible. Constant turmoil and strife among people, especially in the church, is absolutely counter-productive to the work of the gospel. Discussion and reasoning together can be very productive, but arguments, debates, and quarrels are not the way to holiness, which is also instructed by the writer. “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord….” This statement makes it a quality of the saved life to be peaceable and holy. You cannot see the Lord, which is saying one cannot enter heaven, unless you pursue peace and holiness. This practice will help the Christian stay in grace, not falling short. Contentions can produce a root of bitterness which defiles the spirit and weakens one’s will to live holy.
Do not fornicate or live in a profane manner, for this is the example of Esau, who–for physical satisfaction–sold his birthright. As the people of God, we have a birthright, a blessed hope of eternal life in heaven with the Lord. Esau regretted this profane act, and later wanted the blessing afforded to the one who held that birthright. Esau mourned the loss of the birthright later, shedding tears of sorrow, but could not reclaim it. Don’t be caught short when it comes to peace and holiness. Do not allow the cares of this life to cause your hands to hand down and your knees to be weak for long. Get up and go again, learning from the discipline you received. Know that God does not allow trouble to come because He is sadistic or cruel. No, the trouble that comes our way is to discipline us and make us stronger. Pain is the result of discipline, but that pain must be overcome, and the lesson learned, so that the Christian will be even better prepared for the next opposition that comes his or her way. Be strong and peaceful, and watch God clear your path as you follow Him!
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