Tag Archives: Hebrews 12

Morning Thoughts (Hebrews12:1)

Morning ThoughtsHebrews 12:1, "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,"
This morning, one of the greatest fears that many have is being alone.  While a very select few people enjoy being by themselves, it is a general truism that people enjoy sociality.  The idea of dying alone or living alone is quite bleak to most.  In a spiritual sense, one of the most effective darts of our adversary is convincing us that we are alone.  How often has Satan influenced someone to sing his siren song, "Nobody knows the trouble I've seen"?  If he can convince a misguided child of God that they are alone, he can then advance the ideas of discouragement, sorrow, and depression that bring discouragement to the little lamb and heighten his sadistic pleasure.  Friends, the Bible is quite clear that we are never alone.  God repeatedly promises "never to leave or forsake us.”  Paul will utter those very sentiments after our study verse in the 13th chapter.  If God's companionship was all that we had, that would be sufficient, but Paul's point makes the thought of our fellowship ultimately even more sublime.  God has not just given us His presence, but He has given us so much more as well.
Even though our study verse begins the heading of a new division in Scripture, the language and thoughts of the verse are directly correlated to all that the previous chapter contains.  Therefore, we might look at this verse as not the opening of a new thought but a firm conclusion on all the previous points that Paul makes about faith in chapter 11.  Consider how many characters Paul brings under the glass to examine.  He mentions Abel, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, Rahab, and many others – whole groups that are not specifically named but referenced in glowing terminology.  All of these characters truly lived and died, and their witness of faith is clearly seen from Paul's discussion.  Still, it is needful to point out that these people were not supermen and superwomen.  They had like passions as you and I do, much like Elijah did, though he was still blessed to do some marvellous things. (James5:17-18) Therefore, we should not look at this heady list from chapter 11 and think, "Well, they're just better than I am and were able to do more than I can."  Friends, God has dealt the measure of faith to each of His children in regeneration (Romans 12:3), and we are all capable of producing honoring and glorifying fruit by faith unto Him.
When Paul finishes talking about all these different characters of faith, he brings in a grand conclusion in our study verse.  It is not only the conclusion of the thoughts but also the answer to the inevitable question.  After talking about all these people from bygone years, what would someone inevitably ask when shown all these wonderful examples?  A very real question would be, "What good does this do me today?"  The question pertains to two things relating to the people in Hebrews 11: 1. Their faith – while quite noble – was about different circumstances than I have today and 2.  Their lives – while Godly – are now over so that I cannot interact with them while I live.  None of us have ever been called upon to build an ark to the saving of our house like Noah did, so how well can we relate to his experience?  Moses was raised the son of an earthly king's daughter but refused that honour to lead his native people out of captivity, but how many of us can similarly so say?  And ultimately, we cannot talk to Noah, Moses, or any of the others as they have all passed from this life.
So, what good do all these examples do for us today in our personal walk of faith and life of service?  Paul states quite simply that "we are also compassed about."  Notice that Paul brought in different characters from different periods even though those periods had people living by faith concurrently.  For example, during the time of Moses, there were other Godly people trying to seek Him (like Joshua).  During the life of David, we read of many Godly people like Samuel and Nathan that were seeking to serve God by faith during that time.  However, Paul shows that lives of faith have perpetually been upon this earth throughout all generations.  And though these wonderful people are not with us today in the flesh, the same thing happens today.  Do not miss the tense of what Paul says: "we are also compassed about."  That is present tense, and the word "also" pertains to something in addition to what has already been discussed.
Paul's concluding point and answer to the question is that today we have something in addition to all these wonderful characters.  100-200 years ago, the people in this great nation had wonderful examples of faith as seen through church history.  Very edifying ministers like Hassell, Cayce, Oliphant, Newman, Daly, Craig, Redford, and countless others wrote extensively and preached to God's people.  They were blessed characters of faith for generations past.  What about today?  Do we have witnesses of faith?  Based on Paul's conclusion we undeniably do!  Though God is always with us, He never leaves this world without a great cloud of witnesses for each of us personally to walk with, lean on, counsel with, etc.  Every generation has had witnesses, and any future generations will have them too.  The promise is given in present tense, and no matter the present, the promise stands solidly.
All of us are prone to falling prey to Satan by developing the "Elijah complex."  In I Kings 19, he complained to the Lord about 5 things.  4 of the 5 things were true.  Naturally speaking, he had a good percentage, but God rebuked him for getting one thing wrong.  Elijah complained that he was the "only one left."  Was he?  No.  God reminded him of something – out there in this nation are 7,000 that have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal.  How often do we feel that we are alone with no one to counsel with and have to be reminded by the Lord of the countless multitudes that have strived to live faithfully?  Perhaps they are outside the purview of our sight, but they are still there.  Paul says they compass us about.  That means they are all around, and the fact that we have not seen them is likely a failing on our part.
The immediate command from this promise is for us to "lay aside every weight."  Have you ever noticed that it is always easier to do the right thing when surrounded by good people?  Quite frankly, my decorum is much higher at church than by myself.  It is not that I am trying to put on a fake church look, but the right path seems easier to find and follow when you have good communications. (I Corinthians 15:33) What if we were journeying down the road of life with no fellow pilgrims and strangers?  The weights of sin would seem heavier and the path longer.  However, God has not just blessed us with a measure of His Spirit to give us comfort.  He has blessed us with company too!  People do know the trouble we have seen, and people have been to the places we have been.  There are other precious people in this world that intimately understand our plight.  With this company, the command to lay aside the weights of sin becomes even brighter.  With all of us walking arm in arm, we can mutually set our eyes on the One who authors and finishes our faith.  (I Corinthians 11:1, Hebrews 12:2)
The next time that any of us feel alone, let us remember that God has not left us today without a cloud of fellow pilgrims and strangers.  The fact that Paul refers to this band of people as a cloud gives a couple of connotations.  1.  This is a grand collection rather than just a couple (God revealed the existence of 7,000 to Elijah rather than 7) and 2.  Clouds provide much comfort through shade.  When the sun of trials beats down on us, we have been given shade not only by God Himself but through His people to relieve some of the burdens from our hearts.  This shade allows us to rest for seasons in His love and mercy and reflect on His goodness.  Friends, I have experienced the shade and company of God's faithful in this world, and my hope is that my life will likewise help to shade and comfort other pilgrims in this world.  May we seek to be this help and rest to our kin as part of a great cloud witnessing by faith the glory of God.
In Hope,
Bro Philip

Morning Thoughts (Hebrews 12:24)

Hebrews 12:24, “And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.”

This morning, the rapid decay of the world sometimes lends to improper perspectives about God-honouring subjects. Quite often today, people mistake lust for love, happiness for joy, wishes for hopes, and even revenge for justice. Whenever people today talk about something they want done or would like to see done, they quite often reason it this way, “It should be done cause that’s just making me so mad!” The ultimate reason that someone wants the change is not so that justice will be served (as they might convince themselves) but rather their own personal vengeance or revenge on the situation. Further still, magnanimous compassion for vain show and glory does not constitute mercy. Rather, justice is the true and correct rendering of consequences executed by a person of authority. Mercy is sincere pity being executed by one capable of extending it. Modern society’s mindset of personal feelings and outward show fail in the most basic of ways to measure up to the Biblical standard of these two subjects.

Before we launch into the waters of thoughts on God’s mercy and God’s justice, let us consider the context of our study verse above. Paul is winding down His epistle to the Hebrew brethren on the “better things” of Christ. He has already shown in vivid detail about the better priesthood of Christ, the better sacrifice of Christ, and the better covenant of Christ. As he brings it home in the 12th chapter, the verses in the immediate context of ours show the better mountain (Sion), better city, etc. that we have today as compared to the Old Testament saints. Notice the singularity of Paul’s language. Jesus as our High Priest and sacrifice is “the” mediator, of “the” new covenant, to “the” blood of sprinkling. Without knowing anything else, Paul makes it crystal clear that Jesus Christ is not only better than anything else, He is the one and only that did, does, and will do these better things.

Who is our Mediator? Paul says there is one and only: Jesus Christ. (I Timothy 2:5) What about our new covenant? Paul said that we have one that will serve us well forever (nothing new after this one). What about blood to cover us? Paul says that the blood of Jesus is the satisfaction of what God required. (Hebrews 9:12, 10:14) These singular points serve to show us not only the better aspects of Christ but also the singularity of His work that was His to accomplish with the help of no one else. (Hebrews 1:3)

Moving into the main thoughts that we have upon this verse, notice what Paul compares the blood of Christ’s sprinkling to. He compares it to the blood of Abel. While Abel’s blood showed something significant, Paul esteems what Christ’s blood shows even better. Abel’s death constituted the first murder ever witnessed upon the earth. (Genesis 4) When his brother Cain rose up against him, God declared that Abel’s blood cried unto Him from the ground. While we understand that blood does not really have a voice, the blood on the ground that God saw spoke of something. Innocent blood shed by the hand of another cries out for righteous justice. Abel’s blood cried out that day to God, “Innocent blood has been spilled! Let justice be served!”

This is the same vein of thought as those souls in Revelation 6 that were slain for the testimony of Christ. (Revelation 6:9-10) People who have died in the service to Christ (such as Stephen did) have blood that must be answered for. Their blood cries to the Holy God how long it shall be before justice is righteously served for the transgression. The best that our natural blood can cry for is veritable justice if our lives have been snuffed out in innocency. Courts of law judge based upon those very matters. Sometimes, our blood can answer for mercy should we sacrifice ourselves in the stead of another, but even that mercy has a problem: real justice did not happen.

However, Paul makes the case that Christ’s blood of sprinkling cried so much more and better than Abel’s did. Looking at the type in Leviticus 16, we see the high priest enter behind the veil into the holiest of all with the blood of a goat to sprinkle before God. What he sprinkled the blood’s goat upon was the mercy seat where God had promised to dwell between the wings of the cherubims. By sprinkling the blood, the symbology pointed to the mercy of God being extended for the sins of the people that they had committed against Him.

Moving forward to the anti-type – Jesus Christ – we see that instead of the blood of another, He entered with His own blood for this great and noble work. His own blood being sprinkled cries out for mercy at the behest of sinners and vile traitors before God. Though our own blood rightly deserved the highest order of condemnation from the just hand of God, Christ’s blood comes forth to say, “Mercy, mercy in the name of my righteousness.” Abel’s blood could only cry, “Justice, justice in the name of my innocence.” How much better is the blood of Christ than that of Abel.

Further still, consider that God never acts in one regard to the expense of something else in His Person. For example, God never acts graciously or mercifully at the expense of being just. Nor does He act justly at the expense of also exhibiting the love that His Person embodies. When He justly chastises His children, love does not stand in the corner, but rather, the love is in sweet unison and accord with the just chastisement. Dear friends, when the blood of Christ, speaking those sweet tones of mercy at the behest of vile and wretched sinners, was shed, God’s justice did not stand in the corner while the transaction of mercy took place.

Even though man’s lips can cry for mercy while his innocent blood is being shed (like Stephen did), man’s blood cannot cry for mercy. Even if it could, the mercy could not satisfy the justice that the person deserved. However, when Christ’s precious blood was shed, sprinkled upon the alter, through the Eternal Spirit, mercy indeed cried out in the ears of Almighty God. However, what also cried out that day from His own blood was, “Justice thou art served!” His blood of sprinkling did not just give us mercy, but it satisfied the justice that God’s law required. We deserved to die, and yet He died for us. That death brings the sweet fruit of mercy unto us that says, “Live forevermore.” That death likewise brings the sweet fruit of perfection to God’s law that says, “Satisfied forevermore.”
One might ask, “How could God justly receive vile reprobates into heaven?” Fair question. Biblical answer, “Christ blood speaks to the honour and satisfaction of justice and the magnanimous extension of mercy.” In the past, I have been guilty of saying something like this from the pulpit, “Give me mercy, but don’t give me what I deserve.” While the statement was uttered sincerely, there is a better way to say it. We should rather say, “Give me mercy, but don’t give me what I deserved.” We did deserve something far worse, but due to the merciful hand of God through His Son, we now deserve exactly what Christ deserves (eternal life and immortality) as He justly satisfied what it took by His blood to bring us there.

In Hope,
Bro Philip