Agonizomai: Heb 12 - 09-13 - Christ - Both Knows and IS the Way

Monday, May 10, 2010

Heb 12 - 09-13 - Christ - Both Knows and IS the Way

Heb 12 - 09-13 - Christ - Both Knows and IS the Way

Heb 12:9-13 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. 12 Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.

Now the comparison is extended in order to show how far short of God’s design and reality mere earthly parentage falls. Earthly fathers can be somewhat arbitrary. They are often inconsistent. They are certainly fallible. But God’s love for his children is perfect in wisdom and care. He is working upon eternal things for us. He is perfecting us in the realm of the whole person, from the inside out, with infallible purpose and power.

Nobody is claiming that discipline of any sort does not involve suffering, nor that suffering is not a hard and difficult thing to bear. But, remember, we are looking to Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, who both walked the way before us and is the Way for us. His suffering was unjust in that he bore our griefs and sorrows and not his own. He made ours His. Our suffering, on the other hand, is perfectly just because it is we who have wandered and rebelled. But don’t misunderstand here - the discipline God measures to his people is not judgment and our suffering is not payment. It is just that our attitude can and ought to include the thought that we deserve to suffer, as well as the knowledge that we have been delivered from punishment. Between these two poles lies the narrow way. We had it coming until Christ took it for us. Now, whatever we must endure, we endure through the faith he both fashioned for and imparted to us, so that it may be received in love for our good.

And, as the Apostle said, our present sufferings cannot be compared to the glory that lies ahead, when the work is finished. {Ro 8:18} And even in this present life, we are enabled to see, if we endure, the fruit of suffering unto the good of our souls. Suffering weeds out of us pride, self-glory, self-reliance, anger, impatience and an endless list of other sins - some subtle and some blatant. It does so through the endurance that only faith in Jesus Christ can give. Apart from this faith, suffering can make us bitter and vengeful, depressed and resentful - like the world. We must be careful, therefore, to abide in Christ in the midst of tribulation - to faint not, neither to weary, but to keep our eyes fixed upon him.

In light of all this, the Hebrews (and all believers) are exhorted to bear up in prayer and praise, and to draw strength not from their own thinking, but from Christ. To abide in the love of God in Jesus Christ through faith, in the present circumstance, whatever that may be. Whatever it is, it is God’s will for us in Christ Jesus. {1Th 5:16-18}

Proper training necessitates the completion of the course. There can be no passing grade until the course is ended and the marks tallied. This is why endurance is needed and also how it is formed. That is, through trusting in God as we persevere in the present difficulty. But once the tribulation has passed and we are found standing, then in that matter we have learned Christ - learned how to abide in him by trusting him. And our spirit has been sensitized to the manner of His wisdom, so that the next testing of our faith will produce even more fruit.

So this God we serve is the one who wounds and heals, and who kills and makes alive. {Deut 32:39} he wounds us in order to heal us and he kills us in order to give us life. O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! {Ro 11:33}

The last exhortation here seems to be a group exhortation. As a group - a church – the Hebrews are encouraged to take heart and to put their confidence in Christ and to make straight paths for their feet. Surely this means to follow the straight lines that God lays down, which might seem skewed to the carnal perception, but which is the true straightness that the world both cannot see and does not know. Apart from God, we all see with crooked eyes what God declares to be straight. Straight paths are not hewed by dint of our effort, but through faith - through looking to Jesus, hearing his voice and following him in and as the Way. He walked the straightest path of all.

And it is by walking the straight way - the narrow way - which is impossible without faith, that we are healed. That straight way may lead through many a dark and foreboding vale {Ps 23:4-5} but it is by walking through it that healing is forged in our being. Refusing to walk in the Way - failing to appropriate Christ by the faith we have been given in the circumstance that His providence brings us to - is to further injure ourselves. God will not abandon us, but we will learn the hard way. The yoke is easy to those who submit under His mighty hand, but it will chafe and burn those who kick against the goads until they learn patient obedience.


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