Just a reminder: Clicking the Read Hebrews 12 link above will open Bible Gateway in a new tab. The text will open in ESV but you can easily change to any translation you wish or add a parallel. Clicking the play button will play audio of the Bible Study text.
Hebrews 11 offers an extensive but not exhaustive list of those Old Testament men and women whose faith was the substance of things hoped for. None of them received what New Testament believers have, though. They died waiting for the promise; the promise that is Jesus Christ, the founder and perfecter (author and finisher) of our faith. He endured the cross for the joy that was set before him and is now seated at the right hand of God. In light of those who waited faithfully, and the risen savior who came from and returned to God the Father, we must lift up our heads. We must run with endurance the race that is before us. Like Paul often did, the writer of Hebrews – if indeed it is not the Apostle Paul – uses the language of metaphor to describe the Christian life as running a race. Put aside every weight; for a runner that would mean wearing lightweight running shorts, a tank top and the right running shoes. For the believer it means putting away the things that hold us back and tie us to the world. Avoid sin but also escape doubt, anxiety, regret and run well, keeping our eyes (as Paul said) on the mark and the prize.
Discipline. Family life has eroded in our society and effective discipline is becoming unheard of even in schools. God will discipline those who are his sons and daughters but this is still a chapter of encouragement. Discipline may seem harsh at the time but it is because God loves us that he wants to see us do better. The result will be to our benefit. Discipline, like this life itself, will be a short period of time compared to our eternal reward in God’s presence. Training for a race will produce sore muscles and possibly injury. But a well trained runner, a disciplined athlete, will have the best chance of finishing and winning the race. We could use boot camp for soldiers or years of medical or law school for other professions as examples. Nothing worth having comes easy.
The final paragraphs of 12 go back to the compare/contrast of the old and new covenants. God’s people in the Old Testament – the Hebrews in the wilderness – could not touch the mountain at Sinai. We are invited to God’s holy mountain! Old things were shaken, those being the sacrificial system, the Levitical priesthood and the Kingdom of Israel, so that things which cannot be shaken are established. That is God’s kingdom. Jesus is a better high priest, offers a more excellent sacrifice, and is the mediator of a better covenant. That’s what we have today that those Old Testament patriarchs waited and hoped for. Let us worship as we approach God who is a consuming fire.