Summary: We must be careful to finish the race set before us because we know that God is a consuming fire who will punish the wicked!
We continue in Hebrews 12 where the author encourages his listeners to hang on to their profession and keep looking to Jesus. God scourges the ones He loves to bring about the peaceable fruit of righteousness in time:
12Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees;
“Lift up” isn’t a command to praise, but rather it means to restore something or to correct it. This same word is used in Luke 13:13 where Jesus healed a woman who had been bent over for 18 years “and immediately she was made straight.” It’s used again in Acts 15:16 where God promised to rebuild the temple from its ruins and “set it up.”
The Hebrews were distressed and falling apart so he encourages them to be strong with this quote from Isaiah. Chapters 34-35 are an encouragement for God’s people where He promises to bring vengeance and indignation upon all nations. Every proud place that hates Him will be turned into nothing more than a desolate wasteland soaked with blood. And then in 35:3 He says, “Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees. 4Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; he will come and save you. 5Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. 6Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert. 7And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water: in the habitation of dragons, where each lay, shall be grass with reeds and rushes. 8And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein. 9No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon, it shall not be found there; but the redeemed shall walk there: 10And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away” (Is. 35:3-10).
It’s not hard to see how this speaks to the Hebrews. It’s the promise of a guaranteed victory for God, so His people can be strong and confident:
13And make straight paths for your feet,
This sounds a whole lot like Proverbs 4:13-15 and 25-27:
“Take fast hold of instruction; let her not go: keep her; for she is thy life. 14Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men. 15Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away.”
“Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee. 26Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. 27Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil.”
To walk a straight path is to walk the path God has defined for us. There’s so much temptation and men have devised so many ways to improve upon God’s path, but we don’t buy into any of it. We don’t turn to the right or the left:
lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed.
Some of the Hebrews were limping along like a cripple in a race and some of them were even halting so that they were in danger of apostasy! That’s why he keeps pointing out that it’s a terrible thing to give up on the race and to be disobedient. Run the race along the straight path so that the lame will be healed rather than being diverted to the wrong path.
Isn’t it interesting that the “cure” for lameness isn’t stopping to have some rest or to see a doctor, but the cure is to run the straight path? What we’re talking about here really culminates in verse 29: “For our God is a consuming fire.” We believe that He’s greater than all tings, so we run the race He’s set before us with patience knowing that He’ll deliver everything He’s promised.
14Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:
The word for “follow” means to pursue something or to chase after it. It has the idea of having quick motion. Part of the path for these Hebrews is to pursue peace with even their persecutors. That’s hard to do, but this is part of holiness. This might seem out of place here, but this is part of running our race and the reason it requires patience.