Devotional Word for Tuesday, May 5, 2020
Everyone knows about Hebrews chapter 11. It is the great chapter of the Hall of Fame for faithful folk, from Abel to Abraham to Moses to those who were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground. [Heb. 11:37-38] That’s inspired and inspiring writing. That’s chapter 11 of Hebrews.
What about chapter 12? It’s not so well-known. I call it the Discipline Chapter. It’s an exhortation to run our race through life with endurance, remembering those who have gone before us. We are told to do so by fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. We are told that Jesus, for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. [Heb. 12:2] We are told to ponder, to think about, to gaze on, the Lord Jesus and that great cloud of witnesses from chapter 11, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. [Heb. 12:3]
The point of this teaching is found in verse 11 of Hebrews 12. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. That’s a categorical statement. All discipline, at the time you’re going through it, is not a joyful experience. We will not go through it, we will not submit to it, unless we have a vision for what it leads to. While Jesus was going through the horrors of the crucifixion there was a vision of joy in His heart: the joy of being vindicated, of sitting at the right hand of God, of winning redemption for all God’s people.
We’re Christians. We should expect God to discipline us. We should expect that His discipline will not be joyful, but sorrowful. Yet without such discipline we can never enter into the joy of our Master. Do you remember Jesus telling the parable of the talents? The culminating commendation that each faithful servant receives is the invitation to enter into the joy of your Master.
One of the ways God disciplines us is by exposing to our view, to our consciousness, our ongoing struggle with sin. Despite what others may think, we know that we still walk with a limp. There are areas of our life where the Lord is not always Lord. It is painful. It is sorrowful. It is discouraging. It is easy at such times to grow weary and lose heart. That’s when we need to turn to Hebrews 12 and get some vision! This is discipline that’s meant to be sorrowful. It is a training tool of God. He has vision for us that we don’t always have.
Immediately following verse 11 are a series of commands that basically say, “buck up and put in place plans to change,” that is, make straight paths for your feet. [Heb. 12:13] We need to say what the prophet Micah declared when made acutely aware of his sin, Do not rejoice over me, O my enemy. Though I fall I will rise; though I dwell in darkness, the Lord is a light for me. [Micah 7:8] We’re so thankful that when we fall, we fall towards the Lord, not away from Him. We don’t become bitter and alienated and run away from Him; we become sorrowful, repentant, and run to Him.
Let’s end today with the first few verses of Psalm 103. It’s a great prayer and saturated with godly truth: Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits. Who pardons all your iniquities; Who heals all your diseases; Who redeems your life from the pit; Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion; Who satisfies your years with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle. [Psalm 103:1-5] Isn’t that wonderful? That’s a prayer we can pray every day. That is a prayer prayed by those guys who went about in goatskins, and wandered in deserts and mountains and caves, those men of whom the world was not worthy.
Let us pray: O Lord, we bless Your name. Your lovingkindness is everlasting. Your plans are perfect. Thank You for caring for us. Thank You for Your ongoing work in our lives, in our souls. Thank You for Your discipline. It gives us hope for this life and for the life to come. Help us make straight paths for our feet. Help us live and serve you faithfully all our days. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.