“Loyalty – that is what I am seeking – that is the same as faithfulness. The O T Israelites – said one thing – they promised love and obedience – yet their lives – the way they lived showed their hearts were not in what they had said. That is why I made a New Covenant, where your heart is changed by My Spirit when you start your new life in Jesus. Now I woo you with all My love – yet I can’t make you love me more in return – but My desire is that you continuously place your heart on the line because you want to and so love Me to the exclusion of everything else. All your heart, all your body, all your mind and all your soul – but yes when you do that there is plenty of My love spilling out for those around you – so let My love flow freely to everyone you have to do with”.
Now then we come to Heb 12:4 ff and we see the writer is not denying the suffering that the readers had experienced (see 10:32-34), what he is doing is to suggest that the readers get a new perspective on this suffering.
Firstly he says that they should “consider Jesus” and how much He suffered. What he says about resisting to the point of shedding blood is simply that the readers should draw a comparison of their suffering to Jesus’s, who went the whole way to His death. They should measure their suffering against that, to put it in perspective.
Then secondly he introduces a new thought, that there is actually a purpose in the suffering God is using suffering to change them beneficially. (Similar to what Lilly has said about Romans 8:28 ff). He speaks of suffering as discipline, which God is using precisely because they are His sons (family) and therefore, out of love wants them to “live”, and “share in His holiness” (vs 9) and ultimately the real value they will experience will be that they will “reap a harvest of righteousness and peace” (vs 11). He is therefore suggesting that rather than turn back because of the suffering and accede to those who wanted them to drop Christianity and go back to Judaism, they should see what was happening as a sort of spiritual boot-camp, which God is using to equip them for the race to eternity they are engaged in.
Now of course the word “suffering” immediately conjures up all sorts of scenarios and debates, so one must be careful not to sweep all those into the league of a spiritual boot-camp. However the vv in Romans 8:28 ff really imply the same. A book, I read recently by Joni Earicksen-Tada, where she shared how she was facing suffering, not only from her quadriplegia, but also intolerable back pain for which there seemed to be no relief. I don’t want to oversimplify what she said, but she had a whole chapter on how she has been able to get a new perspective on the pain and one of the chief ways was her continual belief that what was happening to her was all part of God’s loving intervention in preparing her for glory.
I think that what God was saying to me from this passage and the whole of Hebrews, so far is: “be careful not to be stuck in a rut about how you see and react to various events in your life.” Maybe I really needed to be reminded again about the need for myself to get the perspective the writer was trying to get his readers to understand. The perspective to see things from God’s point of view not from my very earthly viewpoint. And of course covering over everything we experience here in this race is a layer of colour – the colour of God’s love through which we must learn to see all things.
- Assyria Attacks
- God is love.
- Future Grace, Living a Life that gives God All the Glory.
- God's Purpose for His People.
- Wisdom expressed in Perseverance and Hope.
- Yahweh, the only Living God.
- Did God Make a Mistake with the Old Covenant?
- More on Listening and Love.
- Turning God's Wrath Away.
- Knowing God or Knowing about God?