3 For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. 4 You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin. 5 And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons:
“My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord,
Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him;
6 For whom the Lord loves He chastens,
And scourges every son whom He receives.”
7 If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? 8 But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. 9 Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. 11 Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
12 Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed.
14 Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord:15 looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; 16 lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. 17 For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears.
This section of Hebrews 12 has been often misunderstood. People have been taught erroneously that calamity in our lives is there because God is teaching us a lesson. That is not what this passage says. If we read through the eyes of grace, I believe that we can understand this more accurately.
Any discussion of God’s correction must include 2 Timothy 3:16-17, which reads:
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
God’s Word is His primary corrective tool. Notice how these verses from 2 Timothy agree with the tone of our passage from Hebrews 12. God’s “chastening”, which is more accurately translated as “child-training” in the original language, leads us to life and success. Verse 10 says that He trains us “for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness.” Paul wrote to Timothy that correction and instruction in righteousness may make us complete and equipped for good works.
If God used sickness and calamity as correction, how could that be profitable? If we die from terminal disease, how will we accomplish good works? I’ve personally heard someone say that a disease in her body was God teaching her something. But she didn’t know what. I also recall many years ago watching an interview with Sylvester Stallone. I don’t recall every detail but it regarded a child of his either being sick or in an accident. Someone told him that God was using it to teach him something and I clearly remember him saying, “I don’t understand what the lesson is.”
Sadly, sometimes I just wish Christians would stay quiet rather than say ignorant and hurtful things to people. The Word of God should always bring hope and life. Understanding grace should help us frame our thinking and words to encourage people toward God and not scare them away from Him.
The writer of Hebrews is using this letter as a corrective tool for these Jewish believers. They were struggling to understand and be consistent in the New Covenant. So this letter is a word of correction and clarification. It is also a reminder that walking in grace does require bravery. But rather than pulling away, we are encouraged to “strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed.”
Finally, we see a warning about not falling short of grace. How do we do that? The comparison to Esau is interesting. He had a birthright, which was his rightful inheritance. He didn’t have to earn it – it was a gift. Yet he rejected it. Then later, he tried to earn it back. Grace and righteousness are gifts from God that we inherit through faith in His Son. We can’t earn or deserve them. If we reject them and then try to earn them, we fall short of grace.
Receive your inheritance today. Let the Word bring correction when needed, knowing that you have a loving Heavenly Father. Then stand up straight, walk boldly in His confidence, and brave grace!