Hebrews 12



The exhortation, begun at ch. 10:19, but interrupted at ch.11:1 by the chapter on

faith, is now taken up again with increased force from the array of examples that

have been adduced to support it.  Observable in the Greek is the fine roll of the

majestic and well-ordered phrases with which this chapter begins, as if the writer

had felt the dignity of his subject, and the commanding power with which he can

now approach it. Even the initiatory word τοιγαροῦν toigarounsurely in

consequence then; wherefore seeing -  rather than the usual ὃθεν hothen

wherefore; thence, or οὖν ounnow, or διό - dio - wherefore, adds to the effect.            


1 “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of

witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset

us, and let us run with patience (rather, endurance) the race that is set before

us,” - Christians, still “fighting the good fight of faith,” are here regarded under

the image of athletes in the palaestra, contending for a prize. It is a favorite image

with Paul, not only, we may suppose, because of its appropriateness, but also

because of the probable appreciation of it by his readers in consequence of the

general interest taken in the famous games (compare I Corinthians 9:24-27;

I Timothy 6:12; II Timothy 4:7). The idea in this first verse is that of a race

(τρέχωμεν ἀγῶνα trechomen agonalet us run; we may be racing [the] race).

The word προκείμενον (τὸν προκείμενον ἡμῖν ἀγῶνα – ton prokeimenon haemin

 agonathe race that is set before us) is the usual one in the case of a contest

appointed in public games, though, of course, otherwise applicable, as in v. 2

and ch. 6:18. “Every weight” (ὄγκονπάνταogkon ….pantaevery

impediment; weight), which we are to “lay aside,” or rather put off from us

(ἀποθέμενοι apothemenoiputting off ), means, probably, in the figure, any

heavy accoutrement, or other encumbrance, which the runner might have about

him. Some, indeed, take ὄγκον to denote “obesity” — a sense in which the

word is sometimes used, as by Hippocrates, Diodorus, AElian — and think

the allusion is to the training required of athletes for getting into condition.

But the word ἀποθέμενοι rather suggests as above. In the word

ἁμαρτίαν hamartian - sin, that follows, the figure is dropped, so as to make

evident what is meant, but still retained apparently in the epithet εὐπερίστατον

euperistatonpopular; so easily beset us.  This word, which is found nowhere

else either in biblical or classical Greek, has to be interpreted from its derivation,

the analogy of similar words, and the context. The usual and most probable view

 is, deriving it from περιΐστασθαι periistasthai - to understand “that which easily

surrounds us.”  It is true that other verbals, similarly derived from ἱστημι

histaemi - or its compounds, are not active, but intransitive or passive; thus

περιστασος peristasos - means “surrounded,” not “surrounding; ἀπεριστασος  -

 aperistasos - means “unguarded,” i.e. “not surrounded.” Still, as such verbals

derived from other verbs are often active, this may be so here, and thus have

an intelligible sense in connection with the context. We may understand the

figure of a race to be still kept in view, with regard to the runner not only laying

aside encumbrances, but also stripping himself of his clothes, which would

cling round him and impede his course. (The idea of close personal encirclement

thus supposed to be expressed by εὐπερίστατον seems better to suit the figure,

as also the governing verb ἀποθέμενοι, than that of sin getting in our road as

we run, as might surrounding obstacles in an actual race.  The application of

the whole figure to Christian athletes is not hard to understand. The

encumbrances to be laid aside by them, lest they should be weighted in their

race, may include:


o       old associations,

o       lingering Jewish prejudices,

o       ties to the world, or

o       habits and customs which,


whether or not in themselves blameless, might prove clogs and hindrances. Then

the “easily besetting sin” would be all such as might cling to them personally,

whether in the heart or in habits of life; which, if not got rid of, would be

ever like an encircling and impeding robe, crippling alacrity and arresting

speed. But further, as runners, however unencumbered for the race, require

what in modern phrase is called “pluck” to keep it up to the end, so with

the Christian athlete; for there will always be danger of his flagging as his

course goes on under trials and difficulties, and this especially in times of

persecution. This further requirement is expressed by δι ὑπομονῆςdi

hupomonaes -  with endurance; with patience - i.e. throughout to the end.

Thus we have presented to us a grand conception of Christians being as

athletes contending on the arena of this present world for the crown of

immortality; and, as is expressed at the beginning of the verse, under the

eager gaze of a vast multitude of unseen spectators, corresponding to those

in the crowded seats, rising higher and higher, of an earthly amphitheatre.

These unseen spectators are the innumerable saints before us, who have

finished their course and are now at rest, but who are as it were in the air

around us, watching us from above with sympathy. The word “cloud”

(νέφος - nephos), though applicable to any great multitude, is peculiarly

appropriate here, as suggesting the idea of an aerial company. The word

“witnesses,” too (μαρτύρων marturon), though here most obviously to

be understood in the sense of θεαται theatai - i.e. witnesses of our

contest, may be intended to convey also, as it certainly suggests to the

mind, its other well-known meaning — that of witnesses to the faith, or

martyrs (compare Acts 22:13; Revelation 2:13; 11:3; 17:6). So the

Fathers generally understand it here. The saints before us, as they bore

witness to God in life, so are conceived as witnesses also of our like

witness now, awaiting the day when, “not without us,” they shall be finally

perfected.  (ch. 11:40)


Those who have preceded us in the life of faith in immense

numbers surround us as witnesses to the power of faith, as testifiers by

their example to the might of that principle by which we are called to run

our course successfully, and war our warfare nobly, and do our life work

faithfully. The writer would teach us to think often of this great cloud of

witnesses, to meditate upon the noble lives and glorious deeds of the true

men who have gone before us, that by the remembrance of their trials and

triumphs we may arouse ourselves to greater diligence in running the race

that is set before us. In them we see what trials can be borne, what

victories won, what work accomplished, what characters built up, by faith.

If by faith they overcame every difficulty, why should we be discouraged

by the difficulties of our course? If by faith they conquered their many and

mighty enemies, why should we dread to encounter our foes? If by faith,

despite outward opposition and inner weakness, they came off victors in

the fight and winners in the race, why should we despond and shrink from

the contest?


2 “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith (rather, the Leader,

or Captain, as in ch. 2:10, and Perfecter of the faith, or of faith — faith’s Captain

and Completer),; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross,

despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

The idea is not, as implied in the Authorized Version and understood by Chrysostom

and other ancients, that Jesus first inspires and then brings to its complete result the

individual Christian’s faith, but (as implied in the word ἀρχηγὸν archaegon

author; inaugurator - and suiting the context better) that He is the Leader of the

whole army of faith, whose standard we are to follow, and whose own completed

victory is the enabling cause as well as the earnest of our own. (A winning

tradition if you will! – CY – 2014)  It is no valid objection to this view that He

could not have been a Leader in this sense to the faithful ones before His coming,

referred to in the last chapter; for, as has been before observed (see on “the reproach

of Christ,”  ch. 11:26), He is regarded as the Head and Leader, in all ages, of the

faithful; and in virtue of His future warfare for mankind the saints of old endured

and triumphed: — and certainly Christians, to whom the exhortation is

addressed, may look to Him in an obvious sense as their Captain to be

followed. Nor, again, is there difficulty — apart from that of the whole

mystery of the Incarnation — in His being presented to us as Himself an

example of triumphant faith. For He is elsewhere spoken of as having so

“emptied Himself” of His Divine glory as to have become like unto us in all

things, sin except; and thus to have been sustained during His human life by

faith in the unseen, as we are. His addresses to the Father (see especially

John 17.) are strikingly significant in this regard. The expression, “for the

joy,” etc. (ἀντὶ τῆς προκειμένης αὐτῷ χαρᾶς – anti taes prokeimenaes auto

charasfor the joy that was set before Him), does not mean, as some

take it, “instead of the joy which He might have had on earth” (such e.g. as

was offered to Him by the tempter), but, as is evident from the word

προκειμένης  “as set against, i.e. for the sake of, future joy” (compare

ἀντὶ βρώσεως μιᾶς – anti broseos miasfor one morsel - v. 16). Such looking

forward to joy with the Father and the redeemed after triumph is expressed in

the great intercessory prayer above referred to (John 17:5, 13, 22-24, 26). It may

be here observed that anticipation of reward hereafter is among legitimate

human motives to a good life.  (“While we look not at things which are

seen, but at the things which are not seen:  for the things which are seen are

temporal; but the things which are not seen ARE ETERNAL!” 

(II Corinthians 4:18)  It may be said, indeed, that the highest virtue

consists in doing what is right simply because it is right — in fulfilling

God’s will, whatever may come of it to ourselves; but the hope of a final

happy issue comes properly, and indeed inevitably, in as an inspiring and

sustaining motive. Aspiration after Happiness is a God-given instinct of

humanity, necessary for keeping up the life of virtue. There may be some

so in love with virtue as to be capable of persevering in lifelong self-denial,

though without any faith in a life to come. But human nature in general

certainly requires this further incentive, and CHRISTIAN FAITH

SUPPLIES IT!   Nor are those who thus work with a view to future joy

to be accused of selfish motives, as though they balanced only a greater

against a smaller gain. To the true Christian the grand inspiring principle

is still the love of God and of his neighbor, and of goodness for its own sake,

though the hope of an eternal reward supports and cheers him mightily.

Nor, again, is the joy looked forward to a selfish joy. It is the joy of sharing

in the triumph of eternal righteousness in company with ALL THE

REDEEMED (think of all the  accumulation of our common experiences

and all people from all ages being there! – CY – 2014) whose salvation,

no less than his own, he desires and strives for. And, further, with regard to

his own individual joy, what is it but THE JOY OF ATTAINING THE

PURPOSED END OF HIS BEING,  the perfection God meant him for,

and to which it is his duty to aspire? Hence Christ would not have been a

perfect Example to man had He not been represented as looking forward

to “the joy that was set before Him.”


In the long procession of heroes celebrated for their faith our Lord stands at the

 head; He is the Leader, and in Him faith appears in full and perfected glory. And

the text exhorts us to look to Him as our great Exemplar, and to draw from

Him support and encouragement. The example of our Savior is especially

sustaining and cheering, for the course He had to run was one of extreme

difficulty and danger and suffering; yet He overcame, and finished His

course with joy, and gained the highest honors. “Who for the joy that was

set before him endured the cross.”  In time of suffering, then, pursue your

course “looking unto Jesus,” the perfect Example of patience; and in the

presence of Gethsemane and Calvary your sufferings will appear slight,

and the calm face of the supreme Sufferer will impart patience and power

unto you. In seasons of despondency, when faith is weak and your spirit

sinks within you, look unto Jesus, and the trust which He exercised and

the destiny He attained, and let the bright example brace your heart with

courage. In times of exhaustion and weariness, when you faint because of

the duties and difficulties of the way, look up to Jesus, and His example

will raise and strengthen your powerless hands, and nerve your whole frame

with new energy. And in seasons of temptation look unto Him who “resisted unto

blood, striving against sin,” and yield not in the conflict, give no place to

the tempter. Let this be our attitude, “looking unto Jesus.” Let the eye of

the soul be fixed upon Him as our Pattern and Helper; so shall we finish our

course with joy, and “receive the crown of glory that fadeth not away.



Looking to Jesus (v. 2)


  • WHAT WE LOOK AWAY FROM. For the idea in the verb is that of

looking away from one thing to some other thing. We must always have

some object before the eyes of our mind, and very often it is an object that

will cause the natural man discomposure, doubt, vacillation in his practice.

Looking round on your companions professedly in the path of faith, you

may feel that they are doing anything but live the life of faith. You may see

some backsliding, Demas-like, through their love of the present evil world.

(II Timothy 4:10)  And even the best of brother believers have their moments

of failure and misapprehension. Then, moreover, as we look round us, we see

not only the cloud of testifying believers, we see a cloud given over to the

things of this world. To mingle with them in many relations is a necessity of

life.  Insensibly they affect that standard of excellence at which we ought to

aim.  We see something which is not God’s standard, but in our self-deception,

honestly enough, we take it to be so. And so we must look away from the

ordinary surroundings of life, and even from the achievements of ordinary

believers, to one in whom we shall find every good we find in man, without

alloy, without contradiction, and with special power in us to produce

perseverance and aspiration.


  • WHO WE LOOK TO. What a great matter it is to have an Object so

satisfactory, so inspiring, on which our eyes may rest, on which our

thoughts may dwell! But we must look at that Object in a certain way. As

we have looked for faith in Abraham, in Moses, in the prophets, and found

it, so we must look for faith in Jesus. It is of the greatest importance for us

to see that the life which Jesus lived in the flesh was a life of faith — faith

in His Father in heaven, faith in His brethren upon the earth. And what is to

be noticed most of all is this combination of Author and Finisher. We see

Jesus beginning His course of faith, we also see Him finishing it. With

regard to other believers, it is by an act of faith on our part that we

comprehend a reward to be in store for them. But the reward of Jesus is

before our eyes. That reward is to be clearly seen by us if we have any

power of spiritual perception at all. We see the faith of one who submits to

death with the certainty that He will rise again, and in due time He does rise

again. Jesus is at the right hand of God, for He does actually rule over many

human hearts, He did not pass through suffering and shame into an

obscurity which was only the last stage of the suffering and shame. His

present glory is A MANIFEST THING, manifest in the light of more tests

than one. It is a glory perceptible from the common historian’s point of view.

The richness and depth of that glory become more and more apparent

when the eye of a real Christian is turned upon it; he looks for things and

sees things which to the world are only names. And yet what appears to

our eyes is a very imperfect representation of the reality proposed to Him

and seen by Him. He saw more with His sense of truth, His power of insight,

His superiority to this world’s considerations, than we can see. And along

with the end He saw the way to it. Well might He warn rash, would-be

disciples to count the cost, for He Himself had counted the cost to begin

with. Thus must we ever look to Jesus, not in one part of His career, but in

all taken together. The cross and the shame must not be separated from the

seat of honor and of power. Nor must the end be looked at apart from the

way. We also have a joy set before us, namely, that of attaining to

COMPANIONSHIP WITH JESUS!   When we look to Jesus we

look, not only to an example, to an inspiration, but also to a goal.


3 “For consider Him that hath endured such contradiction of

sinners against Himself (or, of the sinners against him), lest ye be wearied

and faint in your minds.” The word ἀντιλογίαν  -  antilogian contradiction

though strictly applicable to verbal gainsaying, and thus especially suggesting

to our minds the blasphemies and false accusations against Christ, includes

opposition of all kinds. It is used in the Septuagint for “rebellion” (Hebrew,

yr"s]), II Samuel 22:41; Proverbs 17:11, compare Jude 1:11, τῇ ἀντιλογίᾳ τοῦ

Κόρε – tae antilogia tou Korethe gainsaying of Core (Korah). (Instead of

εἰς ἑαυτὸν eis heauton  - against Himself (al. εἰς αύτόν eis auton - ) there is

weighty manuscript authority for εἰς ἑαυτούς - eis heautous -, equivalent to against

themselves.) “Lest ye be weary,” etc., keeps in view the idea of getting

tired in a race, the word ἐκλυόμενοι ekluomenoi fainting  being used primarily

for corporeal, and figuratively for mental, lassitude (compare Matthew 15:32,

µήποτε ἐκλυθῶσιν ἐν τῇ ὁδῷ  - maepote ekluthosin en tae hodolest at some

time they may be fainting in the way).



The Life of Faith, and Its Supreme Exemplar (vs. 1-3)


In these verses the apostle gathers up the practical lesson to be derived

from his historical demonstration of the power of faith contained in

Hebrews 11. The figure of the passage is that of a race which the believer

is required to run, the reference being doubtless to the foot-race in the

Grecian games.


  • THE CHRISTIAN RACE. (v. 1.) Glance here at the points of analogy,

or truths intended to be taught by this figure. The life of faith is:


Ø      An arduous struggle. “The righteous is with difficulty saved”

(I Peter 4:18). The Christian calling is not a stroll or a saunter, but a race.

It entails strenuous effort.

Ø      A struggle which involves fixedness of aim. It is “set before us.” There is

a goal to be kept in view, and a prize to be won; and there is, accordingly,

a prescribed path of faith and duty.

Ø      A struggle which involves perseverance. The believer must “run with

patience.” He must not allow his ardor to decline. He must not desist

until he finishes his course.

Ø      A struggle which will soon be over. “Yet a very little while,” and the

Christian shall have reached the goal, and won Christ.

Ø      A public spectacle. “We are compassed about with a great cloud of

witnesses.” We run this race under the eye of God Himself. Other

spectators are the holy and the fallen angels, “the spirits of just men

made perfect,” our fellow-believers on earth, and the ungodly world

around us.



Olympic runner put off his flowing robes, and everything else that might

impede his course. So the Christian is to “lay aside,”


Ø      Weights. This word denotes whatever would put one to disadvantage in

running, whether it be in itself innocent or not. Of course every evil

passion is a weight, which can only clog the believer’s heavenward

progress. But even that which is in itself lawful may become, if we

abuse it, a heavy load.  We may pervert a good gift of God into a

dead weight. And some habit which is no hindrance at all to my

Christian brother may have proved to be a great spiritual cumbrance

to me. There is, e.g., the weight of prosperity, of care, of sorrow; the

weight of worldly business, of earthly ambition, of human affection.

“The things which are seen” must not be allowed to lie

heavy on the soul, if we would successfully run the Christian race.


Ø      Sin. This is the essential burden. It “easily besets us,” i.e. cleaves to us,

wraps itself round us like a cloak, clings to us as a parasitical plant to a

tree. It is sin in general which the apostle characterizes as “easily

besetting.” The adjective in the original does not refer to the particular

sins, whatever these may be, to which individuals are most prone; although,

of course, in taking home the exhortation to the conscience, this thought

will naturally be suggested. The writer probably had in his mind just now

(indeed, be never forgets it throughout this letter) the sin of apostasy

the danger to which the Hebrew Christians were exposed of drifting back

to Judaism, and thus of “falling away from the living God” (ch.3:12).

This sin, and all others, must be laid aside. If we do not renounce

sin, we give up the race.



midst of affliction and weariness, as well as of powerful temptations to

apostatize, how are our fainting hearts to be revived? Two great motives

are presented.


Ø      The presence, as spectators, of the former heroes of faith. (v. 1.) The

Old Testament saints are “witnesses” now of the race which they once

ran themselves. They not only testify to the power of faith; they are also

spectators of the struggles and conflicts of their successors. The apostle’s

language is not that merely of poetic imagination. He seems to say that

“the spirits of just men made perfect” are cognizant of what is done upon

the earth, and take an absorbing interest in it. We are to think of them as

hovering over us in the heavens. They circle and crowd around us, tier

upon tier, on both sides of the race-course. On the one side is the gallery of

the saints before the Flood, that of the Hebrew Pilgrim Fathers, of the

heroes of the Exodus, of the judges, and of the prophets; while on the

other side is the gallery of the apostles, that of the Christian confessors and

martyrs, of the missionaries of the Church, and of our own departed friends

who have gone to glory. These spectators are a “great cloud “

multitudinous in number; they are radiant with the brightness of

immortality; and, having themselves passed through the same experience

as we, they keenly sympathize with us. We should therefore take heart,

as we hear their heavenly greetings, and realize the fellowship with us

which they claim.


Ø      The example of Jesus, the Leader and Perfecter of faith. (vs. 2-3.)

While gratefully conscious of the presence of the men of faith, we are to

gaze fixedly ONLY UPON JESUS!   The writer refers to the Savior here

in his human nature, as the Pattern Man, and as our supreme Exemplar.

His portrait is the grandest in the whole exhibition of the heroes of faith;

indeed, none of those in Hebrews 11 can for a moment compare with it.

This noblest picture is arranged in two divisions; we see Christ on the one

side in His humiliation, and on the other in His exaltation. And the

inscription set over it reads thus: “Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of faith.”

He is the Author, i.e. Captain, Prince, Head, or Leader, of all the men of

faith. He exhibited, during His own earthly life, an absolutely perfect

example of trust in God:


o       By faith He waited at Nazareth, with His high destiny stirring in

His heart, during thirty years.

o       By faith He assumed the burden of the world’s sin.

o       By faith He conquered Satan in the wilderness.

o       By faith He performed the labors of His three years’ active


o       By faith He endured the agonies of Gethsemane, and the

“gainsaying” (v. 3) of Gabbatha, and the soul-darkness of



 Jesus did not “shrink back unto perdition,” notwithstanding His unparalleled

temptations. So He is also the Perfecter of faith;” for in Him faith has had

its perfect work. No other man will ever appear in our world equal to Him as

a specimen of faith. Therefore He is our great Model. The early Hebrew

Christians were to “consider Him.” That very “cross” at which they

stumbled, He “endured.” If they were being treated by “sinners” (v. 3)

as renegades from the religion of Israel, much more had He been. Their

sufferings and temptations were not nearly so dreadful as His. Seeing,

then, that the Man Christ Jesus, for the sake of the eternal reward in

store for Him, persevered to the end in running His appointed race,

why should any of His followers allow themselves to “wax weary,

fainting in their souls”? It was His endurance of the cross that gave

Him His place “at the right hand of the throne of God;” and all who

follow Him as their Leader in the race of faith shall eventually

sit with Him upon His throne.  (Revelation 3:21)  Christ will give us

strength to run well, if we ask Him.



To What Christ was Exposed (vs. 2-3)


  • PHYSICAL PAIN. He endured a cross. When the hour and authority of

darkness came upon Him, He was left to those policies of the wicked

which are cruel. It was part of His victory to endure whatever men chose to

inflict in the way of pain. All who afterwards had to endure crosses, all

who were thrown to wild beasts, burnt, etc., knew that their Savior had

been in exactly the same path. He did not choose the cross; it came in the

way He had to take to the joy. If it had been the Roman amphitheatre, the

stake, or the rack of the Inquisition, he would have gone with equal

willingness. Whatever suffering evil men in their recklessness thought fit to

inflict, He was ready for it. And we, always determined in the way of duty,

service, honor, and reward, must also be ready for all that comes in the

way of pain. Notice the force of “endure,” the verb corresponding to the

substantive ὑπομονῆς  - hupomonaesendure.   Not only did He bear the

cross as a Stoic might have done, in grim silence, but with the veritable

patience of one testifying for God. In all His bearing there was love,

meekness, and patient waiting for the joy yet to be revealed.


  • A SHAMEFUL REPUTATION. Christ might have been put to death

cruelly and yet not shamefully. Shame, according to human reckoning, was

added to keen pain. But human shame could not reach to the height of our

Leader’s magnanimity. He had too clear a view of everything to be affected

by mere reputation. The cross is not shameful to us. Things reckoned

shameful are largely so according to custom. What would be shameful in

one age and country has no such repute in another age and country. Hence,

while we can at once see the pain of the cross, we cannot see the shame.

But we can understand that there would be a shame when we recollect that

it has even been counted a privilege to die by the headsman’s axe, and not

by the hangman’s rope. And this shame would be a great difficulty in the

way of the apostles in preaching Christ; indeed, we know it actually was

so. It is not the slightest difficulty now, however. How an old Roman

would have laughed to hear it predicted that the cross of crucifixion could

ever become an ornament! What men reckoned shameful has proved the

way to glory and exaltation. He who conquered the worst men could do to

Him, might well take a place at the right hand of God.


  • BITTER TAUNTS. The shameful repute of hanging on a cross could

not but come into the reflections of Jesus; but also to the silent insult of the

cross itself was added the bitterest words men could find. But let men do

their worst. All things Work together for good to them that love God.”

(Romans 8:28)  And surely of such Jesus is facile princes (easily first).

Taunts bound back from the innocent and the God-fearing as arrows do

from one who is thoroughly clad in armor.


4 “Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.”

Here (as in I Corinthians 9:26) there is a transition of thought from a

race to a combat. Your trials have not yet reached the point of dying in the

good fight of faith, as has been the case with some of your brethren before

you, who have followed their Leader to the end (compare ch.13:7).


5 “And ye have forgotten (or, have ye forgotten?) the exhortation which

speaketh unto you (more correctly, discourses, or reasons, with you; i.e. in

the way of fatherly remonstrance) as unto children,  My son, despise not

thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of Him:”

We are not to sink under the reproofs and strokes of the Divine discipline,

though they be severe. The fact that our trials are regulated by our Father’s hand,

that they are educational, that they are intended and adapted to promote our

spiritual and eternal well-being, should keep us from sinking beneath their pressure.


 6 “For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son

whom He receiveth.”  This verse introduces a further motive for

persevering under prolonged trial, viz. our being assured in Holy Writ of its

beneficial purpose as discipline. The quotation is from Proverbs 3:11-12,

as it is in the Septuagint. We observe that the word (ἐκλύου - faint ) is the

same as was used in v. 3. In the seventh and following verses this

scriptural admonition is applied and commented on. 



Divine Discipline (vs. 5-6)

My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord,” etc. Our subject is

Divine discipline. Let us notice:


  • ITS CHARACTER. Three words are used to express it — “rebuke,”

chastening,” “scourging.” The last two seem to be used synonymously

here.  To rebuke” and to chasten are often found together, but they are very

capable of being distinguished. “To rebuke” is so to rebuke that the person

is brought to the acknowledgment of his fault — is convinced, as David was

when rebuked by Nathan (II Samuel 12:13).” The word translated to “chasten,”

 being in classical Greek to instruct, to educate, is in sacred Greek to instruct

or educate by means of correction, through the severe discipline of love. 

The object of the discipline is:


Ø      to deliver the subjects of it from sin,

Ø      to establish them in the faith, and

Ø      to perfect them in holiness.


The means of the discipline are:


Ø      afflictions,

Ø      persecutions, and

Ø      trials.


And it may be administered by the enemies of the Church of Christ. The

persecutions of man may be the discipline of God. Persecution for religion

is sometimes a correction and rebuke for the sins of professors of religion.

Men persecute them because they are religious; God chastises them because

they are not more so: men persecute them because they wilt not give up

their profession; God chastises them because they have not lived up to

their profession.”


Ø      ITS AUTHOR. The chastening of the Lord .... Whom the Lord loveth

he chasteneth.” Some of our trials are from His hand. He is the great

Husbandman, and He prunes the vines that they may bring forth more fruit.

(John 15:2)  The trials which are not sent by Him are permitted by Him

(compare Job 1:12; 2:6; II Corinthians 12:7). And He gives to all our trials

their disciplinary character. He makes the bitter potion medicinal. By His

blessing our sufferings become salutary, and our sorest afflictions our

sagest instructors.  The fact that the Lord is the Author of our discipline,

that our trials either proceed from Him or are permitted and regulated by

Him, supplies a guarantee that we shall not be tried beyond our strength.

He is infinite in wisdom and in love. “He knoweth our frame;” (Psalm

103:14) and He will either restrict our trials so that they exceed not our

strength, or increase our strength until it surpasses the severity of our trials.

 “He stayeth his rough wind in the day of the east wind.” (Isaiah 27:8)

“I will correct thee in measure.” (Jeremiah 30:11)  “Though He

cause grief, yet will He have compassion according to the multitude of His

mercies.”  (Lamentations 3:32) “My grace is sufficient for thee; for my

strength is made perfect in weakness.” (II Corinthians 12:9)


  • ITS SUBJECTS.Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and

scourgeth every son whom He receiveth.”


Ø      They are filially related to Him. “Every son” of His He subjects to

reproof and chastisement. “God has one Son without sin, but none without

suffering.” If we are his sons, we may rest assured that He will not fail to

secure to us the discipline that we need. Thus our sufferings may be an

evidence of our sonship.


Ø      They are beloved by Him. “Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth.”

Because Hhe loves us He corrects us. It has been well said, that “lawns which

we would keep in the best condition are very frequently mown; the grass

has scarcely any respite from the scythe. Out in the meadows there is no

such repeated cutting; they are mown but once or twice in the year. Even

thus the nearer we are to God, and the more regard He has for us, the

more frequent will be our adversities. To be very dear to God involves no

small degree of chastisement.


  • ITS RECEPTION. “My son, despise not thou the chastening of the

Lord,” etc.


Ø      It should not be deemed unimportant. Regard not lightly the chastening

of the Lord. We may be said to despise the chastening of the Lord

in the following situations:


o       When it is not felt; when there is a want of natural sensibility to the

particular stroke of the rod. This is but rare. Men in general are quite

sufficiently alive to the value of temporal things. But the value is

comparative. There are cherished and favorite possessions, and others

less highly thought of, less fondly held. The Lord, it may be, deals

gently. He spares the ‘gourd.’  (Jonah)  He does not take what is

most highly set by. And instead of humbly owning the kindness —

being lowly and submissive, and seeking a blessing on the gentle

stroke, that the heavier one may be withheld — the preservation

and safety of the greater produces insensibility to the privation of

the less; and the correction is thus disregarded, and proves


o       When it is not duly felt as from God.

o       When, although God is seen in it and His hand is felt, it is not felt

humbly and submissively; not bowed to, but resisted.

o       When the design or end of correction is not laid to heart.


Ø      It should not be deemed intolerable. Nor faint when thou art rebuked

of Him.” We are not to sink under the reproofs and strokes of the Divine

discipline, though they be severe. The fact that our trials are regulated by

our Father’s hand, that they are educational, that they are intended and

adapted to promote our spiritual and eternal well-being, should keep us

from sinking beneath their pressure.


“The tears we shed are not in vain;

    Nor worthless is the heavy strife;

If, like the buried seed of grain,

   They rise to renovated life.

It is through tears our spirits grow

   Tis in the tempest souls expand,

If it but teaches us to go

   To Him who holds it in His hand.

Oh, welcome, then, the stormy blast!

   Oh, welcome, then, the ocean’s roar!

Ye only drive more sure and fast

   Our trembling bark to heaven’s bright shore.”

(T. C. Upham.)


7 “If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for

what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?  8  But if ye be without

chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.”

For chastening ye endure; The reading  εἰς παιδείαν ὑποµένετε eis paideian

hupomenete - It is for chastening that ye endure, supported by almost the

whole weight of manuscripts (including all the uncials that contain the

text), of ancient versions, and commentators (Theophylact being the only

certain exception), is decidedly to be accepted instead of the εἰ παιδείαν

ὑποµένετε ei paideian hupomenete - equivalent to “if ye endure chastening”)

of the Textus Receptus. Moreover, it is required for the sense of the passage in

regard to the proper meaning of the verb ὑποµένετε (endure), which is to “submit

to,” or “endure patiently,” not simply “to undergo.” For to say, “if ye

endure chastisement patiently, God dealeth with you as sons,” has no

meaning; our being treated as sons depends, not on the way we take our

chastisement, but on our being chastised at all. The use of the preposition

εἰς to express purpose is common in this Epistle (compare ch. 1:14,

εἰς διακονίαν eis diakonianto minister: 3:5, εἰς µαρτύριον eis marturion

for a testimony: 4:16, εἰςβοήθειαν eis boaetheianto help: 6:16, εἰς βεβαίωσιν

eis bebaiosinfor confirmation): and the essential sense of παιδεία paideia

chastening; correction - is discipline or education.  The drift is the same, whether

we take ὑποµένετε (endure) as an indicative or an imperative. Thus the next clause

of the verse follows suitably: God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is

there (or, who is a son) whom his father chasteneth not? But if ye be without

chastening, whereof all (i.e. all God’s children, with reference to ch.11.)

have been made partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons (ye are not your

father’s real children whom he cares for as such).


9 Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us

(more correctly, we once had, or, we used to have, the fathers of our flesh

as chasteners), and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather

be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?” This introduces an

à fortiori argument. We are reminded of the days of our youth, while we

were under parental discipline, and bore with it submissively: much more

should we submit to the discipline of our heavenly Father, to whom we are

as children under training all our life long! Commentators differ as to what

is exactly meant by the contrast between “the fathers of our flesh and

“the Father of spirits (τῶν πνευµάτων – ton pneumatonof spirits).”

Some find here a support to the theory of creationism as against traducianism;

i.e. that the soul of each individual, as distinct from the body, is a new creation,

not transmitted from the parents. This view would have more to go on than it

has, were we justified in implying ἡµῶν haemonof us; our - after πνευµάτων

(“our spirits,” in opposition to our flesh,” preceding). But τῶν πνευµάτων (of

spirits) seems evidently meant to be understood generally; and the expression

(suggested probably by Numbers 16:22 and 27:16, “The God of the spirits of

all flesh”) need imply only that, though GOD IS THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR

OF FLESH AS WELL AS SPIRIT, yet the latter, whether in man or otherwise

existing, has in a peculiar sense its parentage FROM HIM (compare Genesis 2:7,

“The LORD GOD formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his

nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul;” also Job 33:4,

“The Spirit of the LORD hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath

given me life”). Our earthly parents transmit to us our carnal existence; our

spiritual part, in whatever mysterious way derived or inspired, is due to our

Divine parentage; and it is in respect of this that we are God’s children and

AND ACCOUNTABLE TO HIM!   But, as has been intimated above, it is not

human spirits only that are here in the writer’s view. God is the Father of all “the

spirits,” whether in the flesh or not; all are of Divine parentage,  (It is important

to realize that Jesus Christ is bringing both worlds, flesh and spirit, into one! 

See Ephesians 1:10 – cy – 2014) for God Himself is SpiritΠνεῦμαθεός

Pneuma ho Theos – God is Spirit!  (John 4:24).


10 “For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own

pleasure; but He for our profit, that we might be partakers of His

holiness.”   The afortiori argument is thus continued. The discipline of our

earthly fathers was “for a few days,” i.e. during our childhood only, since

which we have been left to ourselves; and even then not necessarily for our

greatest advantage; it was only as seemed good to them (κατὰ τὸ δοκοῦν αὐτοῖς

- kata to dokoun dautoisafter their own pleasure); it might be injudicious, or

even capricious. But our heavenly Father’s discipline we may trust to be:


o       always  good for us, and

o       with a definite final purpose.


Though there is here no distinctly expressed antithesis to the “few days” of

ordinary parental chastisement, yet one is implied in the last clause; for if

God’s purpose in chastening us is to make us partakers of His own holiness,

we may conclude that the discipline will be continued till the end be attained;

and thus also a further reason is implied why Christians should not “faint”

under even lifelong trials.



God’s Discipline of His Children (vs. 5-10)


Continually in the New Testament, when we get into circumstances of

doubt and pain, we are brought back to the rich truth and comfort to be

found in the fatherhood of God. Here, as elsewhere, à fortiori argument is

employed. If an earthly father, being evil, gives good gifts to his children,

how much more will the heavenly Father give His Holy Spirit to them

asking Him? (Matthew 7:11)  And even so, if an earthly father disciplines his

children, making them do and bear many hard things that they may grow into

a useful manhood, how much more will the heavenly Father make His

children to suffer hardness that they may be fit to run in the way of His

commandments hereafter?



were evidently a sadly tried community to whom this letter was written.

What shall be done to comfort and encourage them? In the fourth verse

there is a very common and not altogether useless ground of comfort

suggested. Things are bad, no doubt, but they might be worse. “You have

to suffer a good deal in resisting sin, but not yet have you resisted to

blood.” This view of suffering, however, useful as it is for the moment,

soon leads on to the question, “Why should others suffer, or seem to

suffer, more than I?” And so the writer quickly turns to bid his friends

remember that they are the children of God, and if they only recollect their

character and destiny, and live under the ever-deepening influence of this

recollection, then they will see that nothing can do them abiding harm. All

the comfort of the exhortation passes away, unless it mingles with the

assurance of the Spirit bearing witness with our spirits that we are indeed

the children of God.   (Romans 8:16)  Suffering must cast an ever-thickening

gloom upon the heart unless the hopes of a child of God come in to shed

abroad an amply countervailing light.



a serous thing for one who reckons himself a Christian to pass through

suffering and difficulty. He is expected to be the better for it all. If he uses

it aright, according to the wisdom communicated from above, then

assuredly he will emerge front it with a purified heart and a clearer spiritual

vision. The first rule is that suffering is to be escaped if possible. But if it

cannot be escaped, it must not merely be endured. It must be received as

an agent of God’s will in making us better and more capable children.

Hence the plain truth that we shall be held responsible for all we have had

in the way of pain.



here sought to be comforted were evidently suffering persecution. This is

distinctly suggested in the expression “striving against sin.” And thus it is

made manifest how the discipline comes in. Much suffering could have

been escaped by yielding to the temptation of compromise, or of total

retreat from the Christian’s position. Little do the enemies of Christ

imagine the service they render His true people by the demonstrations of

hostility. We are forced to a firmer grasp of truth and to a more

penetrating and exact estimate of our spiritual possessions.


11 “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but

grievous (literally, not of joy, but of grief):  nevertheless afterward it

yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are

exercised thereby.”  This is a general statement with respect to all

chastening, though the expression of its result at the end of the verse is

suggested by the thought of Divine chastening, to which alone it is

certainly, and in the full sense of the words, applicable. Of righteousness”

is a genitive of apposition; δικαιοσύνης dikaiosunaesrighteousness - is the

peaceable fruit yielded by παιδεία (chastening). And the word here surely

denotes actual righteousness in ourselves; not merely justification in what is

called the forensic sense: the proper effect of chastening is to make us good,

and so at peace with our own conscience and WITH GOD!   It is by no means

thus implied that we can be accepted and so have peace on the ground OF

OUR OWN IMPERFECT RIGHTEOUSNESS,  only that it is in the fruits

of faith perfected by discipline that we may “know that we are of the truth,

and assure our hearts before Him” (I John 3:19).  (compare James 3:18,

“The fruit of  righteousness is sown in peace;” also Isaiah 32:17, “And

the work of righteousness shall be peace”).



Chastisement (vs. 4-11)


In this passage the writer reminds the Hebrews that although doubtless

they had sustained severe trials on account of their devotedness to Christ,

none of them had yet been required to seal their faith with their blood (v.4).

Other children of God had suffered much more than they (ch.11:35-38),

and had remained faithful. For them to apostatize would,

therefore, be very heinous sin. Rather they must learn to view their

afflictions as the corrections of God’s fatherly love. Consider:




Ø      Our afflictions are really such. Sometimes, in forgetfulness of God, the

believer may regard his sorrows simply as calamities — untoward events

which have no particular spiritual meaning. At other times he may receive

them merely as trials of his faith, or as sent to strengthen his Christian

graces. But this passage reminds us that we greatly err if we do not

find in our troubles the element of chastisement. It is true that

Jesus Christ has borne the essential penalty of His people’s sins; but,

though He has done so, He has not removed any lesser punishment

which we may require in order to the correcting of our faults.

God “forgives” us, but He “takes vengeance of our inventions”

(Psalm 99:8).


Ø      Chastisement is inevitable. The Lord scourgeth every son” (v. 6).

“All have been made partakers” of it — all the Old Testament saints,

and all believers in Christian times. The unchastened man is a bastard.


Ø      Chastisement is various in kind and in degree. There are, e.g.:

o       disease of body,

o       distress of mind,

o       the loss of property,

o       injury of character,

o       the profligacy of children,

o       the faithlessness of friends,

o       persecution for righteousness’ sake.


Ø      Chastisement is severe. He scourgeth (v. 6). The Lord’s rod draws

blood. It checkers the believer’s life with wales (Isaiah 1:5-6). The

Christian “bears branded on his body the marks of Jesus” (Galatians



  • GOD’S PURPOSE IN CHASTISEMENT. It is a gracious purpose.

Divine penalties fall upon the believer as a necessary discipline. The love as

well as the righteousness of God prompts to these retributions.

Chastisement is sent:


Ø      To correct our faults. Possibly there are certain sins of ours in regard to

which correction is needed, that we may be led to repent of them; and,

when affliction overtakes us, we should endeavor to find out what these

sins are. (“Before I was afflicted I went astray:  but now have I kept thy

word………It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might

learn thy statutes.”  Psalm 119:67,71)  Or, perhaps, a life of ease and

prosperity may have seduced us into spiritual carelessness, and favored

the growth of pride within the soul,  In such a case God sends

chastisement to convince us of the vanity of the world, and to attract

our thoughts towards the things which belong to our peace.


Ø      To form our spiritual character. Correction is sent as a means of

assimilating our moral nature to that of God Himself (“partakers

of His holiness” - v. 10). Sorrow accepted as Divine chastisement

refines and sanctifies the soul. It stirs its tenderest emotions, and

touches its richest chords. It draws the heart towards God Himself,

as its only Rest and Strength and Joy. The most beautiful human

faces are not those which show merely the most regular features and

the purest complexion; they are those saintly faces which have been

beautified by chastisement — “made perfect through sufferings.”


Ø      To promote our eternal well being. The ultimate purpose is that we may

“live” (v. 9), spiritually and eternally. To become “partakers of God’s

holiness” is to be educated for spending eternity with God. Each

believer must pass through, a curriculum of chastisement before

he can graduate to glory.


“‘Tis sorrow builds the shining ladder up,

Whose golden rounds are our calamities,

Whereon our firm feet planting, nearer God

The spirit climbs, and hath its eyes unsealed.”




gently censures his readers for having overlooked, as it is exhibited in the

Old Testament Scriptures. He quotes Proverbs 3:11-12, and adds a

few sentences of beautiful and suggestive commentary. The quotation

(vs. 5-6) exhibits the duty negatively, and the comment (vs. 7-11)



Ø      Negatively.


o       We are not to “despise” chastisement. (v. 5.) We do so when

we proudly strive to feel it as little as possible, treating our

troubles in a stoical spirit, as if they were meaningless. We

do so, too, when we refuse to see God’s hand in them, or to

believe that they are determined in providence by our spiritual

condition. We despise chastisement when we insist that we

do not deserve any; and when, in haughty insubordination,

we allow ourselves to be “made cross by cross providences.”


o       We must not faint under it. (v. 5.) This is the other extreme - to

become depressed, despondent, despairing. We abuse chastisement

if we do nothing but bemoan it. We “faint” when we cherish dark

and hard and unbelieving thoughts regarding our afflictions —

forgetting the blessed purpose that is behind them, and the

grace which the Sender will supply to enable us to bear them.


Ø      Positively.


o       We must be in subjection unto the Father of spirits. (v. 9.)

This is the opposite of “despising” our troubles. The child of God

will school himself into unquestioning submission. He will receive

his afflictions as from the Lord, on whose paternal grace he

depends for every blessing.


o       We must be exercised thereby. (v. 11.) This is the opposite of

“fainting” when God reproves us. Chastisement is intended to

brace the believer, not to depress him. Afflictions are the

gymnastics of the spiritual life. They are like the exercises of the

athlete, who is in training for a contest. We are “exercised thereby”

when we accept our troubles as sent by God Himself for our

correction; and when, recognizing this, we cooperate with Him

in carrying out their gracious purpose.



suggests many comforting thoughts, which should help us submissively to

bear it. It is:


Ø      Appointed by God. (v. 5.) Afflictions do not come casually. They do

not overtake us merely at the pleasure of our enemies, He who

chasteneth is “the Lord,” the Sovereign of all. Let us, with Job (Job

1:21) and Eli (I Samuel 3:18), realize this: to do so will strengthen

our hearts.


Ø      Sent in fatherly love. This thought runs through the passage like a

golden thread (vs. 5-10). God is “the Father of our spirits;” and He

cherishes towards us the heart of a Father. His corrections are a token

of His loving-kindness. He loves not to smite; but He smites because

He loves.  He uses the rod only because necessity requires it. And if a

dutiful child submits patiently to the chastisements of his earthly

parents, although he has derived only his body from them, how much

more submissively should we bear the Divine corrections, seeing

 they proceed from Him from whom alone we have received our

spiritual and immortal nature!


Ø      Dealt in unerring wisdom. (v. 10.) We who are parents often

chastise our children wrongly. Sometimes our motives are wrong, as

when we punish under the influence of temporary passion or caprice.

At other times our measures are wrong, as when we choose an

infliction of an unsuitable kind, or make it unduly severe. Parents also

are prone to study only the temporal well being of their children, and

to chastise them merely with a view to the “few days” of their earthly

life. But our heavenly Father makes no mistakes in His chastisements.

The pain which He appoints is always wise and right and salutary. He

never punishes beyond our deserts, or in excess of what we are able to

bear. And He is ever seeking our spiritual and eternal well being.


Ø      Productive and profitable. (vs. 10-11.) The “profit” is that we may

share the holiness of God. The “fruit” consists in “righteousness,” i.e.

moral and spiritual excellence — the beautiful graces and the holy habits

of the Christian life. This blessed fruit is “peaceable,” in sweet contrast

with the “grievousness” of the affliction considered in itself. It begins

to be reaped even here on earth (Romans 5:3-5); and the full harvest of

it will be gathered in heaven (Ibid. ch. 8:18; II Corinthians 4:17-18).



Discipline in Its Endurance and in Its Results (v. 11)


Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous,” etc. Two

aspects of discipline, distinct yet vitally related, are here set before us.


  • DISCIPLINE IN ITS ENDURANCE. “All chastening seemeth for the

present to be not joyous, but grievous.” All life’s discipline, while we are

enduring it, is painful. It is so even to sincere and saintly Christians, for:


Ø      The Christian is not insensible to pain. Christianity offers no

encouragement to stoicism. It does not call upon us to repress or to

blunt the natural susceptibilities of our nature. We are summoned in

the Scriptures to feel for others and with others. “Rejoice with them

 that rejoice; weep with them that weep.” (Romans 12:15)  Insensibility

is neither manly nor saintly, virtuous nor blessed. Our Savior was

deeply moved by the afflictions and griefs of others (compare Mark

7:34; 8:2; Luke 19:41; John 11:33, 35, 38). And He felt acutely the

sorrows and sufferings which fell to His own lot (John 12:27;

Matthew 26:38; Luke 22:44; Matthew 27:46;  here, ch.5:7-8).


Ø      Pain or trial is an essential element of discipline. Our text speaks of

discipline as chastening, and that is painful. If we speak of it as

correction, that is not easy to bear. It may be administered in various

forms, but in every form it carries with it trial or suffering of some kind.

Take away the trying element from the experience, and you take from

it the character of discipline.


Ø      The endurance of discipline demands the strenuous exercise of

spiritual powers. The writer speaks of those who have been exercised

by the chastening. This exercise is not an amusement, but an arduous

putting forth of mental and moral powers. Suffering sorely tests our

submission to the Divine will. Tribulation tries our patience and piety.

Enigmas of providence and dark passages in our own experience test

our faith in the Divine Father. Remember how God’s servant Job was

“exercised.” And Paul (II Corinthians 4:8-13; 11:23-30; 12:7-8). And

the Christians in Smyrna (Revelation 2:9-10). If we did not feel the

pain of the discipline, we could not derive any profit from it. If the

chastening were not grievous for the present, it could not result in any

blessing hereafter.


  • DISCIPLINE IN ITS FRUIT. Yet afterward it yieldeth peaceable fruit

unto them that have been exercised thereby, even the fruit of

righteousness.” It is a well-attested fact of human experience that trial

borne in a right spirit, and sanctified by God, results in rich benefits. But



Ø      The condition of the fruit of discipline. “It yieldeth fruit unto them that

have been exercised thereby.” The chastening must have been felt, and

recognized and accepted as discipline, in order to the reception of its

fruits.  Suffering is the condition of the deepest serenity. The pain

of moral conflict must precede the glory of moral conquest.


Ø      The season of the fruit of discipline. “Afterward it yieldeth,” etc. Not

while we are passing through the painful experiences do we reap the

rich result of them, but “afterward.” Time is required for the fruit to

form and to ripen. There are beautiful pictures which cannot be truly

seen when we are near to them. So viewed, they appear to be inartistic

and rough daubs.  But, viewed from the right angle and from a suitable

distance, their beauty captivates the eye and delights the soul. We must

leave our disciplinary experiences and travel into the “afterward,”

before we can discover their true significance and their gracious uses.


In conclusion, our subject should encourage us to be:


Ø      Patient under our discipline. Discipline is like a tree; it requires time

and seasonable influences to produce the ripened fruit of peace and

righteousness. Wait patiently for the “hereafter.” “Behold, the

husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and

hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and the

latter rain.” etc. (James 5:7).


Ø      Resigned under our discipline. Let us not rebel against the suffering

which is designed for our sanctification; but let us “be in subjection

unto the Father of spirits, and live.”  (v. 9)


Ø      Hopeful under our discipline. The trial may be bitter, but it wilt

be brief, and the fruit thereof will be blessed and eternal (compare

Romans 8:18; II Corinthians 4:17-18



The Fruit of Discipline (v. 11)


  • A LESSON FROM BOYISH EXPERIENCE. The discipline of earthly

parents, while we are passing through it, is all pain and no pleasure. Even

when exercised with wisdom and consideration, the discipline must be

painful; and in many instances there is a needless harshness which increases

the pain. Parents are apt to take the course of discipline which gives them

the least trouble. But even harsh and stern discipline is better than

indulgence, infinitely better than letting the child have its own way. What

bitter pain men have had to suffer, because as children they suffered little

or none! The boy at school finds it very hard to be kept at the desk and the

book, when the sun shines bright through the window, and he hears the

merry cry of other lads at play; and hard it must seem while he is going

through it. But it will soon slip past and manhood come, and then how glad

he will be for knowledge gained and for facility in the use of the knowledge!

How he will then rejoice over the encircling rigor of the parental will!


  • THE FALLACY OF PRESENT ESTIMATES. We are bad judges of

the experiences through which we are passing. A schoolboy’s estimate of

life is amusing to listen to, but when we come to reflect over it, the

reflection makes us sad. For we know well how different things are from

what he thinks them to be. And what changes there must be in his view of

life before it can be, even approximately, a true one! Therefore, whenever

we listen to the confident and artless prattling of boyish ignorance, let there

be in it a warning for us, a fresh admonition to walk by faith and not by

sight. What we know not now and cannot know, we shall know hereafter.

We must not kick against circumstances, for they are doubtless the very

safety of our life if we only knew it. It is the greatest folly to say that a

thing must be bad for us because it is painful and straight opposite to the

strongest inclinations of the moment.



general rule discipline is grievous, always grievous to the child. And even

to one who is sure of his position of sonship towards God, discipline

comes as a hard thing. But what makes it hard is that the flesh as yet

counts for more than the spirit. Only let the spirit have free course and be

glorified, and then joy will spring up in the very midst of the discipline. The

man who wrote this letter, whoever he was, had not yet himself got out of

the era of discipline; but the grievousness of discipline must have been

abundantly sweetened by all the divinely born hopes and assurances that

would throng into his heart. All the considerations here pressed upon the

suffering believer are meant to bring joy in the midst of discipline. Joy

especially there should be in the certainty of fruit. Youthful discipline,

however careful and however successful in appearance for the time, yet

may show little of result in after life. Something that no discipline can avert

spoils the manhood. But we have the joy of feeling sure that God’s

discipline of us cannot fail if we work together with Him in submissive

docility and patience.


12 “Wherefore lift up (for, straighten anew) the hands which

hang down, and the feeble knees (rather, the relaxed hands and the

loosened or enfeebled knees). The word παραλελυμένα paralelumena

feeble; having been paralyzed - is used only by Luke elsewhere in the New

Testament, and with reference to persons paralyzed (Luke 5:18, 24; Acts

8:7; 9:33). The form of the exhortation is taken from Isaiah 35:3, ἰσχύσατε

χεῖρες ἀνειμέναι καὶ γόνατα παραλελυμένα ischusate cheires aneimenai kai

gonata paralelumenastrengthen the weak hands and make firm the weak

knees.  The figure of the palaestra is thus again brought into view, with

reference both to boxing and running.


Christians are often faint and feeble in our own times. Piety may be sincere yet

deficient in strength. A genuine Christian may suffer with lameness in some

element of his character or some faculty of service. This feebleness may arise:


  • From the discipline to which we are subjected. We may faint when we

are corrected by Him (v. 5). The first effect of discipline may be to

discourage us, and this will probably lead to lack of earnestness and vigor

in Christian life and service. Discipline misunderstood or resented may

disable us for a time.


  • Cessation of Christian effort.  There is danger that elaxed hands and tottering

knees may cause the Christian runner to give up running, and to relapse into

ignoble ease. Instead of imitating Gideon’s heroic three hundred who were

“faint, yet pursuing” their fleeing foes (Judges 8:4), the feeble may relinquish

the pursuit altogether. Thus faintness may lead to failure.


  • Deviation from the Christian course. If the way be very rugged and

tedious, requiring painful effort to walk in it, those who are lame may be

turned out of it. The Christian race is easy when the runners are strong and

the course is smooth. But oh, it is very difficult when the hearts are heavy,

and the hands nerveless, and the limbs are lamed, and the way is rough

and steep! Under such conditions it requires no little patience and heroism

to keep moving onwards even at any pace; and the temptation to turn aside

is very great.


13 “And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is

lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed.” The ideas

in this verse correspond to, and may be suggested by, those that follow in

Isaiah the passage above referred to. For there too the prophet goes on to

speak, among other things, of the lame leaping, and of a way of holiness

along which none should err. But the words themselves are suggested by

Proverbs 4:26, Aύτὸς δἐ ὀρθὰς ποίήσει τὰς τροχιὰς σουAutos de orthas

 poiaesei tas prochias sou -  Make the path of your feet level.  Let all you

ways be established. (Septuagint), the verb διαστρέφεσθαι - diastrephesthai

having been previously used for turning out of the way. It is observable

that the words, καὶ τροχιὰς kai trochiasand paths - etc., are arranged so

as to form an hexameter line. This may have been unintentional, but it is

at any rate effective. The duty to which the writer urges, his, readers is

courageous self-recovery in Gods strength. The tone and language are elevated

accordingly, and v. 12 is like a trumpet-blast.  It need not surprise us, then, if

our author here turns poet, and proceeds in heroic measures.  With regard to the

purport of this verse, we observe that, while the figure of running is still

continued, a new idea is introduced — that of pursuing a straight course with

a view to others who are to follow on the same track. “That which is lame

(τὸ χωλὸν – to cholon) denotes the weak and wavering brethren — the

ἀσθενοῦντες  - asthenountes, such as are referred to in Romans 14 and

I Corinthians 8. The expression well suits (specially those among the Hebrew

Christians who halted between two opinions — between the Church and the

synagogue (compare I Kings 18:21, ἕως πότε ὑμεῖς χωλανεῖτε ἐπἀμφοτέραις

ταῖς ἰγνύαις hoes pote humeis cholaneite epamphoterais tais ignuaishow

long will ye waver between two sides?). The strong in faith ought to desire

and aim at the healing of such lame ones, i.e. their being strengthened in the

faith, rather than expose them to the risk of apostasy by any wavering of

their own.


We have a duty to be pursued even in faintness and infirmity in the Christian



  • To seek renewal of strength. “Lift up the hands which hang down, and

the feeble knees.” How shall we do this?


Ø      By  prayer to God. “He giveth power to the faint; and to them

that have no might He increaseth strength,” (Isaiah 40:29-31).

Ø      By the recollection of former mercies. Memory may be used as an

inspiration of hope and courage. “Because thou hast been my Help,

therefore under the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice.”  (Psalm 63:7)

Ø      By consideration of the uses and benefits of our trials and discipline

(compare Romans 5:3-5; James 1:2-3,12).

Ø      By contemplation of the great multitude who have reached the goal

and won the prize (v. 1).

Ø      By contemplation of “the prize of our high calling.” (Philippians 3:14)

Exercises such as

these are calculated to inspire moral courage, and increase spiritual

strength, and promote Christian progress.


  • To seek to keep each other in and help each other onward in the way.

“Make straight paths for your feet, that that which is lame be not turned

out of the way, but rather be healed.”  The meaning seems to be, let your

walk be so firm and so unanimous in the right direction, that a plain track

and highway may be thereby established for those who accompany and

follow you, to perceive and walk in (compare Isaiah 35:8). If

the whole congregation, by their united and consistent walk, trod a plain

and beaten path for men’s feet, these lame ones, though halting, would be

easily able to keep in it, and, by keeping in the ‘straight tracks,’ would even

acquire the habit of walking straight onward, and so be healed; but if the

tracks were errant and confused, their erratic steps would deviate more and

more, till at length they fell away out of the right way altogether.


Ø      Let not the faint yet sincere Christian yield to discouragement.

Ø      Let not the vigorous Christian despise the feeble and halting, but

rather cheer and help them.

Ø      Let all Christians in the strength of God press onward to the goal

and to the crown.


14 “Follow peace with all (i.e. as required by the context, with all

the brethren; compare Romans 14:19), and holiness (more properly,

sanctification), without which no man shall see the Lord.”  Here the

figure is dropped, and two cautions given, peculiarly needed, we may

suppose, by the community addressed. The exhortation to “peace with all”

reminds of the tone of Paul’s admonitions both in Romans and in I Corinthians,

where he so strongly warns against dissensions and party spirit, and enjoins

tolerance and mutual allowance with regard to the weaker brethren. The word

ἁγιασμόν hagiasmonholiness; sanctification - need not be limited to the

idea of chastity; but the special allusion to πόρνος pornosfornicator;

whoremonger -  in v. 16 (as also in ch.13:4) is evidence that chastity was

especially in the writer’s mind, with definite reference to which the word

ἁγιασμόν (holiness; sanctification) is used in I Thessalonians 4:3. The frequent

 and earnest warnings against fornication in Paul’s Epistles are enough to show

how slow even some in the Church were to recognize the strict code of

Christian morality, unknown to the heathen world, and by the Jews very

imperfectly recognized, in this regard; and the case of I Corinthians 5 illustrates

how easily such vice might creep into and infect a Christian community without

general reprobation. Hence probably the special warning here.



The Pursuit of Peace and Holiness (v. 14)


“Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man will see

the Lord.”  The primary meaning of the text seems to be that the Christians

addressed are to guard against differences among themselves; they are NOT to

quarrel with one another, but every one is to be earnestly intent on his own

sanctification; for without holiness no one shall see the Lord with joy. Three

chief points arise for consideration.


  • PEACE AS AN OBJECT OF PURSUIT. “Follow after peace with all

men.” Peace here is the opposite of strife, division, or misunderstanding

amongst Christian brethren. “Seek peace, and pursue it.” (I Peter 3:11)

“Behold, how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in

 unity!” (Psalm 133:1). Notice:


Ø      The importance of the object of pursuit. “Peace.” It is essential to:


o       spiritual progress,

o       Christian usefulness, and

o        the enjoyment of the Divine presence.


 Discord drives away the Holy Spirit, and is fatal to:

o       personal growth in grace,

o       mutual edification, and

o       successful evangelization.


Ø      The extent of this pursuit. “With ALL men.” The primary meaning is all

their fellow-Christians.” The context shows this. Our text immediately

follows the exhortation to guard against any feeble Christian being

turned out of the way, and it immediately precedes the exhortation

to take heed that no one should fall short of the grace of God. And

if the all signified all mankind, the exhortation under consideration

would be exceedingly unconnected. It is clearly the brethren who are

here meant by all  as in Romans 14:19, Let us follow after the things

which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.”

But in applying it to ourselves may we not take it in its widest

signification? If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably

with all men.”  (Romans 12:18)


Ø      The limit of this pursuit. In our endeavors after peace we must not

sacrifice anything which is essential to the pursuit of holiness. “First

pure, then peaceable.” (James 3:17)  Follow after peace, but not at




holiness,” or, “sanctification.” Sanctification is not holiness, but is the

putting on of it and becoming holy. But for popular speech we may use

the term “holiness.” Let us consider two inquiries:


Ø      What is holiness? It is that attribute which is THE VERY CROWN

FOR ALL THE CULTURE OF HUMANITY,  for it carries the

soul up nearest to the everlasting Fountain of wisdom, power,

goodness, from which it came. It enters in only where repentance opens

the way, and spiritual renewal puts the heart into wholesome relations

with the Divine will. It is the peculiar gift for which the world stands

indebted to revelation, and it is multiplied just in proportion as the

heart is formed into the likeness of Christ’s. It is THE SUMMIT

OF MANHOOD, but no less the grace of God. It is

achieved by effort, because your free will must use the means that

secure it; and it is equally the benignant inspiration of that Father

who hears every patient petition.


Ø      How shall we pursue holiness? Not by efforts, however sincere and

earnest, after self-reformation or self-improvement. It is assumed that

the persons who are exhorted to follow after holiness have accepted

Christ as their Savior and Lord. Supposing that we are sincere

Christians, we should seek for holiness:


o       By keeping our spiritual nature open to Divine impression

and action.  We must let Christ enter, and dwell, and work,

and reign within us.


o       By communion with Jesus Christ. He that walketh with

wise men shall be wise.” “We all, with unveiled face

beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed

into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the

Spirit of the Lord!”  (II Corinthians 3:18).


o       By conscious and deliberate imitation of Christ.Take my yoke

upon you, and learn of me.” (Matthew 11:29)  I have given

you an example,” (John 13:15). “Christ suffered for you, leaving

you an example, that ye should follow His steps.”  (I Peter 1:21)

This imitation obviously includes endeavors to render

complete and hearty obedience to the DIVINE WILL!


o       By diligent use of Divine ordinances. The holy Book will be

prayerfully and thoughtfully read, “the assembling of ourselves

together”  (ch. 10:25) will be welcomed, and the ministry of the

Word and the sacraments will be devoutly considered and



o       This pursuit should be continuous. It is not by fits and starts

that men become holy. It is not occasional, but continuous,

prolonged, and lifelong efforts that are required; to be daily

at it; always at it; resting but to renew the work; falling but

to rise again. It is not by a few rough, spasmodic blows of the

hammer that a graceful statue is brought out of the marble

block, but by the labor of continuous days, and many delicate

touches of the sculptor’s chisel. It is not with a rush and a

spring that we are to reach Christ’s character, attain to perfect

sainthood but step by step, foot by foot, hand over hand, we

are slowly and often painfully to mount the ladder that rests

on earth and rises to heaven.


o       The pursuit both of peace and of holiness should be zealous.

The word used by the writer in enjoining it shows this. It means

to pursue rapidly, to follow eagerly, to earnestly endeavor to

acquire. Half-hearted efforts are of little avail. As the miser

seeks to amass temporal wealth, as the enthusiastic student

strives after knowledge, so let us follow after peace and

holiness. And with even greater eagerness should we pursue

them because of their greater importance.



“Sanctification, without which no man shall see the Lord.”


Ø      Heaven is the place of THE SUPREME MANIFESTATION

OF GOD!   (Compare Psalm 16:11; 17:15; I John 3:2; Revelation 7:15;



Ø      Holiness is an essential qualification for the perception of this

manifestation. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.”

(Matthew 5:8)  The pure heart itself is the organ whereby the vision

of God becomes attainable by us. Without holiness a person has no

more fitness for heaven than a blind man has for the enjoyment of

a beautiful art gallery or a glorious landscape.


Ø      If it were possible for an unholy soul to enter heaven it could find no

peace or happiness there, but would realize intense misery. Heaven

would be hell to an irreligious man; How forlorn would he wander

through the courts of heaven! He would find no one like himself;

he would see in every direction the marks of God’s holiness, and

these would make him shudder. He would feel himself always in

His presence. He could no longer turn his thoughts another way,

as he does now, when conscience reproaches him. He would know

that the eternal eye was ever upon him; and that eye of holiness, which

is joy and life to holy creatures, would seem to him an eye of wrath and

punishment. God cannot change His nature.  HOLY HE MUST EVER

BE!   But while He is holy, no unholy soul can be happy in heaven.

(Of course, this is impossible because of the revelation of Jesus Christ,

that “there shall in no wise enter into it [Heaven] any thing that

defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie:

but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”  Revelation

21:27 – CY – 2014)  Fire does not inflame iron, but it inflames straw.

It would cease to be fire if it did not. And so heaven itself would be

fire to those who would fain escape across the great gulf from the

torments of hell.  (Luke 16:26)  The finger of Lazarus would but

increase their thirst.  Therefore, let us follow after peace with all

men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.”


15 “Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God (i.e. fall short of it;

or, ὑστερῶν husteronfail -  being here followed by ἀπὸ - apoof; from, the

idea may be rather that of falling back from it); lest any root of bitterness

springing up trouble you, and thereby many (or, according to the more

probable reading, the many, i.e. the general community) be defiled. In this,

the usual rendering of the verse,  is supplied, so as to make μή τις ὑστερῶν

mae tis husteron -  mean “lest there be any one that fails.” But this is not

necessary; the verb ἐνοχλῇ - enochlae -  trouble you - may be common both

to the first μή τις and to μή τις ῥίζα mae tis riza – lest any root, thus:

“Lest any one failing… lest any root… trouble you. The sentence may have

been broken off after its first clause in order to bring in the appropriate

quotation from Deuteronomy 29:18, which in our Authorized Version runs thus:

“Lest there should be among you a root that beareth gall and wormwood.”  

The reference in the speech of Moses is to the future possibility of any “man,

or woman, or family, or tribe” turning from the LORD to go and serve the

gods of the nations, and so involving, not only themselves, BUT EVEN THE

WHOLE PEOPLE IN A CURSE! The figure is that of a plant being allowed

to grow of such a nature at its root as to bear bitter and pernicious fruit. There

is no special allusion in the word “bitterness” to disturbance of “peace” by

dissensions; for this is not the idea in the original passage, nor is it carried out

in the following verses of the Epistle. (Compare Acts 8:23, “Thou art in the

gall of bitterness (Εἰς χολὴν πικρίας Eis cholaen pikriasI see you are in

the gall of bitterness).



The Worst Perils of the Christian Life (vs. 14-15)


It may be presumed that these people suffering persecution are somewhat

discontented and murmuring under it. Thus persecution may become a

temptation; it may bulk so largely before the eye as to hide far worse perils.

It would almost seem as if the writer had the Beatitudes in mind (Matthew

5:3-12). He has been seeking to illustrate the blessedness of those who are persecuted

for righteousness’ sake. And now in v. 14 he urges not to lose the blessedness of

the peacemaker, and the blessedness of those who are made able to look on God.

There are four important counsels in these two verses.


  • THE DILIGENT PURSUIT OF PEACE. This is a recommendation

both to the individual and the Church. The maltreated man is very likely to

have a settled feeling of anger against the man who maltreats him. That we

should behave rightly under suffering is far more important than that we

should escape suffering. Notice the intensive force of the verb. The same

verb is used to signify persecution. The same pursuing energy that

persecutors employed against Christians was to be employed by Christians

themselves in preserving a feeling of settled peace towards the persecutors.

Animosity and irritation towards others, however justified it may seem by

their conduct, will destroy ALL PEACE IN OUR OWN HEARTS!   Even

when the necessities of duty bring us into marked controversy with others, we

must in the very height of the dispute show that our aim is concord, not discord.



here may be taken as the equivalent of what is elsewhere called purity of

heart. That is the blessedness of the pure in heart that they are made able to

look on God. Our right state towards all men is to have perfectly peaceful

inclinations towards them, and doing everything that shall incline them to

reciprocate the peace. Our right state towards God is to have a heart

perfectly consecrated to Him. And the diligent pursuit of peace and holiness

must go together. You cannot follow the one without following the other.

That can be no true peace towards man which is gotten by compromising

our position towards God. Nor can that be true holiness which is very

profuse in services to God and yet leaves room to indulge animosities

toward man.



GRACE. We must not lose the loving favor of God. We must keep in such

paths of spiritual courage and enterprise as will preserve to us continually

His loving smile. What shall we be if God be against us? It will be a poor

compensation to escape trial, if at the same time we miss God’s help out of

our life.



MISCHIEF. Watch the Christian community as you would watch a garden.

You have not only to nourish what has been planted so that it may bring

forth the peaceable fruits of righteousness, but you must watch against the

entrance of noxious plants. In a large garden something of this kind may

easily make headway unless there be the most vigilant eye upon it. All

mischief must be stopped in the very beginning, if possible.


16 “Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau,

who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. 17 For ye know

how that afterward, when he would have inherited (i.e. desired to

inherit) the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of

repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears. The word

“fornicator” is to be understood literally, not figuratively of spiritual

fornication (see ἁγιασμόν hagiasmonholiness; sanctification, v. 14).

βέβηλος  - bebaelosprofane - denotes one outside the sphere of sanctity,

 and so debarred from sacred privileges. Esau is appropriately adduced as a

notable instance in the Old Testament of a person thus profane, and especially,

in the way of warning, of one who lost irrecoverably the privileges which in

his profaneness he had scorned. It is immaterial whether Esau himself is

intended to be designated as a fornicator (πόρνος) as well as profane (βέβηλος).

The essential moral of his history is this: being the firstborn of Israel, and so the

primary inheritor of the promises made to Abraham, he set no store by the

privilege, and so LOST IT IRRETRIEVABLY!   In early life he so lightly

esteemed his birthright as the eldest born (carrying with it, as is supposed,

in the patriarchal age, the priesthood of the family, and in his case, as might be

presumed, the custody and transmission of the promises) that he parted

with it for the gratification of a PASSING APPETITE!   His words on that

occasion expressed the limit of his aims and interests: “Behold, I am at the

point to die: and what profit shall this birthright do to me?” (Genesis 25:32)

Later in life he nevertheless presented himself to claim the blessing of the

firstborn from his dying father, but found that he had been forestalled. It does

not appear that he had meanwhile changed his mode of life or made amends

for his former carelessness; still, he felt now that he had lost something worth

having, and was grieved exceedingly. But not even his “great and exceeding

bitter cry” (Ibid. ch. 27:34) availed then to recover what was forfeited.

And so neither he nor his seed had part or lot in the Abrahamic promises:

the time of opportunity was gone forever. There is some doubt with regard

to the latter part of v. 17,


(1) as to whether “it” (αὐτήν - autaen) in “he sought it” refers to “repentance”

(μετανοίας - metanoias) or to “the blessing” (τὴν εὐλογίαν taen eulogian);


(2) as to what “place of repentance” means. If “it” refers to “repentance,”

it is difficult to see how Esau’s own repentance can be meant; for not only

does seeking repentance with tears seem in itself to imply the capability of

it, but also the “great and exceeding bitter cry” to which allusion is made

was, not because he could not himself repent, but because he could not get

THE BLESSING!   Hence, if “it” refers to “repentance,” it must be repentance,

i.e. change of mind, in Isaac that is meant, or rather in God, against whose

will Isaac could not go; compare  “God is not a man… that He should repent”

(Numbers 23:19). Of such change of mind and purpose it may be meant

that Esau found no place. This seems to be the view of many modern

interpreters though not of Bengel, De Wette, Bleek, Hofmann, Delitzsch,

Alford, or of Luther, Calvin, Grotius, or any of the Greek Fathers. Against

it is the consideration that such is not the more obvious meaning of “he

found no place of repentance,” taken by itself, especially as μετανοίας is

always elsewhere in the New Testament (though not always in the Septuagint)

used for a person’s change of mind with respect to his own misdoings (compare

ch. 6:6). Difficulty on this ground is removed if, taking the clause, “for he

found no place of repentance,” as parenthetical, we refer

αὐτήν to τὴν εὐλογίαν, preceding. This is by no means a forced

construction of the sentence, and it is supported (as above intimated) by

the fact that in Genesis it is the blessing itself that Esau is expressly said to

have craved in his “great and exceeding bitter cry:” “Hast thou but one

blessing, my father? bless me, even me also, O my father. And Esau lifted

up his voice, and wept.”  (Genesis 27:38)  Thus we may render either,

“When he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected; for he found no

place of repentance [i.e. of change of mind in the bestower of the blessing],

though he sought it [i.e. such change of mind] with tears;” or, “When he

desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected (for he found no place of

repentance), though he sought it [i.e. the blessing] with tears.” If, the

 latter rendering being adopted, Esau’s own repentance be intended, the

idea maybe, either that there was no place left in which even a real repentance

could avail, or that of a real repentance he had become incapable; for his tears

might be those only of vexation and remorse, not expressing any more appreciation

than before of the birthright in its religious aspect. Ebrard’s remark, that his

conduct as related in Genesis 33, shows “a changed heart,” and hence a

true repentance, is not to the point. For all that there appears is that he had

got over his angry feeling towards his brother; it is by no means implied —

rather the contrary — that he would have preferred his destiny to his own,

or that his views of life had risen above thoughts of worldly prosperity. We

observe, further, that nothing is implied one way or the other as to Esau’s

own salvation; it is only the privilege of being the patriarch of the chosen

seed that he is said to have thus irrecoverably forfeited. But his example is

adduced as a warning to Christians with regard to their still more precious

inheritance, which does involve their own ETERNAL PROSPECTS. The

warning to them is similar to those of ch. 6:4-6, and ch.10:26-27, to the

effect that sacred privileges, if persistently slighted, MAY BE LOST

BEYOND RECOVERY. And if the passage before us seems to imply,

according to one view of it, what the former ones were found not to do,

the possible inefficacy of a true repentance, however late, — we may say

that, even if this is implied of Esau with respect to his lost blessing, it is not

therefore necessarily implied of Christians with respect to their personal

salvation; or that, if it is implied of them, it is not till their probation in this

life is over that a “place of repentance” in this sense can for them be found

no more (compare the parable of the ten virgins (Matthew 25:1-13); also

Ibid. ch.7:22-23; Luke 13:24-29).. See also ‘Christian Year’ (Second

Sunday in Lent), with the appended note: “Esau’s probation, as far as his

birthright was concerned, was quite over when he uttered the cry in the text.

His despondency, therefore, is not parallel to anything on this side the grave.”


Esau sacrificed his birthright for a mess of pottage, a sacrifice which involved

irreparable loss!  (Genesis 25)  “For ye know how that afterward, when he

would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected,”  Our text mentions the

“tears” of his great sorrow. “He cried with a great and exceeding bitter cry,

and said unto his father, Bless me, even me also, O my father.... Hast thou

but one blessing, my father? bless me, even me also, O my father. And Esau

lifted up his voice, and wept.”  (Genesis 27:34-38)  Earnest desire and deep

distress were of no avail for the recovery of the forfeited blessing. “He was

rejected: for he found no place of repentance.” We do not understand by

this either that Esau was unable to change his father’s mind, or that he could

not himself repent of his sins; but that he found no way open to reverse what

had been done: the sin had been committed and the consequence entailed,

irrevocably. He might change, but the penalty could not, from the very

nature of the circumstances, be taken off. So that repentance, in its full

sense, had no place. And such is the meaning of the ‘place of repentance,’

wherever occurring. We do not mean by it an opportunity to repent in a

man’s own bosom, to be sorry for what he has done, for this may be under

any circumstances, and this might have been with Esau; but we mean a

chance, by repenting, to repair.” There is an awful permanence in deeds.

They cannot be undone. Words once spoken are beyond recall.

Opportunities once lost are lost forever. Others may, perhaps, be granted;

but those are irrevocably gone.



A Threefold Cord of Duty (vs. 12-17)


The word “wherefore” (v. 12) connects this admonition with what goes

before. For these reasons, says the apostle — since the Savior was

subjected to such hard treatment at the hands of wicked men; since your

own resistance to sin has not yet exposed you to bloodshed; since your

very trials are an expression of God’s fatherly love; and since His

chastisements are fitted to be so profitable in their results — surely you will

never allow yourselves to fall away from the Christian faith. The direct

admonition in vs. 12-14 refers to ourselves, to our fellow-believers, and

to God — an arrangement of thought which is eminently Pauline. And the

three parts of it are reduplicated in vs. 15-17, each being introduced with

the word.” lest.”


  • OUR DUTY TO OURSELVES. (vs. 12-13, 15.) Here the author

seems to return to the metaphor of “the race set before us” (v. 1).

“Hands” and “knees” and “feet” represent the powers of action, motion,

and progression. The Hebrews must no longer faint in the presence of their

trials. They must be resolute, manly, courageous. The exhortation has

respect mainly to the spiritual life of each believer himself. Each ought to

form a decided purpose to correct his own faults, and to continue faithful

at all hazards to his Christian profession. The whole Church should

advance in the right course with such unanimity that the highway of

holiness shall be beaten smooth by their feet — so smooth that even the

“lame” will not stumble in it. If we remain remiss and vacillating, we may

finally “fall short of the grace of God” (v. 15). Slothfulness and

indecision cause one to lag behind, and may prevent him from ever

reaching the goal. If we be not resolute in our fidelity we shall come short

of ultimate salvation, and shall never “see the Lord.”



personal spiritual life which is fed by the Church is in turn to react for good

upon the whole congregation. Two prominent duties towards our brethren

are here indicated.


Ø      To follow after peace with all.(v. 14.) The scope of the passage

seems to restrict this all to the members of the Christian brotherhood.

We need not expect that God will bless us in our Church relations if we

cherish a persistent grudge against any fellow- communicant, resolving

never to forget some injury that he may have done us. A vindictive or

malignant disposition is not Christian. The soul that harbors malice,

and that takes pleasure in exhibiting its animosities, will not only

become stunted in its spiritual growth, but will injuriously affect the

life of the Church to which it belongs. A prominent cause of

ecclesiastical disturbance is the springing up of “any root of bitterness”

(v. 15). Sometimes the noxious weed is a wicked person, like Achan,

who “troubled” Israel (Joshua 7:25); and sometimes a radically bad

principle, the growth of which may defile the Church with dissension.

In either case, it must be rooted up and cast out.


Ø      To have a brotherly care over all. This thought underlies the entire

passage. Each of us by his own example is to help the weak of the

flock to become strong; and. to set a guard upon the “lame,” so

that they may not wander out of the right way, While the cure of

souls is, of course, the especial duty of the spiritual rulers of the Church,

the expression, “looking carefully,” in v. 15, reminds us that the ordinary

members also ought to exercise the office of a bishop over one another.

The communion of our Churches would be purer, were this duty of

mutual spiritual care more clearly understood and better practiced than

it is. Indeed, we cannot place too much stress on this point, as one main

purpose and function of our Church life. No spiritual work is more

restful and rewarding, than that which a Christian man does in

connection with the particular congregation to which he belongs.


  • OUR DUTY TO OUR GOD. (vs. 14, 16-17.) We must be “pure”

as well as “peaceable.” The peace that we follow after must be “by

righteousness;” for “without holiness no man shall see the Lord.” This is

one of the most solemn sayings of the Bible. How short and simple it is;

but how pointed and powerful] It falls upon the ear with a sharp sound of

authority. It reverberates within the conscience like the echoes of thunder

among the hills. GOD IS PURE AND HOLY  therefore only the consecrated

and sanctified can see Him. Sanctification must be followed after,” i.e.

pursued earnestly. We must labor to cleanse ourselves from our carnality and



Ø      by washing in Jesus’ blood,

Ø      by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit,

Ø      by the use of the means of grace, and

Ø      by living always as in the presence of God.


Notice what the writer says in particular of the man who strives after

this “sanctification.”


Ø      He will not be a sensualist. (v. 16.) He will not only avoid acts of

gross immorality; he will hate every filthy thought. How dreadful

for any one to sit down at the Lord’s table, as a professed disciple

of Christ, who is in the habit of visiting also the disgusting haunts

of secret vice!


Ø      Neither will he be a profane person. (vs. 16, 17.) “Profane”

means common, secular, worldly; and such a person loves only the

things of sense and time, and has no appreciation of what is

 SPIRITUAL!  Esau was such a man. He cared nothing for the

blessings of the covenant, or for the hopes which centered in the

promised seed of Abraham. Hence his guilty folly in bartering

away his birthright for a mess of lentils. The apostle, in one or

two forcible expressions, depicts the consequences of this act

of profanity.  All Esau’s subsequent regrets were unavailing. On

the second occasion, when his younger brother circumvented him,

his father Isaac refused to recall the blessing which he had just

pronounced; for Isaac realized that in blessing Jacob he had

unwittingly been the mouthpiece of a Divine oracle.

Esau, therefore, was in this matter God-rejected. He failed to induce

his father to change his mind. And he found no means of undoing

his own first act of folly. “Now,” says the apostle in effect to the

Hebrew Christians, “beware of profanity like Esau’s. You belong

to God’s ‘firstborn’ nation; and the gospel of the Lord Jesus is for

‘the Jew first.’ (Romans 1:16)  Take care that you do not forfeit

your rights of spiritual primogeniture. Should you forsake the

new and final covenant, for any consideration whatever, you

will make as bad a bargain as Esau did.”  (“What shall it

profit a man if he gain the whole world and LOSE HIS

OWN SOUL?”  (See How to Be Saved - # 5, this website –

CY – 2014)


  • CONCLUSION. Esau’s character and life are a beacon still, to warn us

also back from the whirlpool of APOSTASY!   He was a man of a very

ordinary type. There are many such all around, who for the savory meat

of sensuous pleasure will barter away their birthright of spiritual

opportunity, and at last irrevocably SELL THEIR SOULS!   May Divine

grace preserve us from cultivating the character of which these words are

an adequate epitome — “A profane person, who for one mess of meat

sold his own birthright”!



Esau — a Warning (vs. 16-17)


Esau is an excellent example of what serious results may come out of sheer

thoughtlessness. (I recommend Isaiah 1 – Spurgeon Sermon – To the Thoughtless –

this website – CY – 2014)  There were special reasons why Esau should be a careful,

thoughtful, prudent man. Thoughtfulness is the need of every man in such a

maze as life is continually tending to become, but the position of some

makes thoughtfulness a special duty. So it was with Esau. He had the

birthright. To him it specially belonged to continue and increase the

prosperity and credit of the family. Yet for the sake of a single meal,

because in his hunger he could not wait a little, he sold his birthright. He

did, indeed, make a pretext of saying as it were, “What shall it profit me to

keep my birthright and lose my life?” but this very question showed that he

had never made a careful estimate of his privileges and responsibilities. The

folly of Esau’s conduct is plain enough to us; would that we could see as

clearly how often it is reproduced in the reckless, self-destructive conduct

of those to whom belongs the birthright of children of God!



Esau is called a profane person. A profane person is one who treats sacred

things as if they were common. Esau was himself a sacred person as the

firstborn, but the thought of his peculiar position never seems to have

gained real entrance to his mind. And so it too often is with us. The serious

and sublimer side of life, the side that connects us with God, Christ, and

eternity, is too seldom in our minds. Too seldom! Why, that is too

complimentary a word as regards many; they never seem to think of this

side of life at all. And assuredly none of us thinks of it as we ought to do.

We are more valuable in the eyes of God THAN WE ARE IN OUR OWN!

God looks on each one of us as on a pearl of great price, but we view the

pearl of our position with only swinish eyes.



is made to think, and think deeply, on his position, duties, and destiny; and

to this actual course of reflection he is driven sooner or later. Man cannot

escape the necessities inherent in his nature. The hint here, in this parallel

from Esau, is that these reflections may come too late. Omnipotence

cannot bring back the past. If you have failed to sow in the spring, you

cannot reap in the autumn. Nor will you be able to escape the bitterness of

reflecting that this absence of the proper harvest is your own fault.

Thousands in the earlier years of life do as Esau did. They barter the joys

of self-denial and holy aspiration for self-indulgence. The fragrance of

worldly pleasures rises into their nostrils, and they never stop to consider

the height and depth, the breadth and length, of a life redeemed by Christ

and sanctified by His Holy Spirit. Then, when the passing pleasure (when

I taught United States History in High School, one of our text books, in

commenting on the “Roaring 20’s” said:  “Is it any wonder that the

pleasures of a moment are only a momentary pleasure?” – CY – 2014)


REALITIES and they are not ready for them. Yet the parallel with Esau

must not be pushed too far. He found no place of repentance so far as the

earthly birthright was concerned.  But that is not to say that Esau has lost his

share in spiritual and eternal realities. Isaac could not give him the blessing

that belonged to another As long as he sought the earthly blessing he might

well seek with tears, and seek in vain. Along with the folly, suffering, and

futile regrets of Esau we must take the folly, suffering, and profitable

repentance of the prodigal in the parable.  (Luke 15:11-32)


There follows now, in vs. 18-29, both for encouragement and for warning,

a grand contrast between the Mosaic and Christian dispensations, founded

on the phenomena that accompanied the giving of the Law. To Mount Sinai,

with its repelling terrors, is opposed an ideal picture of Mount Zion and the

heavenly Jerusalem, expressive of the communion of saints in Christ. And

then at v. 25 (as previously in Hebrews 10.) the tone of encouragement changes

again to one of warning, the very excess of privilege being made the measure

of the guilt of slighting it.


18 “For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and

that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and

tempest,”  The allusion is to the Israelites approaching Mount Sinai when

the Law was given (see Deuteronomy 4:11, whence still more than from Exodus

19 the whole description is taken, “And ye came near [προσήλθετε prosaelthete

the same word as is used supra, ch.4:16; 7:25], and stood under the mountain”).

Though the word “mount” in the Received Text has the support of no ancient

authority, it must be understood, whether or not originally written. For it comes

after προσήλθετε in the passage of Deuteronomy which is evidently referred to,

the following words, “blackness, darkness, tempest” (σκότος skotosdarkness;

 γνόφῳ  - gnopho blackness; murkiness;  θυέλλῃ  - thellae – tempest; tornado),

being also found there. And otherwise we should have to translate, “a touched

[i.e. palpable] and kindled fire;” but “touched” (ψηλαφωμένῳ - psaelaphomeno

to be handled; to be touched) is not suitable to fire; and we should also lose the

evidently intended contrast between the two mountains of Sinai and Zion,

which appears in v. 22. Neither may we translate, as some would do, “a

mountain that might be touched, and kindled fire;” for the original passage

in Deuteronomy has “and the mountain burned with fire (καὶ τὸ ὄρος ἐκαίετο

πυρὶ - kai to oros ekaieto puri).” The participle ψηλαφωμένῳ | (literally, that was

touched), rather than ψηλαλητῳ - psaelalaeto -  may be used here, although on the

occasion referred to all were forbidden to touch the mountain, by way of

bringing more distinctly into view the actual Sinai, which was touched at

other times, and which Moses both touched and ascended. If so, the main

purpose of the word is to contrast the local and palpable mountain of the

Law with the ideal Mount Zion which is afterwards spoken of. Or, the verb

ψηλαλητῳ - psaqelalaeto - may here carry with it its common sense of groping after,

as in the dark (compare Deuteronomy 28:29, καὶ ἔσῃ ψηλαφῶν μεσημβρίας ὡσεὶ

ψηλαφήσαιτυφλὸς ἐν τῷ σκότει kai esae psaelaphon mesaembrias hosei

psaelaphaesai ho tuphlos en to skoteiand you shall grope at noonday as the

\blind gropes in darkness), with reference to the cloudy darkness about Sinai,

and in contrast with the clear unclouded vision of Zion.


19 “And the sound of a trumpet (Exodus 19:16), and the voice of words

(Deuteronomy 4:12); which voice they that heard intreated that the word should

not be spoken to them any more:  (Deuteronomy 18:16; compare v. 25 and

Exodus 20:18): 20 (For they could not endure that which was commanded

(rather, enjoined),  And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be

stoned (Exodus 19:13; “or thrust through with a dart” is an interpolation in the

text from the passage in Exodus):, or thrust through with a dart:  21 And so

terrible was the sight, that Moses said,  I exceedingly fear and quake: 

(Deuteronomy 9:19, ἔκφοβός εἰμι ekphobos eimiI was afraid, to which

ἔντρομος. enotromosquake; in a tremor - is added in the text. This saying

of Moses was really uttered afterwards, when he was descending from the

mount, and became aware of the sin of the golden calf. It was called forth by

the people’s sin, but was due to the alarming character of the preceding

phenomena, of τὸ φανταζόμενον -  to phantazomenonsight; spectacle –

that which was being revealed or manifested. Mention of it is added here

to show that the general fear extended even to Moses, the mediator)”

This whole account, thus powerfully condensed from Exodus

and Deuteronomy, presents a vivid picture of the terrors of the Mosaic

revelation. God was, indeed, revealed to man, but still as unseen and

unapproachable, terrible in His wrath against sin, and surrounded by sounds

and sights of fear. But now mark the serene and glorious contrast.


22 “But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living

God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of

angels,  23 To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are

written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of

just men made perfect, 24 And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant,

and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things that that of Abel.”

But ye are come unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the

heavenly Jerusalem. Here, as in Galatians 4, Zion and Jerusalem, ideally

regarded, are contrasted with Sinai. The foundation of the conception is in the

Old Testament. When David at length won the citadel of Zion, and placed the

ark upon it, it was a sort of primary and typical fulfillment of the promise of rest,

seen afar off by the patriarchs and from the wilderness. Psalm 24., which was

sung on that occasion, expresses the idea of the King of glory being at length

enthroned there, and His people of clean hands and pure hearts being admitted

to stand in the holy place before Him (compare “This is my rest forever: here

will I dwell,” - Psalm 132:14). In the Psalms generally the holy hill of Zion

continues to be viewed as the LORD’S immovable abode, where He is surrounded

by thousands of angels, and whence He succors His people (compare Psalms 48.;

68.; 125.; 132). Then by the prophets it is further idealized as the scene

and center of Messianic blessings (compare Isaiah 12.; 33.; 35.; 46:13;

Micah 4.; to which many other passages might be added). Compare also

the visions, in the latter chapters of Ezekiel, of the ideal city and temple of

the future age. Lastly, in the Apocalypse the seer has visions of “Mount

Zion” (14.), and “the holy city, new Jerusalem” (21.), with the presence

there of God and the Lamb, and with myriads of angels, and innumerable

multitudes of saints redeemed. If, in the passage before us, a distinction is

to be made between Mount Zion and “the heavenly Jerusalem,” it may be

that the former represents the Church below, the latter the heavenly

regions, though both are blended together in one grand picture of the

communion of saints. For so in Revelation 14. the hundred and forty-four

thousand on Mount Zion seem distinct from the singers and harpers round

the throne, whose song is heard from heaven and learned by those below;

while the picture of the holy city in Revelation 21. is one entirely heavenly,

representing there the final consummation rather than any present state of

things. And to an innumerable company of angels, to the general

assembly and Church of the Firstborn (rather, and to myriads, the

general assembly of angels, and the Church of the Firstborn), which are

written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of

just men made perfect, and to Jesus the Mediator of a new covenant,

and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of

Abel (literally, than Abel). Of the several ways of translating the beginning

of the above passage, the best seems to be to take μυριάσιν muriasinmyriads;

to ten thousands; innumerable - by itself as including both the angels and the

Church of the Firstborn, and to connect πανηγύρει  - panaegureito the

general assembly - with “angels” only. “Myriads” is a well-known expression for

the LORD’S attendant hosts (compare  Jude 1:14; Deuteronomy 33:2;

Daniel 7:10); further, καὶ - kaiand - which throughout the passage connects the

different objects approached, comes between πανηγύρει and ἐκκλησίᾳ -

ekklaesia – to the out called; church --, not between ἀγγέλων angelonangels;

messengers and πανηγύρει, and the application of both πανηγύρει and ἐκκλησίᾳ

to πρωτοτόκων prototokonof the first born - would seem an unmeaning

redundancy. The word πανηγύριςpanaeguris -  public festival -  which in classical

Greek denotes properly the assembly of a whole nation for a festival, is peculiarly

appropriate to the angels, whether regarded (as in the Old Testament) as

ministering round the throne or as congregated to rejoice over man’s

redemption. (Luke 15:7)  “The Church of the Firstborn” seems to denote the

Church militant rather than the Church triumphant; for


(1) ἐκκλησίᾳ is elsewhere used for the Church on earth (so also in the

Old Testament; compare Psalm 79:6);


(2) the phrase, ἀπογεγραμμένων ἐν οὐρανοῖς apogegrammenon en ouranois

which are written in heaven - expresses the idea of being enrolled in the books

of heaven rather than being already there (compare Luke 10:20; Philippians 4:3;

Revelation 20:12; 21:27);


(3) the “spirits of the perfected” are mentioned afterwards as a class

distinct. The word πρωτοτόκων may be suggested here by the firstborn of

Israel, who were specially hallowed to the Lord (Numbers 3:13), and

numbered as such by Moses (Ibid. v.43), or perhaps still more by

the birthright (πρωτοτόκων) spoken of above as forfeited by Esau. God’s

elect may be called His firstborn as being hallowed to Him and heirs of His

promises (compare Exodus 4:22, Israel is my son, even my firstborn;” and

Jeremiah 31:9, “Ephraim is my firstborn”). They thus correspond to the

hundred and forty-four thousand of Revelation 14., standing on Mount

Zion, being “redeemed from the earth,” and having “the Father’s Name

written on their foreheads;” seen distinct from, and yet in communion with,

the saints in bliss, whose voices are heard above. Between them and the

spirits of the perfected is interposed, “God the Judge of all;” and this

appropriately, since before Him the saints on earth must appear ere they

join the ranks of the perfected: the former look up to Him from below; the

latter have already passed before Him to the rest assigned them.

Tετελειωμένων teteleiomenonperfected; made perfect) expresses, as

elsewhere in the Epistle, full accomplishment of an and or purpose with

regard to things or persons (compare ch.2:10; 5:9; 7:19,28; 9:9; 10:1, 14; 11:40);

the word is used here of those whose warfare is accomplished, and who have

attained the rest of God. Their “spirits” only are spoken of, because the

“perfect consummation and bliss both in body and soul” is still to come. In the

meanwhile, with respect to the issue of their earthly course, they have been

already perfected (compare Revelation 14:13, “They rest from their labors”).

Corresponding to the Lamb in Revelation, there is seen next Jesus the

Mediator, through whom is the approach of the whole company to the

Judge of all, and the accomplishment to the perfected. The new covenant”

is, of course, meant to be contrasted with the old one before Mount Sinai,

under which there was no such approach or accomplishment. Then “the

blood of sprinkling” has reference to that wherewith the old covenant was

ratified (Exodus 24.; cf. supra, ch. 9:18). The blood shed by

Christ on earth for atonement is conceived as carried by Him with Himself

into the holy place on high (Ibid. v.12), to be forever the blood

of sprinkling” for effectual cleansing. And this blood speaketh better things

than Abel.” His blood cried from the ground for vengeance, with the

accusing voice of primeval sin; Christ’s speaks only of reconciliation and

peace. Some commentators (Bengel in the first place, whom Delitzsch

follows)see in this contrast between Sinai and Zion a distinct parallelism

between vs. 18-19 and vs. 22-24; seven objects of approach in one

case being supposed to be set against seven in the other, More obvious is

the correspondence of the successive clauses of vs. 22-24 to the general

ideas connected with the giving of the Law. The two pictures may be

contrasted thus:


The Old Covenant.


1. Sinai, a palpable earthly mountain, surrounded by gloom and storm.

2. The angels through whom the Law was given (compare ch.2:2;

    Galatians 3:19; Acts 7:53), unseen by men, but operating in the winds

    and in the fire (compare ch.1:7).

3.  Israel congregated under the mountain, afraid, and forbidden to

     touch it.

4.  The LORD, unapproachable, shrouded in darkness or revealed in


5.  Moses, himself afraid, and winning through his mediation no access

      for the people.

6.  The blood sprinkled on the people to ratify the old covenant, but

     which could not cleanse the conscience.

7.  The sound of a trumpet and the voice of words, inspiring fear.


The New Covenant.


1.  Zion, radiant with light and crowned with the city of God.

2.  Festal choirs of assembled angels.

3.  The accepted Church of the Firstborn, with free approach to the

      holiest of all.

4.  The Judge of all, without His terrors, accessible, and awarding rest

      to the perfected.

5.  The Divine availing Mediator.

6.  The ever-cleansing blood of complete atonement.

7.  The voice of that cleansing blood, speaking of peace and pardon.


Such is the vision by the contemplation of which the inspired writer would

arouse his readers, amid their trials and waverings, to realize the things that

are eternal. He would have them pierce with the eye of faith beyond this

visible scene into the world invisible, which is no less real. If they were

perplexed and disheartened by what they found around them — by the

opposition of the world and the fewness of the faithful — he bids them

associate themselves in thought with those countless multitudes who were

on their side. The picture is, indeed, in some respects, ideal; for the actual

Church on earth does not come up to the idea of the “Church of the

Firstborn;” but it is presented according to God’s purpose for His people,

and it rests with us to make it a present reality to ourselves.



Sinai and Zion (vs. 18-24)


This grand passage, extending to the end of the chapter, forms a

magnificent finale to the lengthened general exhortation to constancy,

beginning at ch.10:19, which occupies so important a place in the Epistle.

The verses before us exhibit a highly wrought and impressive contrast

between the Mosaic and the Christian dispensations. Mount Sinai is the

emblem of the one, Mount Zion of the other. And Zion is incomparably

superior to Sinai, in the privileges and blessings which flow from it.



The nature of the dispensation inaugurated there was reflected in the

character of the scene on occasion of the giving of the Law. The old

economy was:


Ø      Sensuous. Sinai was “a mount that might be touched” (v. 18); i.e. a

tangible, palpable, physical mountain. The expression suggests the

ceremonialism which was so prominent a feature of the Mosaic

dispensation. The scene at Sinai was spectacular; and Judaism, in

like manner, was a religion of externals. Its teaching was elemental,

because elementary, Its ritual was sensuous. Its precepts were

sustained by earthly sanctions.


Ø      Obscure. When God came down upon Sinai, He made blackness

and darkness” His pavilion; He revealed Himself in flame and storm.

This is an emblem of the clouded character of the Old Testament

revelation. Under it the plan of redemption still remained veiled in

mystery. The way into the holy place was not yet made manifest”

(ch.9:8). The Jews, in their ignorance and weakness, could only bear

a shaded, shadowy, portentous manifestation of truth.


Ø      Exclusive. God spoke at Horeb only to one small nation, gathered

before Him there on the plain, and separated by the rocks and passes

of the desert from the great peoples of the world. The Jews were a

little flock, and the Shepherd of Israel shut them into a little fold by



Ø      Remote. The Hebrews dared not approach the God who revealed

Himself to them. The mountain was fenced round, and the stern

penalty of death was threatened upon the trespasser (v. 20).

Similarly, while the Mosaic economy granted a certain access to

God, and Israel was “a people near unto Him,” this access was

yet not the most real. For Jehovah, to the mind of the Jew, was

clothed with thunder; legal barriers stood between Him and

sinful men; and the Levitical system was saturated with ceremonial

restrictions. Moses could not be an adequate mediator for Israel, to

bring them to God; at the giving of the Law he was himself smitten

with fear and trembling (v. 21).


Ø      Terrible. This is the most prominent feature of the whole picture. At

Sinai the lightning flashed and the thunder rolled; the trump of God

sent forth its wild weird blasts, and the awful voice of the Eternal

spoke the ten “words” (v. 19). But the people could not endure the

revelation. They crouched and cowered in terror.


“When God of old came down from heaven,

In power and wrath He came;

Before His feet the clouds were riven,

Half darkness and half flame.


“Around the trembling mountain’s base

The prostrate people lay;

A day of wrath, and not of grace;

A dim and dreadful day.”



Now, this awful scene symbolized the spirit and genius of the old

dispensation. The Law inspired terror. It was “the ministration of

death” and of “condemnation.” (II Corinthians 3:7,9)  It “bore

children unto bondage.” The ceremonial system became an

unbearable yoke, by reason of its burdensome constraints;

while the moral law pronounced its pitiless curses upon the



Ø      Temporary. Sinai rears its shaggy cliffs of granite in the naked

wilderness, and Israel made only a year’s encampment there. The

tented plain of the desert was not their home. And so the

dispensation set up at Mount Sinai was provisional and preparatory.

It was only to stand until, under the Divine leading, the Church

should be brought to the spiritual Mount Zion, and to the heavenly

Jerusalem as its “city of habitation.”



ZION. (vs. 22-24.) Although we did not attempt to trace the various

points of comparison in detail, we should yet be impressed with the

contrast as seen in the large outlines of the two pictures, and in their

general tone and color. The new economy, as represented by Mount

Zion, is:


Ø      Spiritual. The Church of Jesus Christ is the ideal Zion. It is also “the

heavenly Jerusalem,” the metropolis of the mediatorial kingdom.

The New Testament system of religion is inward, supersensible,

experimental. The types and ceremonies of Sinai have passed away.

The matter of the new revelation is more spiritual. Christianity

speaks of righteousness, not of ritual. The gospel laws are written



Ø      Clear. No night, or cloud, or storm gathers around Mount Zion; its very

name means “sunny.” The Sun of righteousness shines upon its towers

and palaces, gilding them with brightness and beauty. The new covenant

is “clear as the sun” in its teachings. It has given the world the most

advanced truth; and it presents that truth in the simplest and the most

explicit form.


Ø      All-embracing. Mount Sinai stands in the lonely and silent desert; but

Mount Zion is the center of a populous city, whose teeming inhabitants

are cosmopolitans. The Jewish Church was shut out from intercourse

with the rest of the world; but our fellow-citizens under the new

covenant are:


o       The holy angels: “myriads of angels, a festal assembly”

(vs. 22-23); — the cherubim and seraphim, all the princes,

potentates and rulers of the celestial hierarchy.


o       The saints on earth: the “Church of the Firstborn who are

enrolled in the album of heaven. Israel was mustered and

numbered at Sinai; and so the New Testament Church, although

dispersed all over the world, forms but ONE SOCIETY  of

firstborn  ones, each of whom is a prince of the blood of GOD!


o       The believers of the ancient Church: the spirits of just men

made perfect.” The disembodied souls of the Old Testament

saints could not be made perfect “apart from us” (ch.11:40);

and thus we now form ONE BROTHERHOOD with them,

as well as with departed believers who lived in Christian times.


Ø      Access-giving. At Sinai “the people stood afar off.” They could not

draw near to God. The presence of His attending angels brought them

no confidence. The mediation of Moses could not remove the barrier

of their guilt. But now the great invitation is, Come. The sum of

gospel privilege is expressed in the words, “Ye are come” (v. 22).

Believers have been admitted to the mount and city of God, to the

companionship of His angels, to the fellowship of His redeemed

saints, and into HIS VERY PRESENCE as the righteous “Judge,

THE GOD OF ALL!” And to what are we indebted for this

access? We have come to God, because we have come “to Jesus,”

and have been sprinkled with His “BLOOD (v. 24). Christ and

His blood are the ground of all our blessings, and the sum of all.

The nail-pierced hand of A BETTER MEDIATOR than Moses

has opened for us the door of access.


Ø      Genial. The scene at Sinai was terrific; but all is peaceful in the sunny

garden-city of Zion. It is true that the punishments connected with the

new dispensation are far more dreadful than the merely spectacular

terrors of the old; but these occupy the background of the picture,

while at Sinai the terrors were in the foreground. And ALL WHO

COME “to the blood of sprinkling” ARE SAFE!   The atmosphere

of the new covenant is balmy and genial by reason of the merit of

that blood. Abel spoke (ch. 11:4) by his sacrifice only of a coming

atonement and a future redemption; but Christ’s blood certifies that

these blessings have been secured. And so the whole panorama of

Zion is genial and attractive. Its verdure is unfading (Psalm 72:6);

all is winsome and gladsome and serene.


Ø      Final. “The heavenly Jerusalemis “the city which hath the

foundations” (ch.11:10). The life of the Church now is no longer a

tent-life. It has exchanged the tabernacle for the true temple. The

covenant of which Jesus is the Mediator is a “new,” i.e. (according to

the Greek in v. 24) a fresh covenant, one that shall never become stale

or old. The kingdom of heaven is a “kingdom that cannot be shaken”

(v. 28). As this whole picture embraces the entire history of the Christian

Church, its truthfulness will be more and more appreciated as the

centuries roll on, and most of all in the times of the latter-day glory.


  • CONCLUSION. The practical improvement of this graphic and pregnant

passage is indicated in the solemn verses which follow.



The Exalted Privileges of Sincere Christians (vs. 18-24)




Ye are come unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the

heavenly Jerusalem.” We do not apply these words to heaven, but to the

Church upon earth, the kingdom of Christ here and now; because in the

sacred Scriptures Mount Zion is not set forth as the antithesis of

heaven, but of the Christian Church (Galatians 4:24-26); and the text

affirms that Christians “are come unto Mount Zion,” etc. It is

the statement of a present fact, and not a future prospect. Mark the

characteristics of this distinguished society.


Ø      It is spiritual in its constitution. “The heavenly Jerusalem.” The

qualification for admission into this society is spiritual, not carnal;

a thing of character, not of circumstances; not physical descent

from Abraham, but moral approximation to Christ. Its worship is

not restricted by local limitations, or by conventional and artificial

rules; but by spiritual conditions only.The hour cometh, when

neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, shall ye worship the

Father.... The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers

shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth,” etc. (John 4:21-24).

Wherever there is a devout soul, there is the true Zion. The contrite

heart can consecrate for itself a temple wherever it may be.


Ø      It is hallowed by the Divine presence. “Ye are come unto Mount Zion,

the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem.” Previous to the

destruction of Jerusalem by Titus, the name Mount Zion was applied

exclusively to the eastern hill, or that on which the temple stood. The

glory of the Holy Land to the pious Hebrew was Jerusalem, and the

glory of Jerusalem was Mount Zion, and the glory of Mount Zion

was the temple, and the glory of the temple was the Shechinah

(compare Psalm 48:1-3; 80:1; 132:13-14). “The Lord is in His holy

 temple.” “He sitteth between the cherubim. The Lord is great in Zion.”

(Ibid. ch. 99:1-2)  But in a higher sense He dwells in the consecrated

heart, and in the Christian Church. Where two or three are gathered

together in my Name, there am I in the midst of them.”  (Matthew



Ø      Its members are individually consecrated to God. “To the Church of the

Firstborn.” The firstborn of Israel were dedicated to God as His priests

(Exodus 13:1-2, 11-15). Afterwards the tribe of Levi was selected for

this service instead of the firstborn of all the tribes (Numbers 3:11-13).

And it is characteristic of every Christian that he is consecrated to God;

he is a priest unto God. “Ye are a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual

sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ Ye are an elect race,

a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession.”

(I Peter 2:5,9)


Ø      Its members are heirs to a glorious inheritance. All Christians are

called “firstborn” because they are all heirs of the heavenly inheritance.

“We are children of God: and if children, then heirs,”  (Romans 8:17) 

Heirs “unto an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled,”  (I Peter 1:4)


Ø      Its members are INDIVIDUALLY KNOWN UNTO GOD. They

“are written in heaven.” They are not yet citizens of heaven who have

taken up their full citizenship by passing through death, but persons to

whom their citizenship is assured, they being as yet here below.

This enrolment in the book of life is the sign that the citizenship of the

Christian is in heaven, and that his name and character are known unto

God. “The Lord knoweth them that are His.”  (II Timothy 2:19)

The good Shepherd calleth His own sheep by name”  (John 10:3;

compare Luke 10:20).



“Ye are come… to an innumerable company of angels.” Notice:


Ø      The great number of angelic beings. The text speaks of “myriads of

angels,” an expression which is employed to indicate a great multitude.

John in spiritual vision saw “many angels round about the throne;…

and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and

thousands of thousands.”  (Revelation 5:11)


Ø      The joyful spirit of angelic beings. And to myriads, the festal host of

angels.”  πανηγύρει  - panaegureito the general assembly; to

universal convocation - is the complete, multitudinous, above all,

jubilant, festal, and blissful assembly. “There is joy in the presence

of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.”  (Luke 15:10)

They rejoice in the progress of the cause of Christ, in the extension

of His Church, in the triumphs of His cross and Spirit.


Ø      The gracious relation of angelic beings to Christians. Angels were

present at Sinai in great numbers, and assisted at the giving of the

Law (compare ch. 2:2; Deuteronomy 33:2; Galatians 3:19). But their

ministry upon that occasion seems to have been majestic and terrible,

fitted to awe but not to attract men. But their relation to Christians

is gracious and engaging. We are come unto them. Invisibly yet

beneficently they are present with us as our spiritual helpers.

“Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for

them who shall be heirs of salvation?”   (ch. 1:14)



PERFECTED SPIRITS OF THE GOOD. “And to the spirits of just men

made perfect.” We have here:


Ø      The noblest portion of human beings. “Spirits.” Having laid down

their bodies at death, these thinking, reflecting, loving, worshipping

spirits live on in consciousness and in blessedness.


Ø      A commendable character of human beings. “Spirits of just men.” Not

innocent; but pardoned and purified from sin through the mercy of God.

Spirits of all the just who have entered the eternal state, from righteous

Abel down to the spirit which last responded to the home-call.


Ø      The most excellent condition of human beings. “Spirits of just men

made perfect.” Made perfect, not in degree, but in character and

condition.  Perfect as being without error and sin, but not as being

incapable of further progress. They are without sin, but they will

grow in holiness. They are without error, but they will increase in

knowledge. “Made perfect;” then how different are they from

even the best of men in this world! Many an imperfection will be

put off by us at death; many an error will be corrected soon as we

see things in the clear light of eternity. “We are come… to the

spirits of just men made perfect.” They are not lost to us. Life and

immortality are brought to light in the gospel. Deep and tender is

their interest in us. We are one with them in sacred and blessed



E’en now by faith we join our hands

   With those that went before;

And greet the blood-besprinkled bands

   On the eternal shore.”

                     (C. Wesley.)



to God the Judge of all.” At Sinai the Israelites were terrified at the signs

of His presence as Lawgiver; but in this later dispensation sincere

Christians draw near to Him with confidence even as the Judge of all.

Nay, there is a sense in which this aspect of His being attracts them. They

are yet in the world. They have enemies to contend against and wrongs to

endure; and they look up to God as their righteous Judge, who will vindicate

their right and their cause. We are come unto Him. He is not a cold, impassive,

remote being. He is near to us; He loves us, draws us to Himself, and blesses

us with His gracious presence. We confide in Him, and realize our holiest

impulses and most blessed experiences in fellowship with Him.



Jesus the Mediator of a new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that

speaketh better things than that of Abel.”


Ø      We are come to Him as our Mediator. By Him God is brought so

near to us, and we are reconciled to God. Through Him we enter

into the possession of all our exalted and rich privileges.


Ø      We are come to Him who effected His mediatorial work by the

sacrifice of His own life. The blood of sprinkling is His own

precious blood, which He shed for us. “We have our redemption

through His blood,” etc. And this blood speaks of:


    • the infinite love of God,
    • the full and free forgiveness of sins,
    • spiritual perfection, and
    • endless progress and blessedness.


  • CONCLUSION. Great privileges involve great responsibilities.


25 See that ye refuse not Him that speaketh. For if they escaped not, who

refused Him that spake (rather, warned; the word here used is not λαλοῦντα

lalounta Him that speaketh; the one speaking, as before, but χρηματίζοντα

 chraematizonta Him that spake; the one apprizing - expressive of a Divine

admonition or warning.  In the passive it is translated “warned of God,”

“admonished of God,” Matthew 2:12, 22; supra. ch.8:5; 11:7; compare Acts 10:22,

ἐχρηματίσθη ὑπὸ ἀγγέλου ἁγίου echraematisthae hupo angelou hagiou – was

 directed by a holy angel) on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn

away from Him that speaketh (or, warneth) from heaven.” Here the warning

begins.  “Him that speaketh (τὸν λαλοῦντα – ton lalountaHim that speaketh; the

One speaking),” is suggested by λαλοῦντι  - lalountispeaketh; talking; speaking –

in the preceding verse. But the subject is changed: it is God, not the “blood of

sprinkling,” that is now regarded as speaking to us from heaven. It was God

also that warned on earth; not, as some take it, Moses, whom the word

χρηματίζοντα does not suit: of him it is said, κεχρημάτισται kechraematistai

admonished; had been apprized - (ch. 8:5). The allusion is to the voice heard

from the earthly Sinai, which the people entreated (supra, v. 19, παρῃτήσαντο

paraetaesantorefuse -  the same word as is used here) should be heard no more.

But they escaped not the hearing of that voice, or the consequences of disregarding

its warning (compare ch. 2:2; 3:10).


26 “Whose voice then shook the earth: but now He hath promised,

saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven.”

Whose voice then shook the earth (see Exodus 19:18, “The whole mount

quaked greatly,” though there the Septuagint  has λαὸς laospeople -

instead of ὄρος orosmount : but compare Judges 5., “The earth quaked,”

and Psalm 114:7, “Tremble, thou earth,” etc., with reference to the phenomena

at Sinai; also Habakkuk 3:6, 10): but now He hath promised, saying,

Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven. The

prophecy referred to is Haggai 2:6-7, “Yet once, it is a little while, and

I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land; and I

will shake all nations, and the Desire of all nations shall come: and I will fill

this house with glory, saith the LORD of hosts.” Again, Ibid. v. 21, “I will

shake the heavens and the earth” (compare Isaiah 2:19,21; Revelation 6:12-17).

The prophecy was uttered with reference to the second temple, the glory of which

was to be greater than the glory of the first, in that it should be the scene of the

LORD’S final revelation of Himself to His people. Its first fulfillment is

rightly seen in Christ’s first coming (compare Haggai 2:9, “And in this

place will I give peace, saith the Lord of hosts;” and Malachi 3:1, The

Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His temple”). But the

language used points evidently, even in itself, to a further fulfillment; nor

do readers need to be reminded here of the pregnant and far-reaching sense

of all Messianic prophecy.  The ultimate reference is what is seen dimly afar

off in so many of the prophetic visions — the final dissolution of the whole

present order of things, to be succeeded by the kingdom of ETERNAL

RIGHTEOUSNESS (compare Psalm 102:25-27; II Peter 3:10-13). By the

heaven that is to be shaken in that great day is meant, of course, not the eternal

abode of God, but that which is created and visible (τῶνπεποιημένων

ton pepoiaemenonof having been made - v. 27). This final shaking is set

against the local and typical shaking of Mount Sinai in two points of



  • its extending to the whole creation, and  
  • its being once for all (Ἔτι ἅπαξepi hapaxyet once);


and from the latter expression the removing of the things thus

finally shaken is in the next verse inferred. This inference, though not

following necessarily from the expression itself, is involved in the general

drift of Haggai’s prophecy, taken in connection with other cognate ones, in

which an entirely NEW AND HEAVENLY ORDER  is pictured as rising

over the ruins of the old (compare Isaiah 65:17; 66:22, referred to in II Peter 3:7,

10, 13, “new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.”


27 “And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those

things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things

which cannot be shaken may remain.  28 Wherefore we receiving a

kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may

serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:  29 For our

God is a consuming fire.”  And this word, Yet once more, signifieth

the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that have been

made, that those things which are not shaken may remain. Wherefore,

receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken (observe the present participle,

παραλαμβάνοντες paralambanontesreceiving: we already belong to

this kingdom, which exists now behind the veil of this visible scene, and

will survive its catastrophe; observe also that the phrase, βασιλείαν

ἀσάλευτον παραλαμβάνοντες basileian asaleuton paralambanontes -

receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved - corresponds with Daniel

7:18, καὶ παραλήψονται τὴν βασιλείαν ἅγιοι ὑψίστου kai paralaepsontai

ton basileian hagioi hupsistoubut the saints of the most high shall receive

shall receive the kingdom  — it implies an actual share in the royalty of the

kingdom; compare Ephesians 5:5; Revelation 1:6; 5:10), let as have grace (or,

thankfulness; the usual meaning of ἔχωμεν χάριν echomen charinlet us

have grace; we may be having grace - is “to be thankful,” or “to

give thanks,” as in Luke 17:9; I Timothy 1:12; II Timothy 1:3),

whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:

for our God is a consuming fire. This last verse is from Deuteronomy 4:24,

where the Israelites are being warned of the danger of forgetting the

covenant of the LORD their God. The LORD’S nature is not changed: He

is still a consuming fire against evil, as He declared Himself from Sinai; and

if we scorn the present dispensation of grace, the day of judgment will still

be to us a day of terror (compare ch. 10:26-31)


“A kingdom which cannot be moved.” We have seen that this kingdom is “grace

and truth,” “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.” These are

immutable and abiding things; They are essential to the being and character of God,

and He is unchangeable and eternal. And these things as possessed by His

people are derived from Him. Ephemeral is the seeming reign of falsehood

and wrong; ETERNAL is the reign of truth and righteousness — the kingdom

of God. Amid change and decay, amid revolution and dissolution, here is

an abiding thing, a sovereign and eternal thing. Have we received the

grace and truth,” the “righteousness and peace and joy IN THE

HOLY GHOST?  Then we have received the immovable kingdom, the

kingdom which rests upon THE ETERNAL AND UNCHANGEABLE



  • Mark the blessedness of the true Christian. Amid all the painful

uncertainties and changes of this life, he possesses the unalterable and the

certain. He has a portion and an inheritance which shall not be taken away

from him. He will carry his wealth with him into eternity, and it will

increase forever. (Matthew 6:20-21)  “Grace and truth,” “righteousness

and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost,” are incorporated with his very

being, and will never pass away from him. The blessed and permanent

kingdom of God is within” him.


Christianity is not to give place to any other remedial dispensation. The patriarchal

form of religion passed away, and the Mosaic system followed; that in its turn passed

away with the advent and growth of Christianity, which will never be removed until

THE END OF TIME!   God will not speak to us with any voice more attractive,

persuasive, or convincing than that by which He now addresses us. “See

that ye refuse not Him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused Him

that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from


AT ONCE  the blessings and obligations of this kingdom.



The Final Appeal (vs. 25-29)


The body of the Epistle seems to conclude with these verses, chapter 13.

being of the nature of a postscript. The solemn warning which they utter

breaks forth abruptly. It drops like a thunderbolt out of the sunny sky of





Ø      God speaks to us from heaven. (v. 25.) At Sinai, and while the Jewish

dispensation lasted, God spoke as it were “on earth,” by an earthly

mediator, Moses; and largely by means of material forms, which were

only “copies” (ch.9:23) of the great spiritual realities. But now God

speaks “from heaven,” — from His home at the heart of the universe,

and therefore from the heart of truth; and by His Son, the Divine

Mediator, who is “in the bosom of the Father.”  (John 1:18)  The whole

Epistle is clasped together with the emphatic declaration — in its

opening sentence (ch. 1:2), and here at its close — that the Lord Jesus

is the Prophet of the new covenant.


Ø      God has removed the things that were shaken. (vs. 26-27.) It was

only “the earth” that shook at Sinai. And that convulsion speedily

subsided.  Indeed, the Jews became lulled into the delusion that

the Levitical institutions would never be overthrown. But Haggai

predicted (Haggai 2:6-7) that the shaking which was to accompany the

introduction of Christianity would affect “the heavens, and the earth,

and the sea, and the dry land, AND ALL NATIONS.”   It would do

greatly more than produce alteration in the outer form and state of the

Church. It would grasp its very heart and life — flooding it with THE

NOONDAY LIGHT of spiritual truth, and with the abundant grace

of THE HOLY GHOST!  The movables of Judaism, which had

been “made” at Sinai — the tabernacle, the priesthood, the ritual, the

sacrifices, the festivals, etc. — were “shaken” and “removed” when

the Church “came” to Zion. Judaism was only a scaffolding, set up

temporarily with a view to the erection of the permanent structure of

Christianity. Its ceremonial was the mere husk of religion; and when

the husk rotted and perished, the kernel still lived and became fruitful.


Ø      God has given us a kingdom THAT CANNOT BE SHAKEN. (v. 28.)

Believers in Christ “receive” the kingdom of Heaven; they are not only

subjects in it, but kings. And this kingdom is THE FINISHED WORK

OF GOD — THE DIVINE MASTERPIECE!  Everything connected

with it IS STABLE!   Nothing that is loose or perishable can adhere to it.

It is built upon those great facts and truths, which the convulsions that

overturned the Levitical system could not disturb. The “things which

are not shaken remain;” e.g.:


o       the character of God,

o       the moral nature and responsibility of man,

o       the dark fact of human guilt,

o       the doctrine of acceptance by sacrifice.


Christianity has solved the problem of sin, in relation to the life of man;

and therefore it “cannot be shaken.” Throughout all time the way of

salvation, the encouragements to believe, the rule of duty, the principles

of the Christian life, the fruits of holiness (I Corinthians 13:8, 13), will

be the same. And what a joy to live, as we do, AMONG THOSE

ABIDING REALITIES!   The kingdoms of the world pass away;

but Christ’s kingdom “shall stand forever” (Daniel 2:37-45).

Systems of philosophy cease to be; but the truth as it is in Jesus

endures.  Denominations disappear; but the Church continues.

Political establishments of religion are shaken; but national religion

remains. Creeds decay and wax old; but the Bible possesses an

indestructible vitality. The heavens and the earth shall pass away;

but the kingdom of the saints cannot be moved.



INVOLVE. We must:


Ø      Obey the voice of God. (v. 25.) That voice speaks to us in the

Scriptures, and in the pleadings of the Holy Spirit within our souls.

But in our time earth is “so full of dreary noises” that our weak

hearts are sorely tempted not to listen to the words of God. There

is the voice of:


o       the philosophic thinker,

o       the political leader,

o       the social reformer,

o       the scientific teacher,

o       the college professor,

o       the newspaper editor,

o       the popular novelist,

o       the movie director,

o       the Hollywood star,


 but none of these voices are prophetic.  (In the 21st century,

many are down right DEMONIC as a messenger of HELL

CY – 2014)  The man who can speak with authority

regarding some department of physical science is not on that

account entitled to deference when he discourses about God

and the future life.  ONLY the Lord Jesus Christ, the Logos, by

whom God now speaks from heaven, can instruct us concerning

the spiritual universe and THE WAY OF SALVATION!


Ø      Cherish gratitude for the kingdom. (v. 28.) “Let us have grace,” i.e.

gratitude. To cultivate the spirit of thankfulness is the very essence

and sum of Christian duty. When God in His mercy invests us with

the kingdom, what can we say, but just “Many thanks”? “I will take

the cup of salvation;”  (Psalm 116:13)  “Thanks be to God for His

unspeakable Gift.”  (II Corinthians 9:15)


Ø      Devote our lives to the service of God. (v. 28.) For, while the saint is

a king, he is at the same time a servant; indeed, he is a servant because

he is a king. The service is involved in the kingdom. The entire life of

the Christian is to be that career of devout consecration which is the

natural outcome of the grace of gratitude. And, while thankfulness is

the secret motive of the service, its befitting spirit is “reverence and awe.”

The believer’s manner and tone are not to be flippant or frivolous; but

grave, chastened, solemn.  (“In all things showing thyself a pattern

of good works:  in doctrine showing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity.”

Titus 2:7)



ENFORCED. This passage is an earnest admonition. It opens with an

arresting “Beware” (v. 25); and it sounds three notes of warning.


Ø      From Hebrew history. (v. 25.) When God spoke by Moses and the

prophets, “His people would not hearken to His voice;” and thus

they were constantly drawing down punishment upon themselves.

If, then, they escaped not who spurned the less adequate revelation

made by THE HEAVEN-DESCENDED GOD,  how may we hope

to escape, if we turn away from the full-orbed revelation made by



Ø      From Hebrew prophecy. (vs. 26-27.) God has no other “Yet once

more” to promise to the world. That was to be the last “shaking”

of the Church which should accompany the introduction of the gospel.

“It is the last hour” (I John 2:18). The final overthrow of types and

forms is proceeding. God has done all for us that He can do. He has

given us the “eternal gospel.” To reject it were to attach ourselves only



Ø      From Hebrew theology. (v. 29.) The words of this verse fitly close the

prolonged strain of exhortation. They are borrowed from Deuteronomy

4:24; and the apostle, in citing that passage here, reminds us that the

Divine character is not one of “those things that are shaken.” If the

God who spoke at Sinai was just and severe, the God who dwells in

Zion is not less so. For the very reason that God is gentleness and love

and mercy, He must be “a consuming fire” to all who are essentially

alien to Him. Sometimes, when this warning word is quoted, it is

softened after this fashion: “Out of Christ God is a consuming fire.”

But such a gloss is unwarrantable. For God is never out of Christ.

Christ is the manifested God. It is not so that God the Father is all

justice and severity, and God the Son all tenderness and grace.

Christ the Redeemer is “a consuming fire.” The most dreadful

declarations about the doom of the impenitent which the

Bible contains were made by Him.  (“And to you who are

troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed

from heaven with His mighty angels, In flaming fire taking

vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not

the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:  Who shall be punished with



                        When He shall come to be glorified in His saints and to be

                        admired in all them that believe……….!  II Thessalonians 2:7-10;

                        “And out of His mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it He should

                        smite the nations…”  See Revelation 19:11-16 – CY – 2014)



The Purpose of the Shakings (v. 27)


This chapter, which has been full of comforting elements, rises to the

highest kind of comfort at the close — that to be drawn by the believing

heart from the conviction that stable good is coming out of all present

vicissitudes. Terrible as was the shaking at Sinai, that only affected an

infinitesimal part of the crust of the earth for a short time. THERE REMAINS


was only a sign of Jehovah’s power, but the shaking yet to come will be more than a

sign; it will bring a result the most desirable of any we can imagine. Heaven

and earth will be shaken, so that the heavenly Jerusalem, the place of

Jehovah’s glory and the abode of His saints, may at last appear in all its

strength and all the excellency of its beauty. The alternate rising and falling

— the one generation going and the other coming — of the present scheme

of things will cease. THE THINGS OF ETERNITY will then be finally freed

from all the weights and encumbrances of:

o       time,

o       sin, and

o       death.



speculate on the mode of its happening. Far more important to be well

assured that this catastrophe is coming, and to rejoice that something

inexpressibly glorious and beautiful lies beyond. (II Peter 3:10-13)

Only then will the perfect men in Christ Jesus be constituted into the

perfect society. Only some such revolution in human affairs as is here

indicated can set things right finally and completely. Good and evil

are not to be forever mingled. The Lord who has so often shaken the

earth will shake both earth and heaven. Then it will be seen who is

on the rock and who on the sand, who has built gold and silver and

precious stones, and who wood, hay, and stubble.  (Matthew 7:24-27;

I Corinthians 3:11-15)  (See Isaiah 34:1-4; Revelation 6:12-17)

One of the signs of the Coming of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ

is that there will be earthquakes in various places (Matthew 24:7;

Mark 13:8; Luke 21:11)



Shaken in order that they may be utterly removed from us. Each of the

elect and glorified now within the walls of the new Jerusalem is there

because he has known within his own experience what it is for both earth

and heaven to be shaken. The whole process of life is but a continual

loosening and steady progress towards the dissolution of all the corruptible

frame. We are in the hands of both Builder and Destroyer. The spiritual life

is strengthened and enriched, while the natural is weakened and diminished.

That it is so shows that it ought to be so. All bitter and trying experiences

only bring the weak and unworthy to the surface and cast it out. Like the

corn placed in the ground, we must be ready to decay and die; that even as

it presently breaks forth to the air and sunlight, so we may break away

from our limitation and darkness into a sinless and sorrowless eternity.

This truth may be illustrated:


Ø      from the physical frame;

Ø      from the present mixed relations of life.


Ø      A very practical question is — HAVE WE EXPERIENCE OF THE

UNSHAKEN THINGS? Do we know the work OF THE LORD

JESUS  to be our only secure refuge amid the tempests and

earthquakes of our life? Can we look away through vicissitudes of

time and sense, and feel that far out of their reach is A KINGDOM

OF ETERNAL  which the Lord fills with His life and love and power?

Our citizenship must be IN THE HEAVENLY JERUSALEM!



The Unshaken Kingdom (v. 28)


  • THE CARNAL HOPES OF ISRAEL. We know well from the Gospels

what notions the disciples had of a visible kingdom, with its center of

power and glory in the earthly Jerusalem. It was a dominating thought

among them down to the very departure of their master. They greeted Him,

getting ready for His ascension, with the inquiry whether He was about to

restore the kingdom to Israel (Acts 1:6); And we may well suppose that

among all the Hebrew Christians this hope prevailed to the last. A spiritual

and invisible kingdom could not all at once become manifest. And as a

visible kingdom retreated further and further into the region of

improbabilities, this would add another trial to whatever came in the way

of personal suffering. They had prayed the prayer, “Thy kingdom come,”

but prayed it too much  after their own fancies. And now to their sorrowing

eyes it looked a kingdom clean gone forever.



The writer has just been dividing existing things into the shaken and the

unshaken. Naturally, therefore, considering what the hopes of Hebrew

Christians had been, there follows a reference to an unshaken kingdom.

The true Israelite does well to keep his thoughts fixed on a kingdom. But

let him be careful not to neglect the reality for the phantom. God desires a

kingdom based on something more than material force, for such kingdoms

can only get built up through ambition, cruelty, violence, and injustice. God

has promised a kingdom, and His promise cannot be broken; but it must be

kept in His own way. That kingdom has its foundation in the accepted claim

and power of Christ over the individual human heart. We may say of that

kingdom what Paul says of the love of God in Christ Jesus, “that neither

death, nor life,… nor things present, nor things to come. . . nor any other

creature, should be able to shake the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

(Romans 8:38-39)  It cometh without observation (Luke 17:20); the

inspection of the natural eye will never discern it; the assaults of the

natural man operate in another realm altogether.



grace,” says the writer. What he really means is, “Let us show

thankfulness.” Instead of sorrowing over a corrupt ideal vanished, let us be

deeply thankful for a Divine reality THAT CANNOT PASS AWAY! 

The old mode of serving God has gone forever. The old temple, with its

altar and its holy place, its sacrifices and its priests, can never be aught

but a memory. The foreshadowing service of outward ceremonies is gone,

and the true spiritual service HAS FOR EVER TAKEN ITS PLACE!

And recollect especially THE SAME GOD REMAINS!   God appointed

the old λατρεία latreiaDivine service (ch. 9:1) from amid all the terrors

of Sinai. And He is not the less God of Sinai because He appears in the

gentler aspect of Father of Christ Jesus. Israel’s God Jehovah was a

consuming fire upon occasion, and the same indignation and power reside

in Him still. Whatever outward form our λατρεία may take — and there is

much latitude in this — there must ever be a deep feeling of personal

unworthiness and of humblest adoration.  Outward pomp in itself,

however costly, however laborious, cannot please the spiritual God;

if it have no heart of spirituality and sincerity, the fires of

His wrath will soon lick it all away.



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