By Sam E. Stone
This lesson continues our study of highlights from the book of Hebrews. The early chapters clearly demonstrate ways in which the New Covenant is superior to the Old. The letter was written to urge Christians to remain faithful. Today we are reminded that, like a good parent, the Lord disciplines his children.
The writer has just concluded what is often called “the faith chapter” in which he uses past heroes of the faith as an illustration. Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses. Imagine yourself in the center of a vast arena. You are in a race. The amphitheater is filled with observers—among them the Old Testament saints just mentioned (Hebrews 11). They are more than observers; they are examples. They were faithful, even to death.
Let us throw off everything that hinders . . . and run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Put forth your best effort in the race of life (1 Corinthians 9:24-26). The secret in doing this is to keep your eyes on Jesus. He is both the supreme example and the originator of our faith (Hebrews 2:10). Likewise, he is the one who completes our faith, the Alpha and Omega (Revelation 1:8). Jesus kept before him the perfect joy and satisfaction found in doing the Father’s will. His desire to save a lost world helped him endure the cross. Now he has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. He is in the highest place of honor in the universe (Ephesians 1:20, 21).
Consider him. Jesus provides the ultimate example for the believer. He was willing to die the most shameful death for us (Philippians 2:7, 8). He endured such opposition from sinners. Their opposition was far more than just insults, criticism, misunderstanding, and rejection. It included every aspect of his pain that day when he died on Calvary. He went through so much; we have gone through so little.
The writer goes on to make this very point: you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. The readers had probably undergone some resistance, possibly persecution, but they had not had to die for their faith. Some see in this an allusion to Christ’s experience in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:42-44).
God provides encouragement for his children. The passages cited are found in Proverbs 3:11, 12. Such experiences should be recognized as discipline. Just as a parent disciplines a child, so our heavenly Father disciplines his children. God permits life’s difficulties, even though he does not cause them all. He is able to use them to accomplish good (Romans 8:28). An example of this is the way in which God disciplined the children of Israel in the desert for 40 years (Deuteronomy 8:2-5).
The believer has a father-son relationship with God. When a parent loves a child, the parent will discipline that child. This should encourage us. If God didn’t care about us, he would not discipline us. If the child is not theirs, parents would not care enough to spend the time and effort needed to correct him.
Discipline gives evidence of a parent’s desire to teach the child to do what is right. Most people come to appreciate the fact that their parents did not allow them to grow up without supervision. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! We have a perfect Father. He never disciplines in anger, in an inappropriate way, or on the basis of limited information. Human parents sometimes do. God disciplines us to make it possible for us to live with him eternally.
He disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. Discipline never seems pleasant at the time. Everyone agrees on that! But later good discipline can produce a good result. Those who submissively learn from their discipline receive the benefits. The psalmist wrote, “Before I was afflicted, I went astray, but now I obey your word” (Psalm 119:67).
In the verses following our printed text, the writer adds, “Strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees.” In other words, “Be strong! Live for God!” As the old song says, “Walk with the Lord in the light of his Word! Trust and obey!”
Sam E. Stone is the former editor of Christian Standard. He continues his writing and speaking ministry from his home in Cincinnati, Ohio.