Reading for Friday, Aug 3: Hebrews 12
On the heels of the great “faith” chapter, the Hebrew writer moves back to the contemporary experience of his audience, but he imports all that he’s mentioned in ch11. It seems that the stories of faith — from Abraham to Moses, to Gideon, Barak, Samson, etc. — are intended to serve as a template for understanding our own lives. We bring these narratives with us as we ourselves journey along by faith. This is what he means when he says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses…” (v1). We aren’t navigating through all alone, but instead we are joined by a throng of faithful witnesses, each one calling out to us from the history of their own existence, “Continue to run with endurance and perseverance.” And all of this is because of Jesus, “author and perfecter” of our faith (v2). It begins with Jesus, it ends with Jesus, it’s all about Jesus. This is the story of faith that is being written in us.
The content of this story preoccupies the remainder of this chapter. “We share in his holiness,” (v10), even through discipline. “Strive for peace with everyone,” (v14) — in our red state / blue state, tinderbox culture of “inflammatory statements” and political correctness, this charge reverberates as sage counsel. “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God,” (v15). This is our calling. “…that no root of bitterness springs up…that no one is sexually immoral or unholy,” (v15-16). Are we up to the challenge? The Hebrew writer anticipates our pushback: “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” (v26).