Meditations in Hebrews 12: 49. Personal action overview
Heb 12:12,13 Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.
A Partnership: The Christian life is always a partnership. One of the partners is God and He provides our salvation in the form of the work of Christ on the Cross, and then the indwelling Holy Spirit who motivates, guides and teaches us. The other partner is us. We have to make choices, acts of the will, and we have to live out in our daily behaviour the work of Christ in and through us.
Much of this book has been theology, explaining the work of God, especially in the Jewish context, but there have also been warnings and exhortations and encouragements that require our response. Following the hallway of faith in chapter 11, this chapter started with an exhortation to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race… Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, a fourfold exhortation. He reminded us of Jesus who suffered opposition and called us to remember that we are God’s sons (and daughters) and as such, from time to time we will experience His disciplining.
Three weaknesses: It is in this context we have another link word: “Therefore” i.e. in the light of all of this, now play your part. There are things for you to do. In verses 12 and 13 there are three things to do, and an explanatory reason to do them: “Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.” The first part of verse 12 is an echo of Isa 35:3 and that quote in verse 13 comes from Prov 4:26. Let’s observe each of those three things which are expressions of weakness that comes about, I suggest, as a result of the enemy’s work:
Activity: “strengthen your feeble arms.” The word for arms is literally ‘hands’. When Solomon wrote, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might,” (Eccles 9:10) he added, “for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom,” clearly indicating the use of hands is shorthand for working, for activity. The Christian life is about activity, about serving God, doing the will of God as inspired by the Holy Spirit. When we start to ease away from God, those are the first steps to backsliding and backsliding is the precursor to apostasy. The first signs include ceasing to be fruitful in the kingdom, our hands, our activity becomes feeble and we need to seek Him for fresh strength.
Being: “and (strengthen your) weak knees. The call, we have noted previously, in Paul’s warfare teaching is “to stand”. Weak knees are a picture of giving way, of collapsing in a heap, of failing to stand, and that is a spiritual picture of the person who has become spiritually weak, poor in witness and testimony and the call is the same, to seek God for restoration, to be spiritually strengthened so that you and others around you know exactly who you are – a man or woman of God. If that is not clear, there is some strengthening to be done.
Making Progress: “Make level paths for your feet,” Walking or even running is about forward movement, progress in the Christian life. We are not called to stand still but to mature, to grow up, to progress. The call to work at making level paths ahead of you, is a call to clear away any obstacles to growth or fill in any holes, things that make you vulnerable and might make you fall. This is a call to go on in the faith.
Purpose: “so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.” A spiritually lame person is someone who has been wounded or injured and who hobbles through life but unless they get healed, that injury or wound will only get worse and they will become fully disabled. A spiritually disabled person is someone the enemy has been able to weaken and then immobilize and thus become completely ineffective in their daily walk.
Overview: Now we should see these two verses as links between all that had gone before, to a list of specific things to be done, ways to live out the Christian life righteously, things to do and things not to do, which we’ve start considering in the next study. These two verse are thus general descriptions about the quality of life or state of life that came come about when we have given way to enemy attack. Put in reverse order, those are people who have lost their way and are unclear of their direction, they are those who question who they are, and they are those who have ceased to be fruitful in the kingdom of God. The calls are therefore to make your paths clear, your direction and progress purposeful, to stand strong knowing you are an anointed child of God, who knows their gifting and call to service. Is that you and me?