“Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed”. – Hebrews 12:12-13
Run the Race
There are seasons when the Christian life can seem like it’s a slurry of unrelenting trials without expiration dates. Some trials turn from days into weeks, weeks into months, and months into years. The temptation to despair, frustration, bitterness and complaining builds each day that hardships linger on.
2020-2021 anyone? Just look at the rising rates of anxiety and depression in the United States.
In Hebrews 12:1-2 the writer describes the Christian life as a race that needs to be run, which is probably one of the most well known exercise and fitness metaphors for the Christian life. The writer’s exhortation is to run the race with Christ as our marker, strength and hope.
But this race is not a cake walk. The race requires endurance, and endurance implies hardship that needs to be overcome.
Run the Race with Endurance
The author tells his audience to consider Christ’s own endurance so that in the race they may “not grow weary and fainthearted” (Hebrews 12:3). In His life and death, the sinless Christ received hostility from sinners, yet he endured. Yet in our weakness, we are quickly prone to weariness and despair at the slightest obstacle.
The author gives several other reminders to his listeners to move them towards endurance. Their struggle against sin has not killed them (Hebrews 12:4). They are God’s sons (Hebrews 12:5), and God as a perfect parent brings loving discipline and chastisement into their lives for their good (Hebrews 12:6-10). They are being sanctified; the fruit of God’s fatherly discipline is sharing in “his holiness” (Hebrews 12:10) and the “peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Hebrews 12:11) in their lives.
These encouragements crescendo into a call to action for the weary listener in Hebrews 12:12-13. And the exhortation in these verses is more than a call to lift your arms up, strengthen your knees and walk straight. The language used in verses 12-13 contains imagery of that of a paralyzed person called to get up walk.
Get up and Walk
The Greek verb in Hebrews 12:12 for “lift” and “strengthen” is anorthoō, which means to “set up” or “make erect”. Anorthoō is used in Luke 13:13 to describe what happened after Jesus laid his hands on a woman who had a disabling spirit for eighteen years. This spirit caused her to be “bent over and could not fully straighten herself” (Luke 13:11). When Jesus lays his hands on her, she was immediately “made straight” (Luke 13:13), or anorthoō. She was able to stand up.
There are other words that communicate disability in these verses. In Hebrews 12:12 the word “weak” that is used to describe the knees is the Greek word paralyō, which we get our word paralyzed from. Paralyō is used to describe the paralyzed man in Luke 5:18 who was lowered through the roof by his friends to be healed by Jesus.
In Hebrews 12:13, the words “lame” (chōlos) and “healed” (iaomai) have been seen together elsewhere in scripture. In John 5 these words are paired together in the story of the man who waited by the pool of Bethesda. This pool was described as having five colonnades, and in these lay “a multitude of invalids – blind, lame (chōlos), and paralyzed” (John 5:3). And one of these invalids had been in that condition for 38 years until Jesus told him to “Get up, take up your bed, and walk” (John 5:8). This man’s lameness was immediately rectified and later on in the chapter the man was described as the “man who had been healed (iaomai)” (John 5:13).
Get up and Run the Race
Ever felt paralyzed by hardships? Ever felt like the unrelenting trials got the better of you, and have made you immobile? The audience here in Hebrews 12 sure did.
How weary and fainthearted were the author’s audience? How tiresome were they under their struggles? How were they enduring under the loving chastisement of the Father?
They were weary and despondent enough for the author to exhort them using language that their bodies were lame in need of healing. The author’s admonishment in Hebrews 12:12-13 goes something like this – you who are lame and paralyzed by your suffering, don’t remain in that immovable state. Get up and walk!
And in the full context of Hebrews 12, the exhortation is to get up and run.
Run the race with full endurance, setting your eyes not on the trials in front of you, but on Christ. Consider His endurance. God has preserved you thus far. And you are God’s son whom He loving disciplines for our good and sanctification.
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