As we run the Christian race, what is our goal? The writer explained the goal in verse 14: Peace with all men, and holiness before the Lord. These two goals remind us of our Lord’s high priestly ministry – King of peace and King of righteousness (Heb. 7:1-2). It requires diligence to run the race successfully lest we “fail of the grace of God” (v. 15). God’s grace does not fail, but we can fail to take advantage of His grace. In this section, the writer encouraged his readers to depend on the grace of God by urging them to look by faith in three directions.
Look back – the bad example of Esau (vv. 15-17): Esau certainly failed to act on God’s grace (see Gen. 25:27-34, 27:30-45). Esau was a “profane person” which means “common person, one who lives for the world and not God.” Esau despised his birthright and sold it to Jacob, and he missed the blessing because it was given to Jacob. Afterward, Esau tried to get Isaac to change his mind, but it was too late. Esau’s tears availed nothing. What sins will rob us of the enabling of God’s grace? These verses tell us: lack of spiritual diligence, bitterness against others, sexual immorality, and living for the world and the flesh. Some people have the idea that a “profane person” is blasphemous and filthy; but Esau was a congenial fellow, a good hunter, and a man who loved his father. He would have made a fine neighbor – but he was not interested in the things of God. God’s grace does not fail, but we can fail to depend on God’s grace. Esau is a warning to us not to live for lesser things.
Look up – the glory of the heavenly city (vv. 18-24): The writer now contrasts Mt. Sinai and the giving of the Law with the heavenly Mt. Zion and the blessings of grace in the church. He describes the solemnity and even the terror that were involved in the giving of the Law. The people were afraid to hear God’s voice, and even Moses feared and trembled! What a relief it is to move from Mt Sinai to Mt Zion! Mt Sinai represents the Old Covenant of Law, and Mt Zion represents the New Covenant of grace in Jesus Christ. He describes the “citizens” that make up the population of Mt. Zion. Innumerable angels are there. The church is there, for believers have their citizenship in heaven and their names are written in heaven. God is there of course, and so are the Old Testament saints. Jesus Christ the Mediator is there the One who shed His blood for us. When the days are difficult and we are having a hard time enduring that is when we should look up and contemplate the glories of heaven. One way to lay hold of God’s grace is to look ahead by faith to the wonderful future He has prepared for us.
Look ahead – the unshakeable kingdom (vv. 25-29): God is speaking to us today through His Word and His providential workings in the world. We had better listen! If God shook things at Sinai and those who refused to hear were judged, how much more responsible are we today who have experienced the blessings of the New Covenant! God today is shaking things. He wants to tear down the “scaffolding” and reveal the unshakable realities that are eternal. However, too many people (including Christians) are building their lives on things that can shake. The “shaking” quotation is from Haggai 2:6 and refers to that time when the Lord shall return and fill His house with glory. As events draw nearer to that time, we shall see more shaking in this world. But a Christian can be confident, for he shall receive an unshakeable kingdom. In fact, he is a part of God’s kingdom today.
What shall we do as we live in a shaking world? Listen to God speak and obey Him. Receive grace day by day to serve Him “with reverence and godly fear.” Do not be distracted or frightened by the tremendous changes going on around you. Keep running the race with endurance. Keep looking to Jesus Christ. Remember that your Father loves you, and draw on God’s enabling grace. While others are being frightened, you can be confident!
Hebrews 12:14-29 Reflection Questions:
Are you living for lesser things, like Esau?
Where do you look to when times get tough?
Are you frightened or confident by what’s going on around you in the world today? Why?