Lesson 30: "See That Ye Refuse Not Him That Speaketh" (Hebrews 12:25)
The Book of Hebrews. Welcome to lesson #30 and thanks for coming. Our text for this lesson begins in 12:14 and we would like to read down thru v.29 or the end of this chapter. So, get the last half of ch. 12 tuned-in and we'll begin our reading. Much, much more could have been said and perhaps should have been said about the first half of this chapter; but, I leave it with you. Let us run the race set before us...Let us lay aside every weight...Let us have faith, looking unto Jesus. He resisted unto blood (v.4). Jesus resisted unto death. We can expect to be chastened by our heavenly Father; because, "whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth" (v.6). Let us learn self-discipline, let us get in balance by swinging our spiritual arms and keeping our spiritual knees stiff, let us make straight paths for our feet and let us keep looking unto Jesus our pacesetter. You are not the first to have run this race. So, our writer has some more admonition and advice and spiritual encouragement as to our running this race. Let's read it! Are you ready? beginning in v.14, we'll read to the end of the chapter. Let's read!
"Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled; lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears. For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, and the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard entreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more: (for they could not endure that which was commanded, And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart: and so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:) but ye are come unto mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the first born, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Able. See that ye refuse not him that speaketh: for if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven: whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven. And this word. Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: for our God is a consuming fire."
O.K., if you'll move your eyes back up to v.14, where we started reading, v.14-15-16 is one sentence the way the KJV has it. Three great requirements are laid out here for Christians: (#1) "follow peace" beginning of v.14, (#2) follow "holiness" middle of v.14, and (#3) "Looking diligently" at the beginning of verse fifteen. Now, you observe, of course, these are simply additions to or mere continuations of the thought beginning back in v.12 as regards our spiritual hands and knees and as regards making straight paths for our feet, i.e. looking to Jesus and not swerving back and forth and being carried about by every little tempest that comes blowing our way. Get your eyes on thegoal, just keep jogging along! Or we might say, keep on keeping on! It's part of that "let us run with patience the race that is set before us" (back in 12:1). In other words, as we jog along in our Christian life from day to day, there are certain principles we must NOT over look. We must "follow peace with all men" (v.14). How many? "ALL MEN!" Now, of course, that involves our part or as much influence as we can possibly exert on these things. This is not a new commandment ...it was not something new to those brethren in and around Jerusalem in the AD sixties. The apostle Paul wrote to the Romans, "If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men" (Rom. 12:18). Of course, you do not control other people; you only control you. But, you MUST control you. If you go back to Jesus and the sermon on the mount, this is simply another way of saying "do unto others as you would have them do unto you," i.e. the golden rule as we call it. Now, I think you know, many people follow this rule that are not Christians. They make no claim to be a disciple of Jesus and yet they try diligently to live peaceably with their neighbors. Many are to be commended very highly in this respect and as Christians we are instructed to honor them for that effort, i.e. give honor where honor is due (Rom. 13:7). However, there is another aspect to this peace keeping effort here in v.14; i.e. do it with "holiness." That simply means in a godly way or as God would have us be peaceable. You see, one of the first things you run into in a sectarian way is...who sets the standard? Who's standard shall we go by and many tribal wars have been fought over what is sometimes termed ETHICS in their sectarian effort to keep the peace, as contradictory as that may seem. My home state of Kentucky has recently passed laws encouraging each community to write up a set of ethics that they accept...sort of an extension to the constitution, if you will. They are simply going to a lot of trouble trying accommodate all the atheistic thinking that exists. A lot of that stuff is merely spinning our wheels to create a few bureaucratic jobs and keep the tax dollars flowing; but, it does nothing that would not come naturally with simple honest folks with a little "holiness." So, v.14 here is simply saying live peaceably with all men in keeping with the standards that our God has set up for us; recalling, that one of Jesus' beatitudes was: "Blessed are the peacemakers: for THEY shall be called the children of God."
Now, be careful here! Many denominational people have read a lot into this word "holiness" that should not be...all of this second works of grace business (as they call it) making claims as if they attain unto some miraculous level of inspiration not available to all Christians. That's a bunch of bunk. You see, that business is condemned by these very passages. It's something WE have to do. Our writer has it in the lettuce patch, let us!...let US! do so and so. It requires effort on our part and be assured we never reach a level in this life that it doesn't require effort on our part. That's the whole theme of our writer..."lift up the hand that hang down..." Who does that? Either you take the initiative, or it doesn't get done in your life. It's the whole purpose of the book. This motivation comes by faith and faith cometh by hearing the word. Then, our writer says, "looking diligently," (v.15) i.e. "looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith" as was stated (back up in v.2). A pacesetter is an example...Jesus is our Pacesetter. Look at the way Jesus did it! He's our example. If we don't do it that way, we're going to be lost. It's just that simple. Do you see those words in v.14 "without which no man shall see the Lord." That means this is an absolute requirement to be saved. This is not optional. It. demonstrates YOUR faith.
Faith is necessary. Baptism is necessary. Your heart must be sprinkled or washed from an evil conscience (10:22). But, even beyond that you must run the Christian race with the characteristics outlined here, "follow peace with all men," and do that in a holy way "looking unto Jesus," with diligence. That means putting something into it. It is not a second fiddle proposition. If we could only learn that, it would save a lot of souls. One soul is worth more than all the world (Matt. 16:26). So, a lot hinges on this, you see. Do we believe that? The bottom line is: we must take our Christianity seriously. How serious are YOU?
In v.15, our writer follows "looking diligently" with the possibility that a "root of bitterness" springing up in you or me leads not only to our personal destruction; but, "thereby many be defiled." He appeals to the example of Esau (in the O.T.) to demonstrate this point. Please take the time to review this (Gen. ch. 25). Now, this is not a treatise on whether Esau was personally saved or lost. The point we need to get in v.15-16-17 goes back to v.31 (of Heb. ch. 10), "it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." This was our writer's conclusion to his WILFUL SIN DISCUSSION, if you remember. This has to do with that attitude of tossing in the towel, to use modern phraseology. It is so easy to become exasperated in these matters. It seems that those of us with strong convictions sometimes fall more easily to this temptation...just call it quits...toss in the towel...forget about religion and go back to gratifying the lusts of the flesh. You say, Oh, no! That can't happen to me! But, don't be mislead... don't be misguided my friend! It happens to missionaries when people persecute them. It happens to preachers when people reject them and poke fun at them. Bitterness springs up! I have been it's victim to some degree, I tell you from experience, this is a real temptation... don't minimize it. It can happen again. As you run that Christian race, it is so easy to lose sight of your Pacesetter and the "crown of life" that he offers (Rev. 2:10), that you swerve from the track... stumble... and simply cash in for a single meal as Esau (our example, here) did for one mess of pottage. When we work hard and when we do right and when we sacrifice to encourage and bring about the salvation of others, we seem to expect that people will always respect that and appreciate us as they should. When they don't we tend to say, how can God allow this to happen to me and that root of bitterness is so prone to spring up... and that's when it happens. Jesus did right...Jesus did no sin (Heb. 4:15); but, Jesus was crucified. Don't you forget it! Satan is a master at deceit. He'll get to you when you least expect it. We sometimes get along pretty well as long as we are enjoying the race; but, "when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by... [we are] offend," to use the language of Jesus' parable of the sower... the stony ground. Do you remember? Let me take you back to Jesus' beatitudes of the sermon on the mount for just a minute. The last beatitude (in Matt. 5:10), Jesus said: "Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Jesus didn't say it won't happen. You see, when YOUR standing for good disturbs or interferes in the life of those in sin; they retaliate. But, you can't do that! You may simply be reminding them of their sin or even your suggestion of right may interfere some way in their ungodly way of making money. Don't expect to be praised...expect to be mistreated... as Jesus was. Our writer says run "looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith" (v.2). Are your actions determined by you? Or are your actions determined by the example of Jesus and his word to us? If your actions are merely a response to those around you...then it is not your action... it is a reaction. Don't fall into that trap! That's what our writer is saying (v.15-16-17). If you fall into that trap, you MAY later repent and return to God. God will accept you back! There's no question on that, if you sincerely repent. But, if you ruin your life as Esau did in the process, give up your birthright or divorce your wife or ruin your health or spend yourself into bankruptcy or give up your place as a preacher ...don't think for a minute you will get that back by simple repentance. Oh! If you have the good fortune to come to yourself as the prodigal son did, the Father will accept you back. Yes! But, your status has changed forever. When Esau would have inherited the bless...i.e. when he would have become the head of the tribe upon Isaac's death and when he would have received a double portion of his father's goods by inheritance... it didn't happen. "He was rejected: [v.17] for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears." He changed his mind...but, he could not persuade Isaac to change his mind, you see. I believe God will forgive even murder; if you can sincerely muster the right frame of mind in re-pentance. However, it won't bring the dead back! You must live with that stigma until the day you die...just repent all you want to repent. Your life can be ruined by a little root of bitterness... soured on your fellow man... or soured on God. Don't let it happen. Once you're off the track, once you've stumbled, very few have the courage and the audacity to humbly pick themselves up, dust themselves off, get back on that track and start looking to Jesus again. If you go so far as to jump off the Tallahassee bridge, you even remove that possibility. There's a great lesson here... that little root of bitterness. Lord, be it FAR from me!
Well, I had hoped to get thru ch. 12 in this lesson. But, we lack v.18 thru the rest of the chapter. Do you recall Mt. Sinai (Ex. ch. 19)? Those Hebrew speaking Jews in and around Jerusalem knew that story very well. Three months after their ancestors had left Egypt, they camped before Mt. Sinai in Arabia. They were instructed to cleanse themselves and prepare to meet God... the mountain quaked. Have you ever been in an earth quake? There was smoke, lightning, thunder and a super loud trumpet sound. It says (Ex. 19:16) "the people that was in the camp trembled." Our text says (Heb. 12:21), "that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake." V. 20 back in Ex. ch. 19 says: "The Lord called Moses up to the top of the mount." Moses, come up here! Put yourself in Moses1 shoes just a minute. The HEBREWS writer at this point makes what is sometimes called an argument from the lesser to the greater, i.e. if you think Mt. Sinai was something...just wait until judgment day. God, "the Judge of all" (do you see that? middle of v.23?). God will say to you and me, come up here, Bernard! At this point our writer comments: "if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall NOT we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven." Read v.26 real close. God's voice back there shook the earth... "but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earthy only, but also heaven." If you think Sinai was something, remember! you've got a front row seat reserved, just for you, at Jesus' second coming and you'll be there. Talk about suspense! That ticket doesn't have a date on it! In I-John 4:8, the apostle John said: "God is love." But, this writer gives us another side to God (v.29)... "our God is a consuming fire." I trust you get the point. I don't want to scare the wits out of you; but, that's what the book says! Are you ready? That ticket isn't dated! Are you running the race? Please start now! Please keep running! I hope to be with you in lesson #31. Have a good day.