The race laid out before us pictures the coarse of our life in Christ Jesus as sons and daughters of God our Father. In Hebrews 12, we are exhorted to follow the example of faith exhibited by men and women of long ago in running the race laid out before us.Whoever wrote Hebrews recounted their faith in Hebrews 11. They courageously pursued their course unflinchingly and with endurance to accomplish what was set before them.
How the people of long ago ran the race
They ran the race in faith. “Faith is being sure of the things we hope for, being convinced of the things we can’t see. The men of long ago won approval for their faith” (Heb 11:1-2) Their faith and hope motivated them to go for the goal.
All these died in faith without getting what was promised. But they saw it far ahead and welcomed it, and they confessed they were strangers who had no permanent home on earth. Those who talk that way show they’re looking for a country of their own. If their hearts had been in the country they left, they could have found an opportunity to go back. Instead, they were longing for a better country—I mean heaven. That is Why God is not ashamed to be called their God, because He has prepared a city for them. Hebrews 11:13-16
The city God has prepared for them is, “the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down from God in heaven, dressed as a bride, ready to meet her husband” (Rev 21:2).
By faith all these won approval but didn’t get what was promised. God provided something better for us in order to have them reach their goal with us. Hebrews 11:39-40
The book of Hebrews explains something better as the ultimate blessings of the New Covenant.
How we are to run the race
Now then, with all these witnesses around us like a cloud, let us get rid of every burden and the sin we easily fall into and with endurance run the race laid out before us, looking to Jesus, who gives us our faith from start to finish. For the joy that was set before Him He endured the cross, thinking nothing of its shame, and sat down at the right of God’s throne. Hebrews 12:1-2
A godly athlete prepares for a race by striping off the fleshly burdens of the soul, including sin. This spiritual and mental preparation makes one ready to race. So, it is with us. Going forward in our course of life with steadfast, courageous patience, we look to Jesus, focusing our hearts and minds on Him to endure all that comes against us, for Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith. Jesus finished the course of His life on earth with endurance. He is our example. “For the joy that was set before Him He endured the cross, thinking nothing of its shame, and sat down at the right of God’s throne.”
Endure don’t give up
In the course of our life, we struggle against sin. Here, we are exhorted first to think of Jesus enduring. Then, to endure the Lord’s training and go forward in the way of the Lord.
This exhortation concludes:“And so, if your hands are letting go, take a firm hold; if you feel weak in your knees stand firm; and march on without wavering.” Hands letting go and being weak kneed pictures giving up. Marching implies we are going forward with in a company of saints. If we do that: “Then a cripple will not be turned away but be made well.”
Think of how sinners opposed Him/Jesus and He endured it. It will help you not to get tired and give up. In your struggle against sin you haven’t yet resisted till blood has flowed. And you have forgotten the encouragement spoken to you as sons: My son, son, don’t think lightly of the Lord’s training or give up when He corrects you. The Lord corrects whom He loves, and He whips everyone He accepts as His son.
What you endure is to correct you. God is treating you as His sons. Is there a son whom his father doesn’t correct? All sons are corrected; if you’re not corrected, you’re no sons but bastards. Furthermore, our natural fathers used to correct us, and we respected them. Shouldn’t we much more submit to the Father of spirits and live? They corrected us for a short time as it seemed best to them. But He corrects us for our good to have us hare His holiness. While we’re being corrected, it always seems unpleasant and painful. But after we’ve been trained, correction gives us the peaceful fruit of righteousness.
And so, if your hands are letting go, take a firm hold; if you feel weak in your knees stand firm; and march on without wavering. Then a cripple will not be turned away but be made well. Hebrews 12:3-13
The following Word of God elaborates on the previous and shows how the coarse of our life impacts us and those who are crippled.
Try hard to live in peace with everybody and to be holy. Without holiness nobody will see the Lord. See to it that no one loses God’s love/grace, that no root with bitter fruit grows up to trouble you and so defiles all of you, that nobody lives in sexual sin or is unholy like Esau, who for one meal sold his rights as the firstborn. You know that later, when he wanted to get the blessing, he was rejected. He had no chance to change his mind although he begged for it with tears. Hebrews 12:14-17
Now, we see the joy set before Jesus
I think the primary joy set before Jesus was knowing His sacrifice would bring salvation to billions of old and new covenant people of faith. The blood Jesus shed for us ushered in the new covenant and is the basis of our righteousness by God’s covenant justice.
Another joy must have been anticipation of the current stage of salvation: Mount Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. This is where we are seated with Christ in heavenly places (Eph 2:6).
You didn’t come to anything you could touch, to a blazing fire, darkness, gloom, a storm, the blast of a trumpet, or the speaking of a voice. Those who heard that begged to be told no more, because they couldn’t endure the order that was given: Even an animal, if it touches the mountain must be stoned. And the sight was so terrible Moses said, “I am terrified and trembling.”
No, you have come to Mount Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. Here are tens of thousands of angels, the whole festival gathering and church of God’s firstborn people with their names written in heaven. Here is the Judge and God of all. Here are the spirits of the righteous who have been perfected. And here is Jesus, who gave us a new covenant with God, and sprinkled blood that has better things to tell than Abel. Hebrews 12:18-24
God has made us fit for His kingdom by making us new beings created in Christ Jesus and cleansed by His blood. Jesus our great High Priest is our Savior and advocate at God’s throne of grace, the throne of the kingdom of God that is.
Now that we have a great High Priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus, God’s Son, let us cling to what we confess. We have a High Priest who can sympathize with our weaknesses. He was tempted in every way just as we are, only without sin. So let us come boldly to God’s throne of grace to get mercy and find love to help us when we need it. Hebrews 4:14-16
The final stage of this salvation is the kingdom that is to come. Jesus looked forward to it with the joy set before Him.
See that you don’t refuse to listen to Him who is speaking. If the others didn’t escape when they refused to listen to Him warning them on earth, much less will we if we turn away from Him who warns us from heaven. Then His voice shook the earth. But now He has promised: Once more I will shake not only the earth but also heaven. The words once more show clearly He will take away what is shaken, seeing He made it, leaving what isn’t shaken as permanent. Since we have received a kingdom that can’t be shaken, let us thank God and so worship in a way that pleases Him, with fear/reverence and awe, because our God is a consuming fire. Hebrews 12:25-29
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, because the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. And there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down from God in heaven, dressed as a bride, ready to meet her husband.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne, say: “Look! God’s home is among the people, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death, and there will be no more grief or crying or pain, because the first things have passed away.”
“Look! I am making everything new,” said He who sat on the throne. And He added: “Write this because these words are true and you can trust them.” Then He said to me: “It is done! I am A and Z, the Beginning and the End. To anyone who is thirsty I will give water, that costs nothing, from the spring of the water of life. Be victorious, and you will have these things, and I will be your God and you will be My son.”
“But cowardly, untrustworthy, and abominable people, and those who murder, sin sexually, practice witchcraft, and worship idols, and all liars will find themselves in the lake burning with fire and sulfur: this is the second death.” Revelation 21:1-8
Quotations of God’s Word are from AAT An American Translation