Hebrews 12 opens with the best example of the “therefore principle” in the book. What is the “therefore principle?” If you find the word “therefore,” it’s “there for” a reason, so you must find out what the “therefore” is “there for.” That’s the principle. Remember that words like “therefore” are conjunctions. They function to hook up words and phrases, showing relationships. Therefore shows dependency. Frequently in Scripture, “therefore” gives you this setup: a proposition is made, claiming facts to be true. Then “therefore” is used to show an action that should follow in the lives of believers. If the preceding is true, then we should act in a certain way…
That’s a lot of background for the summary part, but it’s crucial. Why? Hebrews 12 is more clearly directed toward action on the part of the readers than any portion of the book beforehand. This chapter’s therefore hinges the whole book, not just the chapter prior. The “Faith Hall of Fame” in Hebrews 11 is the final piece of evidence that the proposition made at the beginning of Hebrews, in Hebrews 1:1-4, is true. God has spoken fully through His Son, and all things are complete by His hand.
Therefore, the readers and hearers of Hebrews are charged to hold on to the calling of Jesus as Lord. Chapter 12 reminds them (and us!) that they have come to Mount Zion, to assembly of the firstborn, and to God. Through Jesus, not through rule-keeping and not through fear, but through His blood, His grace, His mercy.
With such a packed chapter, isolating a focal point was a bit challenging. Still, I picked the format of these posts and a focus must be found. Let’s take Hebrews 12:27-29 as our focus. In these verses, God speaks clearly that He will shake the heavens and the earth. That means more than just an earthquake. God is speaking of the shaking of the created world based on His presence.
In short, a shaking that will topple all that cannot stand in His presence. It removes all that is not eternal, all that is not of God. And Hebrews 12:29 reminds us that being shaken by the presence of God isn’t the worst possible outcome. One must consider that God is a consuming fire, and that which is shaken will also be destroyed. Completely destroyed.
This is the practical chapter, though the specific actions are not spelled out for the reader. What does that mean? Like any good sermon, the author of Hebrews (Luke?) knows that being too specific in application risks missing a large swatch of the audience. For example, one can say “do not deny Christ when arrested!” only to leave those who deny Christ when facing business decisions thinking they have done well.
We see, then, that the guidance is slightly generalized. For example, the command is given to strengthen the hands of the weak and to pursue peace with all men. These types of actions reflect a people that are committed to following Jesus as King and Priest rather than any other person. Further, we see that we should be people who are not frightened away by the discipline of God. Discipline, keep in mind, is not merely punishment. Discipline is also what gets you out of bed in the morning to run, in preparation for your next race. It’s what drives you to keep doing what needs doing.
It’s something that I lack in many areas. And because of that, it makes me weaker than I should be accomplish what is in front of me. Yet if all of Hebrews is true: that the heroes of old stood firm; that Christ is the superior High Priest; that there is no shrinking back…if all of this is true, then I want to stand firm, that I will not be shaken by this world and that I will have done that which is not going to be shaken and consumed in eternity.
Briefly: Deuteronomy 4:24 contains the statement “YHWH your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.” James didn’t originate the thought, he carried it with him from his upbringing knowing the Word of God. What do we see in Deuteronomy that helps us understand his point better? The choice of our lives: follow God or reject Him, and accept the consequences either way.
Also, there’s an awesome song from Third Day’s first album about God being a consuming fire.