Exposition of Hebrews 12:3, 4

Constantly the writer has a practical aim in mind in writing to the Hebrew Christians. The danger is that they will lose heart and courage and give up in the mighty battle against the sin of unbelief which denies Jesus the Messiah. They must, therefore, look away to Jesus, study the Scriptures, give heed to the testimony of God concerning His Son, mark well the intensity of the battle of “sinners” against the Christ of God. He endures the contradiction of sinners against Himself!

This is the only antidote against becoming weary, tired, worn down and threadbare in their souls. It is the constant barrage of sinners which these saints have to endure. That is why they are in need of patience, and more strength of patient waiting for the Lord. They may not become despondent in their hearts at all due to labor and weariness. They must lift up their heads. Satan would wear out the saints by wearing them down physically, mentally and spiritually. If only the saints can be so enfeebled that they stumble and fall and succumb to his wiles. They may not faint. (Gal. 6:9; Matt. 15:32) Hence, look away from all else unto Jesus and see his mortal and victorious conflict with contradicting sinners. 


The LORD reminds Jeremiah too that he has not yet endured the extreme of the suffering for the sake of the LORD as prophet. Says He, “If thou hast run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with the horses? and if in the land of peace, wherein thou trustedst, they wearied thee, then how wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?” This is Divine pedagogy to call a weary and harried warrior to his senses and to give him a heart of courage for the coming battles, after having passed through difficult battles before. Here we have a bit of chastening of the Lord for Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, during the time of Judah’s deportation to Babylon, when he must meet the fierce opposition of reprobate sinners, who reject the Word of the LORD. And so it is with the writer as he addresses the Hebrews. They had, indeed, suffered much already for the sake of Christ and the Gospel of free grace and sovereign love. They have been deprived of their goods, thrown into prison, scorned and derided for the sake of Jesus, whom they loved; yet, with all this, they had not yet suffered the extreme and ultimate form of persecution. They had not yet stood where the Lord places us when he says “Fear not those who can kill the body, but fear Him who can destroy both body and soul in hell.” (Matt. 10:28)

In the fear and complaining there is, therefore, flesh and a sinful cleaving to this life which must be pointed out. They are impatient and they do not see their sufferings sufficiently in the light of the pedagogical dealings of the Father of lights. Their striving must be against sin! Yes, this is a mighty conflict. It is a battle even unto death. It is the mighty battle of the ages, the enmity between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the Woman. The great cloud of witnesses looks on and the angels behold in rapt attention, and the Father’s eye sees us and His ear is attentive to our cry of “How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on earth?” (Rev. 6:10)

They had not yet endured unto blood. Things could be much worse. They must not blow up and exaggerate their sufferings either, and have a false persecution-complex or bathe themselves in self-pity. The ultimate price is a striving against sin which is unto blood. Now no one knowingly and willingly courts a martyr’s death in sound spiritual life. Such was the sickly attitude of some in Church History. The thought behind such seeking of martyrdom was that this would be a kind of heroic death which would pay for their sins and merit a higher place in glory. The writer here to the Hebrews is not advocating a death “by blood”; he only means to tell the readers that they have not yet paid the ultimate price of striving against sin. When they will see this they will confess to their shame, that they should run their race which God has set before them in patience, and not become faint and weary in their souls. We see here that the Lord’s way of correcting us is by telling us the truth as it is, correcting us as the Father of spirits that we may live. 


Itis for our very life’s sake that we must bear in mind the exhortations and consolations of the LORD. Our spiritual bewilderment is never due to a lack of clarity on the part of the Word of God. The Lord does not come to us in the mutterings and peepings of the false prophets. (Isaiah 8:19) The people of God, the true sons should seek unto their God and to His Word. And that is what the writer to the Hebrews does here. He causes the readers, the Hebrews and us, to listen to what God has spoken; we must heed his “consolation” in all our troubles. 

The writer quotes from Prov. 3:11 to point out the Lord’s consolation, His exhortation. Now this exhortation is very peculiar in nature; it is one that should be seen as a very particular consolation to God’s sons. Wherefore the text adds (heetis humin hoos hiuois dialegetail which (is of such a nature) that it speaks to you as to sons. We are addressed in the qualification as being sons, which stand in a peculiar relationship to the Father who addresses us. When this parent-child relationship is detected in this address then we are consoled as a child of the heavenly Father.

We ought to try to understand this just a bit more in depth. The Father in thus speaking to us meets us on our level as sons, yet he does not lower Himself to our level. This is not a dialogue between equals, but it is the Father speaking to us in such a way that He mingles thought with thought; He argues, discourses, warns, teaches us and gives us the truth in propositional form, applying the same by His Spirit to our hearts! He speaks with Fatherly authority and concern to us His sons; it is Fatherly concern for our benefit. And what the heavenly Father says here in Proverbs 3:11 is a word which is “relevant” to our needs. And all the spiritual children acknowledge this too. It is the flesh in us which rebels, and will not acknowledge that this word of the Father fits exactly with our needs, and, of course, the bastard sons in the church will always contradict this word of the Father, as hardened and unconverted sinners. Of the latter the writer will have some more to say.

But the writer is concerned with the sons of God, the Father of spirits, that they may live! Writes the Spirit in Proverbs 3:11, “My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD”. The term for “despise” in the Hebrew is “maas” which means: to reject, as the very opposite of to choose. It is used of men rejecting God and His precepts (I Samuel 15:23; II Kings 17:15; Amos 2:4) To reject the consolation of the LORD is disastrous and fatal. One cannot despise the instructions of the Father with impunity. Here we must not despise the “chastening” of the Lord. This chastening here is not simply some correcting in general, but refers to the peculiar correcting which a father does toward his children. Hence, this is called in the Greek text “paideias.” It is a correction of children, which intends to lead to wisdom, instruction and knowledge. To underscore that this correction of children often is painful for them, the text goes on to say “neither faint when thou art reproved of him.” Now that was a very good explanation of the chastening on the former sentence. In the Hebrew parallelism of Proverbs 3:11 this is a further elucidation and explanation of the thought. The correction is in the chastening as the desired effect and fruit. However, we must be able to stand this and not faint. For we faint when we reject the reproof and chastening of the Lord. Here you have the finest bit of spiritual psychiatry possible. It analyzes the matter of spiritual depression and shows up all the monkey-business of would-be advisers in the field of soul-care in the church. We must not listen to these mutterers and peepers, these wizards of deception. We must return to the law and to the prophets. Else there will be no dawn in the soul of the weary saints. For much spiritual depression is down-right sinful and rebellious against the Fatherly dealings of the chastisements of God in His church. The heavenly Father does not spoil His children by sparing the rod of affliction; He causes this to accompany His Word!

And the deepest and purest motive of God, the Father of Spirits is at stake. We must not ascribe evil to the Most High. In his heights of faith Job declares over against his wife’s evil words “But he said unto her, Thou speaketh as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips.” (Job 2:10) For even in this “evil” the LORD is good to us. He was thus to Job. The Lord’s ways are in the holy place in His dealings with Job. He will shut the mouth of Satan concerning Job’s reason for obeying God. But to do so He sends affliction in the life of this; sinful-saint. And the outcome proves that Job loves the Lord, and that the LORD truly dealt with Job in love.

And this dealing with Job on the part of the Lord is not a mere isolated and exceptional case. Thus the LORD deals with every son which he loves. He chastises every son whom he loves. That is not some wishful, sentimental thinking, but it is the grandeur of the dealing of the Father of spirits. And that is divine consolation in its own right. The Lord has a great delight in His children. The Hebrew text emphasizes this and reads “every son in whom He delighteth.” This is the divine delight in which the Father accepts the son as His own. And of this son He is going to make a man, fully perfected in holiness.

This is a teaching and a beautiful consideration which the readers in the book of Hebrews need. It is exactly what must gird them up and check their sinking spirits. It is the only tonic which can give them spiritual vigor and power once more to stand in the battle, resisting sin. Thus they can have their head above the storm-clouds that gather about them, and they will go and be placed upon the rock that is higher than they until all the battles are fought, and finally the race is run, and they can receive the crown of life forevermore.