“And ye have forgotten the exhortation, which comes unto you as sons, which reasoneth (speaks with) as with sons: My son, regard not lightly the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art reproved of Him; For whom the Lord loveth He ehasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth”. Heb.12:5, 6

In this Scripture-passage the writer to the Hebrews reminds the readers of the Word of exhortation spoken by God Himself in the O.T. Scriptures through the pen of Solomon. The Old Testament quotation is found in Proverbs 3:11, 12.

The spiritual condition of the Hebrew Christians, the believers in Christ out of the Jews, was such that it was necessary for the writer of this letter to them to remind them of the “word of exhortation” here referred to. Their conduct plainly indicated that the truth of this word of exhortation did not so live in their mind and heart that it strengthened them unto the victory of faith, unto the running in a manner that indicated the intention to grasp the crown of life!

There was a lack of the strength of patience.

The position of God’s people in this world is such that they have “need of patience”. Wherefore this word is also very much to the point in our life as this was in a very special sense the case with the Hebrew Christians. Their position in the world seems to have been very trying and difficult. They were being tried by God. Affliction was their lot. And, quite likely, the affliction that they were experiencing came to them from the side of the unbelieving Jews, the kinsmen of the Hebrews according to the flesh. Their relatives according to the ties of blood, but their enemies by reason of the sword of division that Christ has come to bring upon earth. Because of Christ and their confession of His name, they were being ostracized, cast out of the Jewish community, made the object of hatred and scorn, and even imprisoned.

That these Hebrew Christians should be imprisoned by the ruling magistrates through the instigation of their kinsmen is the plain teaching of the Bible on this score. Repeatedly we read in the Acts of the Apostles that the Jews would raise up the ruling Gentiles against the Church, Such is the repeated story in Luke’s account of Paul’s travels. We have but to compare Acts 14:2 and Acts 14:19 to be persuaded that it were the disobedient Jews, in whom the obedience of faith was not found, who stir up the multitude against Paul. These make the way for God’s people so that they are in need of the exhortation: “To continue in the faith” and also that they must be reminded “that through many tribulations we must enter into the kingdom.” Acts 14:22.

Paul himself makes mention of these Jews and of their hostility in I Thess. 2:14-16. Writes he: “For ye brethren became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus: for ye also suffered the same things of your own countrymen, even as they did of the Jews, who both killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove out us, and please not God, and are contrary to all men; forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved; to fill up their sins always; but the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost.”

Indeed, this is not a pleasant description. But it is very truthful and factual of a sad and terrible reality.

Such must have been the lot of these Hebrew Christians. For the writer to the Hebrews speaks in Heb. 10:32 of such affliction. It had happened to them shortly after they were enlightened. They had then endured a great conflict of sufferings. The fury of the unbeliever had broken loose upon them. They had been made a gazing-stock of the people, a theatrical spectacle, both by means of reproaches and by the therein contained afflictions. (The Greek here has a fine touch. It indicates that the afflictions were inseparably connected with the being made a gazing-stock, a mockery of words and lashing tongues). By means of evil speech the finger of defamation pointed at the believers. And the result was that, although none had died the death of the martyr, yet some had been cast into prison. And those believers who had not themselves been cast into prison had also suffered for righteousness’ sake. They had not been ashamed to cast their lot with that of those imprisoned, their brethren in the Lord. Yet, it had gone to such a length that even their gods had been spoiled, stolen from them. But this flight of affliction had not daunted their spirits, but had actuated their faith so that they rejoiced. They had girded up the loins of their mind and so had looked at the better and abiding treasures in the heavens.

But now things had changed. At least there was not such rejoicing, and so they are admonished to strengthen their weak hands and feeble knees!

Once more they must advance in the full assurance of faith and hope. Again they must feel and know themselves exceedingly blessed suffering for righteousness’ sake. They must look at their reward in heaven. They must have the Word of Christ as a treasure in their soul: for great is your reward in heaven. Therefore the writer reminds the readers: “And ye took joyfully the spoiling of your possessions, knowing that ye have for yourselves a better possession and an abiding one.” (Heb. 10:34).

When such spiritual weakness characterizes our walk then there are many things that we have forgotten.

Oh, to be sure, then we do not live.in the joyful and blessed consciousness of the great liberty that is ours, so that we may boldly draw nigh to the throne of grace. Then hesitation is our lot on every hand. And the very experiences of the tender and fatherly dealings of God with us we do not see in the light of the great liberty and freedom that is ours. In a word, we do not see that the Lord is dealing with us as with sons. We lose the sense of His gracious dealings with us. And that is more bitter than death, more bitter than words can tell!‘

And the Word of God thus comes to us. It came thus to the Hebrews to whom the text was first written. We read: And ye have forgotten the exhortation which reasoneth with you as with sons”, vs. 5.

Obviously the writer does not mean to say that the readers had forgotten altogether that such a Scripture passage is found in the Old Testament. He does not mean to say that their memory had failed them, and that this passage once having been memorized now they cannot recall. That surely cannot be the sense and implication of “‘forgotten”. On the contrary, the writer means to say that due to the afflictions that the readers had passed through, probably were still experiencing in a measure, and due to their attitude of weakness and spiritual bewilderment and lethargy in these trials, the reality of God’s gracious and merciful and all-wise dealings did not stand out sharply before their minds eyes, before the eye of the heart! (Eph. 1:18). And thus they failed to see and to confess that their trial was the chastisement of God upon them as sons! The-very merciful design of God in this pain and sorrow did not encourage them oh. The “knowing that affliction worketh patience, and patience approvedness, and approvedness hope—the hope that does not put to shame because of the love of God shed forth in their hearts” stood at low ebb!

This must change. They must remember the exhortation that speaks to them as sons. Their faith must become active. It must become a conscious activity. In this faith they must repent, turn unto the Lord in heartfelt contrition, kiss the rod that strikes them, and have the true joy in God through Christ Jesus their Lord.

They must no longer be weak!

There must be a spiritual power of faith in their life; the power that overcomes the world!

Yes, the condition of the Hebrews was so that the writer puts the statement “and ye have forgotten the exhortation” in the indicative mood. It is not a questionable statement. It is a statement of fact. A sad fact, but a fact nevertheless. But the truth must be out. It must be said. The knife of the Word of God, the two-edged knife, that cuts sharply and into the very soul and spirit, being a discerner of the inmost thoughts and intents of the heart, must be placed into the festering sore.

And so the writer says: and ye have forgotten the exhortation speaking unto you as unto sons!

Let this sink deep down into your hearts!

Hebrew Christians! such an attitude does not speak of a hearing of the word mingled with faith. Remember the children of Israel who did not enter into Canaan because of their unbelief, whose bodies fell in the wilderness. The words: regard not lightly the chastening of the Lord and faint not when thou art rebuked of Him, is not the dynamic of the life of those who are of weak hands and feeble knees.

Now this latter was absolute in the case of Israel who murmurs at the difficulty of the way!

But it is a symptom of the same evil in the Hebrew readers and also in us when we faint and quail on the way. Let us not forget it. The readers of this letter might not when it was written to them. And, thanks be to God, the writer of this letter still “trusts better things of you (the readers) and things that accompany salvation, even though we thus speak.” Hebrews 5:9. The writer knows that the readers had slipped, were even now slipping, and thus the “thus speaks” to them, warning them very earnestly against letting go of their great boldness in Christ Jesus. But even so, he trusts that with them this is only weakness, a momentary loss of the activity of faith, of the spiritual grasp on the unfailing and unchangeable promises of God, so that their failing to see with a spiritual eye the implication of God’s dealings with them is but for the moment.

Hence, this is not a matter of thorough-going unbelief. It is not outright rebellion. It is “the fainting of the soul”, that is “being scourged, corrected”. It is the affliction while present, which is not a source of joy but of sadness—which while present is not spiritual seen for what it is and hence the fainting soul is not exercised thereby!

And so the writer calls the readers to their spiritual senses.

The child that is corrected must kiss the rod. He must be so exercised by the affliction that afterwards it may yield the peaceable fruit of righteousness in his life. He must say with the Psalmist from the depths of his heart, having been thus corrected, “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I observe Thy Word.”

(to be continued)