Reading through the Bible together
Hebrews 12 brings the argument of chapter 11 to a powerful closing. The heroes of history are just a crowd of witnesses that applaud and recognize the greatest model of faith: Jesus. He is the founder and perfecter of our faith because his life and sacrifice make our faith possible and significant. Jesus’ faith did not consist in believing that God could give him life but in believing that God could give us life through his death.
Verses 3–11 invite us to consider carefully Jesus’ example and learn that the victory of faith comes only as the result of discipline and patience. This is a hard lesson to learn to those who believe that faith is a quick magical thing. Verses 12–16 warns us against the danger of the “root of bitterness” that can grow and make us fail to obtain the grace of God, which is what happened with Israel’s desert generation (3:12–13). Verses 18–24 contrast the experience of the Israelite desert generation at Mt Sinai and ours at Mt Zion.
The book suggests that we, by means of faith, have been able to experience Jesus’ enthronement, consecration as priest, and inauguration of the new covenant in the heavenly Jerusalem, represented as Mt Zion. Thus, while Israelites experienced fear as they stood before Mt Sinai, we can rejoice in the exaltation of our Lord in heaven.
Verses 25–29 close the argument of the letter by exhorting us to pay attention to what God has been saying to us through the Son. The Israelites failed to obey God who spoke to them at Mt Sinai and failed to enter Canaan. We cannot disregard Jesus who speaks to us from the heavenly Jerusalem. When God spoke at Sinai the mountain shook. This time, when God speaks again from the heavenly sanctuary, the whole universe will shake and only the righteous will be able to stand and inherit God’s kingdom (Pss 15:5; 16:8; 21:7; 62:2; 112:6).
Felix H. Cortez
Andrews University Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary