In closing, the writer of Hebrews outlined seven exhortations for living daily by faith, beginning with the encouragement that all these heroes of our faith act as a cloud of witnesses—past runners—cheering us on from the sidelines in the amphitheater of heaven, as we run the race of life.
- Focus on Christ, Hebrews 12:1-3
- Welcome God’s Discipline, Hebrews 12:4-13
- Keep Our Relationships Right, Hebrews 12:14-17
- Trust in God’s Promises
- Treat Brothers and Sisters Well
- Remain Solid in the Truth
- Respond Rightly to Leaders
The Better Sacrifice
Through him, then, let us continually offer
—a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name.
—Do not neglect to do good
—and to share what you have,
for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.Hebrews 13:15-16 (NRSV)
Our response to the hardships of life, as believers in and followers of Jesus, and questions about God, is to understand the truth as laid out in Scripture. From beginning to end, the scriptures describe a God grieved over the horrifying effects of sin’s corruption on the beautiful creation God brought forth into being, and on the human beings God loves so infinitely, and eternally, much.
God’s grief is not powerless, however. Throughout humanity’s history, God has time and again brought low and raised high, ending eras that had become untenable in their corruption, and bringing forth fresh, new eras.
- The Great Deluge, and the Ark
- The Tower of Babel, and Filling the Earth
- Sodom and Gomorrah, and the spread of Abraham’s clan
- The Exodus, and the Book of Joshua
- The Exile, and the Second Temple
- The Cross, and the Resurrection
According to the prophets, there is one more era to come, when the entire heavens and earth will be recreated, the Great and Terrible Day of the Lord, when all wrongs will be made right, and finally wickedness, evil, and the corruption and death that accompanies sin will finally be expunged.
And we, like the faithful heroes of old, live in the hope of that time.
These final chapters of Hebrews describe what faith is, what it looks like in the people who really lived by faith, how God helps us by strengthening our faith, and the practical ways you and I can express our faith.
But the key to a life of great faith is not in perfectly following all the exhortations you and I have just studied.
The key is staying in a right relationship with God and giving the Lord the opportunity to work in us. The new covenant calls for new sacrifices. Out of the overflow of our hearts, our mouths speak. These are the natural results of remaining solid in the truth, in God’s word.
And so, as we sit quietly with these final words of Hebrews, let us open our hearts to God, offering up to God our feelings of weariness and discouragement, our feelings of being overwhelmed, being left holding the bag, wondering how we are ever going to get out from under the mountain of troubles on our backs.
Let us give God the three sacrifices the writer suggests
Sacrifice of praise and acknowledging God’s character
Thank You, Lord for the circumstances of my life, because I know that through them You are training me, and preparing me to share in Your holiness. You are a good and loving Father, and Your power working in me will help me through this
Sacrifice of doing good
Please show me the right thing to do in this situation, and keep me humbly pliant to Your will.
Sacrifice of sharing what we have
Please show me someone who is in need so I can help them, and share at least a part of all the good that You give to me.
7) Respond Rightly to Leaders
Be persuaded by and follow the ones leading you and be yielding, for they are keeping-watch for your souls as ones who will render an account—in order that they may be doing this with joy, and not while groaning, for this would be unprofitable for you.Hebrews 13:17 (DLNT)
Our willingness to be persuaded by those among us who are the elders and teachers, the shepherds and pastors, and to yield to their wisdom is one of the ways we become a distinctive community. It does not mean to blindly follow, nor to yield when what is being done or asked for is wrong.
But it does mean that humility and teachability would be our leading edge. To be responsive to and supportive of those who teach and lead us is also a mark of faithfulness.
As in all relationships, there is a give-and-take, for good leaders are also responsive to and supportive of those they lead. When decisions are made through consensus, when issues are processed together, when all members of the body feel seen and heard, known and understood, when every member is able to flourish, to exercise their gifts, to be both a productive member of the Body as well as a grateful recipient of the Body’s gifts, then God is most revealed in that assembly.
True faith is revealed by the way one lives their life
At the close of his letter, the author humbly asked his readers to pray for his personal life, his testimony, his service, and his ability to be with them soon.
Be praying for us. For we are persuaded that we have a good conscience, wanting to conduct-ourselves commendably in all things [and honorably in all things].
And I especially appeal-to you to do this in order that I may be restored to you sooner.Hebrews 13:18-19 (DLNT)
Then he prayed for his readers, which includes you and me
Now may the God of peace, who brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant,
—make you complete in everything good
—so that you may do [God’s] will,
—working among us that which is pleasing in [God’s] sight,
through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.Hebrews 13:20-21 (NRSV)
It almost seems to be a postscript, after such a beautiful ending, to add the writer’s homey news and greetings, but to be faithful to the text, we will finish with the writer’s final words, perhaps scribbled in haste just as the letter was ready to be sealed and couriered to its recipients.
I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, bear with my word of exhortation, for I have written to you briefly.
I want you to know that our brother Timothy has been set free; and if he comes in time, he will be with me when I see you.
Greet all your leaders and all the saints. Those from Italy send you greetings.
Grace be with all of you.Hebrews 13:22-25 (NRSV)