Do you ever get flustered by opposition? I do! A discouraging word from someone, a look that means disapproval, or an email from someone who has misunderstood me—these can derail me for days!
I’ve prepared a simple Bible study of Hebrews 12:1-3, where we learn how to not “weary and discouraged” when we face opposition.
“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Yeshua, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls” (Hebrews 12:1-3).
In verse 1, I see that YHVH has set a race before us. Now, I’m not the most athletic girl, but we all know what it’s like to run a quick race across the grass with a friend. That’s probably not the race talked about here. I have a friend who has run marathons, and I know she is very disciplined about getting outside, no matter the weather, to train her body for the next race. I’d say life is much more like a marathon.
It’s a cool thought that the Creator has prepared all the circumstances of our lives to be a race. I’m imagining a relay race here, where one believer passes the baton to the next believer in line. As a mother, I am passing the baton to my own children. However, before I can even pass the baton, I have to run my part of the race.
I have to first lay aside every weight. We are all born with things that weigh us down, from genetic health problems to maybe not being born into the richest of families and having to grow up in a home where there was never enough money or food. Maybe we had the opposite weight, where everything was provided for us and easy and we didn’t know how to stand on our own two feet. Maybe our parents got a divorce when we were young, or maybe we grew up in a rough school. Maybe we moved a lot. Maybe someone we loved died, leaving us abandoned or grieving.
Abraham was born with weights, too. YHVH says,
“Your fathers, including Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, dwelt on the other side of the River in old times; and they served other gods. Then I took your father Abraham from the other side of the River, led him throughout all the land of Canaan, and multiplied his descendants and gave him Isaac” (Joshua 24:2-3).
There isn’t a lot of detail in these verses, but if we remember from the book of Genesis, it wasn’t easy for Abraham to leave his home. We learn that his father was involved in idol worship, so there’s a weight that had to be laid aside. History tells us of the great civilizations that were established by the Euphrates River, yet Abraham put all that behind him to travel to an unknown land. He left behind a home and wealth, living in tents instead. My friends who have left homes to live minimally in tiny homes or RVs can certainly relate to leaving these weights behind.
He also had to leave behind sin. Benner writes in his Ancient Hebrew Lexicon, “When shooting an arrow or other object to a target, the distance that one misses is measured with a cord. The wrong actions of one are also measured against the correct action.” Therefore sin is a “failure, an act or condition of ignorant or imprudent deviation from a code of behavior, or a missing of the target in the sense of making a mistake.”
The word picture in Hebrews 12:1 is of a failure or mistake that ensnares us, keeping us from running the race. For Abraham, it was the sin of fear that kept ensnaring him.
And it came to pass, when he was close to entering Egypt, that he said to Sarai his wife, “Indeed I know that you are a woman of beautiful countenance. Therefore it will happen, when the Egyptians see you, that they will say, ‘This is his wife’; and they will kill me, but they will let you live. Please say you are my sister, that it may be well with me for your sake, and that I may live because of you” (Genesis 12:11-13).
This happened twice, many years apart!
And Abraham said [to Abimelech], “Because I thought, surely the fear of God is not in this place; and they will kill me on account of my wife. But indeed she is truly my sister. She is the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife. And it came to pass, when God caused me to wander from my father’s house, that I said to her, ‘This is your kindness that you should do for me: in every place, wherever we go, say of me, “He is my brother”’” (Genesis 20:11-13).
When he passed the baton, so to speak, to Isaac his son, the ensnaring sin of fear passed along with it, too.
So Isaac dwelt in Gerar. And the men of the place asked about his wife. And he said, “She is my sister”; for he was afraid to say, “She is my wife,” because he thought, “lest the men of the place kill me for Rebekah, because she is beautiful to behold.” Now it came to pass, when he had been there a long time, that Abimelech king of the Philistines looked through a window, and saw, and there was Isaac, showing endearment to Rebekah his wife. Then Abimelech called Isaac and said, “Quite obviously she is your wife; so how could you say, ‘She is my sister’?” Isaac said to him, “Because I said, ‘Lest I die on account of her’ ” (Genesis 26:6-9).
However, even though Abraham wasn’t perfect, he definitely ran the race with endurance. I want to be like that!
“By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:8-10).
The author of Hebrews tells us that the Scriptures are full of a “great a cloud of witnesses,” men and women whose lives are recorded for us so that we can learn from their examples. We don’t have to go through “the school of hard knocks,” if we will just pay attention to those who have gone before us, those who are passing the baton to us.
Yeshua is the ultimate example. Unlike Abraham, he was both the Author and the Finisher of our faith. He didn’t get ensnared with any sin, although I think He did have to deal with some weight.
For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant,
And as a root out of dry ground.
He has no form or comeliness;
And when we see Him,
There is no beauty that we should desire Him.
He is despised and rejected by men,
A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him;
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
Surely He has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted.
But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
We have turned, every one, to his own way;
And YHVH has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He opened not His mouth;
He was led as a lamb to the slaughter,
And as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
So He opened not His mouth.
He was taken from prison and from judgment,
And who will declare His generation?
For He was cut off from the land of the living;
For the transgressions of My people He was stricken.
And they made His grave with the wicked—
But with the rich at His death,
Because He had done no violence,
Nor was any deceit in His mouth (Isaiah 53:2-9).
And this is where I start to feel ashamed of all the times I have been derailed by “a discouraging word from someone, a look that means disapproval, or an email from someone who has misunderstood me.” Yeshua “endured the cross” and “hostility from sinners against Himself” (Hebrews 12:2-3). He did it because He had come “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).
That would be me.
Times of hostility and oppression are only temporary, even when persecution brings us to the point of death. Why is it temporary? Because there is a resurrection! There is victory over death!
Yeshua will soon reign as King over all the Earth. Justice will be given to all, and the world will be made new.
Hebrews 12:2 says that Yeshua endured everything for “the joy that was set before Him.”
I think this is the key to enduring opposition. We have to fix our eyes on the future, on the sure hope of His promises, rather than looking at the problems right in front of us.
As marathon runners, we have to swipe away the temporary flies that swarm around our sweaty faces, looking instead to the finish line and keeping in mind the amazing prize in front of us.
We’re not alone as we run this race. The cloud of witnesses is cheering us on from the sidelines. Yeshua is right in front of us, and “looking unto Yeshua,” we can keep putting one foot in front of another. We ignore the jeers and taunts of those who would like to stop us. We definitely make sure we’ve rid ourselves of any weights passed down to us, and we certainly discipline ourselves so that we’re not ensnared by sin.
This is how we prevent weariness and discouragement. It’s all about where we place our eyes.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture in this blog post taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.