The author has spent all this time, making this incredibly dense and well thought out argument about why the readers shouldn’t turn from Christ. Then, today, we get to these 6 verses and he crams in about 6 weeks worth of sermon material. I’m going to do my best to expound on each idea just a little bit. That said, these can be incredibly rich and some of them complicated topics, and it would be a great idea to do a deeper study on them all when you have time.
First, he says: “Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. 13 “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.” In other words, Man up. Woman Up. You can do this! You are stronger than you think you are, don’t give into the pressure surrounding you, be strong in the Lord.
Is that a message for believers today or what? So many believers seem to be tripped up by such trivial offenses and struggles. The author literally says to “make level paths for your feet.” As if to say, you are not at the mercy of the culture and spiritual forces around you. The path of life is smooth and level. As long as you keep your eyes fixed on Jesus.
Then he says, “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” Wow! Again, something we so desperately need to hear today. There are so many Christians who are blatantly ignoring this verse. So many are preaching hatred against opposing political ideologies. So much spite and disgust for people with whom we disagree. For too many there is no effort at all being made to live in peace with everyone. We’re not even working to live in peace with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Just because someone has a doctrinal difference with us is not a reason to hate or divide. Maybe a part of the reason the church seems to be lacking God’s presence is because too many of us are attacking others in the same flock. Why would God, with His presence reward those who are attacking His children? I think we need to try harder to live in peace. Spite and hatred hasn’t gotten us very far, so perhaps it’s time for a new approach.
Next we get to this: “See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” This bitter root concept is worth a small exploration. It comes form Deuteronomy 29:18: “Make sure there is no man or woman, clan or tribe among you today whose heart turns away from the Lord our God to go and worship the gods of those nations; make sure there is no root among you that produces such bitter poison.”
Are there bitter roots around you? Statistics tell us that there are. There are people who have left the faith in masses. And they are filled with angst towards the church. It feels like I’ve had many conversations lately where people are angry at the church who then become evangelists for their rebellion. We’ve seen it with Christian leaders lately like Joshua Harris’ recent coming out about no longer being a Christian. The opportunity to be surrounded by bitter roots is abundant, especially in the Pacific Northwest. Don’t let those roots grow up and cause trouble. Make sure you’re surrounded by people who are intentionally walking with God.
Then we come to: “See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. Even though he sought the blessing with tears, he could not change what he had done.”
What could the comparison possibly be here between sexual immorality and Esau? Well, if you remember the story of Esau he sold his birthright because he was hungry. And because he was famished he sold the most important thing for an immediate thing. My wife has used a phrase like that and it has really stuck with me. She says “we’re giving up what we want most for what we want now.” We are giving up the most important for the immediate.
It’s ironic how over sexualized our culture is while at the same time there seems to be an outcry for men to not use women as sexual objects. The culture has been cramming every form of sexual promiscuity down our throats for generations now, should we be surprised when it gets out of hand? Probably not. But, in the church, we are called to be different.
In 2018, Daspe and colleagues surveyed 1036 people about pornography use. They found that 73 percent of women and 98 percent of men reported internet porn use in the last 6 months. It’s so easy to find, even by accident. It’s one of the reasons we have told our kids we don’t want them looking over people’s shoulders at their phones, even while they’re at church.
That’s not supposed to be who we are in the church. But so many among us give into that hunger all the time. Now, I don’t think we should come down on people harshly and condemn them for using pornography, for sexual promiscuity and so on. I think that approach has caused a lot of the harm we see today. But, we need to start talking about it. We need to address it. We need to do so out of love, but we can’t just ignore the problem anymore. We can’t ignore the fact that we’re selling what we were made for so we can meet a temporary hunger.
That’s not what we were made for. Once we have been reborn into Christ, we’ve been born into an entirely different identity and family. We’ve been born into the King’s family. The King who rules the entire galaxy. We are now sons and daughters of God almighty. It was foolish for Esau to sell his birthright because he was hungry. But how much more foolish is it for us to sell our birthright in the eternal Kingdom of God for a very fleeting and temporary pleasure. There is no comparison.
We can do better. In our struggle against these sins, we have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood. As the author said at the start of this chapter, we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses who lived by faith their entire lives. And we, like they, should throw off anything that hinders us in our pursuit of God. And we should throw off the sin that get’s us all tangled up and unable to move. Will it be easy? No. The good things never are. But, we can endure the hardship of it all as discipline from God, knowing that what God has for us and what He’s doing in us is so much better than what we’re giving up. That’s not to say that what we’re giving up isn’t good. But they’re not the best. Sex is a good thing, God made it. But we can abuse it.
We’re better than this. We are stronger than this. We aren’t at the mercy of the winds of culture. By virtue of what Christ has done for us, we have already risen above this culture. So, tap into the strength of your new family line, the strength of Christ through he Spirit and walk the level path of the Kingdom. The path of this world will trip us up every time.