Hello everybody, and welcome in to episode 78 of the Bible 2021 podcast. We are reading Hebrews 12 today and our focus is on how to actually look to Jesus for encouragement.  We are a daily 10 minute podcast, where we will dig in to the truth of the Word of God by reading one Bible chapter a day and discussing it. Welcome to new listeners in   Thanks for listening! Our goal is to encourage DAILY Bible reading, so you can jump in at any time and join with us. We want to invite as many people as possible to join us in daily Bible reading, so help spread the word and share the podcast Don’t forget about our web-page, Bible2021.com – contact page, show notes, transcript and more– Click here for our Bible 2021 reading plan

Let’s open with a comment from our friend OG…two comments, actually.:

My favorite verse in this chapter is this one: “And without faith it is impossible to please God, for the one who comes to God must believe that He exists, and that He proves to be One who rewards those who seek Him.” Heb. 11:6, NASB. Well, 11:1 is great also. And 11:2. And … Well, it’s a great chapter…

I completely agree Og, and I feel the same about Hebrews 12! And one more comment from yesterday’s episode, on David being anointed as the future king of Israel:

Many times in the OT, God chose the younger over the elder, and the weaker over the stronger. Consider also Jacob, rather than Esau; Ephraim rather than Manasseh; and here: David rather than his brothers. In the NT, we see the widow’s mite preferred over the huge sacrifices of the Pharisees.

That is an excellent point also, and reminds me of what Paul says in his  introduction to his first letter to the Corinthians:

26 Brothers and sisters, consider your calling: Not many were wise from a human perspective, not many powerful, not many of noble birth. 27 Instead, God has chosen what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen what is weak in the world to shame the strong. 28 God has chosen what is insignificant and despised in the world—what is viewed as nothing—to bring to nothing what is viewed as something, 29 so that no one may boast in his presence 1 Corinthians 1:27 

Hebrews 12 is probably the chapter of the Bible that encouraged and elevated me the most as we have gone through this grueling pandemic, in particular the first few verses that call us to fix our eyes on Jesus. Before we consider how that can be possible, I’d like to tackle one other section of this wonderful passage. Consider vs 16:

16 And make sure that there isn’t any immoral or irreverent person like Esau, who sold his birthright in exchange for a single meal.

What a strange warning – especially to people in a modern age. I suspect even in Jesus’ age that birthright blessings weren’t as big of a deal as they were in Jacob and Esau’s time. So, why is the writer of Hebrews warning us about this, and what application does it have to 2021 and beyond? It hit me recently as I was listening to this passage on my Audible app that Esau’s sin was that he exchanged a small and fleeting moment of pleasure – eating a bowl of soup when hungry – for a lifetime of the blessings of a firstborn’s birthright. Esau gave up something of incredible value for the pleasures of less than an hour! How can we commit the sin of Esau today? Every man or woman who chooses to have an affair for a few moments of pleasure, or chooses to steal or swindle for a few extra dollars, or something along those lines. When we risk great and important things like our relationship with God, our relationship with our spouse, the trust of our friends, or a good job for a momentary and fleeting pleasure…we are committing the foolishness of Esau. Let’s read our chapter, and as we do – think about how it is we can look to Jesus.

Here are our verses of the day:

Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. Hebrews 12:1-2 

HOW can we keep or fix our eyes on Jesus when we can’t see Him? And make no mistake – it is not the normal experience of the Christian life to be able to see Jesus – and Jesus Himself seems to point to that future reality in John 20:29, “29 Jesus said, “Because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” 

What is the author of Hebrews telling us to do? I think there are at least two dimensions to how we can look to Jesus.

#1 – We look to Him in the Word. This is the primary way we can now look to Jesus. We are told earlier in Hebrews 4:12 that God’s Word is “living and active,” and I’m not sure that most of us have fully apprehended just exactly what that passage means. I am quite certain that it means that the Words of the Bible are far different from the words of other books. When we read Tom Sawyer, we don’t encounter Mark Twain, but only his imagination. Likewise reading anything by Shakespeare, Milton, Dante, Lu Xun, Steinbeck, Hemingway or Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. All of these are brilliant writers and minds, but we don’t actually interact with THEM when we read their books, because they are all dead. When we read the Word of God, however, we DO encounter God and His living and active presence. I don’t know exactly how this works, but John 1 tells us that Jesus IS the Word of God. Revelation 19 tells us that Jesus’ name is ‘the Word of God.’ What does this mean? I don’t know for certain, but I believe these passages mean that we actually – somehow, someway – encounter Jesus in His Word. Not merely His teachings, but HIMSELF. We see this a little bit in John 15. Initially, Jesus is talking about His disciples abiding in Him, and He in them/us, but then He shifts in verse 7:

If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you.

John 15:7

The Words of Jesus being in us seem to be very similar or even equal to Jesus Himself being in us – which is fascinating.

One other way that I think we can look to Jesus. We can take a passage like Revelation 19, Revelation 1, or John 1 or Philippians 2, all of which have strong descriptions of Jesus in them, and we can meditate on those descriptions in as deep a way as possible – picturing the person and character of Jesus. I’m not necessarily speaking of being mystical, but more about being meditative, completely guided by the Word of God.

I believe that in these two ways, primarily the first, we can look to Jesus and receive great living and active strength and encouragement from Him to persevere.

End of the Show: Bible memory verse for March: Hebrews 7:25 “Therefore, [Jesus] is able to save completely those who come to God through him, since he always lives to intercede for them.”

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