Hebrewsby Robert M. Solomon
Several practical imperatives follow one another in rapid succession. First, we must strengthen our ″feeble arms and weak knees″ (Hebrews 12:12; Isaiah 35:3), not with our own strength but by looking to God's promises. The word ″strengthen″ is in the plural, meaning that it is a collective action as we mutually encourage one another to lean upon the sturdy and steady presence of God. As we take care of our own lives, we will also be a blessing to others. We are to ″make level paths″ (Hebrews 12:13; see Proverbs 4:26-27), choosing to live godly lives by staying obedient to God's Word, ″so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed″ (Hebrews 12:13)-those fellow believers who are weak and about to give up. Then we must also ensure that we live both in peace (our social relationships) and holiness (our relationship with God; v. 14). Living in peace must be with ″everyone″ (at least we should try hard, see Romans 12:18; Hebrews 12:14). Holiness must be pursued because without it ″no one will see the Lord″ (Hebrews 12:14). We must guard against apostasy, for fear of missing the grace of God (v. 15; see Galatians 5:4). Another key danger is allowing ″bitter root[s]″ to grow in our lives (v. 15; see Deuteronomy 29:18). Such bitter roots may be connected with idolatry, as the Deuteronomy passage shows. The problem is that when the heart turns away, we will stray from the life-giving presence of the Lord. Another example of bitter roots is to remain in sexual immorality (Hebrews 12:16), which was often connected with idolatry (Exodus 32; Hosea 4:12-14; Revelation 2:14, 20). It could also be simply a love for material pleasures, even legitimate ones such as food (which can become gluttony), or possessions (which can become greed). The example of Esau is mentioned as one who gave in to his hungry desires and traded his inheritance rights for them (Hebrews 12:16; Genesis 25:29-35). He gave up an eternal blessing for a fleeting pleasure. It was too late for Esau when he pleaded for the blessing he had so carelessly thrown away (Genesis 27:38).
It is vital that we identify bitter roots growing within us that will ″cause trouble and defile″ (Hebrews 12:15). If we find any unconfessed sin, persistent sinful habits, unholy desires and ambitions, and unresolved grudges and rage within us, we should pull them out-roots and all (Colossians 3:5-8). We should make sure that we do not hide inner bitterness and bondage to sin, even in our religious acts (Acts 8:23).
How can we strengthen our feeble hands and weak knees? Why is doing this in community so helpful? Consider if you are a stumbling block to others in any way.
Reflect on bitter roots that exist within. See if you can find any within your heart. What would you do about them?