32And what more should I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets — 33who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, 34quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35Women received their dead by resurrection. Others were tortured, refusing to accept release, in order to obtain a better resurrection. 36Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37They were stoned to death, they were sawn in two, they were killed by the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, persecuted, tormented — 38of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.
39Yet all these, though they were commended for their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40since God had provided something better so that they would not, apart from us, be made perfect.
1Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, 2looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.
Growing up in the 80's in church meant learning to memorize Bible verses. Two wonderful verses to memorize was Hebrews 12:1-2. These verses are in bold for you to do just that. Take a minute or two and try to memorize these powerful words from Hebrews.
Memorizing verses without grasping the context of the verses sometimes got you into trouble. Perhaps not big trouble but a minor trouble of misconstruing what the verses were about, not understanding how the preceding and following verses determine the meaning of the verses you were trying to memorize.
Take, for instance, the favorite verse of American Presbyterians, 1 Corinthians 14:40, "But all things should be done decently and in order." When Presbyterians cite this verse, it is almost always with the message that things should be done in a "Presbyterian" way with calmness and decorum, with a modicum of emotion.
But what does the preceding verse say? 1 Corinthians 14:39 says, "So, my friends, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues." The "decently and in order" is in the context of "charismatic" worship! A shocker to many of our "frozen chosen" brethren. Not that there aren't any charismatic Presbyterians. Look around you.
So to appreciate Hebrews 12:1-2, we need to pay attention to the preceding section. The section that comes before Chapter 12 in Hebrews is about people with faith and how with faith these folks did some amazing things. But these amazing things were not without extreme obstacles and sufferings. Furthermore, their faith went unfulfilled, "did not receive what was promised."
Given these attributes -- holding unto faith, doing amazing things through faith, suffering unheard of things in faith -- what is the great take away for us the readers and listeners of the Book of Hebrews?
The great take away is "let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us." And who can show us the way? "[L]ooking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God."
"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God." -- Colossians 3:16
Let's pray: O Father, we pray for your word to come alive inside of us as we memorize and meditate upon your word. O Son of God, may You, the Living Word, shape the very contours of our hearts and minds with God's truth so much so that we become transformed into Your Image. May this transformation be so deep that we cannot see the boundary lines of where your truth begins and where the truth of who we are ends. In Jesus' name, amen.