Many times, the Christian life has been referred to as a race. After having presented many examples of faithful persons during the Old Testament era, the letter writer pointed out that those who had lived before are now on the sidelines cheering Christians on in their race.
Runners wear light shoes and clothing and remove all unnecessary weights that would slow them down. Christians are to remove the weights of distraction, hindrance and sin and keep their eyes on Jesus, their perfect example waiting at the finish line. The Christian race is nothing compared to the shame and hostility that Jesus suffered on the cross.
In the Christian’s race, it is not a short sprint but a lifetime marathon requiring endurance. In an ordinary race, there is only one winner and the prize for that winner may be a medal. The Christian race has as many winners as finishers. Its prize is eternal life in heaven for all who cross the finish line.
As the Hebrews writer continued, he pointed out that they had not suffered to the extent of Christ and some other Christians. He explained how the sufferings of Christians are, in fact strengthening chastisements from God. Just as fire refines gold and makes it more valuable, overcoming hardships makes a Christian stronger. His heart becomes more pure and humble. If one does not suffer as a Christian, it may mean that he is not truly a child of God.
The Hebrews could understand the reasons for chastisement by their earthly fathers. For this reason, the writer pointed out how much more valuable, even though unpleasant, God’s discipline is in one’s life.
God’s children should accept suffering in faith and in the joy that they are worthy to suffer as Christians. The writer urged the Hebrews to stay strong and encourage those who were weakened and discouraged by their persecutions. One who gives up in discouragement will be lost and others will be discouraged because of him.
The author reminded the Hebrews of another reason for them to be joyful. They had passed from Mount Sinai to the mountain of Zion where the new law with its comfort and encouragement had been given to them to replace the old law of terror and alarm. As had been pointed out earlier, there was no forgiveness in the old law that was given at Mount Sinai, whereas, the new law that originated on Mount Zion (Jerusalem) provided complete forgiveness of sins.
With the coming of a greater law, there was a coming of greater responsibility. God is merciful BUT He is also just. If those who disobeyed Moses’ law were punished, God will be even more strict with those who disobey the law of His Son. “For our God is a consuming fire.”