The book of Hebrews has much relevance for us as believers today. The call is to value the great privilege we have to be called children of God and brethren of Christ; we are to persevere and to walk by faith even in the midst of sufferings and persecutions. We must not turn away from the Lord Jesus and the gospel.
Our scenario in the last days bears similarity with that of the Jewish Christians during the Roman rule. Many believers are undergoing persecution for their faith in these days; the number of martyrs in this century is estimated to be greater than the total number of martyrs in the whole of Church history.
The sufferings we endure may be likened to God’s discipline in His love and His testing and purification of our faith which is much more precious than gold. The Lord God disciplines us, corrects us and guides us so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment is sorrowful and painful but the end result God has in mind is our eternal well-being. It will result in joy and glory at the appearance of Christ in His second coming.
Like the saints of old, we must persevere and endure with faith and in obedience to God who has given us His best and His only Son. We need to run the race, looking to Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame. Like the Jewish believers of old, we must not fail to persevere, and we cannot turn away from the gospel and the Lord Jesus. We, like them, must appreciate the privileges we have in Christ. We need to recognise that in Christ we have a better covenant, a better transformation, a better Mediator and the final revelation of God’s plan of salvation. In Him, we are called to be His holy nation, a people of God and God’s own possession. We shall reign with Him in glory and collectively be His bride and temple in the new heaven and new earth. For the moment, temporarily, we need to endure sufferings as pilgrims on this earth. Our citizenship is in heaven and like the saints of old, we are looking for a heavenly city whose builder and maker is God Almighty.
Recognising this, the way we live our lives will be different from the people of the world. As pilgrims passing through this world, our perspectives, values and priorities should be in line with those who are looking forward to a ‘heavenly city’. We are people waiting for the return of our Master, the Lord Jesus. As we wait, we are to watch, we are to pray and we are to work the work of God (Mark 13:33). Hebrews 12 reminds us that we are like those running a race. We cannot run a race with many weights and burdens clinging to us. The sin, the values of the world, the worldly pursuits, materialism, the entanglement of wrong relationships – all these should be removed so that we can run the race well and are not weighed down and end up not finishing the race. We are to look to Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith and, as we focus on Him, we can run with His enabling and with His encouragement to finish this race God has prepared for us. It is not a short sprint; it is more like a marathon, requiring our perseverance and endurance to finish, together with the rest of the brethren.
The negative example of Esau highlighted in Hebrews has a significant message for Jewish Christians and us. Esau rejected his birth-right to satisfy his desire for food. It is a reminder to all believers to live worthy of our high calling. We are born again to be children of the living God, with Christ as our elder brother. We who were destined for hell and destruction are not only forgiven but given the privilege to be members of God’s family with an inheritance and the privilege to rule with God in glory. As children of the Almighty, we should manifest the behaviour of those belonging to the Holy One. If we live for the moment and seek to satisfy our fleshly appetite, how do we expect to honour the heavenly Father? How can the world at large see us as those belonging to Him and as disciples of the Lord Jesus? In order to satisfy the longing for food, Esau had rejected his birth-right as the elder son of Jacob. He had in fact rejected God and His calling to be in line with the calling of Abraham. His lack of eternal perspective and his failure to value God’s high calling caused him to choose the temporal pleasure of satisfying his desire for food at a cost of sacrificing what was truly valuable. Will we, like Esau, turn away from the gospel and the Lord Jesus in preference for temporary relief and momentary pleasure, but losing eternal life and eternal reward?