“Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed. Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” (Heb 12:12-14)
Make Level Paths For Your Feet
Here, the author quotes from Proverbs 4:26-27, which says,
“Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.” (Pr 4:26-27)
Throughout the Scriptures, we find many verses that warn about straying from the path God has given us. A path is a metaphor that is frequently used to refer to one’s way of life or God’s guidance.
God said to the Israelites through the prophet Isaiah, “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.” (Is 48:17)
Proverbs 4:11-12 says,
“I instruct you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths. When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; when you run, you will not stumble.” (Pr 4:11-12)
One of the most famous verses about this is Proverbs 16:9, which says,
“A man's heart plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.” (Pr 16:9)
So, the Bible tells us that there’s a path that God has given us. God wants us to be steadfast and stay on his path without stumbling or turning to the right or the left because only his path leads us to true life. All the other ways outside of God's way may seem good to us but they will end up leading us to death.
In the book of Jeremiah, God warned Israel, saying, “See, I am setting before you the way of life and the way of death.” (Jr 21:8)
When we follow the path of faith that will lead us to salvation, we should always try to make it level, which means that we are to remove all obstacles so that we won’t stumble or fall on the path. We should focus our eyes on the finish line and “throw off everything that hinders” us from staying on the right path.
So, in the Scriptures, keeping to the straight path means following God’s way by obeying his words. By contrast, turning away from this path is often used as a metaphor for sin and disobedience. And God wants us to turn away from the path of disobedience and death and return to the right path.
God says in the book of Ezekiel,
“Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?… Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, people of Israel?” (Ezk 18:23, 30-31)
So, an important thing that we should always check in our faith journey is whether we’re on the right path or not. And if we’re not, we should repent, turn away from our sinful ways, and return to the path of life that God has given us.
Strengthen Feeble Arms and Weak Knees
In this passage the author also encourages us to “strengthen [our] feeble arms and weak knees.” This expression is a quote from Isaiah 35:3-4.
“Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you.” (Is 35:3-4)
Feeble arms and weak knees were often used to represent exhaustion and frustration. The original readers of the book of Hebrews were exhausted because of outward suffering and persecution and the internal problem of sin. Their arms and knees were weakened.
But what the author said by quoting from the book of Isaiah is that they could still rise up and be strengthened. In their difficult and frustrating situation, they were to remember the Lord who could give them new strength and power to overcome their weaknesses, past failures, and obstacles that kept them from running the race of faith.
The only reason we can be strengthened and rise up again lies not in us, but in God almighty. If we rely on ourselves, we’ll find our arms feeble and our knees weak. But when we start to turn our eyes from ourselves to the Lord and rely on him, we’ll experience his amazing power that renews everything and keeps us moving forward without becoming tired.
This reminds me of a famous passage from Isaiah chapter 40. Let’s read it together.
“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Is 40:28-31)
This passage always gives me hope whenever I find myself wandering and becoming tired and weary. As weak human beings, we can easily run out of energy and become exhausted from outward difficulties and internal problems.
I still remember the time I first believed in Jesus and committed my life to him. I was very glad and full of energy. I had just experienced the most amazing spiritual reality and I thought that I would never go back to my old life. Everything was good and I was confident in my salvation and God’s calling. I felt like I could even change the world.
But it didn't take long to realize it was only my pride. My sinful nature was stronger than I thought and I was weaker than I thought I was. Even though I started the race of faith, there were still a lot of things that kept me from focusing my eyes on the final goal of salvation and staying on the path.
Only then did I realize that true power and strength didn’t come from me, but from God who was in me. As Paul said, “this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” (2Co 4:7)
I had to learn to rely on God more in everything I did. I had to learn to give him control over my life. And God has never disappointed me. He was there whenever I needed him and strengthened me even though I turned away from him.
The God we believe in is the God of creation. He is the everlasting and almighty God who won’t grow weary. He gives power to those who seek him and rely on him. So, no matter where we are, no matter how many times we’ve failed because of our weaknesses and sins, and no matter how weary and tired we are right now, he can still strengthen us with his almighty power and renew us with his mercy and grace.
The more we try to overcome difficulties on our own, the more we face frustration and exhaustion because we don’t have the power to save ourselves. But the more we rely on God and go to him, confessing our weaknesses and asking for his mercy, the more he will start to work in us, renew us, and give us new power to rise up and run the race of faith until we finally cross the finish line.
So, if you think you’ve lost your way and are exhausted and weary now, please turn your eyes to Jesus who empathizes with our weaknesses and helps us and strengthens us in our times of difficulty and need. Please don’t forget that he prays for you and is always there with you even when you don’t feel it.
Make Every Effort to Live in Peace with Everyone
Now, let’s move on to the next point. The author also encourages us to live in peace with everyone. Hebrews 12:14 says,
“Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” (Heb 12:14)
Here, we find two important things that we are to seek as Christians—peace and holiness.
Regarding peace, what’s important is the range of people that we should try to live in peace with. We should make every effort to live in peace with everyone.
This can be very challenging for us. It’s not easy to consistently maintain peace with those we get along with. Even many married couples have trouble keeping peace in their relationships.
Then, how much harder must it be to live in peace with everyone, including those who hate us and disagree with us?
Nevertheless, we’re commanded to make every effort to live in peace with everyone without exception. That’s because Jesus came to the world to give his peace not just to his disciples or believers, but to everyone on earth.
Colossians 1:19-20 says,
“For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” (Col 1:19-20)
Jesus is called Prince of Peace in the Bible because he brings true peace on earth through his sacrifice and death. We were separated from God because of our sin and are reconciled with him now through Jesus’ precious blood that he shed on the cross. And, there’s no exception in his blood. He shed his blood not for specific groups of people, but for everyone on earth.
And as Christians who have this amazing privilege of becoming children of God and having peace with him through Jesus Christ, we’re to make every effort to live in peace with everyone because our Lord and Savior loves everyone and wants everyone to have true peace in him.
Jesus said in Matthew 5:9,
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Mt 5:9)
To be children of God is to be peacemakers because our Lord Jesus Christ is the prince of peace. We’re called to be peacemakers on earth who deliver true peace from heaven to everyone around us.
I think the passage that best describes Christians’ responsibility to make peace is found in 2 Corinthians chapter 5.
“All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2Co 5:18-21)
Those who have been reconciled with God through Jesus Christ came to have both the privilege to serve in the ministry of reconciliation and the responsibility to deliver the message of the gospel as Christ’s ambassadors. In order for us to do so, we should be reconciled with God first because everything comes from our relationship with him.
Today, we talked about three practical things that we should apply in our lives of faith. We should make our paths level so that we won’t stumble when running the race of faith. We should strengthen our feeble arms and weak knees with the help of the Lord who gives us true strength. And, we’re to make every effort to live in peace with everyone, remembering the peace with God we came to have in Christ Jesus.