Jesus often taught in parables, as we have discovered so often through these articles. He was able to perceive that we need illustrations or stories to be able to comprehend and apply deep spiritual truths. We are a people that not only need to know the truth, but also what to do about it once we understand it. There are so many wonderful and classic illustrations in scripture, but within this article I would like to reference one that may not be as well known.
In Hebrews 12, the Hebrew’s author is discussing the need for the chastening of the children of God. The Christians to whom he was writing were going through challenges and persecution and needed to hear more about why this was happening to them. The writer makes remarks like “…My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives” (Hebrews 12:5-6). Also, “Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11). The application of this for them was that when our physical fathers correct us or teach us through discipline, we don't enjoy it, but later we appreciate the lessons. The same is true of spiritual difficulties that come our way. We may not like the hard times that we face, but afterwards we learn to be thankful for the chance to overcome the obstacle.
The illustration that the Hebrews writer uses next is key: “Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed” (Hebrews 12:12-13). Within this command, we find an illustration. It is not one of a sower, or a king, or a net, or any other kind of thing that Jesus so often used in His public ministry. What we find here reminds me more of someone who has been beaten down. The hands are hanging down, which is hard to do when standing upright. There are feeble, tired knees and crooked feet. There are broken limbs, maybe even broken bones which are not mending well. All of this is symbolic of the hardships which these Christians were going through. They were being beat down for being followers of Jesus, and the Hebrew’s writer was commanding them to stand up straight. He was explaining that God was not punishing them, but he was teaching them. But the problem was they were never going to learn the lesson if they stayed down on the ground.
We too can feel like we are being beaten down by the things we go through in this life. It is not a punishment, but a valuable lesson. Let us resolve to learn from those situations and then stand up straight as we serve our Lord.