The author just laid out for us in chapter 11 the saints that went before us and encouraged us to live up to their faith which is a great marker for us. He then begins in chapter 12 by encouraging us to run the race with perseverance while looking to Jesus as the one who makes our faith perfect. But he prefaces that remark with this great statement: “Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses.” I take comfort in that statement. Remember, he named those witnesses by name in chapter 11. But I have other witnesses that I call out and name in my heart and in my mind: Dr. Frederick Bronkema, Rev. Frederick Bronkema, Alice Henry, Marguerite Bronkema, “Big” Al Syversten, Rev. Gus Feather, and others who have influenced me and been significant in my life as witnesses to the faith.
We all have a cloud of witnesses who were responsible for teaching us the faith and for putting us on the right path to salvation. Some are still living, others are no longer on this earth. The author of Hebrews lifts up those who have left the earth. He goes from speaking strongly and with much hope in regards to these witnesses to describe a life which is one of persecution and oppression. Those witnesses went through it, so when we go through it, we should be able to shoulder the burden as they did, but with faith.
He speaks to these persecutions as discipline from a parent to a child. We are the child and God is the parent. What is crucial to me is that he states in the midst of describing the fact that persecution is inevitable, that even while we are being persecuted…look at vs. 14: “Pursue peace with everyone.” That is a goal after which we ought to move forward. Let us make our goal one of pursuing peace with everyone.
I also like the words of vs.28 especially in these days when worship has become a topic of conversation at session: “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks, by which we offer to God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe.” It is our responsibility to offer God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe.