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 NKJV)
Our passage follows closely to an entire section on the chastening of the Lord. This is why we have “therefore” to start verse 12. It is as if the writer is drawing a picture of a person who has gone through a round of discipline from the Lord, by the hand of sinners, and is telling those who read to strengthen the one who has been so disciplined, whose hands hang down, and the strengthen their feeble knees. This is medical language. The word “strengthen” in the Greek means “to straighten; or to set dislocated parts of the body.” (Vincent) This is a vivid picture of a person who has been put out-of-sorts by (in this case) the abusive treatment of them at the hands of contradicting sinners.
Paul was often experiencing such treatment and spoke of it. He wrote:
For indeed, when we came to Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were troubled on every side. Outside were conflicts, inside were fears. Nevertheless God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming, but also by the consolation with which he was comforted in you, when he told us of your earnest desire, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced even more. (2 Corinthians 7:5–7 NKJV)
Sometimes great men and women in the Bible are portrayed almost like comic book heroes; they never get nervous or concerned; they always have it all together. Nevertheless, we must remember that Paul and his comrades were as human as you are, and as I am. They were touched with the feelings of all of our weaknesses. In fact, Paul suffered things that could kill a person; however, God was always faithful to send someone to encourage him; that is to say, to strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees. Like a doctor arriving on the scene of a serious accident, Titus went to work in the power of the Holy Spirit encouraging these dear men of God who were depressed through their circumstances (Vincent). They suffered these things for the sake of the Gospel; at the same time, they still needed encouragement. Everyone at some point will need to be encouraged.
Make Strait Paths
It has been said that “the reward of suffering is experience.” I think it can also be said, with all sincerity, that everything we go through is part of our spiritual training. God uses all of our experiences for His glory. Nevertheless, sometimes we are disciplined for our faults, and other times we have done nothing to deserve what is happening (1 Peter 2:20). Both scenarios imply discipline and training. If we have been disciplined for our faults, we need to take steps to make sure we do not repeat the offense that leads to the discipline. The writer to the Hebrews states, make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed. This portion of the verse continues the medical motif, stating that the path of our life needs to be clear of anything that could cause further injury.
We have an obligation as Christians to make sure we do not cause a fellow brother or sister to stumble. When we are called along side in a situation, we need to have the mind of a first-responder in an accident. We tend to the immediate need in order to strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees. Afterward, we are to clear the path in such a way that it is no longer a trip hazard. Think of all the times you or I have said, ” move that out of the way before they trip over it. ” When a person struggles to walk, they need assistance until they are “healed.”
If we fall physically, and put both our shoulder and knee out — we are in bad shape. However, this can happen spiritually; so we need to be watchful of anything that can cause a fellow brother or sister to fall in the way. We must never be the cause of another persons’ spiritual fall.
Paul was always warning the saints not to do things that would offend a fellow brother or sister in the Lord. He also warned them not to do things that could lead a person into sin. If we know that a brother or sister is weak in an area, we are not to try to exploit their weakness. If a doctor knew his patient had a heart condition and did something to provoke a heart attack — he would be charged with malpractice. How much more cautious ought the saints be when it comes to peoples’ souls?
Injury and Weakness
How many times have we watched a sporting event and seen an athlete carried off the field? If the injury is serious someone is bound to ask, “Is it career ending.” This is because some things don’t heal very easily. They take time and tremendous care. They require careful doctors and nurses who have a heart to see the person fully recover.
Nevertheless, our passage is a sobering reminder that even “spiritual injuries” require great care and healing. Once a joint has been dislocated, sprained or torn, it is very difficult to get back to 100%. This is where our need for one another comes in. We need godly saints to come along side and 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.