After the testimony regarding men and women of faith (Hebrews 11), we notice how the next chapter starts with “therefore” and then states, “since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also …”. The witnesses are understood as the men and women of faith listed in chapter 11; they should be an example and inspiration to us to also “lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus …” (verses 1,2).

When looking to Jesus what do we see? He is the ultimate example, beyond the “cloud of witnesses”. He “endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted” (verse 3). The writer then quotes from Solomon’s Proverbs (3:11,12), “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves …” (verses 5,6).

He then notes the limitations with human efforts at discipline, but says of God, “but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness” (verse 10). That depends of course on our wise response to that discipline so that it shapes our behaviour and resultant character. His next point is, “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness, to those who have been trained by it” (verse 11).

But some rebel at such training, and all struggle with it as we are seeing at the moment in the case of Job. The time will come when Job will look back on his struggles and perplexities and acknowledge the training they provided – and so it should be with us. The challenge to us then is, “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (verse 14).

The challenge is made! “See to it that no root of bitterness springs up …” (verse 15). What sort of roots do you have? What is the soil like in which they are rooted? Think – and meditate – how wonderful and rewarding when God’s word is the main ingredient in that soil. May we all make sure that is the case with us.