12 Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees,
The believers to whom Hebrews was written were spiritually weak. They needed spiritual renewal. Verses 12 and 13 are a concluding exhortation to the thoughts from verses 4–11. The exhortations are “strengthen” and “make straight” in the next verses.
Verses 12 and 13 return to the metaphor of a race. The picture is of a runner showing fatigue in his hands and knees (v.12). He needs to keep his mind on the finish line (v. 13). Christians should steadfastly run their race and not allow situations to get them down.
This verse alludes to Isaiah 35:3 and Proverbs 4:26.
The word “therefore” expresses the conclusion to the believer’s attitude toward divine discipline. In view of the argument of chapter 12 to this point, the believer is to take encouragement from what was said. Many contestants in the Greek games reached a point of exhaustion and mental defeat. At that point, they would either shirk the contest or persist to the finish.
The “therefore” here shows the Christian how he can profit from his problems. God’s divine, ordained design on our lives is for us to grow in our faith. It is by faith that we see God in our trials and discipline.
Verses 12–17 urge the believer to live in peace and holiness. The “therefore” here shows how Christians are to apply the teaching of the early part of chapter 12. It is necessary to turn what we know into practical experience. Since divine discipline is necessary and serves for spiritual growth, it is necessary to take courage in seeing what God is doing in the life of the believer.
strengthen [lift up] the hands which hang down,
Weak hands and knees refer to both physical and mental exhaustion. Hands hanging down is a figure for a person who gives up, a person who accepts failure. He or she has reached a point of despair. This will produce reversionism in Christian living. That is exactly what happened to the Hebrew Christian readers.
The word “strengthen” signifies to lift up, set upright. Hands hanging down represents discouragement. This defeated state needs correction. It is wrong for a Christian to allow himself or herself to maintain a beaten attitude.
The word “strengthen” means to restore to a right position. The idea is to set something right again. The readers of Hebrews were to put perseverance back into their experience. They were not to give up or accept defeat.
and the feeble [paralyzed] knees,
“Feeble knees” is an idiom for palsied knees. Palsied people need crutches or braces to help them stand upright. This is also a picture of despair. Despair is dangerous because it is the very heart of defeat.
Christians are to arm themselves against discouragement.
Christians often become discouraged due to trials and adversities in their lives. They enter a gloomy stage in their walk with God. They need to remember that God did not forget them and that He has a plan for them. The Christian cannot advance or grow in the Christian life under defeat, discouragement.
For the Christian to live the godly life as it should be, it is necessary to surrender or yield to God’s hand in it all. Genuine Christian living leans on God’s mighty arm of the promises and principles He provides. This is to enter by experience what God provides (Tit 1:1). There is a need to develop maximum response to Scripture’s principles.
Christians are to live under the awe of God’s providence. They are to arm themselves against discouragement by faith. When we cast our anxieties (fear of the unknown) upon God’s sovereign actions, then we can defeat anxiety (1 Pe 5:7). Otherwise, discouragement will defeat us.
The mature Christian endures hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ (2 Ti 2:3). He places faith in God’s sovereign resources for him. Jesus, as the Author and Finisher of our faith, endured mighty difficult trials under the sovereign hand of the Father of spirits.
Depression and despondency are attitudes that Christians need to address. It is outside the plan of God for them. These attitudes will overtake them and defeat Christian living.