DEVOTIONALS FROM HEBREWS
COMFORTING THE AFFLICTED
By Henry Jaegers
For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned. But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak. For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end: That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises. (Hebrews 6:7-12)
Paul continues his admonition with a more positive note. It is a great comfort to him that these believers are being stuck in a mode that keeps them from receiving some very important truth. The verses before us indicated that these believers have responded to his former words. There are some things that Scripture does not always tell us concerning certain details. For instance, we do not know how long Paul had to wait before they responded properly.
As we have indicated previously, change does not always come swiftly or easily. so patience is necessary as we apply the application to life.
Now Paul drops the other foot, of comforting the afflicted. But first, we must note an illustration that he is giving to us. It is a picture of two portions of land that were purchased by the owner for the purpose of bringing forth a healthy crop. The one ground responded positively to the planting of the seed and brought forth abundantly with the results of blessing to others. The other portion of land was that which did not respond at all. We are not told why but we can surmise that there were many. Perhaps the seed was never planted. Or, the ground was not properly prepared; or maybe time elapsed and it was too late to do anything. The first ground illustrates those who respond properly to the planting of the seed and the other represents those who either did not have an opportunity or were not properly prepared to receive the seed.
Without pushing this illustration and meaning too far, there is an application. Here are two kinds of people and their response to the word of God. Paul has good land in mind when he speaks to these Christians. There has been some evidence that the seed at one time was properly sown and a positive response was given. The evidence of such was their good deeds and the treatment of other Christians which indicated that they began well.
From this point, Paul begins his encouraging word. “But we are persuaded better things of you though we thus speak”. In these words, Paul says “in our hearts we were persuaded better things of you even though, for a time, things were going slower than we expected. His word to them indicates a positive response to his admonition. As mentioned before, we are not always given the details concerning the change in others as we read the portion of Scripture. But the fact that there was a positive word concerning them brought confidence that they have responded properly, gives him hope that he can now continue with the message he started.
Paul did the right thing by stopping to deal with the problem and through their response, he was able to lead them to a place where they were ready to go forward.
Often times slow progress is a result of not fully understanding. In the book of Malachi, we have the problem of the people who have been influenced by a corrupt priesthood. That is not a problem foreign to our modern world today. It is a sad situation when the people in the congregation know more about the Scriptures than those who claim to be called by God to teach them. What is true of the people to whom Paul addresses, is sometimes equally true concerning those who teach them. Spiritual progress is required of all God's servants who claim the call to the preaching ministry. God has placed a higher requirement upon those who respond to the call to "preach the word".
It appears that Paul's admonition through “afflicting the comfortable” has resulted in him now being able to “comfort the afflicted”. Their response is positive and in the following chapters, he can continue where he left off in chapter 5.
But we are not finished yet. There is more to say to the people to prepare them for the blessing which is to follow.
So what is the lesson we must learn from all this? Very often in our ministry, we come into situations where there is halted progress. Before we can admonish, we must first investigate and try to understand the people, their situation, and their lack of response. Sometimes the answer comes quickly but most of the time it doesn't. If we find ourselves in such a situation, we must remember that praying must be our first response; and in our praying, we must seek God's mind in knowing how to lead the people out of their present distress. As we pray and meditate upon the word of God, the Holy Spirit brings certain Scripture to mind and with that Scripture often new understanding of its meaning. It is true, that very often in this manner, we see a clear solution to the problem that lies before us.