“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).
In keeping with the author’s practice throughout his letter to the Hebrews, this portion of Scripture contains an allusion to an important Old Testament idea. For instance, the call to action given to us in the passage quoted above draws upon an image that would have been familiar to the original audience for this epistle…
“Surely you have instructed many, And you have strengthened weak hands. Your words have upheld him who was stumbling, And you have strengthened the feeble knees” (Job 4:3-4).
“Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who have an anxious heart, ‘Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you'” (Isaiah 35:3-4 ESV).
Thus, the author of Hebrews made use of this imagery for the benefit of his readers, both ancient and modern: “Strengthen your listless hands and your weak knees refers to the readers’ need for renewed resolve and fresh strength in their struggles (cf. Heb 10:36-39; Heb 12:1-3).” (1)
So, much like an athlete who battles fatigue as he or she nears the end of a long-distance race, this passage encourages us to renew our commitment to finish the course that God has set for us. We can finish that course by continually looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, as mentioned earlier in Hebrews 12:1-2. There, we will find the inspirational motivation that we need to address the challenges associated with a life of faith and make a straight path for others to follow.
We’ll explore the significance of this imagery in greater detail in our next study. But for now, we can say that those who follow this counsel, “…understand that the circumstances of their lives are dictated by God who directs their destinies through His unfailing omniscience, and whose all-loving nature actively promotes their highest welfare” (2) We can also draw fresh encouragement from Paul the Apostle’s common-sense guidance to the members of the ancient church at Philippi…
“…I am still not all I should be, but I am bringing all my energies to bear on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God is calling us up to heaven because of what Christ Jesus did for us” (Philippians 3:13-14 TLB).
(1) NET Bible notes on Hebrews 12:12 https://classic.net.bible.org/bible.php?book=Heb&chapter=12&mode=print
(2) New International Bible Commentary general editor G. C. D. Howley, consulting editors F. F. Bruce, H. L. Ellison. Copyright© 1979 by Pickering & Inglis Ltd [pg. 1529]