12 Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees,
13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed.
14 Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord:
15 looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled;
16 lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright.
17 For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears.
Verses 12 and 13 take up the athletic image from verses 1 and 2. They exhort the Hebrews not to fall prey to weariness or discouragement.
Therefore (v.12) — base on what was just written about chastisement
strengthen (v.12) = straighten up — from the same word as “straight” in verse 13 — set upright
straight (v.13) — right, smooth
lame (v.13) — those inclined to give up and return to law — Make the path smooth so as not to cause the lame to stumble.
While Isaiah 35:3 is a sound cross reference for these verses, as most every commentary and study Bible notes, it may well be that the foundation for both the Isaiah and Hebrew references is Moses:
And so it was, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed; and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses’ hands became heavy; so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it. And Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun (Exodus 17:11-12).
The Hebrew reader will need all the help he can get from other members of remnant Israel to endure to the end of the Great Tribulation, just as Moses needed help to persist and prevail. — M.A.D. about Hebrews, by Terence D. McLean, page 178.
The exhortation is to the born-again Jews who had left the temple, to live such consistent saintly lives, and to cling so tenaciously to their new-found faith, that the unsaved Jews who had also left the temple and had outwardly embraced the New Testament truth, would be encouraged to go on to faith in Messiah as High Priest, instead of returning to the abrogated sacrifices of the Levitical system. These truly born-again Jews are warned that a limping Christian life would cause these unsaved Jews to be turned out of the way. — Hebrews in the Greek New Testament, by Kenneth S. Wuest, page 222.
looking (v.15) = exercising oversight — watching out for each other
fall short (v.15) = arrive late, fall back from
root of bitterness (v.15) — perhaps a reference to Deuteronomy 29:18
profane (v.16) — regard something as common which should be considered holy — in Esau’s case, his birthright (Genesis 25:29-34)
This is neither a Christian nor an unsaved pretender but rather a Tribulation Hebrew being exhorted to keep himself from falling away.
No Christian inherits a blessing in that we are told we have all spiritual blessings in heavenly places now (Ephesians 1:3). However Israel’s blessed yet future inheritance has been a recurrent theme of this book (Hebrews 1:4, 13, 2:5, 8; 3:6, 18; 4:6, 9; 6:11, 15; 8:10; 10:25; 11:8-10; 11:39 and here). — McLean, page 180.