Is Hebrews 12:12-13 literal or figurative “Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, vs13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather healed.”
As with any passage of scripture, we must read it in context to understand what it’s actually saying. Taking this particular scripture as a stand alone verse completely distorts the meaning of it. A first clue that the scripture has more to it is the first word here, “therefore.” Let’s figure out what that therefore applies to. Let’s go back to Hebrews 12:6-9 FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES, AND HE SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVES.”
It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live?” The Lord is a good father who loves us and love’s goal is to make one better, to course correct to keep the one you love safe. If a father can’t correct you than you’d have to question whether or not you belong to him, likewise, if the Lord didn’t correct us, as a Father does His children, it would show we didn’t truly belong to Him. Now, we’re starting to see context.
The thought continues in Hebrews 12:10-11, “For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” God only disciplines us to make us better and though it doesn’t always feel good in the moment, as like when we were children, maturity recognizes and appreciates the fruit of that discipline as time goes on. Recently, the Lord was really correcting my husband on some of his ways of thinking and doing things and the Lord spoke this to his heart, “I’m only trying to make you better.” God is a good father who only wants to make us better!
So now we get to the verses you asked about, in context, which say, Hebrews 12:12-13, “Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.” Who is this direction for? It’s for each individual Christian. We could say it like this, “child of God, you’re not perfect, there’s correction needed in this and in that area, so strengthen those areas that you’re weak in and that you’ve been feeble in, and make your straight path according to the correction of the Lord, so things that are out of order will be put back in order and you’ll be more effective.” I love how The Message Bible paraphrases this and takes it a bit further, Hebrews 12:12-13, “So don’t sit around on your hands! No more dragging your feet! Clear the path for long-distance runners so no one will trip and fall, so no one will step in a hole and sprain an ankle. Help each other out. And run for it!” Get yourself in order and help get others in order too! Look at the Amplified Bible, Hebrews 12:13, “And cut through and make firm and plain and smooth, straight paths for your feet [yes, make them safe and upright and happy paths that go in the right direction]…”
It is the job of every Christian to follow God’s direction and accept His correction. Many things we deal with in life will be the result of either following this truth to fruition or refusing to do so. We have all heard the saying, “God is in control.” But the reality is, we are meant to follow God and demonstrate self-control.