March 1st, 2022 – Later Tuesday Afternoon
“For you have not come to a mountain that can be touched and to a blazing fire, and to darkness and gloom and whirlwind, and to the blast of a trumpet and the sound of words which sound was such that those who heard begged that no further word be spoken to them. For they could not bear the command, ‘If even a beast touches the mountain, it will be stoned.’ And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, ‘I am full of fear and trembling.’ But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel.” ~Hebrews 12:18-24
The contrast seen in this verse is not bad versus good, but rather awesome, powerful, and terrifying versus extremely awesome, powerful, and humbling; it is not a comparison of weakness to strength, but rather a comparison of what was already overwhelming to what is completely overcoming. Let me explain…
Remember that this passage comes right after the warning against spiritual profanity – the tossing away of our precious relationship with the Father for anything else. The Biblical illustration used was that of Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. Instead of treating our relationship with God with the same “who cares” attitude that Esau had, we are to honor and cherish the precious and glorious opportunity that we have to know and be known by the LORD God. Our passage today takes the charge [of valuing that relationship] to the next level by pointing out the truth that we have been included in that which is far superior to the reality which many of our Biblical heroes knew and enjoyed.
The first half of the passage above describes the reality that those from long ago knew and enjoyed; that reality formed the guidelines for their lives and worship. What did it entail? First, their worship and holiness revolved around a covenant born out of terrifying power and awesome glory; the LORD brought them to Sinai (the “mountain” referred to here in Hebrews 12) in order to make His covenant with them, and He gave it to them through mighty and powerful acts. The might and power of the acts were accompanied by warnings and by the fear of God. Israel was brought into a holy covenant with the LORD God Almighty – and the accompanying raw glory was too much for them. Even Moses, when confronted by the hot wrath of the LORD toward His rebellious people, was afraid; he who had spent so much time with the LORD and had
been His mouthpiece time and again…even he was genuinely afraid when faced with the reality of the wrath of the amazing and awesome God.
Before we get on our high horse about our access to the grace of God and there being no need to be afraid of Him today, let’s look at how the first and second halves of this passage fit together: First off, the second half describes the reality that we have been granted to live with in Christ. That picture is far more powerful and glorious than the first one (seen in the first half) because now it is not a veiled relationship with God that entails the shadow of things to come; rather, it is a profoundly intimate relationship with the Father and it is accompanied by the very things themselves. Whereas Israel had Mount Sinai’s fire and glory, we have Mount Zion’s perfection and dazzling brightness; where they had the congregation and the sound of words, we have the general assembly, the church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and the living God, the Judge of all. They could not so much as touch the mountain (the penalty was to be stoned to death or shot to death with an arrow), whereas we can approach the awesome throne of grace because of the sprinkled blood of Jesus.
The point is not that we have grace and they didn’t – God has always been gracious; rather, the covenant and kingdom which we have received and are receiving is so much more grand – and so much more perfect – than the one they had access to before Christ. This ought to leave us in even more awe, wonder, respect, and holy fear than they – not less. This passage, following on the heels of the previous verses, should cause us to bow in reverence and grateful praise to the One who has redeemed us and called us to such a high and holy calling. We have the very presence of God open to us! We have the perfect dwelling place of the Most High in view and His Holy Spirit within us!
Oh, my beloved brethren, let us not shrink back from the race before us; let us not wilt under our Father’s good discipline. Let us not fail to obtain His grace nor trade His loving fellowship for anything else. We have been bought with such precious blood and redeemed for such awesome glory!