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Hebrews 12:18-29: The Great God of Mt. Sinai and Mt. Zion Print E-mail
Sunday, 26 February 2017

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Mountains declare the glory of God. Anytime I get the chance to see a mountain or visit a mountain (just not drive up the side of it), I take it. Truth be told, I have really only seen two sets of mountains in my life: The Smokies in Tennessee and Alps in Switzerland. Yet, I have seen enough to know that they scream out the glory of the One who could speak them into existence. There is a small church in Grinderwald, Switzerland that has a cemetery behind it. Standing in the cemetery you can get a great view of the Alps across the valley below. It is a majestic and humbling view. To behold those mountains is to catch a glimpse of the glory of their Maker.

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The Bible speaks of mountains regularly. At times, they are used as analogies to communicate Godís power and strength. At other times, they are literal places where important events take place. In our passage this morning from Hebrews, the author brings his arguments about the greatness of Jesus to a close by comparing Godís revelation at two particular mountains: Mount Sinai and Mount Zion. He brings together some of what he has already said about Jesus and drives home the superiority of following Him verses returning to Judaism, which his original readers were being tempted to do. After the comparison, he draws some important conclusions about how we should respond to the greatness of Christ. Letís begin today by looking at his comparison of Mount Sinai and Mount Zion.

Two Mountains of God (v. 18-24)

The author begins with Mount Sinai, which represents the old covenant that God made with Israel. When He brought them out of Egypt, He gave them His commandments for living at Mount Sinai. We read about that from Exodus 19 this morning as our call to worship. The author of Hebrews describes what happened there in verses 18-21. Look at verses 18-19 with me. The focus here is on what physically took place at Mount Sinai. The mountain could be touched, you could see the rocks and boulders that made it up. You could also see a blazing fire and the storm that came up. You could smell the smoke and maybe even feel the heat. You could hear the sound of the trumpet blast and the voice of God that spoke to them. Can you imagine what it would have been like to be there? It would have been a fearful experience, which is what the author notes next. Look at verses 20-21. The people who were there at Mount Sinai were filled with fear. Even Moses was filled with fear after the incident with the golden calf. As the author of Hebrews has already noted, approaching God under the old covenant was limited. Only the high priest could enter the holy of holies and he could only go once in a year.

But not so with the new covenant and those who come to Mount Zion. Look at how the author describes it in verses 22-24. Believers in Christ have not come to Mount Sinai, but they have come to Mount Zion. Mount Zion is a physical mountain that the temple was built upon in Jerusalem. As such, it became symbolic for where God would dwell with people forever. The author is using it here in that spiritual way. Mount Zion represents the heavenly Jerusalem, the place where believers dwell with God. And that place is full of joy! It is a place of festival and feast. It is a place where angels have gathered, along with the people of God, who are described in a couple of ways here. First, they are the assembly of the firstborn. All believers in God, including those who have trusted in Jesus, are considered firstborn, or those who will receive the inheritance. Second, they are the spirits of the righteous made perfect. This seems to be a reference to all who have gone before us and are now with Christ. Through Him they have been made complete. They have finished the course and received the prize.

Who else is gathered with these saints? The Lord is there. God the Father is there as the judge of all. Why would the author use this description in the context of rejoicing? For at least a couple of reasons. First, we rejoice that the judge has counted us worthy through Christ to dwell with Him on Mount Zion! What an amazing reality that we have been truly forgiven through Jesus. The Just Judge has justly justified us through faith in His Son. Second, we rejoice that God will justly judge the world and right all wrongs. That is not an idea that we think about much, but we should rejoice in the fact that God is a righteous judge. And we need to recognize that rejoicing in God does not mean that we lose all fear of God (as we will see later in this text). The author goes on to describe God the Son as the mediator of a new covenant. We have seen this language before in Hebrews (see 8:6, 9:15). Jesus is the better mediator because His blood speaks a better word. Again, this does not mean that the old covenant was bad or that Abelís blood is bad, but just that Jesus is superior to all. The old covenant was great, but Jesus is greater. The revelation that God gave at Mount Sinai was great, but the message of Mount Zion is greater. Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of the old covenant. All of the blood that was ever shed by lambs on the Day of Atonement pointed to His better blood. The Lord has spoken to us in many ways, but the greatest revelation is through His Son (1:1-2). The author of Hebrews shows us once again that Jesus is better than anything else!

Three commands for Godís people (v. 25-29)

If the revelation of God at Mount Zion is greater than that of Mount Sinai, how should we respond? The author gives three commands in verses 25-29. Letís consider these as we close.

First, we should not refuse the Lord. Look at verse 25. If the message at Zion is greater than the message at Sinai, then how can we refuse or walk away from it? The original readers were tempted to go back to Sinai, but the author has clearly told them that such a move would be a huge mistake. If the people at Sinai did not escape their refusal, how will we be able to escape if we refuse the gospel? Jesus is the better priest. The sacrifice of Himself at the cross is the better sacrifice. He is better than angels and Moses and Joshua. He has cleared the way for us to be forgiven of our sins and made right with God. He has welcomed us into Zion. How can we refuse to repent and believe in Him? Do not make that mistake today. If you have never trusted in Christ, then let today be the day. Turn from your sins, trust in His death and resurrection, and join with those who are marching to Zion. Why would you refuse?

Second, we should be grateful for the unshakeable kingdom. Look at verses 26-28a. The author quotes here from Haggai 2, where the prophet speaks of the future glory of Godís salvation. The fulfillment of that came partially with the first coming of Christ. But it will not be ultimately fulfilled until Christís return. When that happens, the Lord will shake the heavens and the earth and only the eternal will remain. Thus, it is critical that we belong to something that is unshakeable on that Day. And the glorious good news is that through faith in Christ, we belong to the unshakeable Kingdom. Nothing can separate us from the love of God that we have in Christ Jesus. Paul writes: For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39). Brothers and sisters, rejoice and be grateful for the Kingdom that you have through Christ. Come to the Lord with thanksgiving everyday for all that you have in Jesus! Many things in this life will come and go, but His Kingdom is unshakeable.

Third, we should offer God acceptable worship. Look at verses 28b-29. Part of being thankful for all that God has done for us is through worship. Yes, this does mean what we are currently doing together, our singing and giving and hearing from the Word. But it also means our daily obedience and our daily devotions and our daily affection for God. And how are we to worship God? We are to worship Him with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. Again, in the midst of this great passage of rejoicing and offering thanksgiving, we see the author call us to fear and reverence. Our worship of God corporately should be full of thanksgiving and rejoicing, but it should also be full of reverence and awe. These ideas are not mutually exclusive. You can rejoice in God and fear Him at the same time. In fact, your awe of His greatness and power can lead you to deeper thanksgiving for all that He has done for you in Christ. The righteous wrath of God should have consumed us in our sin. We should have perished in the fire of Godís holiness. But Jesus took our place. He bore the wrath for all of those who believe in Him. True rejoicing does not result from making God into a cosmic grandfather. No, it comes when we recognize His holiness and justice and wrath, that He truly is a consuming fire. For only then will we be truly amazed and awestruck by His grace and mercy and love in Christ.

The Lord revealed Himself at Mount Sinai and Mount Zion. The greater revelation came through the coming of Jesus Christ our Lord. The glorious good news is that we can be saved from our sins and dwell with God forever through faith in Jesus. Yet, as we have seen, such faith must be enduring faith. It must keep going. It cannot go back to Sinai. No, it must finish the race with endurance. So letís set our eyes to Zion. We will not settle for anything other than Jesus our Lord. He is the greatest treasure of all. So letís spend our lives in pursuit of Him. Amen.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Saturday, 08 April 2017 )

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