A LOOK INSIDE
In this scripture we begin with the Israelite way of worship, one man is intercessor before God and the presence of the Jewish law versus Jesus as intercessor, a direct connection between us and God, and the new covenant. You probably remember that Jesus came not to abolish the law but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17) with the new covenant. We live under the doctrine of grace. If you ever want an easy way to explain grace to others use the acronym God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. Yes, we still live by the ten commandments and the rules and regulations put forth in scripture. It is true that when you break one you may as well be breaking all of them. Of course, the greatest truth is that Jesus received the punishment for our past, present, and future transgressions on the cross.
Break It Down
The Untouchable God: Hebrews 12:18-21 18 For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, 19 And the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard intreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more: 20 (For they could not endure that which was commanded, And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart: 21 And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:)
Verses 18-21 describe the fear that Moses and the Israelites lived under. God is so awesome that only his anointed spokesman, Moses, could approach his mountain or his glory. If an animal strayed onto that mountain it died. Later, when the ark of the covenant, God’s presence with the people, was mishandled by Uzzah, he was stricken dead immediately (2 Samuel 6:6-7).
Early Israelites lived under a fear that they would misunderstand, misinterpret, or defame God in any way. One example of this reverence is the tendency to write the Jewish word for God as YHWH when it was actually spelled as Yahweh. In a similar fashion some Jews still will spell God as G-d.
Jesus’ New Covenant: Hebrews 12:22-24 22 But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, 23 To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, 24 And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.
In a symbolic gesture of truly being in God’s presence verse 22 tells us that we have come unto Mount Zion and into the city of the living God. Because of Jesus’ covenant of grace we have an invitation to call on an awesome, holy God at any time. Those who wanted to request an audience with an earthly king would have to request an invitation and would be taking a big chance with their lives if they should approach him uninvited. We don’t have this worry since we serve an any-time, on-time God. There are no “all circuits are busy messages” or busy signals. God is waiting for our call.
Verse 23 continues on with the company that we, as Christians, have become associated with. The general assembly would include all of God’s flock – those who have accepted Jesus Christ as savior and been adopted into the family of God. Do you realize that you have become a brother of Moses, Abraham, John, and even Paul? These are among the “church of the firstborn.”
Notice that this verse closes with the “spirits of just men made perfect.” Paul writes in many places in scripture about the concept of justification (Romans 3:24 being a perfect example). You may have heard the description of justification described as “just as if I’d never sinned.” This is a true description of justification by faith. You are forgiven of the sins in your past years. It is this forgiveness that gives us a “know so” salvation. We do not believe that we can do anything to earn salvation. We don’t hope that we will be saved by our church attendance. We know that it is the blood of Jesus shed on the cross that guarantees a place in heaven. It is the sacrifice at the cross that makes us perfect.
In verse 24 we see the new covenant mentioned along with the source of that covenant. Under this covenant we see the grace of a loving God versus the wrath of a God who requires regular blood sacrifices to atone for the sins of mankind. The phrase “blood of sprinkling” refers to the shed blood of Jesus, who is the mediator of the new covenant. How is he a mediator? He stands between us and God as intercessor for our sins. Have you thought badly of your sibling today? Jesus has you covered. What actions throughout this day may be considered sinful? Jesus died for those sins also. Did you pass up an opportunity to show God’s grace today? Yes, Jesus intercedes for sins of omission also.
Accept Grace: Hebrews 12:25-29 25 See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven: 26 Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven. 27 And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: 29 For our God is a consuming fire.
Verses 25 and 26 give you an invitation to accept God’s gift of grace. Notice in verse 26 that the phrase “shook the earth” would seem to refer to the early presence of God evidenced by thunder, lightning, and fire. Your invitation is now from a still, small voice that speaks. If you are open to the calling and guidance of God it will be quite evident. If you choose to dismiss that voice it is at your own peril.
Look at the early verses of I Samuel and you will see that the voice of God was rarely heard. Samuel was a child given to God by his mother and raised by Eli the priest. God called Samuel three times. After the first two he thought Eli was calling him so he went to him. Even Eli had not heard the Lord’s calling for a long period of time so he didn’t realize that God was calling Samuel. Finally after the third calling, Eli realizes that it is actually God who is calling Samuel. He tells him to go back and listen. He also tells him how to answer God’s call. It is in I Samuel 3:10 that Samuel answers God and has opened himself up to His leading. Is it possible that God has been calling you but it has just not been realized as God’s voice directed at you?
Verse 27 once again asserts the fact that we will no longer have an earth shattering voice of God. We will not receive something often referred to as a “2×4 experience” that Paul received. He was on the road to Damascus (Acts 9) and God got his attention by knocking him off his horse and speaking personally to him in a bright light. Even those who were with him heard the voice but saw nothing. This experience left Paul blinded. Do you see the symbolism? Even though Paul was a well studied “Pharisee of Pharisees” he was blind to the real God. Now his awakening has left him physically blind. In our lives the call of God will be present and it can be accepted or denied. That is a personal decision that you will have to make of your own accord.
Verses 27 and 28 “bring it home.” God has given all for us and we should worship and serve him in return for his love and guidance. He has made available to us a kingdom that we can only imagine. It is far beyond the earthly descriptions in Revelation (21:21) of streets of gold and gates of pearl. Imagine, one pearl that acts as a gate. That is a big pearl. Would a big oyster be required to create that pearl?
We see that God is a consuming fire. Are we back to the fire and smoke God of the new testament? Nope, not at all. God is also a jealous God. He leaves no room for us to worship other gods. When asked about the greatest commandment Jesus replied “love the Lord thy God … and … love thy neighbor as thyself …” Does this mean that we only have to live by these two commandments and all others can be ignored? Remember, Jesus did not abolish the law with his sacrifice – he fulfilled the law. The meaning here is that if you will love God and your neighbor all of the other commandments and laws will be obeyed.
Wrap It Up!
These scriptures compared the old testament law and the new covenant provided by the blood of Jesus. Now let’s do a bit of role playing to uncover how life would now be under Mosaic law. You are a farmer and are required to sacrifice the best of your crops and animals many times per year. The requirement is the best, not the sickly and lame. You can’t say, “well this ear of corn is shriveled so I will bring it to the sacrifice” or “that sure is a sickly lamb so it will be sacrificed to God.” “Would God know or care”, you may be thinking. Do you remember Cain? Take a look in Genesis 4:3 and decide that for yourself.
Now consider the toil that these ritual sacrifices would take on your food and income. In today’s economy would there be enough? Fortunately you don’t have to worry about this since God gave his best, his sinless and perfect son, as the final sacrifice.
Somethin’ To Think About
In this lesson the word “awesome” was used twice as an adjective for God, how do you use this word in your everyday life?
Do you find it easy to forgive someone who has mistreated you? Verbally? Physically?
Are you quick to ask for forgiveness once you realize that you have wronged someone?