You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm …
But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven? (verses 18, 22-25)
Imagine the terror that struck the people of God as the Sovereign Lord prepared to deliver the law to Moses on Mount Sinai!
Even Moses himself, who spoke face to face with the Almighty, said, “I am trembling with fear” (verse 24). The sights and sounds must have been truly terrifying. The mountain “blazed with fire to the very heavens, with black clouds and deep darkness. Then the Lord spoke … out of the fire” (Deuteronomy 4:11-12). “The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, the whole mountain trembled violently, and the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder”(Exodus 19:18-19). I’d be quaking in my boots. Certainly, the people of Israel were.
But the author here in Hebrews says our experience now is entirely different. He describes a more awesome sight yet, but one that is filled with life and joy and celebration and redemption.
Rather than experiencing a burning, smoking mountain, we have come to the very presence of God himself, ushered into his throne room. It is to the living God we have come, that word “living”dispelling dread, speaking to us of vitality and vibrancy, reminding us of Jesus’ own pledge that in him we may have “life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). This is our God.
Certainly this location is filled with lively presence, for “thousands upon thousands of angels”are in attendance, their congregation described as a “joyful assembly.” I think the shepherds outside Bethlehem got a foretaste of this joy – once they had overcome their own shocked surprise, they too were able to engage in the celebration, being unable thereafter to stop “glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen” (Luke 2:20). It was a taste of heaven.
Rather than Sinai’s terror, heaven’s joy is now the backdrop of our own experience. The gathered saints have great joy, for their names are written there. The Judge of all people has made those trusting in Jesus perfectly righteous, for Jesus has mediated a new covenant through his own blood.
So, the trembling fear of the gathered community at Sinai is set aside. Instead, we “approach God’s throne of grace with confidence” (Hebrews 4:16). There is life and joy and redemption. Praise his name.
But don’t hold back. Don’t refuse the Lord when he speaks. We have been given huge privilege in Jesus – indeed, we have access to the very throne room of heaven. That being the case, we should take our position even more seriously than did those who trembled before God’s glory at Sinai. For, as the passage says in conclusion, our “God is a consuming fire” (verse 29).
Sovereign Lord, I stand in awe of your glory. I am filled with gratitude for the open access I have received into your presence. I enter into joy, knowing I have been redeemed and declared righteous by the blood of Jesus. I listen for your voice, ready to respond to your command. Praise your name.
Reflect: What does this passage say you should feel when you enter God’s presence? Fear or joy? Reverence or complacency? What adjustments do you need to make?
Photo by Felipe Perez: https://www.pexels.com/.../church-with-majestic-volcano.../