HEBREWS 12:18-29 (NIV – UK)
The mountain of fear and the mountain of joy
18 You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; 19 to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, 20 because they could not bear what was commanded: ‘If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.’ [Exodus 19:12-13] 21 The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, ‘I am trembling with fear.’ [Deut. 9:19]
22 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 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 the righteous made perfect, 24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
25 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? 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, ‘Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.’ [Haggai 2:6] 27 The words ‘once more’ indicate the removing of what can be shaken – that is, created things – so that what cannot be shaken may remain.
28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29 for our ‘God is a consuming fire.’ [Deut. 4:24]
HIM WHO SPEAKS
Here we are taken right back to Mount Sinai – where Moses had led the people after their escape from Egypt. Mount Sinai was a mountain that nobody could touch (v. 20) – Moses was allowed to go up the mountain – but the rest of the people were not. Moses acted as the mediator between God and humanity – we see this, for example, when Moses receives the 10 commandments.
But laid out before us now is a greater mountain – ‘Mount Zion’, ‘the city of the living God’, ‘the heavenly Jerusalem’ (v. 22). The God who dwells on Mount Zion is the same God who dwelt on Mount Sinai – with one difference. The blood of Jesus has been shed. Jesus is the mediator of a new covenant (v. 24), and Jesus, who died and rose and ascended to heaven, takes us with him, to sit at the right hand of his Father. The Church can truly know God and enjoy him, because we are sprinkled with the life-giving blood of Jesus.
And verse 25 gives us a vital warning: ‘See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks’. God is speaking to us, he is speaking to you and to me. He speaks and reveals himself to us through his word, the scriptures. We must be sure not to refuse the God who speaks. The world is actively refusing him because of the heart of rebellion that is deep inside each one of us – ‘I want to go my way’ – ‘I will decide what is right or wrong, what is good or bad’ – ‘I’m going to make God fit my ideas, not the other way round’. But that is not the God we have. Our God is a God who speaks – and the more we crept him and his word and let him define our lives, the more we will truly know in our hearts the great reality of peace, joy and confidence of ascending Mount Zion to be with him.
Question: Do you think of God as a God who speaks? Can you think of any ways that you are refusing him in favour of your own ideas?