Summary: The contrast between Mount Sinai and Mount Zion: its inferences and implications in our life
A KINGDOM THAT CANNOT BE SHAKEN
I. A BOOK OF CONTRASTS
The letter to the Hebrews is full of contrasts - too many to innumerate in a short space. Here the author shows the difference between the covenant at Sinai (Hebrews 12:18-21), and the covenant of Christianity (Hebrews 12:22-24). This is similar to Paul’s allegory between ‘Jerusalem which now is’ (under the figure of mount Sinai), and ‘Jerusalem which is above’ (Galatians 4:24-26).
The Hebrews were being warned not to neglect the things pertaining to the great salvation procured for them by the Lord Himself (Hebrews 2:2-4). They must not slip back into what had already proved to be inadequate (Hebrews 6:4-6; Hebrews 6:9; Hebrews 10:26-29; Hebrews 10:39).
* It should not be a negative exercise for the Christian to contrast what he once was with what he now is.
II. “BUT YE ARE COME …”
Mount Zion is described as “the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem” (Hebrews 12:22). This has been celebrated in Psalms and songs of long ago (Psalm 48:1-2). Here are gathered not only the “angels” (Hebrews 12:22), but also “the church of the first-born ones, registered in heaven” (Hebrews 12:23).
The “first-born” include not only those who have gone before, but also all who believe (Hebrews 11:40), and all who will ever yet obtain ‘like precious faith’ (2 Peter 1:1). This constitutes ‘a number which no man could number, out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation’ (Revelation 7:9). Here also “ye are come” (Hebrews 12:22).
Those who come are “just” (Hebrews 12:23). We are made “perfect” (Hebrews 12:23) through the “sprinkling” (Hebrews 12:24) of the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are ‘justified by faith’ (Romans 5:1) - made righteous by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 3:21-22).
Therefore we are bold to approach the throne of God (Hebrews 4:16). We come ‘looking unto Jesus’ (Hebrews 12:2), and bearing in mind what He has done for us (Hebrews 12:3). We come to “the Judge of all” (Hebrews 12:23), knowing that ‘the Judge of all the earth’ shall do right (Genesis 18:25).
We come to Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant. We come to His blood sprinkled upon the altar (Hebrews 12:24). Abel’s blood cried out for vengeance (Genesis 4:10) - but Jesus’ blood goes on speaking gracious words of mercy (1 John 1:9; 1 John 2:1-2).
Under the old covenant the emphasis lay upon the transcendence of God, so that the people feared to hear His voice (Hebrews 12:19). Even the mediator, Moses, trembled with fear (Hebrews 12:21). In the new covenant the emphasis is upon the immanence of God, who speaks to us directly from heaven (Hebrews 12:25).
This exhortation (Hebrews 12:25-29) reminds us that we are still worshipping the same God as the saints of the old covenant: we have not replaced Yahweh with Santa Claus! If those who heard Him under the law are left without excuse, how much more accountable are those who hear His voice in the glorious Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ (Hebrews 12:25)? ‘To whom much is given, of them is much required’ (Luke 12:48).
His voice has not done with shaking things up (Hebrews 12:26), turning things upside down (Acts 17:6-7), and inside out. “Yet once more” (Hebrews 12:26-27) echoes the immanence (rather than immediacy) of ‘yet once, it is a little’ (Haggai 2:6). There again we see the eschatological shaking of all things, foreshadowed in the Exodus/Sinai event (compare also Isaiah 34:4; Isaiah 51:6; 2 Peter 3:10-12).
However, this time the shaking has the effect of SIFTING, so that only that which is of value remains. The inference is that true believers, like their Master (Hebrews 1:10-12), “cannot be shaken” (Hebrews 12:27).
In this process we are receiving “a kingdom which cannot be moved” (Hebrews 12:28). On account of this we are called to thanksgiving and worship “with reverence and godly fear.” The thanksgiving has its roots in grace; the worship is based in service (Romans 12:2); the fear has its roots in the awe of God.
* Our God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29): consuming sin, consuming dross - but ultimately REFINING His people.