Summary: Following the revelation of God and our worship through the mountains of Sinai, Calvary to Zion.
A Trip through the Mountains
Text readings: Hebrews 12:18-29
A lot of us have been taking trips through the mountains of North Carolina and Virginia this summer to try to escape the heat and soon more will be heading out to see the fall leaves. But this morning we are going to take a Bible tour through the mountains spanning from the earliest revelation of worship until the present day and even into the future.
So grab your guidebook (our Bible is the map) and let’s go.
Let’s look first at Hebrews verses 18-21
”You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; to a trumpet blast or to a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them because they could not bear what was commanded.”
Whoa! What on earth is the writer talking about here?
A good guide gives some background and historical facts.
He is reminding them of Mount Sinai, when God gave the law to Moses.
That was a mountain that they could have physically touched but were told that if even an animal touched it, the animal must be stoned. The whole sight was so terrifying that even Moses was trembling with fear.
What would our faith be like if all we knew of God was His thundering, commanding voice and His control of nature?
We would constantly be pleading with Him or trying to placate Him.
At first God is unapproachable, terrifying, things look dark and bleak, and all we know is that the law is so strict we can never live up to its demands. We can’t even come close and plead our case to this God in the sky with the dreaded voice.
But that was thousands of years ago and a lot has happened as far as God’s dealings with man and His revelation of himself to His people. There have been more mountains.
Verses 22 to 24 explain to the New Testament Christians just how far they have come in their understanding of God and worship.
(I love it when a verse begins with the word “But.”)
It means here comes a “God intervention”…a special action or disclaimer aside from the usual. Look at what it says.
“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.”
Now our writer-guide brings us right up to the present time and hints at a future place we can’t quite find on our maps.
(The concept of Zion is congregational, not geographical.
It represents the gathering of Jesus with His people through all the ages.)
“You have come to God, the judge of all men, 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 word of Abel.”
Say what? We are getting lost in the translation of all this now. He says we have come this far but we missed a few markers along the way evidently.
Now the assembly is joyful, and we come to the judge unafraid because we have been made “perfectly righteous.”
Jesus is the mediator, the advocate protecting us with a covenant ratified by His blood.
What happened between Mount Sinai and Mount Zion?
It sure has made a lot of difference.
There was the mountain in the middle.
Which mountain was that?
It was Mount Calvary.
That is where the innocent blood of Holy God was spilled to pay for guilty humanity’s death sentence
When it says His blood “speaks a better word than that of Abel,” what does that mean?
Well, Abel was murdered by his brother Cain and his blood cried out for revenge.
But Jesus’ blood was shed for redemptive purposes and it cries out for mercy.
Now God has spoken through His son!
We certainly don’t want to miss that historical fact.
In verse 25 the Hebrew writer warns us not to refuse to listen to God’s voice.
If Moses’ warned that failure to heed God’s instructions would carry the death penalty, how much more now does the failure to listen to the merciful plea of Jesus bring an even stiffer penalty of eternal death and separation from God?
Then verses 26 and 27 go on to further compare the past and future actions of God.
At that time (on Mount Sinai) the earth shook, and eventually it will shake again so that only what cannot be shaken will remain.
Think of this “shaking” idea as representing winnowing or sifting wheat from tares. The women would shake huge sieves to separate the wheat from the chaff and the Bible says in (Luke 3:17) that in the end times God will effectively do the same thing with people.