Coming to a New Place Hebrews 12:18-24
At this table of communion we come to a direct, personal, intimate, yet community of faith encounter with God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Yet, who is the God we encounter here? We meet with the God and Father of grace and mercy. Yes, He is the same God who gave the Law/the Ten Commandments to Israel. Our text presents two meetings with God--one at Mount Sinai/the giving of the Law and the other at Mount Zion/the result of grace. Today let’s look at the two encounters with God described and prepare our hearts/lives to celebrate today’s encounter with God as well.
In dramatic language we are presented a contrast between Law and grace. Our text finds God at both Mount Sinai and Mount Zion.
Moses said God's purpose at Mt Sinai was to scare enough sense into Israel to get them to stop sinning (Exodus 20:20). It didn't seem to work as their history reveals. For all the fire, thunder and lightning, smoke induced darkness, the thick gloom settling in as a mist descending, whirlwind, trumpet blast, and the sound of words from a great voice, the only reaction of the people is their plea that "...no further word be spoken to them." They cried out that if God spoke to them, they would die. They only wanted Moses to convey God's message to them. It was a well remembered moment for Moses refers to their cries again in his sermons in Deuteronomy (5:25; 18:16) "... all that you asked of the Lord your God in Horeb on the day of the assembly, saying, 'Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God, let me not see this great fire anymore, or I will die.' " In fact, at the command of God a boundary had been set around the mountain and no man nor beast was to cross the boundary or to touch the mountain under penalty of death. Meek Moses was in no better shape than the people. He too was fearful of the moment. The Law brought and continues into our day to bring fear, trembling, guilt, unworthiness to those who see and hear Mt Sinai/the Law/the Ten Commandments without the message of grace found in the sacrifice of the crucified Son of God, Jesus Christ our Lord.
At Mount Sinai we see: 1) The Majesty of God. His love seems hidden in the force of His presence and voice. As God spoke the Ten Commandments, all the people perceived was the thunder and lightning and smoke and trumpet (Exodus 20:1-19). They trembled and stood at a distance. 2) In that moment to them God was unapproachable and those who would attempt to approach him, especially in their sin and even with all their personal preparation of cleansing, it seemed they would meet only judgment in death.
Mount Sinai was Law. Mount Zion is grace. Mount Zion, the city of God, is Jerusalem and our writer reminds us that it is a new Jerusalem, the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God where the righteous are made perfect, and Jesus is the mediator of a new covenant as His blood has been sprinkled on the altar of heaven. Although Abel's blood spoke of his martyrdom at the hands of Cain, his brother, for having made a sacrifice accepted of God, Jesus' blood speaks of the substitutionary sacrifice of the living God’s only begotten Son given in love and grace for all who will believe! At Mount Zion, this heavenly place of our salvation where the living God dwells, is found an innumerable assembly of angels. The word myriads speaks of ten thousand times ten thousand and has been translated two hundred million on one occasion. The Apostle John describes the scene in Revelation 5:11-12, "Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.'" So also in this place are those whose names are written in the book of life described as the general assembly of the church (the elders). The God of the Mount Zion is the same God found at Mount Sinai--God the Judge of all. The spirits of the righteous made perfect are those who died the martyrs dead because of keeping the Word of God and their testimony of salvation (Revelation 6:9). This quick peek at Mt Zion should engage our hearts in the urgency of salvation. We who know Christ as savior see His blood covering our sins. Oh, let whosoever will eagerly follow after Christ Jesus in obedience to the gospel so that they will not face the final day of punishment from the Judge; but rather, in joyful celebration know the sentence of sin exonerated/thrown out having received salvation by grace through faith in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The new Jerusalem, Mount Zion, shows our grace-provided access to God through Jesus Christ our Lord: 1) God welcomes His own into a world where fear, mysteries, separations, and the perishable give way to joy, complete fellowship, and peace. Those who know Christ Jesus in forgiveness of sin and the fellowship of following Him are called "first-born". The first-born son receives the inheritance and honor of the Father. Thus, the Majestic God is seen as Father, not to be feared but to be thanked in a relationship, not based on law but in birth-the rebirth of the soul and as 2) Kingdom citizens. In ancient days, a king kept a register of faithful citizens. With our names recorded in heaven, we are found to be faithful citizens of heaven. In Luke 10:1-20, Jesus had sent out 70 of His disciples/followers with a commission of authority to carry out His work in cities and places where He would go. They met with great success in the harvest and joyfully reported, Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.” Jesus responded that He had given them authority over all the power of the enemy; however, He reminded them, "...do not rejoice in...the spirits...subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven." Greater than any ministry/work/harvest is having your name in heaven’s Book of Life. To be enrolled in the Book of Life means we have been born into God’s family through Jesus Christ and by grace and participate in God’s Kingdom. The Book of Life will be used to separate the righteous/saved and the wicked/lost for their eternal destinies (Revelation 20:12, 15-“And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”; 21:27-“but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life” will enter the New Jerusalem)
At Mount Zion, the place of grace, as at Mount Sinai, the place of Law, God is the Judge of all. TheGod of the Old Testament is God found in the New. He is the same God requiring the blood bought atonement for sin. God reconciles us to Himself through the sacrificial work of Jesus Christ. Without Christ as savior, every human stands condemned by sin. Everyone will stand before God. The lost, unsaved, unbeliever to be judged for sin. The saved believer to receive the crown of life.
Today, as we prepare for this meal, we must examine ourselves as the Holy Spirit speaks to us. Do we approach God with fear and flight as did those at Mount Sinai or do we approach God with reverence, awe, and worship as the saved citizens in the New Jerusalem. Have you unconfessed sin? Then confess it and turn from it. Are you walking in the footsteps of Jesus living out His love and compassion for all? This is a solemn and holy moment. A moment set apart by a people set apart to God through our salvation in Jesus Christ.