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Sep 10 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

September 9, 2018 – Hebrews 12:18-24

A Very Solid Hope

For you have not come to [a mountain] that can be touched and to a blazing fire, and to darkness and gloom and whirlwind, and to the blast of a trumpet and the sound of words which sound was such that those who heard begged that no further word be spoken to them. For they could not bear the command, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it will be stoned.” And so terrible was the sight, that Moses, said, “I am full of fear and trembling.”
But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel. Hebrews 12:18-24

Intro: Hebrews is a complex book

It requires a good knowledge of the Old Testament, or else it’s easy to get lost
– but Hebrews is well worth the effort to work our way through it
• for me, it is like reading a fifth gospel
• only it brings out the meaning of Jesus and his ministry
– from the first three verses of the introduction, we know its message
• Jesus is God’s final word to humankind
◦ in Jesus we learn everything we need to know about God
◦ we get to see God in Jesus – as Paul said in Colossians:

He is the image of the invisible God (Col. 1:15)

• we read how Jesus is superior to the angels
◦ in fact, he is superior to everyone and everything that had come before him
◦ Moses, Joshua, the priests from the tribe of Levi
• “better” is found twenty-four times in the New Testament
◦ more than half the times it’s used is in the Book of Hebrews

  • Jesus is better than Moses
  • he gives us a better hope
  • he provides a better covenant, formed with better promises
  • Jesus offers better sacrifices
  • gives us a better possession
  • in him we have a better resurrection
  • and his blood speaks of better things’ than Abel’s blood (cf. Gen. 4:10 &  Heb. 11:4)

– from the beginning of Hebrews to the end, the message is about Jesus

Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen (13:20-21)

It might look like writer of Hebrews is comparing Judaism to Christianity
– he is not; he is showing us how Jesus is the goal and perfection of Judaism
• Judaism was the necessary foundation and preparation for what God did through Jesus
– in Judaism there’s a spiritual potential that is fully actualized in Jesus

18-21 God has led us somewhere, just as he led Israel

But we have come to a very different destination
– the writer doesn’t specify where Israel had been led, but only what happened there
• but because of the time we spent in Exodus, we recognize this to be Mt. Sinai
◦ the supernatural phenomena and mention of Moses is what gives it away
• but what we’re told is that

We have not come to something that can be touched

– in Galatians, Paul contrasted Mt. Sinai and Jerusalem (see Gal. 4:21-31)
• these were two physical, geographical locations
◦ but Paul used them to create an allegory
◦ Sinai represents the slavery of the law and Jerusalem the freedom of grace
• but our writer here does not have two physical locations in mind
◦ the contrast is between a physical place and a spiritual reality
the heavenly Jerusalem 
(we see a similar treatment of the temple in chapters 8-10, where a replica or “copy” was built on earth while the real dwelling of God is in heaven; e.g., Heb. 8:5; 9:9, 23-24; & 10:1)

Our experience is not supernatural explosions into the natural world
– it is not the water of Red Sea folding back or fire falling from heaven
• nor is it commandments engraved on a stone slab
– God takes us somewhere else – he gives us something else

22-24 We have come to Mount Zion, the city of the living God, etcetera

In the poetry and prophecy of the Old Testament, Zion became a symbol
– the fulfillment of God’s covenant
• people living together in God – in his love
• the social space where God makes his home among his people
◦ Zion is where the covenant promise is fulfilled:

I will be their God and they will be My people

– our Zion is heaven – that is where God has led us
• not a heaven off in the future, but glimpses of heaven every day
• we don’t have the full experience yet,
◦ but once in awhile we are given a taste, we have been

enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come (Heb. 6:4-5)

What we have come to is not material, but spirit
– my concept of what that means:
• spirit is not a separate, non-physical reality
◦ spirit includes physical reality, only it has more dimensions
◦ that is why we can’t see it and never bump into it, why it seems unreal
• God created us deficient in this regard
◦ he limited our sense perception to four dimensions
◦ he hides a more complete reality from us
– for now, the only way to know that reality is by faith
• chapter 11, which is all about faith, begins,

Now faith is the [substance] of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Heb. 11:1)

• our brains can be trained to discern more than what our five senses tell us

But sold food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil (Heb 5:14)

Zion exists – it is solid
– we have been brought to Zion
• so, as we are told,

Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed (Heb. 12:12)

This week, I thought I was relapsing into depression

My heart and mind had slipped back into a dark place
– I could not work my way out of it–not even with mindful meditation
• after each time I sat in prayer,
• I felt like it was necessary to apologize to God for losing my focus
– by Wednesday I realized that it wasn’t depression, but grief
• depression is so familiar that it’s hard for me to discern difference

I’ve told you about volunteering some time at local rehab center
– the friend who asked for my help has been working there as consultant
• I would not have gone there if not for Tony’s request
◦ over the past five I’ve spent time with Tony, his wife and their youngest son
• he’s been with me in the groups at the center, and his participation is exceptional
– Monday night I received a call around 9:30
• on Labor Day Tony was with his family at Salt Creek beach
◦ I will just tell you that he drowned that afternoon
• when I heard those words, I stopped breathing
◦ I could not think, I could not speak,
◦ I had no wisdom or words of comfort
• Tuesday I visited his wife, Rae Ann
◦ I was there, but I was useless

The person I know as Tony is no less real today just because I can’t see or touch him
– he is as solid as Zion — as solid as Jesus
• Tony is more real today – he has more dimensions than I do
• I am less real than he is

Tragedy has a way of sweeping away everything superficial, sentimental and contrived
– but it also:
◦ magnifies feelings
◦ intensifies sensitivity to things and others
◦ reveals the meaningfulness of every moment
• I find that tragedy makes me less patient with nonsense
◦ when someone says something lame or judgmental
◦ I want to say, “Just shut up”
(fortunately, grief leaves me with out the energy to do that,
so at least I appear to be patient)

Conclusion: We have come to Jesus

We have not come to something tangible

Andrew Murray said, “This is just the word every Christian needs who is in danger of being discouraged and fainting in the race.”

– yesterday I talked with a friend I’ve not seen in over twenty-five yrs
• he was very involved in our ministry years ago
◦ he is an incredibly talented musician and entertainer
• he called because he is in poor health and has suffered many losses
◦ he hasn’t abandoned his faith, but it’s been shaken
◦ he regrets that his faith falters – he told me that he sometimes asks God,

“Why do you put up with me?”
and God answers,
“Andrew, I paid a great price for you”

In our Wednesday night Lectio Divina, two people spoke of Jesus calling us close
– one of them described it as almost physical
• I could feel what they meant

More than anything, I want you to know Jesus
Before you could walk, had words, or clearly formed concepts,
you knew your mother–
her embrace, the warmth of her body, the sound of her voice–
We come to know Jesus in a similar and wordless way

though you have not seen Him, you love Him,
and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him,
you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory
 (1 Peter 1:8)

Remember, we are the shadows cast by God’s light
Heaven is solid and always here
passing through us as if we were wisps of steam
Sit in the presence of Jesus
and allow your inner self to feel him,
how he touches you and speaks to you
and in this way, come to know him

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