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Oct 26 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

October 25, 2020

Intro: We are working with a longer passage today, so we’ll jump right in

The writer of Hebrews is finished with his athletic analogies
– in a letter that has alternated between revelation and warning
• we come to the last big warning
• but we are also brought back to Jesus–dramatically
◦ the entire letter has been an adventure in knowing Jesus in a new way
Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer (2 Cor. 5:16)
◦ through the gospels we’ve met Jesus according to the flesh
◦ in Hebrews we’ve met him according to spirit
– there’s a lot of action and depth in these verses,
• but we can discern easily four simple divisions:
◦ You have not come to this (earthly) place
◦ You have come to this (heavenly) place
◦ Do not respond in this (negative) way
◦ Instead, respond in this (positive) way

“You have not come to what may be touched”
For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” Hebrews 12:18-21

Immediately the text bombard us with a spectacle of sight and sound
– the scene comes rushing at us using the word “and” to connect a string of short phrases
Daniel Treier, “While retaining the primacy of hearing, Hebrews broadens the sensory experience of Scripture beyond ethical training and taste to embrace sight, other sounds such as a trumpet blast, touch in feeling the earth shake, and Israel’s palpable fear. . . . Our senses engage with God as we hear, to imagine the grandeur of the divine promise . . . . Ultimately, our senses literally factor into hearing Scripture’s various senses. For the imagination operates as the spiritual and synthetic faculty by which we perceive our place and time in the story of God’s covenant people.”
– the writer takes us to Mt. Sinai to remind us of Israel’s encounter with God
blazing fire and darkness seems like a paradox
◦ but the darkness was in the cloud
◦ so at once God’s presence was revealed, yet he himself was concealed
• the sound was deafening – trumpet and voice
And as the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him in thunder (Ex. 19:19)
◦ speech is a key theme in this passage

This incredible display did not bring the people of Israel close to God
– it had the opposite effect – it kept them at a distance
Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us lest we die” (Ex. 20:18-19)
– the tone of this scene is experiential, but it is not our experience
• this is the writer’s point, and it’s important for us to grasp it
◦ he has helped us sense the sheer physicality of the event
◦ but its physicality is its limitation
• our 4-dimensional universe is not bad
◦ but it isn’t everything – it is not the sum total of all reality
◦ our “experience” consists of a larger reality — another dimension

“But you have come to Mount Zion”
But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly 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 that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. Hebrews 12:22-24

Luke T. Johnson, “The contrast is spelled out on the one side by a set of terms that describe all the physical phenomena accompanying the giving of the law, and on the other side by a set of terms describing the spiritual realities experienced through Christ. No matter how great and fear-inspiring the events accompanying the covenant under Moses, the realities of the new covenant mediated by the blood of Jesus are greater, for they have to do with the actual experience of the living God.”

We are shown the place to which we have come
– Mount Zion was at first a fortified city that King David conquered
– it soon became known as “the city of David”
• but in time, God gave Zion a larger significance
◦ the period of David’s reign was a golden age,
◦ because of his dependence on, and devotion to God
• Zion became idealized – a vision of God’s “dream city”
◦ with all the perfections of prophetic visions of peace, joy, abundance, etc.
◦ Zion was often associated with Jerusalem, but it was always more
(Jerusalem could be destroyed, but Zion was eternal)
The Mighty One, God the LORD,
speaks and summons the earth
from the rising of the sun to its setting.
Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty,
God shines forth
(Ps. 50:1-2)
He chose Mt Zion, which he loves (Ps. 78:68)
Then the LORD will create over the whole site of Mt Zion and over her assemblies a cloud by day, and smoke and the shining of a flaming fire by night; for over all the glory there will be a canopy (Isa. 4:5)
Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion, for behold, I come and I will dwell in your midst, declares the LORD (Zech. 2:10)
– we have come to the spiritual reality of Zion
• it is also the city of the living God
(this is the fourth time the writer refers to him as the living God)
◦ and the heavenly Jerusalem
◦ I have been impressed recently by how solid heaven is

We have been shown the place, now we are shown its populace
– heaven is vibrant with life
angels in festal gatheringassembly of the firstborn
• notice the togetherness that characterizes heaven’s citizens:
◦ it’s a gathering, an assembly
enrolled in heaven — registered in the book of life (Php 4:3; Rev. 20:12)
Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven (Lk. 10:20)
– from place, to populace, to a Person – God, the judge of all
• the thought of God as the ultimate judge no longer scares me
• the state of our world makes me long for justice
◦ even though I won’t be excluded from being on trial
◦ the ultimate cease and desist order to the guilty and vindication of the innocent
– again we’re shown more of the populace
and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect
• “spirits” – this is a fuller existence than our four dimensions
• “righteous” – these have passed through judgment
◦ being righteous, God has accepted and now perfected them
◦ brought them to completeness – wholeness
(the total healing of our fractured, fragmented lives)

The highlight of the list comes last – and to Jesus
– we have all sorts of questions about heaven
• just this week I was asked if we’ll recognize others we have known as short while on earth
• I’m as curious as anyone, but none of that really interests me
– what I want most of all is to see Jesus – he is my heaven
Luke Johnson, “The description of Jesus is a brilliant summation of the author’s argument concerning him. He is a mediator (see 8:6; 9:15) of a covenant between God and humans that is both new (see 8:8; 9:15) and better (7:22; 8:6), because it is not temporary but eternal (13:20). His mediation is accomplished through his death, which is here, as earlier, expressed in terms of a ritual ‘sprinkling’ of his own blood. The description of Jesus is rounded off impressively by the statement that his blood ‘is speaking’ better than Abel.”
(regarding Abel, see Gen. 4:10; Hebrews 11:4)
• the essential contrast, however, is not with Abel,
◦ but with the Law revealed at Sinai and God’s word in Jesus
◦ regarding speech, it is Jesus whose voice that now shapes our lives
• we are taken back to the very first verse of Hebrews
Long ago, at many times and in many places, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son (Heb. 1:1-2)

Do not respond in this way
See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake no only the earth but also the heavens.” This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. Hebrews 12:25-27

Refuse – not just the word spoken, but the person who speaks
– note the contrast is between earth and heaven
• the writer uses his familiar lesser/greater contrast
◦ “if that, how much more is this
• and it is twofold:
◦ first, between those at Mount Sinai and those of us, with Jesus
Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more (Lk. 12:48)
◦ second, between what will be shaken and what is unshakeable
– a couple of weeks ago, by grandson Calum was explaining to me what can happen in an earthquake
• we can run from fires (evacuate) and shelter our selves from storms
◦ but there is no way to escape an earthquake
◦ and simply the presence of God in our world can shake it up (Isa. 64:1)
And there were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, and a great earthquake such as there had never been since man was on the earth, so great was that earthquake. The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell (Rev. 16:18-19)
• the contrast is marked by the words remove and remain
◦ our whole world today is on a scaffold that is wiggling
◦ the word of Jesus is unshakable (Mt. 24:35)

Instead, respond in this way
Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. Hebrews 12:28-29

  1. Be grateful
  2. let us offer to God acceptable worship
    • this is one of the first things we need to know about worship
    • we have examples from:
    ◦ the Law – Lev. 1:4 (and many, many others)
    the Prophets – Jer. 14:12; Eze. 20:40-41; Amos 5:22; Malachi 1:18
    the New Testament – Rom. 12:1; Php 4:18; Heb. 13:21

with reverence and awe
I am planning on addressing these attitudes in a few weeks, so we’ll simply note them for now

for our God is a consuming fire
– fire can reduce to ashes or it can purify
• it depends on what goes into it
• how we come out of it depends on what we’re made of

Conclusion: Worship refers to every interaction humans have with God

It is prayer and it is praise, confession and forgiveness,
it is asking and receiving, hearing and responding
– and when do we hear God speaking to us through Jesus?
• most of all, when we read and meditate on the Scriptures

Dietrich Bonhoeffer asks, “What do I expect from meditation?”
“In any case, we want to rise from meditation different from what we were when we sat down to it. We want to meet Christ in his Word. We go to the text curious to hear what he wants to let us know and give us through his word. . . . His fellowship, his help and his direction for the day through his Word, that is the aim. In this way you will begin the day strengthened and afresh in faith.”

This is the way to develop a closer relationship with Jesus
He reveals himself to us, gives himself to us in his word
Mount Zion, the angels, the unshakable kingdom,
it is all right here
given to us in the life and words of Jesus
I hope you will determine this week
to cut out time to spend listening to your best Friend

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