Sunday, June 11, 2017

HEBREWS 12:18-24

"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 Moses said,
'I am full of fear and trembling.'

(my caps)
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 at 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."

 Oh my!  By the way, modern advice for writers is to keep it simple, no run-on sentences, so I am always encouraged to see the best selling Book in all of history chock full of run-on sentences-- paragraph-sized sentences! 

This passage is comparing the old with the new, and with our glorious future laid bare for us to catch the vision of it all.  Before, the mountain was scary when Moses went up asking to see God's face.  It was untouchable, blazing fire, darkness and gloom, whirlwind, blasts, and words that none could bear.   Moses himself was full of fear and trembling. 

Then there is that never lovelier word, 'But.'  Everything is changed now by the firstborn.  He is calling, "Come on in, brothers and sisters.  It's a family reunion!"  The mountain is now the shining city of the living God.  It is heavenly.  Angels are there, myriads of them.  Everyone is milling about having a good time, those who are enrolled, whose names are in the Book of Life.  How do we qualify?  The Judge of all has declared us innocent, perfect by His Holy Spirit in us making us right in His presence.  Why?  Because Jesus took our sin upon Himself, sprinkled His blood and sent His  Spirit to fill us.

Remember the blood of Abel which cried out to God from the ground after he was murdered by his own brother, the first two offspring of Adam and Eve?  He was innocent.  So God's beloved Son was innocent, and His blood spoke better than any other.  Why?  Because it was the final word against sin.

I don't know about you, but I much prefer the second mountain to the first encounter with God.  Here's how Revelation 21:1-3, 10, 11 describes it...

"Behold!  the tabernacle of God is with men,
and He shall dwell with them,
and they shall be His people,
and God Himself shall be with them,
and be their God.
The Lord God Almighty,
and the Lamb are the temple thereof.
The glory of God did lighten it,
and the light thereof is the Lamb.
The throne of God and of the Lamb shall be therein;
and His servants shall do Him service;
and they shall see His face."

"Their God."  Take away the "T" and "their" becomes "heir."  To take God as our own, is to receive the promise of our inheritance which is rich and glorious. There is nothing in this world that compares!  Instead of gloom and darkness and fear and dread, there is light. 

Adam Clarke says that some translate the first mountain, the one we are not come to any longer, the palpable or material mountain, as "thunder-struck."  No matter how many treks to the Holy Land one might take, we will never arrive at that old thing.  For the one that "engendered terror," was the Mount for Moses and the Jews exclusively.  But there is a new, spiritual Mountain, the one of the Gospel dispensation, "grand, copious, and interesting display of the infinite love of God.  It is all encouragement; breathes nothing but mercy; is not an exclusive system; embraces the whole human race; has Jesus, the sinner's friend, for its mediator; is ratified by His blood; and is suited, most gloriously suited, to all the wants and wishes of every soul of man."

Remember who the author of this epistle is speaking to.  He is writing to those Jews who have accepted Christ, but are so persecuted for their faith that they had to flee Jerusalem.  They have literally left the temple mount behind.  The writer here is promising something infinitely better.  He does not want them to look back, like Lot's wife, but to keep their eyes on the glorious promise.

One of my favorite authors, as I've said before, is George MacDonald, a Scotsman who was a friend to C.S. Lewis as well as Tolkien.  In one book I've just finished, the character is sent to Switzerland to school.  When he arrived, sailing in a boat across the lake, they were enveloped in a fog.  Suddenly a window opened and a majestic peak appeared out of the blue sky.  It made the young lad cry and want to fall down on his knees to worship as if in the presence of the holy of holies at the glorious sight.  We may live here in a bit of fog, but keep your eyes lifted up to catch that glimpse of the bright peak of perfection, the heavenly beauty of holiness that is ahead.   

So, pilgrim, don't dwell in the gloom and doom.  This world made be shaking, thunder-struck as it is, but God is on His throne.  Keep on keeping on as we look to Jesus who taught us to pray, "Thy kingdom come."

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