June 5, 2023

In his Commentary on the Book of Hebrews, William Barclay writes:

Hebrews 12:18-29 gives us a contrast between the old covenant and the new [in the image of two mountains]. Down to verse 21, it has echo after echo from the story of the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai… All the terrible and terrifying things have been gathered together to stress the shattering awfulness of that scene.

In the giving of the law at Mount Sinai there are three things stressed.
1). The sheer majesty of God. The whole story stresses the shattering might of God, and in it there is no grace at all.

2). The absolute unapproachability of God. So far from the way being opened to God, it is barred; and he who tried to approach God met death.

3). The sheer terror of God. Here there is nothing but the awe-stricken fear which is afraid to look and even afraid to listen.

Then at verse 22 there comes the difference. The first section deals with all that man can expect under the old covenant and the old law; in it there is nothing in God but lonely majesty, complete separation from man, and prostrating fear. But to the Christian there has come the new covenant [which is symbolized in Mount Zion].

In this passage the writer to the Hebrews makes a kind of list of the new glories that await the Christian and that are open to him there.

1). The new Jerusalem, the heavenly Jerusalem, awaits him. There awaits him a new creation. This world with all its impermanence, with all its fears, with all its mysteries, with all its separations is gone; life for the Christian is recreated and made new.

2). The general assembly and church of the firstborn. The writer to the Hebrews uses two words to describe them. He says literally that they are the first-born; now the characteristic of the first-born son is that the inheritance and the honor are his. He says they are also those whose names are written in the registers of God.

3). There awaits the Christian God, the Judge. Even amidst the joy there remains the awe. The writer to the Hebrews never forgot that, at the end, the Christian must stand the scrutiny of God. The glory is there; but the awe and fear of God still remain.

4). There awaits Jesus, the one who initiated this new covenant because it was Jesus who made this new relationship with God possible. It was Jesus who took away the terror of Mount Sinai and gave to men the glory of the new relationship with God. It was Jesus, the perfect priest and the perfect sacrifice, who made the unapproachable approachable, and who took away the terror of God. And He did this at the cost of His blood; that is to say that He had to die in order to make it possible…

The summary of this passage is as follows: once men were under all the terror of the law; the relationship between them and God was a relationship of unbridgeable distance and shuddering fear, but after Jesus came and lived and died, the God who was far distant is brought near, and a way is opened to the God whose presence was once barred to man.

And the question that the Book of Hebrews wants to know is: Which one do you want? Christ or the law? Which mountain will you come to? Mount Sinai or Mount Zion?

Salvation involves a choice. In order be saved, a sinner must make a decision to select Jesus over everything else. You have to choose Christ over your efforts. Christ over your sin. Christ over your idols. Christ over your pride and works and all your self-righteous deeds for there is no other way for a man to be forgiven.

Earlier, the Book of Hebrews said that we are running a race and, in order to do so, you have to run it. You cannot sit on the sidelines watching. Now he says that we are standing on a mountain and, in order to do that, you have to select the correct one which is what we are going to talk about this Sunday morning at Grace Fellowship Church.

Please join us as we study the two mountains in Hebrews 12 and learn about how our hope in Christ is so much greater than anything that was offered to us under the Law. The service begins at 9:30.

- Jeremy Cagle