You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, because they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.” The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.”
We’re in the home stretch now on our tour of Hebrews, and it begins with two mountaintops. In these verses, we see Mount Sinai in quotes from both Exodus and Deuteronomy. Notice that the author is speaking in the negative: “You have not come to a mountain that…” See it? He is about to describe a place we have moved away from…
Read the passage slowly, try to picture the terror the people felt when they came to Mount Sinai. Fire, darkness, gloom; everything about the place was intimidating and terrifying; they were in the presence of God, and that was not a place you wanted to be. Poor Moses had to climb up there and receive the Law from a God who was unapproachable. Yes, he was a God of love, but he was dealing with a people who were in rebellion against Him, yet He had taken the initiative to build a relationship with them. These were the descendants of Abraham, now grown to the size of a small nation. This was not a negotiation, it was a truce being offered by the stronger side: Take it or leave it. If they took it, God was willing to be their God, as long as they kept His Law. If they left it, well, let’s not think about what might happen. What is really important for us to understand is that God, the party in the stronger position, was offering the truce, and this was an act of mercy.
Oh, yes… and it wasn’t the end of the story; it was just the beginning!
But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
Now, the second mountaintop, and what a contrast; this is the mountain we have come to, Mount Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem. This is the reality that was only pictured in the old earthly city. Joyous angels, the spirits of the righteous, the presence of God… without the fear and the dread, for now we are made perfect in His sight by the blood of Jesus. No longer are we at war. This is not just a truce, this is a Treaty of Alliance, of Fellowship: We are now members of the Family!
Here’s a little bonus for you: notice the terms that are used here as one: Mount Zion, city of the living God, Heavenly Jerusalem, church of the firstborn. These are combined with the descriptive comments; thousands of angels, spirits of the righteous, the presence of God and Jesus the mediator of a better covenant. You see, they all refer to what we would call the heavenly church or heaven. Remember this when you read the prophets and the Psalms and you will find them easier to understand.
Finally, that sprinkled blood, the blood that was brought by the mediator of the New Covenant, His own blood. It speaks a better word than the blood of Abel, for it speaks not of senseless hatred and violence, it does not cry out for vengeance, it speaks of redemption and life; what an awesome picture this is.
Next time, we’ll see where this is leading. I don’t know about you, but I can hardly wait!