Two Mountains, Two Messages
Hebrews 12:18-24 (18) For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, (19) And the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard intreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more: (20) (For they could not endure that which was commanded, And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart: (21) And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:) (22) But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, (23) To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, (24) And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel. A fair portion of the Book of Hebrews deals with the N.T. believer's coming unto God in prayer, service and worship. Since we have a sympathetic and compassionate High Priest, we are told to “...come boldly unto the throne of grace...” (HEB 4:16). And, “...he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (HEB 11:6). The weakness of the tabernacle service and its altar was underscored by the fact that the law could “...never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect” (HEB 10:1). In today's text, the Apostle here sets forth another example of our practical coming to God by showing the superiority of heavenly Mt. Zion over earthly Mt. Sinai: the mount which believers now approach is a better one than Mt. Sinai where the Law was given. The messages of these two mountains are here set in contrast. Mt. Sinai represented an enigma: it was a mount that could be touched but to touch it or even its border meant death for man or beast (see also EXO 19:12-13). None but Moses and Aaron were allowed to go up on that mount, “...but let not the priests and the people break through to come up unto the LORD, lest he break forth upon them” (EXO 19:24). The church could not approach their mediator (Moses) or soon-to-be high priest (Aaron) while they were in God's presence. By contrast, we “...are come unto mount Sion...,” a mount that can't physically be touched (at least not yet) but to which we are nonetheless lovingly invited, yea, commanded to come. That Christ is now in His heavenly mount in no wise has abrogated His earthly injunction, “Come unto me...” (MAT 11:28). And note that our Mediator and High Priest in heaven's Mt. Zion is quite touchable, able to be “...touched with the feeling of our infirmities...” (HEB 4:15). The presence of God on Mt. Sinai was (as our text describes) a horrid, fearful thing. God's voice “...then shook the earth...” (HEB 12:26) but the earth wasn't the only thing that quaked. Moses also did “...exceedingly fear and quake” (HEB 12:21). This fearful condition was appropriate to the event that took place on that mount: it was there that God gave the Law which spoke of guilt and judgment to all under it (ROM 3:19). That law was the “...ministration of death written and engraven in stones...” (2CO 3:7) and the “...ministration of condemnation...” (2CO 3:9) since no one could possibly keep all its precepts (GAL 3:10; GAL 3:21). That mountain's message was even seen by Jesus Christ as He considered in Gethsemane what was about to happen: the wrath of a holy God against an innumerable number of sinners would soon be brought to bear on Him. It caused Him to fear also: (Hebrews 5:7) Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; Truly, everything about Mt. Sinai and its message represented fear. But for believers now, Christ has taken away the Law which condemned us: (Ephesians 2:15) Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; (Colossians 2:13-15) And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; (14) Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; (15) And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (ROM 8:1). And with that, Christ has for believers taken away “...the spirit of bondage again to fear...” (ROM 8:15 c/w 2TI 1:7), especially the fear of death. By His resurrection, He has delivered “...them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (HEB 2:15). Mt. Zion in heaven therefore holds forth no such horrors as did Mt. Sinai; it is very approachable. The blood of sprinkling is there (per our text), both Mediator and Mountain are calm. Further, the thing that is written there is not the condemning Book of the Law (which was in essence the Book of Death), but rather the Book of Life (REV 20:12): the book which was written long before Mt. Sinai became famous, written “...from the foundation of the world...” (REV 17:8), filled with the names of the “...general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven...” (HEB 12:23). That book is not cause for fear but for rejoicing: (Luke 10:20) Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven. Those under the Law at unapproachable Sinai feared, and rightly so. They dared not “...break through to come up unto the LORD...” (EXO 19:24). The church members then could not even approach their mediator or high priest. But Christ's blood makes our God, our Mediator and High Priest (HEB 6:20; HEB 12:24) and Mt. Zion on high very approachable without fear to believers: (Hebrews 10:19-22) Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, (20) By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; (21) And having an high priest over the house of God; (22) Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. It would be a poetic understatement to observe that the blood of Christ was and is a breakthrough (compare EXO 19:24) in approaching God.