Friday, April 29, 2005

The mountain we are come to

Hebrews 12:18-24
“18For you have not come to the mountain that may be touched and that burned with fire, and to blackness and darkness and tempest, 19and the sound of a trumpet and the voice of words, so that those who heard it begged that the word should not be spoken to them anymore. 20(For they could not endure what was commanded: "And if so much as a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned or shot with an arrow." 21And so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, "I am exceedingly afraid and trembling.")
22But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, 23to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, 24to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.”

Whenever the apostles or prophets introduced something by speaking negatively about something else, it always gets my attention. This is usually because the positive that will follow is something great. Here, the writer of Hebrews is contrasting the old covenant with the new covenant. This makes sense of course because a good portion of Hebrews is about how gloriously bright the new is compared to the old.

The imagery is meant to draw out this contrast. The old mountain is black and dark, and the words spoken from it are very hard to endure. So hard to endure, that when God spoke to Israel out of the fire that they told Moses “You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.” If we are honest with ourselves, we probably want things this way too. Those few men that actually stood in the presence of God never had a super-fun experience (see for instance Isaiah 6, Ezekiel 1, and Revelation 4). They had God speak to them in great thunderings and lightning flashes; it is a terrifying thought to stand in the presence of a Holy God who calls himself a consuming fire. Not only this, but the content of the message was impossible to keep. All it did was amply demonstrate the complete and utter hopelessness they had in themselves (and if we are honest about it today--ourselves).

Thankfully, that is not all. We are not come to such a mountain. The imagery here is much brighter. Mount Zion is not a mountain of darkness and blackness, nor are those who approach to be stoned. Mount Zion is the city of the living God. It is not a city of death and destruction, it is a city of life. Instead of a voice that cannot be endured, we have the spirits of just men made perfect; these men were not able to keep the law themselves, instead, they trust in the Mediator of the new covenant. And this mediator, he is not like Moses who was exceedingly afraid to approach, “but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.” This mediator’s blood speaks much more than the blood of Abel. The blood of Abel cried to the Lord after Cain had murdered him, but Christ’s blood cries all the louder. Christ’s blood cries out that the sinner has been forgiven. I don’t think I could say it any better than Charles Wesley did:
Five bleeding wounds he bears, received on Calvary
They pour effectual prayer, they strongly plead for me
"Forgive him, oh forgive!" they cry,
"Forgive him, oh forgive!" they cry,
"Don’t let the ransomed sinner die!"


Post a Comment

<< Home