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Two Mounts, One God

 


"18 For you have not come to a mountain that can be touched and to a blazing fire, and to darkness and gloom and whirlwind, 19 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. 20 For they could not bear the command, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it will be stoned.” 21 And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, “I am full of fear and trembling.” 22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, 23 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel.
 
We live in an unstable world where everything changes. Though we live in shaky times, it's comforting to know that there are some things which cannot be shaken. Some things that will remain. God’s Word, like Himself is not created. Therefore, it will remain forever. It is unchangeable. Though there are many today, who may try to change and manipulate it, to suit the current culture, to please men, rather than God, in the end they will discover that their efforts were in vain. God's Word cannot be shaken! While the visible church, the church as an organization may be shaken, as we have often seen occurring in many ways.
 
The mystical church, the church which is the body and bride of Christ. The church which is made up of those who have truly and completely given their lives to Jesus Christ, cannot and will not be shaken. For the true church is secure, permanent and abiding. It is not a created thing! What a tremendous blessing it is to know that we are members of the body of Christ, that we belong with countless others to that which is founded and built on none other than the risen eternal Jesus Christ.
 
Regardless of how righteous we may appear, God knows the true condition of our heart. And it is by our heart He will judge us! It will not be by any outward righteousness, or church attendance, or even displays of spiritual power. But what we have done with Jesus. Jesus Christ is our life, our hope and strength, in Whom we have eternal life and He, cannot be shaken. 
 
As we think about the instability of this fallen world, let’s be encouraged to put our trust in the God Who cannot be shaken. Let us rejoice in the things that cannot be moved!

Let us pray.

Heavenly Father,

Father, we thank You for Your Word. Thank You for Your wonderful grace, and for Your marvelous love. Lord, we pray that You would by Your Spirit, touch the hearts of the lost who have never come all the way to Christ, for those who have never known Him. We ask that today would be that glorious day.
In Christ's name we ask and pray
Amen 

Today's Message: Two Mounts, One God

Open your Bibles with me to the twelfth chapter of Hebrews verses 18-24. As we continue in this wonderful book of Hebrews, I consider it to be a great privilege to have this opportunity to be able to study it with all of you and I know that my own heart has certainly been refreshed. It is my prayer that yours will be as well.

Throughout this marvelous book, we have seen the superiority of Jesus displayed; Jesus is better than the Old Covenant, Jesus is better than the Prophets, Jesus is better the angels, Jesus is better than anything that can be imagined. Now the writer again points out that Jesus is better, in that, the New Covenant is better than the Old Covenant. Grace is infinitely better than the law. Therefore, I believe that we can safely conclude, that they key thought of Hebrews is seen in the word "better."

You must first must what you possess, lest you may be tempted to let it go for something of far less value. We saw this demonstrated in the illustration of Esau, who disregarded the value of his birthright, he didn’t appreciate its value. Which, as we know, entitled him to the blessings of God’s promises to Abraham, and so he traded it for a bowl of stew. As we noted previously, he traded away eternal blessings of the future for instant self gratification. The author wants to warn us against making the same spiritually fatal mistake. So, He draws a sharp contrast between life under the old covenant and life under the new covenant. This is one of those passages in the book of Hebrews that we classify as a warning passage.

 I invite you to follow along with me as I read to set the text in our minds, as we prepare our hearts for what the Spirit of God is saying to us. 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, that Moses said, “I am full of fear and trembling.” But 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 are 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."

From the outset of our text, there is a comparison between Sinai, this terrible mountain that burns with fire and smoke and another mount in verse 22, Mount Zion. And that is exactly the distinction that the writer of Hebrews is pointing out, the distinction between Mount Sinai and Mount Zion. Here, he points out that Legalism takes us back to Mt Sinai, where the law was given. He makes the argument that every man will either be judged by the law or by grace; by their own works or by Christ’s work; by the provisions of Sinai or by the provisions of Mt. Zion. God has two sets of books. In one, is recorded the names of all those who have rejected God, in the other the names of those who have accepted Him through His Son, Jesus Christ. Those who have received salvation, are in the book of Life, commonly known as the Lamb’s book of life, they will be judged by what Christ has done on their behalf.

Many Christians today, tend to want to dismiss the God of Old Testament as God of wrath and terror and say that the New Testament version of God demonstrated in the person of Jesus as a God of Love, is now the right perspective. However, I would like to make very clear,  we do not have two different Gods, the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament, but One God, simply revealing two different aspects of His power, therefore, two ways to approach Him.

These two contrasting pictures are introduced with opposite expressions. Verse 18, which says "For you have not come," and verse 22, which says "But you have come." Therefore, if a person wants to meet God on the basis of his works then it’s back to Mt. Sinai. However, when they do there are certain things they need to understand.

Verses 18-21, tells us " 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, that Moses said, “I am full of fear and trembling." Why would God reveal Himself in such a terrifying manner? Even Moses, who had seen God in the burning bush, who had performed God’s miracles before Pharaoh, was full of fear and trembling. I believe that the author may have been relying on Jewish oral tradition, or he may have included Moses with the people in their fear. This doesn’t sound like the kind of warm, loving God that you’d want to curl up next up to!

In order to answer that, we must first learn the answer to why God gave the law in the first place. The Apostle Paul tells us in Galatians chapter 3, "Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed would come to whom the promise had been made." He goes on to say "But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor."

Although the author of Hebrews never actually mentions Mount Sinai by name, it is clearly this mountain he has in view, for Mt Sinai is the place where God appeared to Moses and the children of Israel in Exodus 19-30 to give them the law. Mt. Sinai was untouchable, unapproachable and so off limits to the people that God commanded Moses to set up a boundary around the mountain so that the people might not accidentally walk into God’s presence and be consumed because of their sin. So, Moses led his people to the foot of Mt. Sinai. Exodus chapter 19 tells us the story.

"Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke because the Lord descended upon it in fire; and its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked violently. When the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and God answered him with thunder. The Lord came down on Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain; and the Lord called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up. Then the Lord spoke to Moses, “Go down, warn the people, so that they do not break through to the Lord to gaze, and many of them perish. Also let the priests who come near to the Lord consecrate themselves, or else the Lord will break out against them.” Moses said to the Lord, “The people cannot come up to Mount Sinai, for You warned us, saying, ‘Set bounds about the mountain and consecrate it.” Then the Lord said to him, “Go down and come up again, you and Aaron with you; but do not let the priests and the people break through to come up to the Lord, or He will break forth upon them.” So Moses went down to the people and told them."

By nature, we’re all blind to the extent of our sin before a holy God. We tend to compare ourselves with others, justifying that our sin is nowhere near as bad as theirs! We tell ourselves "I haven't murdered anyone, so I'm not that bad of a sinner!" We all know that God is holy, but I do not believe that we fully grasp what that means. In regards to the law, God reveals to us His absolute holiness.

Isaiah gives us an example in Isaiah chapter 6, when he realized .his lips were unclean before a holy God. Allow me to read that to you. "Then I said, "Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts." When Isiah saw God's holiness, he was aware of his own sinfulness.

Now we come to verse 18, and He basically says you’re not approaching Sinai, what are you afraid of? You’re not coming to the mountain of law that poured out fire and smoke and thunder. You’re coming to the mountain of grace where all there is, is love and forgiveness. Let’s look at the comparison that begins in verse 18. In the old covenant, you either obeyed God or else. We realize that there was grace but that was basically the old covenant. You are not come to the mount that can be touched, He's talking about Sinai, the physical mount; he’s not saying that you can touch it, because he later says that nobody can touch it without being dead.

Remember, when God was really demonstrating His holiness, and God was demonstrating His justice and God was giving His law and He was saying, "This is my law." The rugged heights of Sinai rocked with thunder and crackled with lightening and the mountain was literally on fire, and God’s presence descended on that mountain in fire and smoke, and accompanying it was a tremendous earthquake that just shook the whole place. That was a day unequaled in Jewish history. There was no indication of any grace. There was no indication of any forgiveness or of pardon. It was a display of condemnation and death. Mount Sinai, fearful place. The people who witnessed this awesome demonstration of God’s power knew without a doubt that God was not one of them.

In II Corinthians 3:7, Paul called the old covenant the "the ministry of death, in letters engraved on stones." God was there in an unbelievable outward demonstration of infinite holiness and justice, then there was man, cowering and shaking in the lowest condition of sin, misery, guilt and death. That was Sinai. So, the writer of Hebrews is saying, if you would come to Christ, you come to the mountain of grace, Mount Zion. 

Then, verse 19, "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." There was a trumpet blast, a call at Sinai to assemble the people, for judgement. It was more than they could bear, they couldn't handle it anymore.They were stricken with terror.  And Revelation chapter 11, tells there will be another one in the future, when God calls the world to ultimate judgment.  When God gave the law to Israel, He drew them out into the middle of nowhere, there was no shelter, no place to escape to, in the wide open, they could only face the reality of His wrath. And they had nowhere to go, that is exactly what the law was intended to do.

Paul said in Romans 3:19, "Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are ]under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God." In other words,  When God sets His designs toward the sinner, He take him out of his hiding place, He drags him out into the solitariness of the wilderness, and exposes his sin, and He compels him to face the just demands of the law, and He reveals to him the terror of judgment and it is at that point in the life of a sinner that he turns to God.

Isaiah 28:17 says "I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the level; Then hail will sweep away the refuge of lies and the waters will overflow the secret place." And verse 20 says "The bed is too short on which to stretch out, And the blanket is too small to wrap oneself in." To put it another way, God says I'm going to bring My judgement and lay it out like a plumb line, then I'll drive everyone out of his hiding place to face the line of judgement. When God's judgement comes, there will be nowhere to hide. The bed's too short, you're feet can't be hidden. Mount Sinai was intended to paralyze the sinner, to overwhelm him. 

Verse 20-21 says "For they could not bear the command, "If even a beast touches the mountain, it will be stoned. And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, "I am full of fear and trembling." Moses was certainly no stranger to God,but even he shook with fear. You cannot preach grace, forgiveness and love unless there is judgment and justice for sin. Because if there is not that, than the  other has no meaning. In other words, you cannot preach forgiveness without having something to be forgiven of. You must first understand how horribly bad you are, how severe is God's judgement, to truly appreciate God's grace and forgiveness. It's true that God is a God of love, mercy and grace. However, He is also a God of justice, judgement and wrath. The bottom line is, that every man is going to end up standing before Sinai or Zion. He must make a choice.

So, in verse 22-24, he says "But 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 are 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." Christians come not to a real mountain, we come to Mount Zion, the Mountain of Grace.

There isn't really much to see on Mount Zion, there's a monastery there. If you ever heard of the Valley of Hinnom, on the east part of Jerusalem, the Kidron Valley makes a turn toward Bethlehem, in the south and becomes the Valley of Hinnom. That’s sort of where Mount Zion is. Then, at the far end of the Valley of Hinnom was a place known as Gehenna, that was the term for Hell. It was the city dump, where the fire never went out. So, from Hinnom you go right straight up and there’s a little hump, a slight grade and that’s Mount Zion. 

So, in verse 22, the Holy Spirit is presenting how excellent, how incomparable the new covenant is. Mount Zion represents grace and atonement and forgiveness because it is the symbol of God’s love for a people. Now, if you will remember, Jebusites were the ancient inhabitors there, that is until David conquered them. Then, in the seventh year of David's reign, he made the Jebusite mount, Zion. Which, it right next to Mount Moriah, that's where the Temple Mount is. It was there David made his throne, and it became the religious center of the kingdom. 

In II Samuel 6, they put the ark of God on Mount Zion. And I Kings 14:21 says "Now Rehoboam the son of Solomon reigned in Judah. Rehoboam was forty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned seventeen years in Jerusalem, the city which the Lord had chosen from all the tribes of Israel to put His name there." God put His name there. This is where it all changes, this little hill, the mount of forgiveness. And so, Zion became synonymous with Jerusalem, and all through the Old Testament you see it used interchangeably. Zion is still God’s favorite name for Jerusalem. When we come to Christ we come to a spiritual Zion, a place of grace. By works, God is unapproachable. In Christ, the Mount is Zion, God is approachable.

He says when you come to Zion, you receive seven benefits. The first thing when you come to "the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem,"  you come to Christ and to come to Christ you’re coming to the cross. You find wonderful forgiveness because of Christ. Second, you come "to myriads of angels, in the Greek it says, "In festal gathering," a gathering for celebration. It's an angelic party!You know, every time a sinner becomes saved, the angels celebrate. There’s joy in heaven over one soul.

The third benefit, is you come to the general assembly. You come to the church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven. There's a place in heaven for you. Jesus went to prepare it. Who is the church of the firstborn? Christ. You will become part of the gathering of the eternal saints of the church. It will be incredible, all the joint heirs are there together. The whole family will be there!

Then, the forth benefit you will receive is, you come to God the judge of all. When you come to heaven, you come into the presence of God. Can you imagine to the Jew, even speaking the name of God was something blasphemous. He would never utter it, for fear God would judge him. So, the writer of Hebrews says  now you can approach the bench of God who is the judge of all. Jesus Christ, who is the mediator has made way for you. When Jesus died, the veil of the temple was torn in two. That symbolizes that there is no more barrier between you and God. Now, you can come into the presence of God. Think about that, you can come into the presence of an absolutely righteous and holy God. And, He can make you worthy, by imputing the righteousness of His Son, Jesus Christ.

The fifth benefit is, "and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect." The Old Testament tribulation saints, they're all going to be there. Their spirits were perfected on the cross. They're still waiting for their resurrection bodies, but their spirits are perfected. 

The sixth benefit we receive is in verse 24, "and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel."  We come to Jesus,  Jesus is His redemptive name. That’s His saving name. Yeshua, Savior. For He shall save His people from their sins. When a Christian dies, they never really experience death. They just go to sleep and suddenly, they are face to face with Jesus Christ. Remember the Apostle Paul said, "to be absent from the body, is to be present with the Lord."

So he says come to Christianity, come to Christ, come to grace, come to peace, come to worship, come to fellowship. Come to God and come to Jesus! And come to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel. Full, final and complete forgiveness, forever. If you want forgiveness, come to Jesus Christ, that's what He offers.

In Closing..

The word of God is a reality with which each person must on his own reckon. However, there are only two choices: The Word can be received or the Word can be rejected, there is no neutral ground. We can refuse to believe that there is a need for us to respond to the voice of God now, and continue waiting for a more convenient time. There will never be a more convenient time than today, to trust in the blood of Jesus. A heart filled with gratitude to God is always expressed in worship and obedience. May God fill your heart with His immeasurable joy.

May it be so..

And now may the Lord bless you and keep you;

the Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;

The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.

Now and forever, in Jesus' name
Amen
 
 
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