24th December 2022
Read (Hebrews 12v18-29)
Message (Scott Woodburn)
Tomorrow is a day that many gifts will be given and many will be received. Perhaps you are hoping for something special? Perhaps you want receipts attached to every gift for when you inevitably return them for something else or perhaps you can't wait for all the fuss to be over? Regardless of our feelings about Christmas Day, the Christian has received something far greater than the usual pants, socks and aftershave.
To help us understand what we have been given, the Apostle uses the example of two mountains. The first is Mount Sinai where Moses received the ten commandments written on tablets of stone. We all have our Sunday school images of a happy Moses coming down the mountain with the tablets in his hands but Paul deals with the reality.
When the Lord appeared to Moses on Sinai He commanded that no one was to come near to the mountain or even touch it. If man or beast broke this rule then they were to be put to death (v20). When the Lord came to Sinai there was thunder and lightning and a thick cloud on the mountain. A loud trumpet blast caused the people to tremble. The mountain was wrapped in smoke because the Lord had descended in fire and in response the whole mountain trembled greatly. The trumpet sound continued and grew louder and louder until finally the Lord spoke like thunder causing even Moses to tremble in fear at Mount Sinai (v21).
The first mountain declared the holiness of God and His unapproachability by sinful man. Our hands and our hearts are unclean and what we need is someone to stand in the gap between us and the awe inspiring majestic holy, holy, holy, Lord. Thanks be to God because Christ is the one who stood in our place.
Therefore, the Apostle writes that we have not come to Sinai but instead we have arrived at Mount Zion. Zion is the mountain on which Abraham took his son Isaac, it would later be the site of the city of Jerusalem and later still it would be the place that the temple was built. But Paul doesn't urge us to go and worship in the earthly Jerusalem at the remains of the temple destroyed by the Romans. Instead Zion acts as a signpost to greater heavenly realities.
When we think of Zion we think of heavenly glory and the access we have to God through faith in the Son. No longer do we tremble and quake keeping our distance from the Lord but now by the blood of Christ we can draw near. The Christian no longer lives at Sinai but our permanent address is Zion (v22-24). Sinai represents the old covenant and Zion the new (v24).
In light of this we are not to seek a return to Sinai as some of the Hebrews were considering. Christ's work is complete and sufficient and we are to pay heed to Him who warns us from heaven (v25). In other words we are to stand firmly rooted in Christ for a day is coming that the entire universe will be shaken at the return of Jesus (v26). On that great and terrible day only those who have received Christ and entered into His Kingdom will stand (v27).
I have no idea what you will receive tomorrow morning but I am sure that from Christ we have received a kingdom that cannot be shaken (v28). In light of this truth let us draw near to God worshipping Him in reverence and awe (v28). He is a consuming fire (v29) but by faith we are not consumed. Happy Christmas to you and yours and wherever you spend tomorrow please never forget that because of Jesus your dwelling place now and forever is Zion.
Q32 What benefits do they that are effectually called partake of in this life? They that are effectually called do in this life partake of justification, adoption, sanctification, and the several benefits which, in this life, do either accompany or flow from them.