Greater Than: Greater Mountain
Well hello everyone, thanks for joining me tonight.
A few of you have let me know that you community groups are going to be checking in and maybe using our content for discussion, that is awesome.
I mentioned last week that there are just two more messages in this format; this week and next week when I finally bring this series to a close.
Starting the following week (June 10th); Wednesday night’s will become a live Zoom meet, where I will will share a shorter reflection, we will chat a bit, and pray together. probably for about 45 minutes.
Next week I will let you know what kind of series I will be walking us through June 10th
So you can grab your bibles if you’d like. We are going to be looking at Hebrews 12:18-29 today.
It is hard to believe we are almost finished, (if you want to find some of the other messages from this series you can check find them on the churches youtube channel and find our town Centre at home videos there.
It has been a journey— we have walked through a rather long agrument by an ancient leader concerned with those who are one the fence of whetehr or not to stick it our with Jesus and the church.
Who have found it difficult to proclaim allegiance to Christ and still live accepted by the culture that surrounds them.
Most likely living in Rome and having a background in Judaism with a strong knwoldege of the Hebrew Scriputres (what we call the OT) They have been put under pressure to reject their faith or suffer.
Since Judaism was still accepted by Roman authorities as a protected religion, it made sense that many would want to return.
But what the author of Hebrews is saying is…to go back is to have a limited view.
You are only thinking of current comfort and protection, what about the eternal consequcnes of rejecting Christ.
He is the author of life, and everything in Judaism is point to Jesus as its fulfillment.
there is no life going backwards. Jesus is greater than anything else you can pursue.
He is a better sacrifice than you find in the OC, he is a better priest than the ancient priest of the OC, he is the fina land most important message from God,
And so to day he basically brings us to a choice!!
What will you choose. The old or the new.
The life giving or the draining!
And throughout he has not said that none of the OC was necessary, or that it is bad, he is saying,....Jesus is better!
He is saying …Moses, the law, the Covenant were all great gift from God....but Christ is the best.
So if you can imagine he has walked us through the themes of the OT, he has reminded us of the important people and events and establishments of the OT, he has walked us through the Hall of Faith and we have looked at the heros of the faith and been reminded of their perseverience, he has pointed out Jesus as the ultimat Hero and the one to whom we look for strength during persecution, and then he brings us to the foot of two mountains, sets us between them and says… in verse 18....
18 You have not come to a physical mountain, to a place of flaming fire, darkness, gloom, and whirlwind, as the Israelites did at Mount Sinai. 19 For they heard an awesome trumpet blast and a voice so terrible that they begged God to stop speaking. 20 They staggered back under God’s command: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.” 21 Moses himself was so frightened at the sight that he said, “I am terrified and trembling.” 22 No, you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to countless thousands of angels in a joyful gathering. 23 You have come to the assembly of God’s firstborn children, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God himself, who is the judge over all things. You have come to the spirits of the righteous ones in heaven who have now been made perfect. 24 You have come to Jesus, the one who mediates the new covenant between God and people, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks of forgiveness instead of crying out for vengeance like the blood of Abel. 25 Be careful that you do not refuse to listen to the One who is speaking. For if the people of Israel did not escape when they refused to listen to Moses, the earthly messenger, we will certainly not escape if we reject the One who speaks to us from heaven! 26 When God spoke from Mount Sinai his voice shook the earth, but now he makes another promise: “Once again I will shake not only the earth but the heavens also.” 27 This means that all of creation will be shaken and removed, so that only unshakable things will remain. 28 Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe. 29 For our God is a devouring fire.
Imagine you are invited to someone’s house..
And you have the street but not the actual house address.
You make your way to the area where you think the house should be, you park, and you, start looking around.
As you walk down the street, two houses stand out.
One house says- please make sure you take off your shoes before you enter.
There is a list of rules next to the door about behaviour and ediquite. Someone opens the door and you get a waft of disinfectant.
The person who opens the door, asks if you’ve read the rules and we willing to obey them.
You look in the window and you see several people inside. None of them are talking. No one is moving. There is a sense that everyone inside is afraid they will break a rule or upset the host.
You are unsure this is the place. Why would anyone invite you here.
While you are trying to make up your mind, you hear music from across the street/mixed with laughter and you see people entering this house with the host embracing each person, and telling them to come in and relax; you are relieved to see that it is your firend and she yells at you from across the street to come in
You smell a BBQ coming from the back yard.
And you start to make your way across the street, pulled in by the joy and the hospitality of the home.
Now imagine the joy and relief and anticipation of making your way to the house. How glad you are that what you thought was your destination was not.
The writer of hebrews is explaining to his audience that as they are attempting to approach God they are going to the wrong place.
I. The Two Mountains
He has described two mountains; both of which represent access and a way of relating to God.
What we call covenants.
A. Mount Sinai (vv.18-21)
In verse 18 he is talking about the epic OT event of the Sinai covenant, where God made hi presence and his regulation known to the nation of Israel.new invitation of God through Christ.
18 You have not come to a physical mountain, to a place of flaming fire, darkness, gloom, and whirlwind, as the Israelites did at Mount Sinai. 19 For they heard an awesome trumpet blast and a voice so terrible that they begged God to stop speaking.
During their time in the wilderness God had revealed his holiness to the people of Israel after he had saved them from slavery in Egypt.
With Moses as the go between/ mediator, it struck fear into the people of Israel and made them understand that he was to be taken seriously, and worshipped cautiously.
There was fire and darkness, a storm, and the voice of God was terrifying.
Moses reflects on the event in Deut 4
10 Never forget the day when you stood before the Lord your God at Mount Sinai, where he told me, ‘Summon the people before me, and I will personally instruct them. Then they will learn to fear me as long as they live, and they will teach their children to fear me also.’ 11 “You came near and stood at the foot of the mountain, while flames from the mountain shot into the sky. The mountain was shrouded in black clouds and deep darkness. 12 And the Lord spoke to you from the heart of the fire. You heard the sound of his words but didn’t see his form; there was only a voice. 13 He proclaimed his covenant—the Ten Commandments—which he commanded you to keep, and which he wrote on two stone tablets. 14 It was at that time that the Lord commanded me to teach you his decrees and regulations so you would obey them in the land you are about to enter and occupy.
no one was to touch the mountain not even animals!!
Even Moses was freaked out!
21 Moses himself was so frightened at the sight that he said, “I am terrified and trembling.”
fire, darkness, gloom, whirlwind, and the terrible voice of God- it was unbearable!
The holiness of God and the unholiness of Israel was the theme
that was Sinai
The author of Hebrews says…if you are in Christ/ If your life is now centred in what he has done on the cross for you....you have not come to a physical mountain; or to a mountain you can touch...
He says in verse 22..
B. Mount Zion (vv. 22-24)
Whenever you hear the name Mount Zion in scriputre is mean the place where God is!!
It is often synonomous with Jerusalem but that it becaseu the temple was in Jerusalem- God’s dwelling. God’s presence.
18 I and the children the Lord has given me serve as signs and warnings to Israel from the Lord of Heaven’s Armies who dwells in his Temple on Mount Zion.
2 Remember your congregation, which you have purchased of old, which you have redeemed to be the tribe of your heritage! Remember Mount Zion, where you have dwelt.
6 “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.”
Heb 12: 22 NO!!-
22 No, you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to countless thousands of angels in a joyful gathering.
this is the only place in the NT where this word is used for joyful gathering…it is the same word used to descrie the party the celebration at the olympics!
here......you are honured as firstborn children!! Your name is on the gueat list!
you are not standing at the foot of the mountain just hearing God’s voice....you are seeing his face (you’ve come to God himself (v23)
And you are now a part of the historic/eternal church- a part fo the assembly of thos who have been made perfect in heaven (23)
Because when you come to this mountain.....you come to Jesus!!! You don’t need moses to mediate between you and God, his very Son does that now
And he has introduced an entirely new way of being in relationship with God. You dont cower at the bottom of the hill, Jesus escorts you into the presence of God.
And knowing the background of His Jewish audience who might say..blood needs to be spilled in order for covenant to be binding....
He says yes!!!! You are right!!
and Jesus has done that by sprinkling his own blood -
24 You have come to Jesus, the one who mediates the new covenant between God and people, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks of forgiveness instead of crying out for vengeance like the blood of Abel.
in the ancient story of Cain and Abel, Cain kills his brother and God interogates him for his crime.
10 But the Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground!
meaning avenge me!! The image is of Abels blood calling out to God to bring justice and punish him.
The author of Hebrews says although Jesus, perfect man, fully man and fully God, would be just in calling down judgement on us.....his blood does something comepletely different.
Different than the sacrificial system of the OC which was meant to hold back the hand of God.
the blood of the perfect lamb of God does somethign different.....it takes away the sins of the world.
Jesus blood cries our as well but it cries.....Father forgive them!!!
So here is the question being posed.
As we stand before these two mountains..
Why would we choose the former and not the latter?
And here is the thing we need to remember.....
this is being written to those already in the church who have are rethinking whether it is worth it. Who are tempted to go back to or are already leaving Mount Zion for Mt Sinai.
And he is saying why be drawn back.
So as we stand between these mountains we face..
II. The Two Dangers
A. Forgetting Mt. Zion
To say no to the ultimate word of God his final and authoritative word.
To say no to the life and forgivness of the NC.
Heb chapter one says…the old way of God has served its purpose but it is done...
1 Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. 2 And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe.
All of God’s promises are yes in Christ
only Christ can forgive sin, give us ultimate hope, joy, the fullest expression of God’s love.
The problem with many traditions today is that we proclaim the tuth of Mt. Zion but live and reflect a Christianity that looks like Mt. Sinai
Where God is faceless and without mercy.
Where the rules are posted on the enterance to the house, rather than a voice yelling a word of welcome.
And we know that Christians often are known for what we are against.
And as we see the deterioration of our culture it seems appropriate at times...
As NT Theologian George Guthrie says
“...we can become fixated on shouting against the decay lest we be lost in it.”
We need to be careful we are not dragging people to the foot of Sinai instead of the the height of Mt Zion.
Guthrie also says..
“It would be a shame if people never hear the music of the heavenly Jerusalem because the thunder of our Sinai drowns it out, if they never move past trembling Moses to meet Jesus, who stands with his outstretched hands.”
The fruits of the spirit need to be nurtured in us as we grow deeper and deeper into the soil of God’s love.
We cannot forget Mt. Zion..
but also.....we are in danger of forgetting (although not practicing)
B. Forgetting Mount Sinai
As a pastor I want my sermons and my words to highlight the singing the gathering the party of Zion!
But I do a disservice to the church and to any who play lightly with the gospel if I do not bring our attention to God’s holiness.
See both covenants/ both mountains, lead to judgment.
The mountain of Zion calls us to grace, relationship and joy.
But it calls us, and we must respond.
Beyond both these mountains is judgement- but this one lives in judgement and this one brushes by it.
One is constant judgement where the other looks to the future and knows that the judgement that God will one day bring has already been absorbed by Chrsit for all who will follow.
So if we want this mountan…we cannot ignore Christ.
Mt Zion came with a price.
And so if you thought that Mt Sinai came with heavy warnings…hear this, there is salvation in no other name but Jesus.
So you talk about leaving......where are you planning on going?
12 There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.”
5 For, There is one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus.
There is no other mounatin, no other covenant.
It is found nowhere else....so do not ignore it!
25 Be careful that you do not refuse to listen to the One who is speaking. For if the people of Israel did not escape when they refused to listen to Moses, the earthly messenger, we will certainly not escape if we reject the One who speaks to us from heaven!
You think things shook at Mt Sinai…one day things are going to shake again..
All of creation, the seen and unseen, and thngs are going to be seen for their true value.
Here is the implication.....Sinai is going to shake so hard it will crumble to the ground.
But Mt Zion will never fall!
That is the power of the God behind this story, so do not take him lightly!
AND do not camp out on Sinai, that mountain has no staying power.
It served its purpose.
But the true power and might is in the cross of Christ, and if you are not on his side you will be on the wrong side of history.
The goal of not meeting, of wearing masks, of gloves, hand sanitizer, social distancing is to get beyond it.
The hope in doing all these things, of their being restrictions is so that we will one day enjoy freedom.
We will remember how it was, how we yearned for healing and a cure, but we will not desire to be back where we were.
That is Mt. Sinai- OC. the goal of Mt Sinai / the OC was to bring us point beyond give us a desire for the life of Mt Zion.
We were not meant to live there.
We should be reminded of it, so we remember that God is untamable, holy, and perfect, just, and so that we can be thankful for his grace and mercy and salvation offered through Christ.