The writer is contrasting the Old and New Covenants: Mt. Sinai vs. Mt. Zion. The inspired author is addressing Jewish Christians who were in danger of going back to living under the OT Law. As we work through the following verses may God the Holy Spirit illuminate our minds and empower us everyday to persevere in Christ.
We have learned and some have experienced more than others, that God does discipline us as legitimate sons and daughters. There is no question that we all as genuine believers, “in Christ” undergo discipline. As God determines how to mold and shape us (i.e., nature of the discipline) ideally we listen and obey through the process of discipline so that we will be more like Christ, hence mature.
Even today we have a choice whether to listen and obey what God has revealed in Scripture. The writer is warning the readers to pay attention and recognize the significance of obedience, especially in the new covenant.
v. 18 “you have not come to anything that can be touched…” The new covenant is superior, but the old was still awesome too… the writer is representing Mt. Sinai Exodus 19-20
Our God is Holy! Our God is merciful! Our God forgives and restores! Isa 6
v. 19 What is the spiritual condition of those who do not want to hear the word of God anymore?
Certainly the holiness of God and the awesome nature of what was happening could overwhelm the Israelites and they “begged that no further word be spoken to them…”
v. 20 Another dynamic is the rebellious state of the Israelites and their inability to “bear what was commanded” was a reflection of their hardened and sinful hearts. They were apostate and people who should have been afraid of judgment (cf. Ex. 32).
What is the difference between a person who: has a reverent fear of God given his or her understanding of the nature of God? vs. One who has a fear of punishment and death because of his or her understanding of the nature of God?
God knows those who are His. Like today, the Israelites were saved by faith and some had faith and trusted God, but others did not. It appears that even the faithful fell short (Aaron) and worshiped the golden calf. He suffered consequences. Moreover, over 3k were killed and many others (even the saved) were inflicted with plagues.
v. 21 Our God is holy, holy, holy and when we violate God’s holiness at the least we should tremble with fear and “Christ in us” prompts us to repent. However, for the apostate or person who isn’t “in Christ” there is going to be judgment in the midst of fear and trembling. “I am trembling with fear” is found in Deut 9:19 in the context of the golden calf.
Has the new covenant and new realities changed the nature of God? v. 29 Immutable.
Christ has changed how we approach God in Christ.
v. 21 What was the nature of Moses’ fear?
1. The awesome manifestation of divine holiness
2. The prospect of divine judgment against the people for the sin of idol worship
Rayburn (1989) said, These verses, then, depict the terrors of the apostate face to face with the wrath of God, a terror no less the destiny of those who forsake the Lord today (p. 1146).
v. 22. But you have come to Mt. Zion. The contrast is how we can now as believers approach God. In Christ-an accomplished and continuing state.
Mt. Zion is one of the hills on which the city of Jerusalem was built. We look to a heavenly Jerusalem, the home of all God’s people. Heaven, the city of the living God. (Gal 4:26, Rev 3:12; 21:2, 10)
Do you think about the nature of Heaven? A dynamic place where there are a multitude of angels and saints joyfully fellowshipping. A place of glory and peace.
v. 23 “church of the firstborn” probably refers to the whole communion of saints, the church on earth and in heaven. Rayburn (1989) said, (paraphrased) the church of the firstborn refers to our privileged position in Christ set apart to God and heirs of all things, the very privileges that Esau squandered.
v. 24 Abel’s blood speaks revenge. However, in the new covenant Christ’s blood offers complete forgiveness of sin, mercy, and grace to all who are willing to humble themselves and accept.
v. 25 How often do we refuse to listen and obey? Since we have a greater revelation do we have a greater responsibility? Is there a greater danger? Heb 2:2-4
v. 26 Haggai 2:6 Isa 66:22
v. 27 When you are shaken will you remain or be removed? Is this determined by whether or not you are truly “In Christ?”
v. 28 “Therefore, since we are receiving…” We receive God’s kingdom, hence we can’t earn it or create it, it is God’s gift. Praise God for His grace appropriated to us.
Let us [be thankful] hold on to God’s grace, [and so] through which we worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.
v. 29 “for our God is a consuming fire.”
Persevere In Christ!
Rayburn, Robert, S. 1989, Evangelical Commentary on the Bible. Elwell, (ed).
The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, F.E. Gaebelein (Ed) 1981.
NIV Study Bible (1984).