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Sunday School Lesson

November 19

Mediator of the New Covenant

 

Devotional Reading:Psalm 66

 

Background Scripture:Hebrews 12:14, 15, 18-29; Psalm 66

 

Hebrews 12:14, 15, 18-29

 

14 Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:

 

15 Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled.

 

18 For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest,

 

19 And the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard intreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more:

 

20 (For they could not endure that which was commanded, And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart:

 

21 And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:)

 

22 But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels,

 

23 To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,

 

24 And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.

 

25 See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven:

 

26 Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven.

 

27 And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.

 

28 Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:

 

29 For our God is a consuming fire.

 

Key Verses

 

Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: for our God is a consuming fire.—Hebrews 12:28, 29

 

Lesson Aims

 

After participating in this lesson, each learner will be able to:

 

1. State the meaning and significance of the word mediator.

 

2. Explain how and why the believers’ approach to God in the

 

Introduction

 

 A. In the Presence of Greatness

 

At one time or another, we wonder what it would be like to meet a great figure of the past. What would it be like to have breakfast with Abraham Lincoln during America’s Civil War? How would we react in the presence of Winston Churchill or Catherine the Great?

 

Chances are, such meetings would not be as pleasant as we would like them to be! After all, why would such leaders even acknowledge us? The only way such a meeting could happen (aside from solving the issue of time travel!) is if someone were to take us into the presence of such greatness.

 

At Mount Sinai to approach God was forbidden (see lesson 6). To that scenario we contrast the era of the new heaven and earth, when believers are welcomed into God’s presence. Even now, we are encouraged to “come boldly unto the throne of grace” (Hebrews 4:16). Something significant has changed that allows us into God’s presence.

 

B. Lesson Background

 

We do not know who wrote the book of Hebrews. One reason for this uncertainty is that the book, unlike most biblical letters, does not begin by identifying the author. Some Bible students think Paul wrote Hebrews. Various similarities between Hebrews and Galatians, one of Paul’s letters, are seen to lend support to this proposal. One such similarity is the subject of this lesson: the contrast of Mount Sinai with the heavenly Jerusalem (see Galatians 4:24-26).

 

There is less uncertainty regarding the original intended audience of the book of Hebrews: Christians of Jewish background who, in the face of persecution and doubt, wanted to abandon the church and return to the synagogue. By the time we get to the text of today’s lesson, the author of Hebrews has painted the consequences for such a decision in stark terms: there is no escape for those who reject the Christian message of salvation (Hebrews 2:3). Forsaking the blessings of the Christian life (such as the Holy Spirit) leaves one with no options for repentance and restoration to God (6:4-6).

 

The bottom line is not that the old covenant is bad; rather, it is that the old covenant is obsolete, having been superseded by a better covenant (Hebrews 8:13). And this new covenant did not arise from thin air. The Christian covenant was prophesied in the Old Testament (Hebrews 8:7-12, which quotes Jeremiah 31:31-34; see lesson 11).

 

The author of Hebrews uses vivid word pictures to support his points. The function of the Word of God is compared with that of a sword (Hebrews 4:12). Christian teachings are likened to categories of milk and meat (5:12-14). The Christian life is compared with a foot race (12:1). Worship is described as a “sacrifice of praise” (13:15). Our lesson today relies on the imagination of the reader to picture Mount Sinai at the time of the reception of the law. It was a place of terrifying thunder and lightning and of a supernatural trumpet blast that caused the people to tremble. The mountain was filled with smoke and fire, and it shook violently (Exodus 19:16-19; lesson 6). This filled the hearts of the people with fear. We must keep this unique, awe-inspiring event from Israel’s past in mind as we engage our lesson this week.

 

I. The Terrifying Mountain

 

                                                       (Hebrews 12:14, 15, 18-21)

 

A. Peace and Holiness (vv. 14, 15)

 

14. Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.

 

The context of Hebrews shines clearly here, for peace is a reference to the Jewish concept of shalom, a peace that results in personal well-being. The original readers of the book, having come from a Jewish background, are well acquainted with this idea. This is not a peace in which hostilities are merely paused. Rather, differences and disputes have been resolved and laid aside for good.

 

The Old Testament teaches that this kind of peace ultimately comes from God (Numbers 6:26; Psalm 29:11). But the author knows that our behavior influences that of others; therefore, he couples the admonition for peace with all men to a call for holiness. This means we are to live lives that are above reproach so that we represent our holy God faithfully to our family and neighbors.

 

What Do You Think?

 

What are some things you can do to foster peace with others?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

To repair a broken peace

 

To maintain an existing peace

 

Considering Matthew 10:34-36

 

If the context of Hebrews is that of Jewish Christians leaving the church to return to the synagogue, then we can understand the urgency of these words. There has been a church split. It is likely that bitter words and accusations have been traded. The author reminds everyone that peace and holiness are central teachings in both old and new covenants. Without holiness, one cannot see the Lord (compare Matthew 5:8; 1 Peter 1:15, 16, quoting Leviticus 11:44, 45; 19:2). There is no justification for ungodly actions.

 

What Do You Think?

 

How will God see holiness in you daily?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

At times when only He can see you

 

At times when others are watching as well

 

15. Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled.

 

The author’s concern, is reinforced by a warning. It is embarrassing to witness callous and angry behavior within the church. When attitudes and actions of Christians are founded on bitterness rather than holiness, the method and mission of the church is damaged. When we think we are upholding godly standards in a strong and confident manner, we actually may be hindering the church’s message of the grace of God.

 

Peace with Others

 

I met a new believer who had experienced a huge life transformation when she came to know the Lord. Her newfound faith grew, and she became involved in the children’s program at her church. Her enthusiasm spread to other members of the congregation.

 

Somewhere along the way, she began having conflicts with the minister. He had different ideas about ministry, and the new believer’s ideas and enthusiasm clashed with his. One afternoon she vented her frustrations to me regarding how he wouldn’t allow innovation and change.

 

I empathized with her. I was young and enthusiastic myself and understood the frustration of feeling stifled in my excitement for service. However, I also understood that the conflict was simply a matter of perspective.

 

At one point in the conversation, the woman confided that she might leave that church and attend another one. “That might be a good idea, but you’ll need to come to some peace with him eventually since you’ll be spending eternity together in Heaven,” I replied. “You don’t want to be stuck around someone you didn’t get along with here on earth!”

 

I was half joking, but I could see that my point hit home. She smiled as she realized that though they had differing opinions about how to serve Jesus, they still loved the same God, who wants His children to get along.

 

—L. M. W.

 

B. Burning and Blasting (vv. 18, 19)

 

18a. For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched.

 

The author now turns to one of his last major illustrations from the Old Testament: the setting of the giving of the law at Mount Sinai. That event is burned into the collective memories of his readers of Jewish background, since the giving of the law marked the nation of Israel distinct from all other nations. There is no event more cherished in the heart of a devout Jew than this one.

 

The author of Hebrews describes Mount Sinai in ways that parallel Old Testament depictions in Exodus 19 and Deuteronomy 5. For one thing, the mountain might be touched (Exodus 19:12). That indicates the mountain was real, not a mythical creation. Scholars today debate the location of Mount Sinai, but most recognize Jebel Musa (Arabic for “Mount Moses”) in the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula as the site.

 

18b. And that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest.

 

The author also recalls atmospheric phenomena: darkness, dense cloud cover, and storminess, including thunder and lightning, characterized the day (Exodus 19:16a). The stormy darkness was pierced by the descent of the Lord in fire accompanied by thick smoke that covered the mountain (19:18).

 

19. And the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard intreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more.

 

The sound of a trumpet signaled the descent of the Lord to the top of Mount Sinai. That blast of sound was not a fanfare from a human trumpeter hiding in the rocks. Exodus 19:19 describes it as a single long blast that grew louder and louder. We are left to imagine that this was from the horn of an angelic trumpeter having inexhaustible lung capacity (see Revelation 8:6).

 

The trumpet blast was accompanied by the voice of the Lord (Exodus 19:19; compare Revelation 1:10). What this sounded like is not described. But it struck terror into the hearts of the people, so much so that they begged for it to stop (see Deuteronomy 5:23-27).

 

C. Fear and Quaking (vv. 20, 21)

 

20, 21. (For they could not endure that which was commanded, and if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart: And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:).

 

The author elaborates on the terror that beset the people of Israel at Mount Sinai. First, there was a fear of physical well being, because to touch the mountain meant death. The consequence extended even to livestock. If a cow or lamb wandered too close and made contact with Mount Sinai, the people had to kill it. That represented a loss of high value to the owner, given the remote location in the desert of Sinai.

 

Second, Moses himself was cowed by what he witnessed. We should not forget that Moses was called to ascend this mountain of terror in short order (Exodus 19:20). We honor him for his fortitude in various situations as leader of the Israelites. Yet even Moses, among the greatest of the Jewish heroes, was afraid on this occasion.

 

II. The Blessed Mountain

 

                                                               (Hebrews 12:22-29)

 

A. Heavenly Jerusalem (vv. 22-24)

 

22. But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels.

 

The author turns to another mountain, a metaphorical peak that represents the realities of the Christian life and system: mount Sion (usually spelled Zion). It is not a remote desert crag. Rather, it is a city, a place where people live. As the location of the living God, it is the Lord’s permanent presence, not a place of temporary visitation as was Sinai. It is a heavenly place, not found on the earth at the end of any highway or sea voyage. It is Jerusalem, the site of God’s perfect temple. It is populated by an innumerable company of angels, heavenly beings we would expect to find there.

 

The book of Revelation elaborates on the idea of a heavenly Jerusalem, there called “new Jerusalem” (Revelation 3:12; 21:2). The city descends onto a mountain, much like the Lord’s descent to Mount Sinai (21:10). The presence of the Lord results in a perfect temple for worship (21:22). Heaven is full of the hosts of God’s angels offering worship to the Lord (5:11).

 

23. To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect.

 

This is no dreamworld in the sky, but a reality for the author and his readers. His blessed mountain is seen in the church, a community made up of those whose names are written in heaven, in the book of life (Philippians 4:3; Revelation 21:27). God the Judge of all controls this book. His judgments are absolute and final; therefore, a name in this book is the assurance of salvation (compare Revelation 3:5; 13:8; 17:8).

 

How to Say It

 

DeuteronomyDue-ter-ahn-uh-me.

 

GalatiansGuh-lay-shunz.

 

HaggaiHag-eye or Hag-ay-eye.

 

Jebel MusaJeh-buhl Moo-suh.

 

SinaiSigh-nye or Sigh-nay-eye.

 

synagoguesin-uh-gog.

 

Jesus Christ, the firstborn, is the preeminent person in God’s plans (Colossians 1:15, 18). Since Christians are made holy by His atonement (Hebrews 2:11), we are the church of the firstborn. Our names are in the book, for we are judged just, even perfect, through the sacrificial work of Christ (see Hebrews 10:14; 11:40).

 

What Do You Think?

 

Of the images in verses 22, 23 contrasting the Christian’s destination with Mount Sinai, which is most significant to you? Why?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

City of the living God, heavenly Jerusalem

 

Company of angels

 

The firstborn

 

Spirits made perfect

 

24. And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.

 

Jesus must be the central focus of this spiritual mountain of the church because he has mediated the new covenant. Without His atoning sacrifice, there would be no new covenant, and the Jewish Christians might as well return to the synagogue.

 

The author leaves the Sinai illustration momentarily to reconsider Abel (Genesis 4:10), already mentioned in Hebrews 11, the book’s Faith Hall of Fame chapter. There it is said of righteous Abel that “being dead yet speaketh,” his offering having been declared “more excellent” (Hebrews 11:4). Even so, this voice from the old covenant cannot compare with the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ (Hebrews 9:26; compare 1 Peter 3:18).

 

Both Jesus and Abel lost their lives at the hands of those who had evil intent (Luke 24:7; 1 John 3:12). But the shedding of Jesus’ blood is infinitely more valuable than that of Abel or of all animals ever sacrificed (see Hebrews 9:11-10:18).

 

 

A Mediator Makes a Difference

 

While living overseas, I sometimes had trouble understanding the language in the community where I lived. This became painfully evident one day when I received a notice that a package awaited me at the post office. I went there and handed the notice to the clerk. She pushed a form back at me and muttered something incomprehensible. I asked her to repeat it. She sighed impatiently and did so. I finally understood she wanted me to write something. I did my best to transcribe her words while she became frustrated. She eventually gave me my package and sent me on my way.

 

The next time I received notice of a package, my trip to the post office was made with more reluctance. When I opened the door, the same clerk caught sight of me and yelled for me to go away! I did so but returned with an interpreter.

 

That encounter went smoothly. The clerk, if not kind, was at least polite. The presence of a mediator made a huge difference in her attitude toward me. Christians can approach God without fear of being told to go away! And we don’t have to go in search of a mediator—He’s right here. See 1 Timothy 2:5.

 

—L. M. W.

 

B. Inescapable God (vv. 25-27)

 

25. See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven.

 

The author’s plea takes on a heightened urgency as he moves toward a conclusion. Don’t be stubborn, he warns. There was no escape from the terrifying voice of God at Mount Sinai; there can be no escape for those who reject the message of salvation through Jesus (see Hebrews 2:2-4). This is the current and eternal voice from heaven. To leave the church and turn back to the synagogue is a foolish choice with eternally grave consequences.

 

What Do You Think?

 

How can we guard against becoming resistant to God’s Word?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

During times of triumph

 

During times of distress

 

26a. Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying.

 

The author recalls the Sinai experience a final time, now focusing on the quaking of the mountain (Exodus 19:18). Those who witnessed the event had confirmation of God’s powerful visitation to the earth. The shaking of the earth is used frequently in the Bible as a confirmation of the Lord’s presence (examples: Judges 5:4, 5; Psalm 18:7).

 

26b. Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven.

 

The quaking at Sinai serves as the writer’s launching point for quoting Haggai 2:6. This is a prophetic promise that, unlike at Sinai, a future shaking will include heaven as well as the earth. The setting of the book of Haggai is 520 BC, the year the rebuilding of the Jerusalem temple was completed. The author of Hebrews uses the promised shaking to confirm the superiority of the Christian claims since the shaking is associated with “the desire of all nations” coming and filling “this house with glory” (Haggai 2:7). In Christ, we are not dealing with a mere system of laws directed at a single people group of the earth, but with an eternal system that encompasses not the earth only, but also heaven (compare Revelation 6:14).

 

27. And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.

 

Hebrews uses the full prophetic import of Haggai’s words to arrive at the conclusion of this argument. The prophet’s words indicate yet again a finality to God’s visitations. The Jewish system is built on things that can be shaken, meaning they are temporary (compare Matthew 27:51). The old system is obsolete, and its elements are no longer valid. Christians, by contrast, have a system that cannot be shaken because its constituent parts are eternal. The centerpiece is the eternal, perfect, “once for all” sacrifice of Christ (Hebrews 10:10). This is the visitation of God that marks “the end of the world” (9:26) and starts the countdown to the future return of Christ in glory.

 

C. Godly Fear (vv. 28, 29)

 

28, 29. Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire.

 

Having concluded his resounding argument that only Christians are in a right relationship with God, the author moves to application. Since our kingdom, the church, is impervious to any quaking or disruption, we should appreciate our situation with grace. We can learn something from the people of Israel who were overwhelmed by the majesty of the Lord’s presence: that “something” is to come before Him acceptably with reverence as we commit to serve Him. The Greek word behind the word serve is translated “worship” elsewhere (example: Acts 24:14), and both senses are here. We worship God when we serve Him.

 

For Hebrews, serving God must be done with the proper attitude. He describes this as reverence and godly fear. This is reinforced by a dire warning: God is a consuming fire. This warning is borrowed from Moses himself (Deuteronomy 4:24) and serves to remind the readers that Christians worship the same God who visited Israel at Mount Sinai. Christians are the beneficiary of a superior relationship to God based on the mediating work of Christ (Hebrews 9:15; 12:24), but they do not serve a different God.

 

Therefore, he ends where he began this section, the picture of the Bible’s fiery, powerful, awe-inspiring God (see Hebrews 12:18). We should never take God’s grace as a sign of weakness. He is still “Judge of all” (Hebrews 12:23), and when He judges, His verdicts are swift and sure.

 

What Do You Think?

 

How should the fact that “God is a consuming fire” affect the way we live?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Given that God is merciful (Deuteronomy 4:31)

 

Given that God is a shield (Psalm 84:11)

 

Given that God is love (1 John 4:16)

 

Conclusion

 

A. Two Mountains

 

Isaiah 2:2 looks forward to the day when “the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established . . . and all nations shall flow unto it.” What a glorious promise! There will be a single place of worship that will unite believers of all nations in their service to the one true God.

 

But which mountain is this? Is it Mount Sinai, the place of terror, the place of law? Or is it the mountain John sees in Revelation 21, a great high peak that has new Jerusalem dropped onto its top (Revelation 21:10)?

 

Hebrews points us to this second mountain and does not require us to wait for it. It is available now. God shook the earth when He gave the law. When Jesus died and then broke the bonds of death, God shook earth and Heaven. The old is passed away, for God has made all things new (Revelation 21:5). Let us go to the new mountain, the kingdom that will not be shaken.

 

B. Prayer

 

Lord of fire and earthquakes, Lord of light and truth, may we never forget Your power or Your grace. May we serve You with holiness and reverence. We pray in the name of Jesus; amen.

 

C. Thought to Remember

 

God’s grace is not an absence of holiness

 

 

Kid’s Corner

Go Along to Get Along

November 19, 2017

Hebrews 12:14-29

 

(Hebrews 12:14) Pursue peace with everyone, and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

Hebrews 12 begins by telling believers in Jesus to discipline themselves so they can obey

God (run the race set before them); they are to keep their eyes on Jesus and the forever relationship they can have with Him as they patiently keep on keeping on. Then, Hebrews says that if we do not discipline ourselves that God, who is our Father, will discipline us because He loves us. Now, Hebrews turns our attention to some of the moral and spiritual qualities we need to see God, while warning us that we face many dangers and temptations in this life that if we fall into can have lasting consequences.

 

The Apostle Paul wrote: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18). Making peace requires effort, and the letters to the Hebrews and the Romans tell us to make the effort to live in peace with everyone. Living in peace and making the effort takes practice that can become a quality of our character that others recognize, even our enemies. But as Paul wrote to the Romans that may not be possible for us to do with everyone we meet. If it is up to us, making and keeping the peace is a proper goal. However, we must not try to keep peace with everyone by compromising the gospel of Jesus Christ or disregarding even in a small way the moral and spiritual requirements that God has set before us in the Bible. Our goal must be peace with holiness (moral and spiritual purity) or peace and holiness. We must not disregard holiness to achieve peace. We cannot be at peace with someone (or remain at peace within ourselves) if we break any of God’s laws to maintain peace with someone. Seeking to live in holiness in the presence of the Lord in the power of the Holy Spirit is far more important than seeking to live in peace with everyone, because without holiness no one will see the Lord or have a lasting, meaningful relationship with God.

 

(Hebrews 12:15) See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble, and through it many become defiled.

Bitterness or resentment can begin in many ways, from not getting our own selfish way to suffering as the target of unjust slanderous lies spread by someone in our own church. If we do not turn from bitterness toward someone, it will cause us and others trouble; so, we pray for others, forgive them, and ask God to help us love them (which does not mean we need to become their friends, but it does mean we need to pray they will make any changes that are necessary, God being their helper). Grace is unmerited favor. God showed us unmerited favor when we came to trust in Jesus as our Lord and Savior. We can show unmerited favor toward those who like us do not deserve it, so they may come to trust and obey Jesus too. If we cannot maintain peace and holiness with them, we can still pray for them and for ourselves and any bitterness that we need removed.

 

(Hebrews 12:16) See to it that no one becomes like Esau, an immoral and godless person, who sold his birthright for a single meal.

Paul wrote: “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want” (Galatians 5:16-17). Sexual immorality also conflicts with holiness, and the Holy Spirit will never endorse or lead anyone into sexual immorality. Esau gratified the desires of his flesh when because of hunger and without thinking of the consequences he sold his birthright for a bowl of soup. Because he was godless, he naturally practiced following his emotional desires rather than sound reason. When believers commit sins, their temptations overcome their reason and intention to live in holiness; they do not follow the Holy Spirit but follow the desires of their flesh; therefore, they temporarily act in godless ways. The consequences in this life for believers if they even temporarily follow the flesh can lead to results similar to those Esau suffered; so, the writer warns his readers to not for a moment turn from holiness to a sinful practice.

 

(Hebrews 12:17) You know that later, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, even though he sought the blessing with tears.

Esau tearfully wanted the blessing of Isaac, his father, as well as the inheritance or birthright he had sold to Jacob. He had disregarded his birthright, and then he lost his blessing through Jacob’s trickery. As one who was godless, he did not have the moral or spiritual resources to keep his birthright or rightly use his blessing. Even though he wept, he could not change what he and Jacob had done. Jacob fled the wrath of his brother because he had tricked him; therefore, it seems Esau received all his father’s material inheritance that Jacob had left behind. But spiritually, Jacob received the blessing of Isaac, and God blessed him with an abundance of material possessions. He also became an ancestor of the Messiah. Unhappily, Esau continued to hate his brother, and he became filled with bitterness toward him. When he learned that Jacob was returning home, he gathered an army to destroy him (see again Hebrews 12:14). But Jacob (whose name God had changed to Israel, meaning “Triumphant with God”) had eventually come to pursue holiness and peace; therefore, by grace Israel was able to make peace with his brother. The writer warns us against thinking shortsightedly as

Esau did, but by God’s grace through Jacob/Israel reconciliation and peace was achieved between the two brothers (see Genesis 25-37).

 

(Hebrews 12:18) You have not come to something that can be touched, a blazing fire, and darkness, and gloom, and a tempest,The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews now describes the experience of the Hebrews in the wilderness with Moses. They came to the foot of the mountain, Mount Sinai, where God gave Moses the 10 Commandments. They had the ability to physically touch the mountain, but Moses warned them that if they did touch the mountain they would die (see Exodus 19:12). When God descended on the mountain to talk with Moses the people became frightened because the sight was so dramatic and terrifying, involving a blazing fire, darkness, gloom, a tempest, and a trumpet blast.

 

(Hebrews 12:19) and the sound of a trumpet, and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that not another word be spoken to them.The people were so afraid of God that they did not want God to speak to them directly or face-to-face. They wanted Moses to be the mediator between God and themselves. They wanted Moses to tell them what God expected of them and wanted from them. From what they saw and heard, they learned that God existed, was holy, and powerful. Fear of God inspired them to obey God; still, they disobeyed God and rebelled against God almost immediately afterwards. Fear did not motivate them to obey God as they ought, and obeying out of fear for their lives did not lead to a lasting obedience or obedience with the right motive (the right motive is love for God).

 

 (Hebrews 12:20) (For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even an animal touches the mountain, it shall be stoned to death.” Here, the writer explained his meaning and referred to the Old Testament (Exodus 19:13) to prove his argument. For the early Christians, and all Christians since the time of Jesus Christ, the Old Testament is the authoritative Word of God that Jesus came to fulfill and will completely fulfill after He comes again. Therefore, Christians study both the Old Testament and New Testament as the inspired Scriptures and to learn how these Scriptures teach about Jesus Christ and how we can live for God (see 2 Timothy 3:16-17). God expected His people to consider the mountain holy because of His spiritual presence; therefore, no person and not even an animal was permitted to touch the mountain. He expected them to obey Him so perfectly that they would enforce His law by executing the penalty for breaking His law. God would not do for His people what He expected them to do. God could, and probably did because He loves His creation, keep wild animals from wandering close to His holy mountain. God expected His people to watch over and restrain their domestic animals from coming near and touching the mountain. Perhaps His people could not endure the order because they did not choose to properly look after or restrain their domestic animals and some of them died. (Just as they disobeyed God on the Sabbath when He first sent them manna in the wilderness.)

 

(Hebrews 12:21) Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.”)

Moses and the people experienced firsthand a manifestation of the holiness of God and learned about the obedience and reverence our holy God deserves. Since this quotation of Moses is not recorded in the Old Testament, it may have been handed down by word of mouth and became a part of the tradition about Moses on the mountain. The Holy Spirit inspired the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews to record this tradition to show that the Hebrews in the time of Moses had good reasons to fear God because of His holiness, since even Moses trembled in fear before God when he first met God at the burning bush (when Moses received the commission to go to Pharaoh to demand that Pharaoh free God’s people from slavery and let God’s people go to serve God) and when he ascended the mountain at God’s command in the sight of the freed Hebrews.

 

(Hebrews 12:22) But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, Unlike what Moses and the Hebrews saw with their own eyes and heard with their own ears, and what was so terrifying for them, Christians have come to Mount Zion instead of Mount Sinai. When reading about Mount Zion, readers might have first thought of Jerusalem in Israel, until the writer explains that he means “the heavenly Jerusalem.” Today, believers in Jesus gather spiritually with “innumerable angels,” and we find true joy in worshiping God as at a festival or party. Some interpreters identify Mount Zion and the heavenly Jerusalem with the true, invisible Church of Jesus Christ on earth. When the Church of Jesus Christ gathers for worship, believers join with “innumerable angels” in the worship of God.

 

(Hebrews 12:23) and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect,

Jesus Christ is the “firstborn,” the only begotten Son of God, and the “firstborn” to be raised from the dead and receive a glorified, resurrected human body. The “assembly of the firstborn” is the “assembly of Jesus Christ,” believers who gather around Him and in His name. Christians who love and follow Jesus Christ assemble or gather with other believers here on earth and in heaven. When we come to Jesus by grace through faith and trust in Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we are “enrolled in heaven” (for example, think of going to be enrolled as a student in a school). To be “enrolled in heaven,” we must comply with the standards or requirements to be enrolled, which is faith in Jesus Christ, He enrolls us. The “spirits of the righteous made perfect or holy” are those Christians in heaven who have gone before us. They lived on earth “righteous” in Christ Jesus, because He guided and empowered them. Jesus Christ is the One who forgives sin and cleanses from sin the “righteous” in Him, which is part of the way He makes believers “perfect.” God, “the judge of all” approves our enrollment in heaven and the work of Jesus in making believers perfect in heaven.

 

(Hebrews 12:24) and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

God is “the judge of all,” and Jesus is our living mediator in heaven; the only mediator between God, “the judge of all,” and ourselves as “the assembly of the firstborn.” Whereas Moses represented the old covenant with its laws and sacrifices, Jesus established a new covenant that leads believers to works of faith, hope, and love – not works motivated by fear of punishment for disobeying a law. Abel died a martyr’s death for his faith; he did not choose to die. Jesus lived faithfully in obedience to God and chose to die for sinners, and Jesus’ sacrificial death enables God to justly forgive and cleanse believers from all sin.

 

(Hebrews 12:25) See that you do not refuse the one who is speaking; for if they did not escape when they refused the one who warned them on earth, how much less will we escape if we reject the one who warns from heaven! In the Bible and through the Holy Spirit, the living God, the judge of all, is speaking to us and warning us from heaven. Just as we have a better covenant and can gather spiritually with others in heaven — though we cannot see them with our physical or mental eyes or imagination — so we want to always trust and obey Jesus Christ. Jesus warned people about the consequences of sin while He preached on earth and God still warns us from heaven. Just as the disobedient Hebrews did not escape God’s discipline when they wandered in the wilderness and could not enter the Promised Land, so we will not escape if we reject Jesus Christ and refuse faithful obedience to Him.

 

(Hebrews 12:26) At that time his voice shook the earth; but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heaven.”

When God spoke to Moses and the Hebrews from Mount Sinai, the earth shook. When

Jesus Christ comes again the earth will shake once more (and also the heavens).

Heavens may mean the area where airplanes and spacecraft fly and also the area where demonic principalities and powers abide. Jesus will defeat death and all His enemies, physical and spiritual, human and demonic.

 

(Hebrews 12:27) This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of what is shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain.

Though we are created beings living on a created planet in a created universe in space and time, some day we will live where our surroundings cannot be shaken. Earthquakes can destroy property and lives, and the ruined areas can be rebuilt, hopefully stronger, but they can be shaken again. After the old creation is removed, the new heaven and earth will never be shaken. Paul wrote: “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time” (Romans 8:22).

 

(Hebrews 12:28) Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks, by which we offer to God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe; In contrast to life in the Promised Land, those who trust in Jesus Christ receive a kingdom that Jesus said, “is not of this world.” When we consider what it means to live in “this world,” we have even more reason to give thanks to Jesus Christ for all He has done for us. Moreover, we have good reasons to love God and worship God through Christ in ways acceptable to God. We should come to God with respect for His holiness and in true amazement that He loves us and saves us from our sins and sins’ eternal consequences. Understanding this about God should move us to love Him more and more, and move us to want to do everything He says to bring happiness to Him and others.

 

Hebrews 12:29) for indeed our God is a consuming fire.

Our God is a consuming fire; therefore, if contemplating the gracious love and forgiving

Spirit of God in Jesus Christ will not move us to repentance, to love for God and neighbor, to faith, and obedience to God; then, we need to contemplate what it may mean for God to become a “consuming fire” for us. Perhaps fear of God and the consequences of disobedience will lead us to Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, to faith in Jesus Christ, to ever deepening love for God and Jesus Christ, and to changing our ways of living to a walking in holiness of thought and life.

 

 

Go Along to Get Along

November 19, 2017

Hebrews 12:14-29

 

“Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).

 

Some people “Go along to get along;” they conform to pressures from culture, society, those nearest to them, or those they want to impress. Going along to get along is not the same as making every effort to live in peace with everyone, especially when going along involves turning from God. Holiness is the biblical standard of behavior that God expects from everyone. Therefore, we must not sacrifice holiness to get along with someone or “to keep the peace.” Holiness of life and thought can be the only basis for everlasting peace, especially if we want to see the Lord. The Apostle Paul wrote: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18). We might say, “If it is possible for you to remain holy in word and deed and it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Paul also wrote: “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification (or ‘to build each other up’)” (Romans 14:19). Only holiness by word and example can truly edify someone or build someone up. The Apostle Peter wrote: “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do” (1 Peter 1:15). Jesus Christ is holy and He expects those He calls to be His followers to go along and get along with God, “to be holy.” He is the way to everlasting peace with God, peace with thousands upon thousands of holy angels, and peace with the spirits of the righteous made perfect in heaven (see Hebrews 12:22-24).

 

 

 

 

Thinking Further

Go Along to Get Along

November 19, 2017

Hebrews 12:14-29

Name __________________________

 

1. How does the writer describe the experience of those who came to God in the time of Moses under the old covenant?

 

 

2. How does the writer describe the experience of those who come to God since the coming of Jesus Christ under the new covenant?

 

 

3. What does the writer say that should make believers think of heaven as a happy place?

 

 

4. How does the writer warn people not to reject Jesus?

 

 

5. Read Hebrews 12:28 again. How should believers approach God? Why?

 

Questions for Discussion and Thinking Further

 

1. How does the writer describe the experience of those who came to God in the time of Moses under the old covenant?When God spoke to them with the loudness or sound of a trumpet, the people were so frightened they did not want God to speak directly to them again. They were terrified of God and what God told them about the holy mountain and the danger of touching it.

2. How does the writer describe the experience of those who come to God since the coming of Jesus Christ under the new covenant?Believers in and followers of Jesus Christ should consider themselves as people enrolled in heaven, who are assembled there with Jesus Christ. In heaven, God will have made them perfect; and God, the Judge of all, will judge them to be perfect.

3. What does the writer say that should make believers think of heaven as a happy place?In heaven, believers will join with innumerable angels in festal garb; which indicates a festival atmosphere where people are happy and rejoicing.

4. How does the writer warn people not to reject Jesus?He tells people to consider the consequences when people in the Old Testament rejected God. Since Jesus came to forgive people of their sins and make believers fit for heaven  (perfect them), people need to consider the consequences of rejecting God’s way of forgiving them and preparing them for eternity in heaven.

5. Read Hebrews 12:28 again. How should believers approach God?Why? We should give thanks to God, and offer to God the kind of worship that is acceptable to God. We should worship God with reverence and awe, because God is giving us a kingdom that cannot be shaken.

 

Word Search

Go Along to Get Along

November 19, 2017

Hebrews 12:14-29

Name __________________________

 

K A D B P B G U Y S V R A L Q

V J K E C A E P T O K Q U G S

I T E R R I F Y I N G L N S U

N W N Q S V C H K D C I E I S

H O R U L D P G L Q S L Z H E

E C Q O P K Q Z M S D Y F O J

R Y R G C T U V E O R I N L Y

I D L E F V H L G L M G B I L

T E F A P L B A U Q S L I N N

A E V Z R A D F N W G K T E E

N S H Y E O Y E U K R O T S V

C O L C V O M X F A F V E S A

E G A H J D G M J I J U R X E

P R D C S T Q Y I O L V L P H

G S P E N M B H K J Z E Q E D

 

Peace

Holiness

See

Lord

Grace

Bitter

Defile

Immoral

Godless

Inheritance

Blessing

Terrifying

Heavenly

Joyful

Thankful

 

True and False Test

Go Along to Get Along

November 19, 2017

Hebrews 12:14-29

Name ______________________________

 

Circle the true or false answers. Correct the false statements by restating them.

1. Living in peace with someone is better than living holy. True or False

2. Without holiness no one will see the Lord. True or False

3. Bitterness can cause trouble and defile many. True or False

4. Esau stole Jacob’s inheritance and blessing from Isaac. True or False

5. The Hebrews at the mountain begged for God to speak to them, just like people today want to hear God’s voice. True or False

6. Thousands upon thousands of angels gather joyfully in the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. True or False

7. Christians pray to the Judge of all. True or False

8. Christians should be thankful and worship God with reverence and awe. True or False

9. Because God loves all Christians, He does not concern himself with their sins. True or False

10. God is a consuming fire. True or False

 

Answers to the True and False Test

Hebrew 12:14-29

 

1.    False

2.    True

3.    True

4.    False

5.    False

6.    True

7.    True

8.    True

9.    False

10.True

 

Prayer

Lord of fire and earthquakes, Lord of light and truth, may we never forget Your power or Your grace. May we serve You with holiness and reverence. We pray in the name of Jesus; amen.