Chapter 12: 18-29
“For you have not come to the mountain that may be touched and that burned with fire, and to blackness and darkness and tempest, 19 and the sound of a trumpet and the voice of words, so that those who heard it begged that the word should not be spoken to them anymore. 20 (For they could not endure what was commanded: ‘And if so much as a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned or shot with an arrow.’ 21 And so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, ‘I am exceedingly afraid and trembling.’)
22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, 23 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, 24 to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.
25 See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven, 26 whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, ‘Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.’ 27 Now this, ‘Yet once more,’ indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. 29 For our God is a consuming fire.”
I hope that you are not ‘falling short of God’s grace’ as a saved person. I pray that you are living out your new life daily in full dependence on the leadership, kindness, mercy, provision, and blessing of God. If there is anything else running your life, you are cheating yourself. It is hard to live by grace; it means we may not fit in, even with other saved persons. Paul was often at odds with other believers, including Peter. See Galatians 2:11-14 (NIV):
“When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, ‘You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?'”
- Without Grace, God is terrifying, verses 18-21
God, the Almighty, all-Powerful, all-Knowing God; the God who can palm the oceans of the planet (Isaiah 40:12); the God who laid the foundations of the earth (Job 38:4); the God who could kill the entire Egyptian army in the Red Sea; the God who destroyed 185,000 soldiers in one night (2 Kings 19:35) and on we can go. The God who will one day banish billions to the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:11-15); this God is scary but for grace. Right here in our passage, God is called a ‘consuming fire’; terrifying.
The Jews in the wilderness were terrified of God. They came to the mountain, they heard God, saw the smoke and there shook. They begged Moses to go there for them and hear God, but please don’t make them go. Jesus showed us a bit of His power the very night He was arrested; John 18:4-6:
“Jesus, knowing all that was coming upon Him, stepped forward and asked them, ‘Whom are you seeking?’ ‘Jesus of Nazareth,’ they answered. Jesus said, ‘I am He.’ And Judas His betrayer was standing there with them. When Jesus said, ‘I am He,’ they drew back and fell to the ground…”
These men should have thought twice about arresting Jesus. How many times had they been knocked over by mere words? But no, the prophecy had to be fulfilled, so they took Jesus. God shows us His wondrous grace. We deserve, I deserve, His wrath. I deserve His fire and brimstone; I deserve His death angel. But in Jesus, by Jesus, and through Jesus, I get grace. God loves me, feeds me, cares for me, protects me, uses me, and one day when I die, He will take me home to Heaven. This should awe us; it awes me and helps me to understand how blessed I am.
- Serve God with Reverence, verse 28
We will come back in the next lesson and tackle the other verses we missed. But we are encouraged by the writer to serve God with reverence. Because we know how powerful He is and because we know the depth of our sins, and because we know what it cost God to redeem us, we should serve Him reverently. We should serve not out of duty but love and genuine admiration for His love and grace.
He should be the First in our lives; the First One we call, the First One we seek, the First One we love, the First One we serve, and all else should find its place behind Him. While we appreciate and celebrate what is, we should never forget what could have been. But for the grace of God go I. We are not special; He is. We are nothing; He is everything. We are less; He is more. He is strong; we are weak. We breathe because He allows; I have a good wife because He allows. I have a great job because He is gracious, and I am in the ministry because He is patient and kind, and He allows mere men to share His eternal message.
We need to be careful how we ‘carry the name of God, the 4th Commandment. This is re-iterated in Luke 5:16, how does your light shine? Are people able to see that God is real, present, and powerful by the way that you live reverently for Him, to Him, and by Him? Reverence is defined as a ‘deep respect for someone or something.’ Would you say that you live in a deeply respectful way toward our Lord? Once we honestly answer that question, a lot of us will change the way we live as Christians.
God bless you,
Dr. Sean Gooding
Pastor of Mississauga Missionary Baptist Church
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