the Law

The Heavenly Mountain

Interpreting the Bible can be difficult, especially when personal biases, opinions, and conflicting views are involved. For centuries, the Bible was interpreted as a book full of allegories and metaphors.

The Scriptures were viewed as figurative language for the most part. In more modern times, literalism was the predominant view. This pendular swing of extremes still prevails.

Spiritual discernment—given by God's Spirit—is needed for understanding what is meant to be figurative and what needs to be understood in a more literal sense.

Above all, it's important to remember the Bible is God's revelation given to all humanity. Because it's from God to us, the Bible needs to become personal for us. Not our own personal interpretation but as a personal message from God to us.

Scripture

Instead, you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, to the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to tens of thousands of angels joyfully gathered together and to the assembly of God’s firstborn children (whose names are written in heaven). You have come to a judge (the God of all people) and to the spirits of people who have God’s approval and have gained eternal life. [vss 22-23]

You have come to Jesus, who brings the new promise from God, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better message than Abel’s.

Be careful that you do not refuse to listen when God speaks. Your ancestors didn’t escape when they refused to listen to God, who warned them on earth. We certainly won’t escape if we turn away from God, who warns us from heaven. [vss 24-25]

(Hebrews 12:22-25 GW) [Context– Hebrews 12]

Key phrase—

You have come to Jesus, who brings the new promise from God

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • Where are we told that we've come to? How is this place described?

  • Who is gathered at this mountain? How many people or peoples are mentioned?

  • Who is spoken of by name and what two things are included with Him?

  • What is the strong warning given here? How is its serious nature reinforced?

Reflection...

This heavenly mountain—Mount Zion—is in stark contrast with the dark, foreboding mountain of Mount Sinai where Moses received the Law. Mount Zion represents not only heaven, the dwelling place of God, but a new relationship with God through Jesus.

This is the fifth and final warning given in the book of Hebrews. It is far more personal than the previous four warnings. Simply put—rejecting the New Covenant of grace is a rejection of Jesus, God's Son. 

The Old Covenant was a Law that required obedience, an obedience the nation of Israel couldn't and didn't keep. The New Covenant is more personal. It is relational. It provides the opportunity for a new relationship between God and humanity.

Jesus came to provide the means of reconciliation and restoration of relationship with God for all humanity. A relationship of trust—faith—based upon God's kindness and favor—grace—gained through the Lord's death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

  • If this description of Mount Zion—the heavenly Jerusalem—is figurative, why is it spoken of as actual and present?

  • Why do you think it's necessary to have this detailed description of Mount Zion?

  • What stands out to you about this fifth and final warning?

  • Do you understand how personal and relational the New Covenant of grace is?

©2017—Word-Strong


Here's a free introduction for the book of Hebrews— Intro to studying Hebrews

A Dark Mountain

The value and purpose of fear is usually misunderstood. The absence of fear is often touted as a good thing, as a sign of bravery or courage. But those acknowledged for their bravery and courage speak of moving beyond their fear. It wasn't absent, it was overcome.

There are two broad categories of fear—a fear of respect and an anxious fear. An anxious fear produces worry and muddled thinking. A fear of respect heightens awareness, brings alertness and clarity to our thinking.

Anxious fear paralyzes a person whereas a respectful fear tends to motivate. The flight or fight response illustrates this distinction in fear.

When it comes to God, people tend to mix the two together as if it's all the same. This brings confusion and misunderstanding. When both types of fear are dismissed, it's as if God doesn't exist. Both responses are unwise.

Scripture

You have not come to something that you can feel, to a blazing fire, to darkness, to gloom, to a storm, to a trumpet’s blast, and to a voice. When your ancestors heard that voice, they begged not to hear it say another word.
They couldn’t obey [bear] the command that was given, “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.”
The sight was so terrifying that even Moses said he was trembling and afraid.  [vss 18-21]
(Hebrews 12:18-21 GW) [Context– Hebrews 12]

Key phrase—

You have not come to something that you can feel, to a blazing fire, to darkness...

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • What are the images of the scene described here? What is this leading up to?

  • Who is spoken to and what are they told? Do you understand why?

  • What is Moses' response to all of this and why?

  • How would this apply to believers then and now?

Reflection...

The fear of God is often misunderstood. It is typically viewed in one extreme or another. Either abject anxious fear or a humble respect.

This scene and several other places in the Bible describe the fear of God as an overwhelming awe. A realization of who God is which made Moses tremble, yet also drew him up the mountain to meet with God.

It is at once, a sense of how personal and powerful God truly is.

This reminder of the scene before Moses received the Law on tablets of stone reinforces how different the Old and New Covenants are (Heb 8:8-9).

It is a solemn warning of how important and necessary it is to hold firmly to the truth of the New Covenant (Heb 8:10-12) of grace through our relationship with Jesus as both Lord and Savior.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

  • Are you familiar with this story? If not, it's found in Exodus Chap 19.

  • How does this relate to all that's been written in the book of Hebrews up to this point?

  • How is it related to what's been Jesus and His atoning (redemptive) death upon the cross?

  • Have you experienced the difference between paralyzing and motivating fears, and the fear of God?

©2017—Word-Strong


Here's a free introduction for the book of Hebrews— Intro to studying Hebrews

I Have Come

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An age-old question for people is, "What does God want from me?" People have offered sacrifices and kept various rituals throughout human history in attempts to please God, or various gods. Some of these efforts are extreme and others are more philosophical in nature.

Religion—including Christianity—is mostly comprised of efforts to please God or lead a life that pleases God. This might range from trying to appease God's wrath to seeing God as a benign and distant ruler of heaven.

Jesus answered this question once and for all, yet many of us misunderstand it. Christian believers who are well-versed in what the Bible says, understand that Jesus died to abolish the power and penalty of sin once for all.

But many Christians continue to try and live in some form of obedience to God through prescribed efforts at goodness. The obedience God is looking for isn't accomplished through external acts of goodness, it goes deeper than that.

Scripture

For this reason, when Christ came into the world, he said, “‘You did not want sacrifices and offerings, but you prepared a body for me. You did not approve of burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin.’

Then I said, ‘I have come! (It is written about me in the scroll of the book.) I have come to do what you want, my God.’ ” [vss 5-7]

In this passage Christ first said, “You did not want sacrifices, offerings, burnt offerings, and sacrifices for sin. You did not approve of them.” (These are the sacrifices that Moses’ Teachings require people to offer.)

Then Christ says, “I have come to do what you want.” He did away with sacrifices in order to establish the obedience that God wants. [vss 8-9]

(Hebrews 10:5-9 GW) [Context– Hebrews 10]

Key phrase—

I have come to do what you want, my God

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • Why do you think we're told what is said in the Psalms [Ps 40:6-8] was from Christ?

  • What are we told in this text is the purpose for Christ's coming?

  • Where is this illustrated by Jesus in the gospels? [hint– look towards the end]

  • Why did the sacrifices need to be set aside to "establish... obedience..." that God wants?

Reflection...

What type of obedience is God looking for? The answer is shown by His Son Jesus, the Messiah (Christ), the savior of the world. Jesus came to do the Father's will not His own. As it says, "I have come to do what you want, my God."

This is made clear by the Lord's struggle in prayer in the garden of Gethsemane (Matt 26:36-46), where Jesus asks three times if "this cup" of suffering could be set aside. Each time, Jesus submitted His will to the Father.

This is our illustration, our example for the obedience God wants. Not external acts of goodness but the surrender of our lives to Him.

Jesus' once-and-for-all sacrifice on the cross brings a freedom from the impossible burden of perfect obedience required under the Law. God is not requiring acts of obedience we can do for Him but calling us into a relationship of trust (faith).

This relationship of trust is an ongoing internal and spiritual work enabled by God's Spirit dwelling in us as believers. This is what Jesus meant about denying yourself and taking up your cross in order to follow Him (Matt 16:24).

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

  • Do you have the same heart attitude of Jesus as His in the garden of Gethsemane?

  • Are you willing to lay down your own wants and desires to do what God desires of you?

  • Are you willing to trust in Jesus' once-and-for-all sacrifice to be sufficient for your sin?

  • How are you learning to trust the Lord and surrender your will to Him?

©2017—Word-Strong


Here's a free introduction for the book of Hebrews— Intro to studying Hebrews

A Better Sacrifice

Freedom is not just a concept, it's something we experience. A person might be able to define what freedom is yet still not experience it. We can also become so accustomed to freedom that we take it for granted.

In America (USA), freedom is a guaranteed right by law. But it's more than that—it's a privilege. The freedoms we enjoy came at the cost of life—many lives over a period of many years.

Political freedom is not the same as civil rights, but the one guarantees the other. Spiritual freedom and personal freedom also aren't the same, but spiritual freedom can produce true freedom.

The grace of God provides true freedom for anyone who trusts in the Lord. But this freedom is not to be taken for granted nor abused for self-gratification.

God opened the door to true freedom through His son when Jesus offered Himself once for all, as a provision to remove the consequence of sin which is death—also called atonement.

Scripture

Christ didn’t go into a holy place made by human hands. He didn’t go into a model of the real thing. Instead, he went into heaven to appear in God’s presence on our behalf. Every year the chief priest went into the holy place to make a sacrifice with blood that isn’t his own. [vss 24-25]
However, Christ didn’t go into heaven to sacrifice himself again and again. Otherwise, he would have had to suffer many times since the world was created. But now, at the end of the ages, he has appeared once to remove sin by his sacrifice. [vss 25-26]
People die once, and after that they are judged. Likewise, Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of humanity, and after that he will appear a second time. This time he will not deal with sin, but he will save those who eagerly wait for him. [vss 27-28]
(Hebrews 9:24-28 GW) [Context– Hebrews 9]

Key phrase—

Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of humanity

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • What did the chief (high) priest do every year? How is this contrasted with what Christ did?

  • If Jesus was like the former high (chief) priests (under the Old Covenant), what would He have to keep doing and why?

  • What are we told about death and judgment? How is this relevant to believers for what Christ did as our High (Chief) Priest?

  • How often was Jesus sacrificed and for what purpose? What is the purpose for Jesus to return a second time?

Reflection...

Once. Once is all the Lord Jesus needed to offer Himself as the perfect reconciling sacrifice (atonement) for humanity. Only once!

This is because His sacrifice—offering Himself as a means of reconciliation—is a better sacrifice. A better since He was free from sin Himself.

He doesn't need to suffer death many times and we don't need to "get saved" more than once. As believers, we need to have this assurance of forgiveness and cleansing from sin, once and for all.

We need to walk with Him—the resurrected Lord—in faith and ready for His return. We do this when we honor Him with our life in our relationships and how we live each day.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

  • Do you personally know and have a relationship with Jesus? If not, what holds you back from that?

  • Do you understand why Jesus only needed to die once as a reconciling offering for humanity's sin—once and for all, for all sin, people, and time?

  • Are you ready to see Jesus return a second time?

  • How are you personally honoring the Lord with your daily life?

©2017—Word-Strong


Here's a free introduction for the book of Hebrews— Intro to studying Hebrews

Not Open

What's the most important thing to understand about heaven? It isn't that the streets of heaven are made of transparent pure gold with a wall that has twelve gates of pearl (Rev 21:21). The primary focus isn't what it's like or what happens there, but who is there.

Of course, the primary focus is God. Heaven isn't some destination high above our atmosphere but a different dimension than our physical world. It's the very presence of God.

The way into the presence of God is closed if we rely on religion and good deeds. That stairway just isn't long enough or strong enough.

But the way into the very presence of God is open to those who personally trust in the Lord and His grace, His favor and goodness, by faith.

Scripture

The first promise [covenant] had rules for the priests’ service. It also had a holy place on earth. A tent was set up. The first part of this tent was called the holy place. The lamp stand, the table, and the bread of the presence were in this part of the tent. 
Behind the second curtain was the part of the tent called the most holy place. It contained the gold incense burner and the ark of the Lord’s promise. The ark was completely covered with gold. In the ark were the gold jar filled with manna, Aaron’s staff that had blossomed, and the tablets on which the promise  was written. Above the ark were the angels  of glory ⌊with their wings⌋ overshadowing the throne of mercy. (Discussing these things in detail isn’t possible now.) [vss 1-5]
That is how these two parts of the tent were set up. The priests always went into the first part of the tent to perform their duties. But only the chief priest went into the second part of the tent. Once a year he entered and brought blood that he offered for himself and for the things that the people did wrong unintentionally.
The Holy Spirit used this to show that the way into the most holy place was not open while the tent was still in use. [vss 6-8]
The first part of the tent is an example for the present time. The gifts and sacrifices that were brought there could not give the worshiper a clear conscience. These gifts and sacrifices were meant to be food, drink, and items used in various purification ceremonies. These ceremonies were required for the body until God would establish a new way of doing things. [vss 9-10]
(Hebrews 9:1-10 GW) [Context– Hebrews 9]

Key phrase—

The Holy Spirit used this to show that the way into the most holy place was not open

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • What are we told about the tent used during the first promise (Old Covenant)?

  • How is it described and who can go into which parts? How and when are they able to enter these two places?

  • What do you think it means "the way into the most holy place" wasn't open?

  • Why was access to the "most holy place" restricted? When would it be open?

Reflection...

Religion is restrictive by nature. It's designed to be that way. Generally, we are either attracted to this restrictive nature or repelled by it. These restrictions are like a spiritual framework or infrastructure of belief.

On one hand, religion gives us prescribed boundaries intended to provide freedom and protection within those boundaries. Yet, many people want the freedom without the restrictions as a somewhat manageable form of anarchy.

Basically, we all place much greater weight on external issues rather internal ones because we live in a physical, tangible world. It may also seem like external things are easier to manage or control than what's internal.

The first promise—the Old Covenant Law—was not perfect nor eternal but temporary. It focused on the physical and external, it was not inherently spiritual and internal or eternal.

The comparison between the old and new promises (covenants) illustrates the difference between a religion based on obedience and a relationship based on God's grace,

The New Covenant, a promise extended through God's grace, brings internal transformation and isn't focused on external issues and actions. As internal transformation takes place, external concerns and actions conform to the internal change in a person.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

  • What attracts or repels you about religion or religious practices?

  • Do you understand how religious practices can be a hindrance to walking by faith?

  • When have you experienced having a clear conscience? What led up to it?

  • How have you experienced an external change in your life based on internal transformation?

©2017—Word-Strong


Here's a free introduction for the book of Hebrews— Intro to studying Hebrews