Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: (Hebrews 12:28)
Our congregational reading today is in the 12th chapter of Hebrews verses 14-29. These verses represent a remarkable dichotomy between facing God on the basis of the law only or facing God in His mercy and grace. The law is presented as physical Mount Sinai where God appeared to Moses to give Him the precepts and commandments that would govern His people. The presence of God on the mountain was demonstrated in fire and smoke and blackness which represented the wrath of God and His vengeance upon guilty sinners. God intended to speak with Moses alone and forbade anyone else to approach the mountain. Even with divine permission, Moses greatly feared knowing that God had power to take his life without provocation. The people likewise sensed the slender thread that held them from falling under God’s vengeance since even an animal accidentally crossing the forbidden zone meant a sentence of death.
The writer of Hebrews explains this scene in order that we might understand what it means to face the holiness of God with nothing to fall back on but our record of keeping God’s commandments. This record is worse than dismal, and since the law is rigid and unforgiving it affords no basis for avoidance of God’s wrath. The law condemns; it does not commend us for obedience. Jesus said, “When ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do” (Luke 17:10). This leaves us in a hopeless condition unless the sovereign God should grant us mercy.
This is where the next part of the narrative gives great hope. The old covenant was not sufficient to make us righteous. Therefore God gave a new covenant which is based on the sacrificial offering of Christ for our sins. The offering of Christ makes us just with God, and because of this new covenant, we need not fear to come into His presence. There is no prohibition to approach God. Rather, we are invited to come for fellowship which we are able to do at any time because we have divine acceptance and permission. We do not approach Mount Sinai which is the forbidden zone; rather we come to the spiritual heavenly Jerusalem where God’s people gather to enjoy His presence.
The chapter closes by encouraging us to hold on to the doctrine of God’s grace. The only way we can serve God acceptably is by receiving the gospel of grace. Grace changes the believer from the fear of God’s wrath to a different fear—to godly fear. With gratefulness we serve Him, while being reverently cautious lest we should offend Him.
God shook the earth when He appeared at Mount Sinai, and He will come to shake the earth again. This will occur at the Second Coming of Christ. Those that survive the judgment of this world are those that have realized their sinfulness in front of the Holy God, have given up self help, and have received Christ humbly by faith.
Pastor V. Mark Smith