Lesson 25 – Hebrews 12:18-13:1
Lesson 25 – Hebrews 12:18-13:1
Hebrews 12:18-29 – The Book of Hebrews seems to conclude here with chapter 13 forming a postscript. The conclusion ends with this final exhortation to the Jewish believers who were wavering between two opinions. Should I believe and obey the message and mediator of the New Covenant or should I return to the covenant given at Mt. Sinai by Moses? The writer of Hebrews establishes a contrast between the Old and New Covenant.
This is a reference to Exodus 19 and Deuteronomy 4:10-12. This is then compared to the New Covenant. Read Hebrews 12:22-24. The main points of this comparison seems to be physical or tangible at Mt. Sinai related to the spiritual concept of Mt. Zion. At Mt. Sinai that which was displayed was visible, audible, and observable. It was awesome and terrifying but it was something that was seen by many witnesses.
The New Covenant is symbolized by the expression Mt. Zion, a reference to the New Jerusalem. Sinai was untouchable, The New Jerusalem is approachable. Ever since David had conquered the Jebusites and had placed the ark on Mt. Zion, that mountain was considered the special earthly dwelling place of God. Psalm 132:13-14. Zion speaks of entering God’s rest whereas Mt. Sinai speaks of entering into God’s work, responsibility, and duties.
Mt. Sinai was not to be touched. It meant death to do so. Those who stood at Mt. Sinai were brought to fear and trembling. But don’t make the mistake to think God’s love was not there. Love was the fountain of the Law. But the law showed the frailty of man before a Holy God. In describing Mt. Sinai in such graphic and emotional terms, the writer is saying, in essence, “You have not come to this mountain, so don’t run terrified. You who are running the race have not come to a mountain that can’t be touched; but to Zion where grace is prominent.
It was at Mt. Sinai the children of Israel plead with Moses that no more words be spoken to them and where Moses as well was overcome with fear and trembling. While Mt. Zion bids us to come and draw near. The New Covenant brings us before the Throne of God with grace, mercy, and tenderness. The Jewish believers were called to be reminded of the privileges that have come to them. The sight of Mt. Zion calms our fears and allows us to run the race before us securely. The words of Hebrews 12:22-24 symbolize life, freedom, and the presence of the God. Instead of the terror on Mt. Sinai we have drawn near to Mt. Zion. We have approached Mt. Zion in spirit not by physically walking there, but by faith through the mediator of the New Covenant, Jesus.
The things set before us are obtained by faith. As Israel was led out of Egypt and bondage by Moses so too have we been redeemed and led out by one greater than Moses. We like Abraham are pilgrims on our journey to that city whose builder and architect is God.
The prophet Isaiah spoke of this promise in Chapter 35 “The ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy shall be upon their heads”. Mt. Sinai had no city at its peak. But Mt. Zion was the place where the Temple stood. It was here that atonement was made possible.
The heavenly Mt. Zion speaks of permanent atonement that was to come; the city of the living God, The heavenly Jerusalem. We have come to myriads of angels ‑ This sounds like a new Testament concept but Moses speaks in this way in Deuteronomy 33:2 and Daniel 7:9-10: It is this multitude of angels that guard us. It is these multitudes who rejoice in our salvation. We have come to the general assembly and congregation of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven. The first born are those who receive the inheritance.
As believers, we are “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Messiah,” who is “the first born among many brethren” Romans 8:17-29. We have come to God, the Judge of all. On Mt. Zion we can come into God’s own presence. When Jesus died on Passover the veil was rent. The result is that we now have access to God. To come into God’s presence at Sinai meant death, but to come at Zion is to experience Life. The spirits of righteous men made perfect; These are believers who lived and died prior to the coming of the Messiah.
These were those who looked forward in faith to His coming. Who were made righteous by their faith in God and their faith in the sacrifices that were offered to God both before the Law and the Temple and during it. We have come to Jesus the Mediator of the New Covenant. Our Messiah is called here by his redemptive name Jesus here in Hebrews 12:24, the name He was given because He would “save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).
When we come to Mt. Zion it is through our redeemer, and our mediator by the sprinkled blood. It is the sprinkled blood that provides our redemption, forgiveness of our sins, it is the means by which we are brought near to God. The sacrifices of Abel, while better than Cain’s offering, is nothing in comparison to the blood of God’s Passover Lamb.
Hebrews 12:25-29 A Final Warning – We have a tendency when approaching this mountain of God’s grace to change certain things because of the freedom we enjoy. When laws are set aside and rules are put away, we tend to write our own laws and make our own rules. That’s why these verses appear as a final warning in this book. We’re not to lower God’s standards to human standards. Although His covenant may be new, His character remains the same. Grace does not alter our responsibility to be obedient.
God has not abrogated His Law (Matthew 5:17; Psalm 19:7-11). These commands conclude this warning to primarily the Jewish believers of the first century but apply to us as well. Do not refuse Him who is speaking (Hebrews 12:25)
To say that we are operating under a new covenant in no way suggests that God no longer speaks with authority. In fact the opposite is true. The fact that we have been given a heavenly perspective carries more emphasis than an earthly one. The demonstration of God on Mt. Sinai had limits but Zion is limitless. If His word was to be obeyed back then, how much more should it obeyed now?
Let us show Gratitude (Hebrews 12:28) the basic meaning behind the Greek term here translated gratitude is not “thankfulness” but rather “grace”. The idea being conveyed is that we are to recognize and embrace God’s grace. We are encouraged to hold onto grace and thus be able to keep His law by the power of His Spirit.
Hebrews 13:1-3 – In the first 12 chapters, Hebrews has dealt with the relationship of the believer to God. In this closing chapter he deals with our relationship to others. First of all in V 1 we are told Keep on loving each other as brothers. What Paul spent an entire chapter on in 1 Corinthians 13, this writer says in a few words. The primary moral standard of Christianity is love, and the particular love exhorted here is love of fellow Believers. The expression translated in the NIV as loving each other as brothers is one word in the Greek and is often translated brotherly love. It is composed of two root words tender affection and brother, or near kinsman; literally, from the same womb.
Brotherly love can have two applications. In some places in the New Testament, unbelieving Jews are spoken of as brothers. Physically, all Jews are from the same womb, descendants of Abraham by Sarah. They are God’s chosen people, with whom He is not yet finished. The first idea here, then, could be that of continuing to love fellow Jews who are not Christians.
The writer has emphasized that Messianic Jews were to separate themselves from Rabbinical Judaism, and the sacrificial system of the Old Covenant. But they were to maintain a deep love for unbelieving fellow Jews. In turning their backs on Judaism, they were not to turn their backs on brother Jews.
They were to have the same love that caused Paul to write, For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites (Romans 9:3-4). The primary teaching, however, is love for fellow Christians, our spiritual brothers. The admonition to let brotherly love continue indicates that such love already exists. Brotherly love is the natural outflow of the Christian life. Love of other Christians is vital to spiritual life (1 Peter 1:22-23). One of the by-products of obeying God’s truth is increased love for fellow believers.
The basic principle of brotherly love is simple, and is explained by Paul (Romans 12:10). Put in its most basic form, brotherly love is caring for fellow Christians more than we care for ourselves. When we are preoccupied with ourselves, we stifle brotherly love (Philippians 2:3-4). Brotherly love is nurtured in humility, and humility grows out of right spiritual knowledge. When we measure ourselves against the Person of Jesus Christ, who is the standard for our living, we see ourselves as we really are and are humbled. Only then are we truly able to love as God wants us to love.
Brotherly love is important for three primary reasons: it reveals to the world that we belong to Jesus (John 13:35); it reveals our true identity to us (1 John 3:14); and it delights God. (Psalm 133:1). When His children care for each other, help each other, and live in harmony with each other, God is both delighted and glorified. When we love each other to the degree where we are willing to give our lives for one another, we exemplify God’s own Son. (1 John 3:16). This kind of love is not superficial but built on deep and continuing concern and is characterized by practical commitment. (1 John 3:17). What is the cause of lovelessness among Believers? Sin. (Matthew 24:12).