Mountain of Fear or Mountain of Joy?Eddie Willis
“I don’t like the God of the Old Testament. I only like the God of the New Testament!” I’ve heard it said all my life. However, God is the same God. The only thing that has softened the sting of his holiness in the face of our unholiness, or shattered the enmity between a broken humankind and a perfect God, is Jesus. But God didn’t temper his righteousness to show us love or water down his holy wrath to extend mercy, for he is 100% merciful and 100% righteous all the time. Jesus made God approachable. God with us. GOD BECAME HUMAN. The story of the Bible describes, over and over again, God inviting humankind into relationship with him and humankind rejecting it. But his intention has always been relationship… with us!
- How do you relate to God? Has there ever been a time that you were scared to come to him?
Read the Word
Hebrews 12:18-29 (ESV)
18 For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest 19 and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. 20 For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” 21 Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” 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, 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, 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.
25 See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. 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 heavens.” 27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire.
- Verses 18-21 describe a “terrifying” scene. What are the marks of that scene? What emotions did the writer say that scene ignited for the viewer?
- What was the writer comparing that terrifying scene to in verses 22-24? What are the marks of this scene? How is this scene different from the first scene? What do you picture when you read the phrase “festal gathering”? What emotions would a gathering like that evoke?
- What is the invitation in verse 25? What is the author imploring us to do? To whom was he referring when he said, “him who is speaking”? What has that voice done in the past and what will it do in the future?
- What is the conclusion in verses 28-29? How does that response compare with your natural response to God?
Respond to God
God was an all-consuming fire at Mount Sinai and an all-consuming fire at Mount Zion. His holiness is like nothing we’ve ever experienced – awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping, utterly terrifying perfection. But the author of Hebrews implores longingly, Do not deny him! Yes, he is holy. Yes, he is all-consuming. Yes, we are far from holy and it can be scary, but do not deny him. Gratefully accepting him, with reverence and awe, is joining myriads of angels at a party! It’s identifying with a throng of people who are enrolled in heaven where spirits are made perfect! It’s Jesus, our Savior, receiving us with love!
- “See that you do not refuse him.”
- Take a moment to worship God with reverence… some awe… and a very, very grateful heart.