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Hebrews 12:14-12:29
Key Verse: 12:28

Thank God for teaching us more how to live by faith. God wants us to run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus. And when we fix our eyes on Jesus, we can endure hardship as discipline and produce a harvest of righteousness, peace and holiness. God’s grace through his Son Jesus is marvelous. However, it is easy to neglect or abuse God’s grace, and so miss the grace of God. In today’s passage, the writer of Hebrews gives warnings so that we may bear God's immeasurable blessings in Christ Jesus. As we study this passage, we can think about the blessings of God given to us, including a kingdom that cannot shaken, and about how to bear the grace of God.

First, see to it that no one misses the grace of God (14-17). Look at verse 14. “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy.” It is an amazing grace of God that we have peace with God through faith in Christ Jesus. Those who have peace with God are to have peace with other fellow men as far as it depends on them (Ro 12:18). This requires much effort. So we need to make every effort to live in peace with all men. For all people are equal in Christ Jesus, regardless of race, gender and social status.

This is followed by, “make every be holy.” Holiness is one of the most important attributes of God, and also of God’s people. So God said to his people, “Be holy, because I am holy” (Lev 11:44,45; 19:2; 1 Pe 1:16). God created all things for six days, and on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy. So “holy” means separate or set apart. Unholy sinners are made holy through the blood of Christ Jesus, who sacrificed himself once for all (Heb 10:10,14; 13:12). So the writer of Hebrews calls believers “holy brothers and sisters” (3:1). Yet, to keep holiness requires much effort of us. “Be holy” is God’s command. Here also, it is written, “make every effort to be holy.” It means God wants his people to be different from the people of the world, though they are to live in peace with all men. It is easy to mingle with them and be assimilated with them, as God’s people live in this world. This thing happened to the Israelites in the promised land. When they did not hold firmly God’s command, they were influenced by Canaanite culture and became like the ungodly Canaanites, even losing the godly concept of marriage. They invited God’s severe punishment upon themselves. While on earth Jesus prayed for his disciples, “Holy Father,…they are not of this world...My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (Jn 17:14-17). Jesus also said to his disciples in the Sermon on the Mount, “You are the salt of the earth…You are the light of the world.” (Mt 5:13-14). This is also the reason Paul said in Romans 12:2, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Many Christians just want to be happy in this world, but God wants them to be holy. And verse 14 says, “without holiness no one will see the Lord.”

Look at verse 15. “See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” Paul says in 2 Corinthians 6:1, “As God’s fellow workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain.” It seemed that Paul said this, because there are people among believers who receive God’s grace in vain, and so miss the grace of God. They become bitter toward God and people when things do not go as they expect and they face hardships in life. They do not accept hardship as God’s discipline. Bitterness grows and takes root in them; they cause trouble and defile many. One good example was Cain. When God rejected him and his offering, while accepting Abel and his offering, God was treating Cain differently out of love for him. Yet, he did not regard it as God’s loving discipline. He became bitter and angry toward God. God showed his love continually by humbly visiting Cain and giving him the words of counselling. But he rejected the words of God. Then bitterness grew and was rooted in him. He caused trouble in the family and finally killed his brother. He defiled many, and thus became a bad influence to all his descendants.

Another example here is Esau. Look at verse 16. “See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. He could bring about no change of mind, though he sought the blessing with tears.” When one misses the grace of God, he or she becomes godless and the degrading of the body takes place. The Bible deals with the sin of sexual immorality seriously. The sexually immoral (and homo-sexual offenders) will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:9-10). 1 Cor 6:18 says, “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.” Sexual immorality is rampant in our society. Because of strong peer pressure, many young girls and boys lose their purity. Keeping sexual purity seems to be abnormal among university students. Yet, there must be no compromise. Keeping purity in body is one important part of being holy, along with being pure in heart.

Esau was the first one who became sexually immoral from among Abraham’s descendants. When he became forty, he married two Hittite women, surely ignoring God’s purpose for him, and his parents’ advice based on God’s command. These wives of Esau were a source of grief to Isaac and Rebekah (Ge 26:34-35). The writer of Hebrews relates Esau’s sexual immorality to his missing the grace of God. Esau was the oldest son of Isaac and Rebekah, who had the inheritance rights. But one day, when he was famished, he sold the right for a single meal of some lentil stew. The writer of Genesis comments, “So Esau despised his birthright” (Ge 25:34b). Later on, when Isaac was about to die, he thought he would receive the blessing of inheritance. But things happened unexpectedly and Isaac blessed Jacob unwittingly, and later did not want to change what he did, even though the blessing was done against his wishes. Esau was rejected when he tried somehow to receive any blessing, asking with tears, “Haven’t you reserved any blessing for me?...Do you have only one blessing?” Even in that desperate request, he had no change of mind, meaning no repentance with no acknowledgement of his sin. In this way he missed the grace of God. Then, a bitter root grew up in him, and he conceived the thought of killing his brother.

In this part we learn that we should not miss the grace of God but bear it in repentance and with holiness, which has no part with sexual immorality.

Second, you have come to Mount Zion (18-24). Look at verses 18-21. “You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, because they could not bear what was commanded: ‘If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned.’ The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, ‘I am trembling with fear.’” This was what happened on Mount Sinai, and is recorded in Exodus 19. When the LORD came down to the mountain in a dense thick cloud with thunder and smoke and the loud trumpet blast, the whole mountain trembled violently. When the people heard God’s voice, “Whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death…Whether man or animal, he shall not be permitted to live,” they could not bear it. According to the understanding of the writer of Hebrews, they begged that no further word be spoken to them. The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, ‘I am trembling with fear.’” He feared the anger and wrath of God (Dt 9:19). The touchable and visible Mount Sinai represents the time of Moses, the time of law and judgment and fear of God’s wrath.

The writer of Hebrews emphasizes, however, that you have not come to that mountain, but to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. The Mount Zion is invisible and untouchable in the world, as the heavenly Jerusalem, and yet is real, as the city of the living God. And this city is partly visible through the church on earth. So the writer continues, “You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven.” The church is a numerous and joyful assembly in this world. Joy, in contrast to fear, characterizes this assembly,. And it is the church of the firstborn, who is the image of the invisible God, by whom all things were created, and who died and rose again from the dead (Col 1:15-18). In other words, it is the church of triumph over everything. The gates of Hades (or hell) cannot overcome it. What a blessing it is to belong to the church of the firstborn! The names of the members of the church are written in heaven, as the assurance of their salvation and their membership in the city of the living God.

The writer says more, “You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” We have not come to a god, who is helpless to judge evil power and evil men. We have come to God, who is all powerful and all-knowing and holy and righteous, and so can judge all men and all things rightly. So we can entrust all the judgment to him. And we have not come to the spirits of unrighteous and wicked men. We don’t want to be part of them. We have come to the spirits of righteous men made perfect. Especially, we have come to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant. A new covenant makes a contrast with the first covenant. The first covenant is that if one keeps God’s law given through Moses, the person will live, but if not, put to death (Heb 8:9). However, the new covenant is that Jesus has died as a ransom to set those who are called free from the sins committed under the first covenant, and they receive the promised eternal inheritance (Heb 9:15). The new covenant is in the blood of Jesus, which was poured out for those who put their faith in him (Lk 22:20). Jesus is the mediator of the new covenant. Job longed for such a mediator and said in Job 9:34, “If only there were someone to mediate between us, someone to bring us together, someone to remove God’s rod from me, so that his terror would frighten me no more.” And he confessed, “I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth” (19:25). His confession was proven true when God sent his Son Jesus into this world, who died to redeem mankind from their sins and rose again from the dead to stand on the earth again and live forever. 1 Timothy 2:5-6 says, “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men”. This is the reason Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” We thank God for sending Jesus as the mediator of the new covenant. As we thought of, Jesus the mediator, and the sprinkled blood cannot be separated. As he died as a ransom, he shed his blood, and the blood of Christ is sprinkled in the hearts of the believers to cleanse them from a guilty conscience and to enable us to serve the living God (Heb 9:14; 10:22). Through the blood of Jesus we can draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith. We praise God for all these amazing blessings of God in Christ Jesus.

Third, you are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken (25-29). Look at verse 25. “See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven?” In the time of the first covenant, God warned his people through Moses and the prophets. In the time of the new covenant, God warns through his Son Jesus who died for man’s sins and rose again from the dead and ascended into heaven. The greater God’s blessing is, the greater his warning is, and so the greater the consequence of refusing the warning is. Look at verses 26,27. “At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, ‘Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens’ (Haggai 2:6). The words ‘once more’ indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain.” When God came down to Mount Sinai and spoke, the whole mountain shook and trembled. Now the writer of Hebrews is talking about the final judgment, the destruction of not only the earth but also the heavens. 2 Peter 3:10 says, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.” Again in 3:12, “That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat.” While on earth Jesus himself unambiguously said, “Heaven and earth will pass away” (Mt 24: 35; Mk 13:31; Lk 22:33) At the time of final judgement, that is, the day of the Lord, all the created things will be shaken and completely gone.

However, one thing will not be shaken. What is that? Look at verse 28. “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken…” The kingdom of Christ will not be shaken and will remain forever, amid everything else being shaken and destroyed. This is the ultimate purpose of God’s redemptive work and history. There will be a new heaven and a new earth (2 Pe 3:13; Rev 21:1). It is according to the theme of the flow of God’s history written in the Bible, “Paradise Lost; Paradise Restored.” This is our eternal inheritance in Christ Jesus that can never perish, spoil, or fade away (1 Pe 1:4). This is the true and living hope for all believers. Paul prayed for the believers in Ephesus, “…the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.” All things men hope for are in this glorious inheritance. All the ancients of faith had hope in this kingdom, a country of their own, a better country. The kingdoms of this world rise and wane. They are all vulnerable. We were shocked to hear about the terror in Paris at the beginning of this year. This kind of evil work should stop, but it will not be so until the day of the Lord comes. We thank and praise God for the kingdom of Christ that cannot be shaken but will remain forever.

Then what should be our attitude? Look at verse 28 again. “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.” We remember that when Eve did not keep a thankful heart for God and God’s immeasurable blessings, she became so helpless to resist the devil, and finally yielded to the devil’s temptation, sinned against God, and made her husband fall. Thankfulness is a distinctive mark of the redeemed people of God, and a safe guard for them to keep the relationship with God and his blessing. We can say that the kingdom of God is the place of the gathering of thankful people, while the kingdom of Satan, that is hell, of unthankful and bitter people. God really wants us to be thankful people and grow in thanksgiving to him.

And then, “worship him acceptably with reverence and awe.” To worship God is the whole point of Bible teaching and the ultimate purpose of man. The end of Abraham’s life was his worshipping God by showing that he truly feared God and loved God more than anything else, even his one and only son Isaac, through obedience to God’s command. He was the one who worshipped God with reverence and awe. Jacob, when he was dying, worshipped as he leaned on the top of his staff. At the time of Jesus’ birth, the Magi from the east came to the land of Israel and found the baby Jesus born in Bethlehem and worshipped him and returned to their country. Their life journey was to find the right object of worship and give all their heart adoration and devotion to him. In the Old Testament, the Israelites abandoned God and worshipped other gods, that are not really God, and caused great pain to God. In our times, people worship celebrities, money, success, and pleasures of the world, and some even publically worship Satan. However, God’s people should be different. Anything that people love more than God becomes an idol, and idol worship is spiritual adultery. God cannot bear it. According to Deuteronomy 4:24, our God is a consuming fire, a jealous God. Certainly, to worship God includes to worship him absolutely and wholeheartedly in the worship service on the Lord’s Day.

We thank and praise God for his grace through his Son Jesus Christ. He is the mediator of the new covenant through his sacrifice and shed blood sprinkled on our hearts. Especially, we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken as our eternal glorious inheritance. No one should miss this grace of God. We ask God for his mercy that each one may keep this grace by being thankful and worshiping God acceptably.

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