Hebrews 12:18-29

E. F. Hutton talks, people listen.” That was a statement in many T.V. advertisements
in the 1980’s. Someone would say, “My broker is E. F. Hutton, and E. F.
Hutton says…” All those within earshot then stopped talking and turned
to hear E. F. Hutton’s advice. E. F. Hutton no longer exists in the financial
world. It fell apart in 1985 when the president of the brokerage firm entered
a guilty plea to 2,000 criminal counts of federal mail and wire fraud. At that
time it was sold to, and dismantled by, what is now called Citigroup.

people today treat God as if He is an E. F. Hutton who passed off the scene.
However, God still lives, and His Word still speaks. We need to listen to His
Word because of our position before Him and our responsibility to Him.

author of Hebrews first sets forth two contrasting scenes related to a person’s
position before God (Heb. 12:18-21). The Israelites at Sinai were confronted
with an awesome and terrifying scene which caused them to shrink back from the
mount. They did not want to hear God’s voice, and even Moses himself trembled
at the display of God.

however, have a better position. Verse 22 opens with the word “But,”
a strong adversative. Contrary to the Mt. Sinai scene, we confidently approach
eight specific objects. We come to (1) “Mount Zion,” which represents
that place where Jesus Christ accomplished His work to gain final pardon and
blessing. Next we come to (2) “the city of the living God, the heavenly
Jerusalem,” the city which Abraham looked for (Heb. 11:10), to which we
have been called (Heb. 3:1), and where we already have our citizenship (Phil.
3:20). In that heavenly place, we find (3) “myriads of angels,” indeed,
a “general (or, festal) assembly” of angels, who accompany God’s glory
throughout Scripture.

also come to (4) the “church of the first-born who are enrolled in heaven.”
In Scripture the “first-born” had greater privileges, and we are in
Christ, who is Himself the “first-born” (Col. 1:15). All of His privileged
position belongs to us. Furthermore, we come into (5) the presence of “God,
the Judge of all.” Here we must remember that the action of the Judge is
not limited to punishment; He also manifests what is right and vindicates the
truth. In heaven are also (6) the “spirits of righteous men made perfect,”
a reference to Old Testament believers whose spirits are in heaven, and who
are made perfect by the sacrifice of Christ.

come next (7) to “Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant;” He has made
it possible for us to come to all the other items mentioned in this grand inventory.
We finally come (8) to Jesus’ “sprinkled blood,” that blood which,
when shed, called for forgiveness and brought peace to all those who receive
the personal application of it in their lives.

cannot stop there, however, since position leads to responsibility, the subject
of Hebrews 12:25-29. Our first responsibility is to listen to God, which leads
to obeying God. The sad reality is that Old Testament Israel too often “refused”
to listen and obey His voice, and His judgment came upon them. People today
will also experience His judgment if they refuse to obey His Word. A time is
coming when his voice will “shake” earth and heaven alike. Why will
He do this?

years ago my family owned a dog, a “German Shepherd mix.” He was a
good dog, but unusual in one respect: he did not like to go swimming. Whenever
we coaxed him into the water, he’d come out as quickly as he could and thoroughly
“shake” the water off himself. That water was useless to him, and
he desired to rid himself of it. In a similar manner, God will “shake”
off earth and heaven; they are useless to Him.

earthly creation will perish, but we are assured of participating in God’s eternal
kingdom. That assurance motivates us not only to listen to God but also to be
faithful in serving Him. As we come before Him with reverence and a wholesome
regard for His character, our service is “acceptable,” well-pleasing,
in His sight.

the writer challenges us to practice remembering God. He is “our God,”
not someone else’s. As a consuming fire, He burns up all that is unfit to abide
in His presence. If our works are done in the power of our human flesh, rather
than in reverence and awe, they will be burned up in His presence. When we recall
what great things He has done for us, we can be confident in His presence. That
confidence leads us to practice gladly the life which will please Him.


brief provided by:  R. Larry Overstreet, Professor of Pastoral Theology, Northwest Baptist
Seminary, Tacoma, WA.

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