Hebrews 12:1-4

Last week we spent a few days in Hebrews chapter 11, the Old Testament hall of faithfulness. The writer, having reminded his audience of their own example (chapter 10), reeled off a list of faithful people from Israel’s history as further examples to emulate. Each one gave up something in their present existence in order to take hold of something far greater in the future, which God had promised. They lived as foreigners and strangers (like the Jewish-Christian minority being addressed), they rejected the trappings of status and citizenship of their earthly cities, and they accepted all kinds of mistreatment as the people of God, because they had faith that God had something far better in store.

He says, in light of all that we’ve heard in chapter 11,

12:1  Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us

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Hebrews 12:5-11

So far in Hebrews there’s been a lot of talk about enduring shame and suffering persecution for the sake of Jesus. And the writer’s overarching appeal has been for his audience to persevere in faithfulness to Jesus, for two main reasons:

  1. It’s the right thing to do; it’s appropriate gratitude, given what Jesus has done for us; and
  2. It’s ultimately to our own advantage, enduring temporary hardship now in order to take hold of the far greater “city” God has in store for us.

Fair enough. But still, the question remains, why does it have to be this way? And so in today’s passage, the writer gives us a different way to view this hardship: as discipline.

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Hebrews 12:18-21

As we near the end of our series in Hebrews 10-12, we look at two final images; two mountains, in fact. Yet another argument from the writer to encourage his audience to see the advantage in persevering in faithfulness to Jesus.

A tale of two mountains: Mount Sinai

When we look at the world around us, we see God’s power displayed. The terrifying, destructive forces of nature bear witness to the almighty God who created them. When we look up at the vastness of the cosmos, we catch a glimpse of the breadth of the grandeur of God. When we study the intricacies of the smallest of creatures, or the complex design of our own DNA, we gain a fleeting insight into the unfathomable mind of God. When lightning strikes, we see a hint of his power. When thunder roars, we hear an echo of his voice.

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Hebrews 12:22-29

Yesterday, we began our “tale of two mountains” from Hebrews 12. You need to reed that one before you begin today’s. Because today it’s all about a different, contrasting mountain.

Mount Zion

Because we (and the original audience of Hebrews) have not come to the terrifying sight of Mt Sinai. Instead:

12:22-24 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous 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.

The writer takes us to ‘Mount Zion’, which in a physical sense is the mountain on which Jerusalem was built. But in a symbolic sense, ‘Mount Zion’ is the dwelling place of God. And just in case we were tempted to think of the literal mountain, he describes it as ‘the heavenly Jerusalem’.

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