But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem.
Hebrews 12:18, 22a (NIV)
Read: Hebrews 12:14-29
Consider: This section of Hebrews 12 opens with the exhortation: Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no-one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14). Holiness is a character trait of God and something he wishes to see in those who love him. In Leviticus 11:44-45 we read: I am the LORD your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy … I am the LORD, who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy. This was written to the people of Israel at an early stage in their relationship with God. Although Leviticus was written several hundred years before Jesus came to earth, the requirement to be holy is evident within the Christian tradition. This is seen in Peter’s letter where we read: But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do (1 Peter 1:15). Paul also picks up on this in his letters to the various churches. Typical of this is Colossians 3:12 where Paul says: Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
The latter part of Hebrews 12 (v18-29) might seem confusing at first. There is talk of mountains that might seem strange to our ears. The first mountain mentioned is Mount Sinai where Moses met with God (Exodus 19). This meeting between God and man was characterised by thunder and lightning (Exodus 19:16) and the mountain shaking (19:18). Approaching the mountain and meeting with God was restricted to only a few individuals and the people were warned to stay at a distance. In contrast, the second mountain is identified as Mount Zion, which is the heavenly Jerusalem (19:22). Instead of being distant from God, Christians have direct access to God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) while on this earth, and will live in close proximity to God in eternity. The contrast between the experience of the Israelites and us, as Christians, is very marked and gives us an indication of the personal relationship we have with God. This is one of the defining characteristics of Christianity: that we can have a personal relationship with God each and every day.
While our relationship with God is very different to the experience of the Israelites, it is important for us not to make God in our image. While the Israelites were terrified of God, we have no need to be equally terrified. Nor can we have a casual relationship with God; it demands that we treat God with the respect and honour he deserves.
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our ‘God is a consuming fire’ (Hebrews 12:28-29).
Pray: Father, may we always come before you in an attitude of reverence and awe, yet being amazed that you want us to have a personal and close relationship with you. As we look forward to the ‘heavenly Jerusalem’, may we seek to live holy and pure lives that bring glory to you. Amen