Hebrews Lesson 211
September 16, 2010
NKJ John 17:17 "Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.
We are in Hebrews 12. For the last several weeks we were studying the one verse back in verse 14 "to pursue peace"; to pursue peace with all. I took the time to do a topical study on what is involved in pursuing peace and the foundation for pursuing peace in terms of personal relationships.
Now let me just remind you of the context again of Hebrews 12. There's a challenge that's been set forth in terms of teaching. The teaching was given in the 11th chapter of all of these examples from the Old Testament. So the writer of Hebrews is showing us that the Old Testament saints all had faith, and by means of faith that is simply trusting God. Faith is not some sort of mystical thing. It's not some sort of emotion. It's not some sort of extra special orientation to the spiritual that some people have and some people don't. Faith is just faith.
If you are driving down the street and you get somewhat lost and you need directions to get to the Galleria or to go downtown and you say, "How do you get there?"
Somebody says, "Well, you go down here three blocks and you turn right and then you go straight until you get to the third light. Turn left and you're there."
You believe them. You have exercised faith. When you follow their directions you have demonstrated that you have believed them. But those are two different things. Believing them is one thing and then acting upon what they say is another thing. They are not one in the same thing. That's where people get a little confused. There are philosophers who pick these ideas apart a number of ways; but those are the issues. Faith is just that. Faith is believing something. It's trusting in something to be true. And whatever it is you are trusting to be true, it is usually expressed or can be expressed in some sort of statement.
Philosophers call it a proposition. That's why they sometimes refer to it in relation to propositional logic. But it's just a statement that something is this way.
You say, "Okay, yes it is," or "No, it's not."
That's belief. That's faith. It's nothing special.
So the object of faith though that we see in the 11th chapter is always the promise of God, a specific promise to God. When He gets to Abraham and Israel and the promises related to Abraham and Israel after Genesis 12, these promises almost always related to the promise that God would restore Israel to the land that He had given to Abraham and his descendants forever and ever. This is the foundation of the rest of the Old Testament. I believe it's the foundation of history. We can't understand history at all unless we understand it from the divine viewpoint, which puts Israel and Jerusalem at the center of history, because that is what God says in the Old Testament. In Ezekiel we have passages talk about Jerusalem being at the center of the world. It is not talking about a geographical center, it is talking about Jerusalem is the center of God's focus in terms of His plan for history.
So when we go through that chapter the emphasis is on by faith Abel did something, by faith Noah, by faith Abraham, by faith Isaac, by faith Jacob, all the way down through that chapter.
Then there's a conclusion.
NKJ Hebrews 12:1 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,
The imagery (the metaphor) that we see in the first 17 verses of chapter 12 is this athletic metaphor of a contest in a stadium. You know a contest like with the Houston Texans against the Baltimore Colts this last week where Houston finally and on rare occasion executed the plan well and won. But they're out on the field of competition in front of the stands that were sold out and filled with observers. So that is the idea is that those who are alive and living the Christian life are on the field of play and they are surrounded as it were in the stands. It's not teaching that those who've gone before us are watching us; but that they have set a standard. It would be, to use the same football imagery, as if the stands were filled with all of the previous players for all of the NFL teams in the past. All of your veterans of football throughout the last 40 or 50 years would be the ones who are in the stands. They're the ones who are cheering on those who are on the field. So because they've done so well that in light of that then we have a precedent set and so we could go forward. That's the imagery.
So the command here is that because we're surrounded by this cloud of witnesses who've set the standard…
let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us,
The sin that encumbers us, that it is easy to trip us up.
and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
That is the challenge. Now the problem is that in running that race you have to run it according to rules in the sense that you have to run according to the sound doctrine that is laid down in the Scriptures. What's happened with the readers is they want to shift away from the sound doctrine that they've been taught. They want to go back into a form of legalism. They want to go back into a form where are they are under the burden of the Mosaic Law and all of the rituals in order to try to somehow gain and acquire the approval of God.
So of the writer of Hebrews is saying that we need to keep the cross set before us and keep going forward and run the race the right way and don't fall by the wayside. There are those who are running the race; and they become limp and lame for whatever reason. He uses that imagery in here. They become weary and so they need to be strengthened. We saw that in verse 12, verse 13 as a background to 14 which is that:
NKJ Hebrews 12:12 Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees,
13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed.
Or, be strengthened.
14 Pursue peace with all people, and
That is a command there to pursue peace with everyone.
holiness, without which no one will see the Lord:
This is a challenge. No one is seeing the Lord in terms of heaven or being face-to-face with the Lord when you die. This is as we studied is seeing the Lord in terms of a special vision and presence and access in heaven and in the New Jerusalem that is reserved as the book of Revelation teaches for those who are overcomers. This refers to a special class of believers who have overcome and who have that special privilege in heaven related to inheritance.
Then there's the warning that comes from Esau because Esau was one that took his eyes off the goal and put his eyes on temporal things. He was more concerned about feeding his face and feeding his hunger than he was the special blessing and privilege of being the firstborn and the privileges that would have been given to him by way of his firstborn inheritance. That is a key term that's used here because it focuses on the inheritance aspect that would have gone to Esau but because he gave it up (He treated it lightly, or profanely) he traded it to Isaac for a bowl of red lentil soup.
Now that word firstborn comes in again when we get down into our current passage in verse 18-24 because it's going to talk about the assembly or the church of the firstborn. We have that as the context.
We've gone through all of this in these first 17 verses. Then there's going to be an explanation that is going to lead to an application. The explanation comes in verses 18-24. Then in 25 there's the application by way of another warning within the context of Hebrews.
Tonight we'll be looking at 18-24, and this focuses on two mountains. We have the first mountain is Mount Sinai where the Mosaic Law or the Mosaic Covenant was given to Israel. Then the second mountain is Mount Zion. That is the contrast between Mt. Sinai (the Mosaic Law), and Mt. Zion which depicts (which is associated here with) the heavenly Jerusalem and the New Covenant.
Now I wanted to lay this out for you, sort of a thought paraphrase. Now I'm going to leave this slide up here for a little while because some of you are going to write feverishly to get this down. I like to do this every now and then when I'm studying because it helps to see how the thoughts are related, what the main ideas and main verbs are. What we see here is that the very first word in verse 18 is the word "for." In the Greek this is the word gar which is usually used to indicate that the writer is explaining something as he's advancing in his explanation or in his argument of something he is now going to give an example or an explanation that furthers the development of his main idea.
He gives an illustration there in verses 18 down through 21. He says:
NKJ Hebrews 12:18 For you have not come to the mountain that may be touched and that burned with fire, and to blackness and darkness and tempest,
Although there's no word for "the mountain" in the Greek text because of the context of the contrast, it is usually inserted but it's not really there in the original.
NKJ Hebrews 12:22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels,
What he is contrast thing is "you have not come" to one thing, but you have come to something else"; "you have not come" to one thing but "you have come" to something else."
When he gets into the second part he's going to drive down to a conclusion that's going to involve several different aspects that relate to the same thing. They're not synonymous; they're not identical; they're all indicated by the phrase "and to."
NKJ Hebrews 12:22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels,
23 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect,
24 to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.
There are two things that are mentioned. The last two things that are mentioned are important to focus on because that's what he's driving to. So once you understand what the end result is supposed to be (what the end issue is), then when we go back and we start at the beginning we have an idea of the road map that we're following and what the destiny is. Then the details along the way begin to make sense. Sometimes if you don't know where you're headed; then what happens along the trail becomes a little confusing because you don't know where you're going. But once you know where we're going, then the details leading up to it make a lot more sense.
I remember learning this in reading many years ago when I was trying to work my way through some of Francis Chafer's books. I had his book. I think it was Escape from Reason, which is really small, thin book. It's only about 90 pages long. But if you don't really have any background in the history of philosophy or the history of ideas or the history of art or some of these things; you can really get lost in it. I was reading through it and trying to understand everything that he was saying. Then when I finally got to the end, it was like a light bulb went off.
"Now I understand what he's been…."
Once I understood where he was headed, then I went back to the read it a second time and it made sense. I learned that. That was a great lesson to learn because as I went on to graduate school and seminary, also working in philosophy. Many times I would read the book. I learned that the first thing you read is the introduction. Most people skip the introduction and go to the first chapter, but in the introduction, a good author will tell you usually why he is writing what he is writing. Now I'm not talking about a reading Agatha Christie or some other suspense novel, I'm talking about reading good nonfiction work.
Then you read the conclusion. You read the introduction because he'll tell you what he's going to try to demonstrate, why he's doing it, why he's writing the book. Then you read the conclusion and find out how he pulls everything together. That's where he makes his points. Then you go back and look at the table of contents because if he gives you a good table of contents, you'll see what all the main topics are leading up to the conclusion. Then you have a really good idea of the roadmap and the destiny. Then when you start reading, you can make a lot more sense out of what's going on.
That is kind of the idea here. We're going to start looking at this as kind of the flyover map. We are going to contrast two things, something previous and something present: the first mountain, Mount Sinai, and the second mountain Mount Zion. But what he is driving toward has to do with the fact that Jesus on the cross dies on the cross and there He was the sacrifice for the New Covenant. We are going to have to understand what the New Covenant is again. Then He relates that to what Christ did on the cross as a sacrifice is related to the kind of sacrifices that began with Abel.
Where does Abel come from in all of this? These are the kind of questions you ought to ask. When you read something you ought to be asking certain questions. We started off talking about Mount Sinai. Mount Sinai is some 3,000 – probably about 3,000 years after Genesis 4 when we have Abel. The first part deals with Mount Sinai. Where does Abel come from in all this? Why does he end by going back to Abel? Now that's an important question that we need to really answer at the beginning so that we understand what the structure is and we can figure out why the writer is saying the things he's saying and why he is setting it up this way.
We see that he's drawing this contrast between Sinai where the Mosaic Law was given to Israel as a way of life and then the contrast is with the New Covenant where the sacrifice for the New Covenant is established by Jesus Christ, the sacrifice is made at the cross.
Now the New Covenant as we studied in Hebrews 8 relates back to Jeremiah 31. We'll look at in a minute. But to remind you Jeremiah 31, God gave hope to Jeremiah (this is in the Old Testament; this is before the Southern Kingdom of Judah was defeated by Nebuchadnezzar, before the deportations to Babylon, before the Babylonian captivity) and Jeremiah warns the people that God was going to bring this punishment upon Judah because of their idolatry. He was going to take the people out of the land as He promised to Moses. He swore to Moses that "if these people do not obey Me, then I will remove them from the land. If they turn back to Me, there would be the gracious return to the land." Incidentally that return is the Hebrew word shub, which means to turn or to return. Sometimes it's translated to repent. Teshuvah has idea of really turning. It's not an emotional concept. It's an idea. It's often used when somebody is walking in one direction and they turn and go the other way. That's the idea. It relates to the New Testament Greek word metanoeo meaning the change of mind or change of thinking.
NKJ Deuteronomy 30:2 "and you return to the LORD your God and obey His voice, according to all that I command you today, you and your children, with all your heart and with all your soul,
"Then I will return you to the land."
That's the context of Jeremiah 31. In Jeremiah 31, Jeremiah is told by God that:
NKJ Jeremiah 31:31 …when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah –
He didn't say, "I'm going to make this New Covenant with Christians."
He doesn't say, "I'm going to make this New Covenant with the church."
He doesn't say, "I'm going to make this New Covenant with the nations, with the Gentiles."
NKJ Jeremiah 31:31 …I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah --
… that's not be like the Old Covenant.
What's the Old Covenant? It's the covenant that God made with Moses.
What was interesting was when I was doing some studying in the last few weeks on the High Holy days and studying some of the different ways and different belief systems within the different sects of Judaism (orthodox, conservative, reformed and reconstructionists) was that I saw within the Orthodox structure that they believe that the Mosaic Law was permanent.
Of course, a question I'd like to ask a rabbi sometime is: how do you handle this belief that the Mosaic Law was permanent when Jeremiah 31 says that God says, "I am going to make a New Covenant that's not like the Old Covenant."
Cleary the terminology new and old indicates that that God intended to replace the covenant given at Mt. Sinai with this latter covenant. Now that whole idea is picked up and developed in the New Testament but it's clearly indicated that there's going to be this New Covenant promised in the Old Testament.
How does all of that relate? Tom asked me a question right before class that correlated with that covenants are usually established. The Hebrew word is to cut a covenant with a sacrifice. That's when it is established. It is not inaugurated or going into effect at that time. Inaugurated is a word we work with because we don't believe the New Covenant has gone into affect yet because it's with the House of Judah and the House of Israel. It's indicated by Israel being completely back in the land and all of these other things with a Davidic king and Messiah and all of those things. So that hasn't come into effect yet. But there is a sacrifice that establishes that particular covenant just as we have in the Old Testament.
So we have to put this within that context of the Bible. So we ask this question. At the end here he talks about Jesus as the mediator the New Covenant and that His sacrifice and that's the meaning of the worst the blood of sprinkling…
NKJ Hebrews 12:24 to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel
Than what of Abel? Than the sacrifice of Abel.
This takes us all the way back into Genesis. So let's stop a minute and just try to understand a little bit about what is going on here in the thinking of the writer of Hebrews. What's he really trying to get across to us? What's the structure?
Now let me go over a couple things here to help us think about this. First of all, whenever we approach the Bible, we need to come at the Bible like we would come to any other book that we study that somehow the author knew what he was talking about. When you go and you pick up a book, you go down to the bookstore and you pick up a biography on somebody. You pick up a good nonfiction work on any particular topic, you expect that the author knows what he's talking about. You've heard good things about the book, which is why you are purchasing it. Maybe you've heard good things about the author. He has a good reputation. You believe that he's done good research. He has written stuff in the past. He's credentialed. You believe he knows what he's talking about and so you're going to give him the benefit of the doubt. Now if you read very far into it and if you are familiar with the topic yourself (if you have some expertise on the topic), perhaps he may say some things and you say," Well wait a minute. I'm not sure I really trust him."
Maybe some doubts begin to be raised. But we usually go to any book with this presupposition that we're going to give the benefit of the doubt to the author - unless it's the Bible. When we come to the Bible, we say, "Oh well. Our presuppositions is that God really can't objectively reveal Himself to man; God can't really communicate to us in a way that is clear." So we approach the Bible and we say right off the bat that it can't be what it claims to be. Well if it can't be what it claims to be, why are you reading it? Why are you paying any attention to it? Oh you don't read it! Oh, that's probably why.
Many people just give it lip service. But if it's not what it claims to be, why is it read? It has good principles in it. Okay, then why don't you go read the Bhagavad Gita or the Book of Mormon or something like that? They claim to have good principles. No, because there's something distinct, unique about the Bible.
And, it claims to be the Word of God. Again and again and again when we read through this we see these statements that "God said." Well, either He did or He didn't. There's no option. "Oh, I thought God said." No, that's not really in there. It's either He did or He didn't. And if He didn't, then when the writer said, "God said," then he's just telling you what he thought God might have said. Now we're just off into whoever wrote this opinion about things and why is his opinion better than anybody else's opinion.
But the claim that we read when we come to the Scriptures is this is the very revelation (which means unveiling) of God to man of information that God says that man needs to have in order to know the ultimate nature of reality so that man can function within creation instead of being at odds with creation. So it begins by describing that God created the heavens and the earth and how He created the heavens and the earth and that God created man distinctly different from all other creatures and man is created in the image of God and both male and female are equally image bearers. There's no distinction in terms of one has a little bit more of the image and one has a little bit less. Genesis 1:26-27 is very clear that man was created in the image and likeness of God.
NKJ Genesis 1:26 Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image…
So the idea of man there is really mankind.
NKJ Genesis 1:27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
Now in chapter 2 He places man and the woman (Adam and Eve) in the garden and He says, "I've given you everything you need."
See, God's a good God. He's given them everything they need to do what God intends for them to do. But He gives them a test.
He says, "There is one tree that you can't eat from. You've got thousands of trees that you can eat from. You've got all the variety that you can possibly hope for, but there's one tree you can't eat from and that's the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil because in the day you eat from it you'll die – not because it's poisoned, not because they were allergic to it, not because it was bad for them; but because there was a test here. And the test is: are you going to take God's word for it or not? And that's the test we see that runs all the way through Scripture. Are we going to take God's word for it or not? In other words, (what was the word I used when I started?) are we going to believe God?
When God says, "You go down here three blocks and turn right and go three blocks and turn left at the light, are we going to believe Him or not? That's the simple test. Do you believe God when He says, "Don't eat from the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil," or not? And if you don't believe Him, there are going to be consequences. What God is showing is the consequences at that time of disbelief because there is no evil in the universe. It's created perfect. There's no sin in the universe. Man is created perfect in God's image. He said there's going to be a consequence. God said, "You'll die."
Now Adam didn't die until he was 930 years old. We don't know how old Eve was; but she was probably pretty close to that same age. Their children lived for hundreds of years. So He's not talking about physical death in Genesis 2:17. He's talking about a death (a separation) that occurred spiritually between Adam and God, between Eve and God. There is now this separation.
How to we understand that? Well, the Bible is a unified book. It's written ultimately we believe by God the Holy Spirit who has inspired all of the authors so that what they write is the truth and they know what they're talking about. God has revealed it to them. Everything fits together. So we move from this initial statement about death and the penalty of death.
Then the next thing we see is that they eat from the fruit. They disobey God and something happens. Immediately it says they realized they were naked and ashamed. Then God came to walk in the garden with them, which He did every day; and they were afraid. They ran and hid and they took fig leaves and sewed them together to cover up there nakedness. The action that they took of sewing together these fig leaves is an action that's taken in order to try to disguise the fact that something has changed. That something changed because they disobeyed God. So they try to cover it up through their own efforts. But their efforts aren't good enough. As soon as God sees them He knows what's happened. He starts asking questions to expose what's going on, and not because God doesn't know what's happened. He's God. He's omniscient. He already knows what's happened. He knew what would happen before He created them. But He asks questions in order to get them to admit what has what taken place.
So you know the story how God asks them, "Where are you?"
"Well, we're here."
You know. Eve blamed the serpent; Adam blamed Eve and we have the whole beginning of passing the buck and blaming somebody else for your own problems. God is the first counselor. He explains their consequences for these bad decisions. He lays these consequences out which is usually referred to as the curse in Genesis 3. You have the consequences on the serpent, the consequences on the woman, and the consequences to Adam. At the end the text says that He clothed them. God solves the problem that's created by sin. They couldn't solve it with their own efforts. God had to do it, and He does it; He clothes them with animal skins.
Now we don't really know what that says because what we see when we read through the Bible is that you get certain things told to you at the beginning in a sort of general way. Later on more and more information is given which helps us understand why things were done that way; but God doesn't just do this information dump on the second page of Scripture and give us a full-blown Doctrine of Sin, Doctrine of Man, and Doctrine of Salvation. You can't understand it yet. So He's going to build this incrementally as He goes through the Scripture.
The first event that we see that happens after that is that we move forward about twenty, thirty years or so and Adam and Eve have had several children. The oldest is Cain and the next is Abel. They develop occupations and they're laboring within their occupations. Cain is a farmer, a worker of the field; and Abel is working out with the flocks of sheep and the cattle.
Now why are they doing that? Why is he doing that? Have you ever thought about asking that question? Because within the context of Scripture, he's not raising them for eating food, which is why we normally raise sheep and cattle today. They're not meat eaters. That doesn't come into the text until after the flood and after the event with Noah, unless of course whoever wrote it is just stupid. But see that's the assumption people will bring to the text.
"Well, they just didn't think about these things."
How arrogant can we be that somehow we're smarter than somebody who lived you know 3,000 years ago that he can't figure out that within three pages he's going to completely contradict himself. The point is that he's raising sheep because these are the animals that are used for sacrifices that have been taught implicitly. It is implied in the text when God clothes them with animal skins. I mean there are all kinds of things that go on as I've explained before that God had to teach them when He clothes them with animal skins. He had to teach them how to kill the animal. He has to teach them how to skin the animal, how to prepare the hides, how to treat them so that they don't become hard and brittle but they're soft and supple and can be used for clothes; all those things. So God is giving them all kinds of information.
Now we get to this situation where Cain comes and he brings the results of his own work, his own effort. He brings that to God, all this beautiful produce.
"This is my sacrifice."
God doesn't accept it. Why? Because, God doesn't accept man's works, man's efforts. It just isn't good enough for God. It's got to be done God's way.
God has a right to say, "It's my way or the highway."
All the way through the Old Testament we see these examples of exclusivity. Modern man has a real problem with Christianity because Christianity says there's only one way to God. There aren't hundreds of ways to God; there's only one way to God.
But you read in the Old Testament God says, "Cain, your way is not My way. You brought your fruit. It's great. It's good. It's going to keep you healthy. You did a great job. You're a great farmer, but I don't accept it."
He accepts Abel's sacrifice because Abel follows the plan. He does what God says to do. He brings a sacrifice.
Let's stop and think about this. Can a sacrificial animal - a lamb or a goat or later on a bull – really take away the problem of sin? It's a substitutionary thing. As we looked at how these sacrifices are developed, what happened was that man would put his hand upon the animal and recite his sins. The picture there is that his guilt (his sin) is transferred to the animal and then the animal pays the penalty. It doesn't seem very fair, does it? Not very good for the lamb. But God's teaching something.
It's not a pleasant thing to take a lamb in this kind of situation. It's about a year old and one that you've raised. Now we're going to take this lamb and you're going to lay it upon the altar. You're going to take out your knife; and you're going to cut its throat so that it bleeds to death. But it's teaching something. We have to think about this from the perspective of the Bible, that God is saying, "I've got to start teaching you about what really happened in Genesis 2 with the sin and when Genesis 3 that Adam and Eve sinned, that there is a really serious penalty here." But it's a spiritual penalty and because you can't see it, taste it, touch it, feel it; you can't quantify it. It is really difficult for people to understand the significance and the seriousness of it. So here you have a great object lesson and you've got this bleeding trusting looking doe-eyed lamb that you've got to kill.
That really hit home with me. It was several years ago when we took our first trip to Israel and we went to the south gate of the Temple Mount. There's an exhibit there that has a great orientation to the history of Israel and the history of all the things that took place on the Temple Mount. They showed this wonderful eight or ten-minute film that they did about what it was like for someone coming from a small village outside of Jerusalem to come to Jerusalem and bring their sacrifice. There is this man walking along and he's walking up the steps to the temple carrying this year old lamb in his arms. The camera just zoomed right in on the face of that lamb. You just see these innocent eyes. All the sudden all these things that are taught in the Scriptures just had a new level of reality. He has to take this animal and personally sacrifice it. By the time you get into the second temple you didn't do it personally, but early on they did that personally. So there's this sacrifice that takes place.
Now it's not a very complex sacrificial system there with Abel, but it gets the point across.
God says, "If you do what I tell you to do, then you will learn the principle that there has to be a payment for sin. Sin is terrible. You can't do it on your own. You can't go out and work it off like Cain tried to do. You can only do it the way I tell you to do it which is what Abel did."
This is why Abel is listed early in Hebrews 11 as the first example in verse 4 of faith.
NKJ Hebrews 11:4 By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks.
Why was it more acceptable? Because it was the sacrifice God said to bring.
You know, when I was a kid, and I understand this better now that I am an adult; I understand things about budgets and money and a lot of other things like that. My folks grew up and dealt a lot and lived in the Depression. When my dad was 7 years old he and his mother were picking cotton in the cotton fields in the high stake plains of Texas outside of Lubbock. When I was a kid, I would say, "You know, I would really like a bicycle," or this thing or that thing or whatever is was. I would look a certain thing, not necessarily really expensive; but it was, "Okay, I want this. This is what I would like to have." And I would get brand X every time. Even when I was an adult and my parents had money, I always ended up getting brand X. So when I was an adult I just always throw it away and go buy what I wanted because it had the features and it have the quality and everything else that I wanted. But that is the way God is.
"Why when I tell you to do A, B and C; you do X, Y, and Z? X ,Y, and Z doesn't cut it. A, B and C does. I just want you to trust Me and do what I tell you to do."
That's the same lesson that we have in Genesis 2. Just don't eat from the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. He disobeyed Me. Okay, there are consequences. So we have the sacrifice.
Then as you go through time we end up with Noah gets on the Ark, and we have the flood. He comes off the Ark and he has clean animals, those which would be worthy for sacrifice. There are 7 – three pair and an extra. Why does he have the extra? For a sacrifice. Why does he carry three pair of clean animals and only two of the unclean? Because you have to propagate more of the clean animals because these are worthy of sacrifice. You have a little more information given about sacrifices; and there's another dimension added to these sacrifices. When Noah get off the Ark and you have to sacrifices explained there in Genesis 9 when the covenant with Noah is made. The sign of that covenant is the rainbow indicating God's promise that He will never destroy the earth again by water. At that time He institutes capital punishment and He authorizes man to start eating meat because things changed in the environment between the pre-flood environment and the post-flood environment.
Then we go down through time a little bit more and we come to Abraham and God's call of Abraham. God promises Abraham: "I'm going to give you a son, and it is through that son that your seed will be named. Do you believe that, Abraham?" That's just a simple promise; do you believe that? And Abraham believes it like the guy who truly believes it when you go driving down to the Galleria.
"How do I get to the Galleria?"Ask somebody. They give you directions. You believe it but then half way there you say, "I think it's this way," and you go the other way.
You believed him at first, but then you didn't carry it out. Those are two different issues. That is kind of what's happening with Abraham. He believes God; but then years go by and there's no kid.
"God, what about Eleazar my servant?"
Or Sarah comes to him and says, "I've got another idea. Instead of us trying to make babies, we're too old; go see Hagar my handmaiden."
He tried that and that bollixed things up. We still deal with the problems of that with the Arab Israeli conflict that still goes on.
Then finally Abraham got it.
"God really is going to do it; and He's going to do it through us even though Sarah is 90 and I'm 100. God is going to regenerate our bodies so that we can have a baby."
And God does that. You talk to an OBGYN about what had to happen to Sarah for her to carry a baby at that age and the rejuvenation of the uterus and the skin so that it would stretch (elasticity) there and all these other things that go with it. It is a phenomenal thing.
But what is God showing? He's showing once again, "I can bring life where there is death." That's what God is about.
"You do it my way there is blessing; if you don't do it My way there's cursing."
Then we come to the Exodus and God brings the descendants of Abraham out of Egypt. God's going to give them a much more complex sacrificial system. Why? Because by this time you've had 3,000 or so of lessons about sacrifice, sacrifice, sacrifice, substitutions that are always emphasized. But now we have to recognize the problem of sin is really a little more complex than you've seen before. There are different dimensions to this, so we're going to have different kinds of sacrifices to sort of illustrate the different dimensions of the solutions to the sin problem. It is not just purely substitutionary. There's forgiveness related to it. There is reconciliation related to it. There's peace related to it. There's joy related, all of these things. So you have burnt offerings and meal offerings and fellowship offerings and sin offerings and trespass offerings. That's why you have all that covered the first part of Leviticus.
That kind of brings us up to where we are at the beginning of this section in verse 18 talking about coming to Mount Sinai.
We've walked our way through the background. Now all of a sudden what happens at Mount Sinai begins to make sense. Mount Sinai doesn't happen in a vacuum.
NKJ Hebrews 12:18 For you have not come to the mountain that may be touched and that burned with fire, and to blackness and darkness and tempest,
He is talking about what happened when the Israelites came to Mt. Sinai.
Now let's go back and see why did Mount Sinai occur and what's God trying to teach these recently freed slaves in that event. Well, the first thing that God had instructed Moses is that there is a special position that Israel occupies in God's thoughts and God's plan.
NKJ Exodus 4:22 "Then you shall say to Pharaoh, 'Thus says the LORD: "Israel is My son, My firstborn.
Now if you have been a parent or child then you understand this process. There is a birth event and there is a life event that takes place when the birth is over with. There's the development of ongoing life. What we see in the history of the nation Israel is that there is a birth event that takes place in the Exodus event itself. The labor pains would be analogous to the 10 plagues. With the 10th plague and the death of the firstborn among the Egyptians, then Israel is let go. They have been slaves; now they're freed. They are redeemed is the word that is used. This is a picture of their deliverance from slavery.
NKJ Exodus 6:6 "Therefore say to the children of Israel: 'I am the LORD;
It's very clear. This isn't Moses' idea. There is something greater, something beyond Moses; something beyond the creation that is instructing.
I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, I will rescue you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments.
Now notice these words that are used bringing out rescue from bondage or deliverance and redemption. These are key words that are later applied to a broader sense of salvation; but they are grounded in a historical event because God is giving not only the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob an object lesson. He's giving us an object lesson to understand what this transaction is that occurs and what we often call salvation.
Then after the Exodus event, after they've crossed the Red Sea, which is when they moved from slavery in Egypt and they're out. Now it's a different reality. Now they're free; they're a nation. They haven't gotten to their land yet; but they are a nation of people.
NKJ Exodus 15:13 You in Your mercy have led forth The people whom You have redeemed;
The redemption party is over with.
You have guided them in Your strength To Your holy habitation.
The holy habitation is Mt. Sinai, somewhere on the Sinai Peninsula. Usually the traditional view is it's Jabal Musadown on the extreme southern tip, but most Bible scholars really doubt that. It just doesn't fit the travel days that are given in the Bible. It is probably located more to the center part of the Sinai Peninsula, a little more to the northeast.
Now there's going to be a new system that is going to be given. They're going to be given a sacrificial system related to the Tabernacle. This is going to be described in Exodus 19. So I want you to turn to Exodus 19. As we go through Exodus 19, I'm going to relate this back to what we've seen in Hebrews. Exodus 19 tells us what happened when the Israelites came to Mt. Sinai.
NKJ Exodus 19:1 In the third month
On the third new moon - that would be three months.
after the children of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on the same day, they came to the Wilderness of Sinai.
That gives us a little bit of a travel schedule. It wasn't a full third month because halfway through the first month was when they had the first Passover, on the 15th of Nisan. So it's about a little over two and a half months. They've gone out of the land of Egypt. Now we know from caravan records and other travel records and diaries that most caravans moved at a rate of about 8 to 10 miles a day. Now if you've got two and a half million people that you're taking through the wilderness here; and they're not going to quite make eight to ten miles a day. So they're going to make around five to six miles a day. So you can pretty tell that they're not going to get very far. They've been at this for about 70 days or so. Then they've gone maybe 250 to 300 miles at best. That would get them across or a little bit further across the Sinai than toward the land than down south. So we're told they set out from Rephidim.
NKJ Exodus 19:2 For they had departed from Rephidim, had come to the Wilderness of Sinai, and camped in the wilderness. So Israel camped there before the mountain.
NKJ Exodus 19:3 And Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain, saying, "Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel:
Moses is going to go up on the mountain where God is going to meet with him. God calls out to him and says, "I'm going to give you some instructions for the House of Jacob and the House of Israel. You're going to go back down and tell everybody what is going to take place, and this is extremely serious."
NKJ Exodus 19:4 'You have seen what I did to the Egyptians,
…and all the plagues. They have had experiential and empirical demonstration of God's power. This is not somebody to be handled lightly.
and how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to Myself.
NKJ Exodus 19:5 'Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant,
…which He is getting ready to give them.
then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine.
The ESV translates this "My treasured possession." The Hebrew word here is cedullah which indicates a special possession, a special treasure; something that is unique and valued by its owner. This identifies Israel. Later on in Zechariah, Zechariah says that the Jews "are the apple of My eye."
NKJ Zechariah 2:8 …you touches the apple of His eye.
"Whoever harms them, harms the apple of My eye."
This hasn't changed. This is why the Jews have been set apart by God as a special and unique people from the Abrahamic Covenant. These are a special treasure.
NKJ Exodus 19:5 then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine.
God is asserting His authority and sovereignty.
"I run things. It's My way or the highway. And My way is that I've chosen this people and they're the ones through whom I'm going to deliver My revelation and salvation. So I have chosen them above all the other people."
Psalm 135:4 reiterates the same idea.
NKJ Psalm 135:4 For the LORD has chosen Jacob for Himself, Israel for His special treasure.
NKJ Exodus 19:6 'And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel."
Now "holy" doesn't mean morally pure and upright. That's how most people think of "holy" or somebody who's extremely pious. The word holy from the Hebrew word for qodesh indicates something set apart for a purpose. The vessels in the Temple were "qodesh." They were holy; they were set apart for the use of God. But a vessel, a pot, a golden candlestick can't be morally right or wrong. It's metal. There's no morality involved. It's set apart for the service of God.
God called out Israel to be set apart to Him. As a nation they would stand in relation to the rest of the nations as a priest. In the same way that the tribe of Levi would produce a priest in which stand in the stead for the rest of the tribes before God, the nation of Israel would be the priest nation in relationship to the rest of the nations (the Gentiles.)
NKJ Exodus 19:6 'And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel."
So as a nation, their deliverance (their identification) with God takes place at the Exodus event. Now that they've been called out as a special people, God is then going to tell them how He wants them to live. Those are two different issues. Becoming a special people is one thing; living like one is something else. So he's going to give them the Mosaic Law on Sinai.
Now look at what happens associated with that. He appears to them and He tells Moses to go down and to organize the people and give them instructions on how they are to approach God because this isn't just a normal thing. It has to be done according to God's regulation. You can't just go walking up on the mountain because God's up there. There are problems with that.
NKJ Exodus 19:7 So Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before them all these words which the LORD commanded him.
NKJ Exodus 19:8 Then all the people answered together and said, "All that the LORD has spoken we will do." So Moses brought back the words of the people to the LORD.
"Okay, whatever God told you to do, we're going to do. He has delivered us. We're going to obey Him."
NKJ Exodus 19:9 And the LORD said to Moses, "Behold, I come to you in the thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you, and believe you forever." So Moses told the words of the people to the LORD.
God is going to come out as a thick cloud. The word that is used that the rabbis coined after the end of the Old Testament was shekinah. That is the dwelling of God. We think of it as something brilliant and glorious. It is not. It hid the presence of God. It's a thick dark cloud that settled down on Sinai so the people couldn't see God and would hide His presence.
Then Moses described the people. God gives him the instructions. He says:
NKJ Exodus 19:10 Then the LORD said to Moses, "Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their clothes.
So this is done symbolically. You wash all their clothes. That is a physical act that is to depict the importance of cleansing from sin.
NKJ Exodus 19:11 "And let them be ready for the third day. For on the third day the LORD will come down upon Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people.
You're going to set limits there. They can't just run up on Mt. Sinai. You're going to build a fence around the bottom so that they can't get past it because if they do they're going to die. There are consequences to disobeying God. God sets the rules. We've seen this pattern again and again and again from Genesis 1, again with the Noahic flood, again with Abraham and again with and still with Moses. God sets the rules.
NKJ Exodus 19:16 Then it came to pass on the third day, in the morning, that there were thunderings and lightnings, and a thick cloud on the mountain; and the sound of the trumpet was very loud, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled.
This is fearful. They're scared. Deuteronomy says Moses was even more scared. There's terror among the people here as God is descending on Sinai.
NKJ Exodus 19:18 Now Mount Sinai was completely in smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire. Its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly.
It shuttered - an earthquake type of situation.
NKJ Exodus 19:19 And when the blast of the trumpet sounded long and became louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him by voice.
God answered him in thunder.
NKJ Exodus 19:20 Then the LORD came down upon Mount Sinai, on the top of the mountain. And the LORD called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up.
21And the LORD said to Moses, "Go down and warn the people, lest they break through to gaze at the LORD, and many of them perish.
22 "Also let the priests who come near the LORD consecrate themselves, lest the LORD break out against them."
23 But Moses said to the LORD, "The people cannot come up to Mount Sinai; for You warned us, saying, 'Set bounds around the mountain and consecrate it.'
NKJ Exodus 19:25 So Moses went down to the people and spoke to them.
They go down, and God speaks to all the people. When God speaks, it's objective. Moses isn't hearing this in his head. Aaron's not hearing this in his head. The people aren't hearing it in their heads. This is objective revelation. If they had turned on a recorder or a video recorder or anything like that they would have recorded the voice and the presence of God. This has objective reality. It is not just something they made up along the way. If they made it up, who cares? If it has objective reality; then it's significant. And it has objective reality and God revealed the law. But it's a scary thing. That's the point that the writer of Hebrews is saying in Hebrews 12.
Now let's go back and pick of the description in Hebrews 12; and then we'll close out.
NKJ Hebrews 12:18 For you have not come
This is a contrast.
to the mountain that may be touched and that burned with fire, and to blackness and darkness and tempest,
That's what was happening on Sinai.
NKJ Hebrews 12:19 and the sound of a trumpet and the voice of words, so that those who heard it begged that the word should not be spoken to them anymore.
That is what happens.
After He gave the Ten Commandments, people said, "Oh no. This is too much for us. We can't stand the voice of God. It scares us to death. Moses, you just go up there, write it down and bring it back. But don't make us listen to God anymore. It scares us to the very core of our being."
Why? Because, they're aware just like Isaiah in Isaiah 6 when he is in the presence of God. He realizes he's a sinner. There's nothing he can do about it. He's right there in the presence of God and God's the one who purifies him. He can't do it himself.
NKJ Hebrews 12:20 (For they could not endure what was commanded: "And if so much as a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned or shot with an arrow."
NKJ Hebrews 12:21 And so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, "I am exceedingly afraid and trembling.")
That is in Deuteronomy 9:19. That is the contrast. The contrast is, this is what God had planned. It's temporary. It was the Old Covenant, but there's a New Covenant. The New Covenant has a different reality. The Old Covenant represented terror; the New Covenant represents the glory of God, and that is what we'll focus on in the next three verses when we come back next week.
Let's bow our heads in closing prayer.