Mid-week Lent 5 – Vespers – March 24, 2004

In Nomine Iesu

Pastor Thomas L. Rank

Mid-week Lent 5

March 24, 2004

Text: Hebrews 12:22-24

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.

Dear fellow redeemed in Christ,

In this chapter twelve of Hebrews the author is drawing our attention to a distinction between two mountains in the Old Testament. One is Mt. Sinai. The other is Mt. Zion. We are told that it is Mt. Zion that we have come to, not Mt. Sinai. The difference between Sinai and Zion is the difference between night and day. It is the difference between the Law, Sinai, and the Gospel, Zion.

Mt. Sinai is known for being the place where God gave Moses and the children of Israel the law, especially the Ten Commandments. There were special rules for Mt. Sinai given to Israel by the Lord. These rules are recorded in Exodus 19:

…For on the third day the LORD will come down upon Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. 12 You shall set bounds for the people all around, saying, ‘Take heed to yourselves that you do not go up to the mountain or touch its base. Whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death. 13 Not a hand shall touch him, but he shall surely be stoned or shot with an arrow; whether man or beast, he shall not live.’…

Clearly this was not a mountain that encouraged people to come near it. In fact, it was a mountain to be careful about. This became even clearer after the Lord began speaking the Law to Moses. Listen to what happened:

Now all the people witnessed the thunderings, the lightning flashes, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood afar off (Ex 20:18).

The giving of the Law, the commands of God that demanded obedience, perfection, love with no hint of selfishness, all of this combined with the thunder and lightning made Mt. Sinai a terrible place. The reason was because here God showed Himself in the way of the Law. The Law cannot deliver us from judgment because all it does it show us our sin. The Law is so perfectly fair that our sin leaves us with no hope. God is rightly angry against all sin, for sin is a denial of God, a turning away from Him. So Mt. Sinai becomes the place of terror, of threats, and of fear.

That is why here in Hebrews we read: “but you have come to Mt. Zion.” Mt. Zion is the hill of Jerusalem, the place where God’s Temple stood, the place where sacrifices for sin, and offerings to God were made day after day. Even more than that, Mt. Zion is where our Savior Jesus came to be the perfect, one-time sacrifice for sin. Jesus is the Mediator of the new covenant, the promise of God’s mercy and forgiveness to all who believe on the name of Jesus Christ, Son of God, our Savior.

Mt. Zion is about promises, grace, undeserved love, charity, and salvation. For these treasures of salvation were bought by the blood of Jesus Christ, who spilled His blood on Mt. Zion in order to buy us back from our deserved destiny of eternal death. These are the wonderful benefits which our Savior desires all to receive from His generous hand.

Besides the mountains of Sinai and Zion, there is mention made of the blood of Abel in this text. Abel, you recall, was the second-born son of Adam and Eve. The first-born son was Cain. These two brothers were also as different as Sinai and Zion. Cain chose the false worship of God, bringing his offerings with no faith, simply going through the motions. His offering was rejected by the Lord. Abel, on the other hand, is described this way in Hebrews:

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 (Hb 11:4).

Abel approached God by faith. We may think here of the difference Psalm 51 makes between mere outward offerings, brought without faith, and repentance: “For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart – These, O God, You will not despise.”

Abel, the second-born son is murdered by Cain. When the Lord speaks to Cain He tells him, “The voice of your brother’s blood calls out to me from the ground.” This blood of Abel called out for justice, and the Lord rebuked Cain, making him a fugitive on the earth.

Now hear again from Hebrews 12, “[you have come] to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.” The comparison between the blood of Abel and the blood of Jesus is of blood that calls for justice, and blood that washes away sin, leaving only forgiveness and salvation. The blood of Abel did not help Cain. In fact, Abel’s blood was judgment against Cain, just like blood found on a murder weapon often leads to the murderer. The blood of Jesus does not call out for vengeance, but it calls out peace between God and man, it calls out the love of God for you and me. “Even though our sins are as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” Jesus’ blood on us does not cause God to send us away in anger, but it brings God to us as our loving Father, as the Father who has sought and found all who are lost.

By God’s grace Mt. Sinai and the Law are not our destination, but we have come to Mt. Zion, “the holy Christian Church, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.” This is what God intends for you, that you may rest secure in the knowledge that you are God’s child, and will dwell in the city of the living God forever. Amen.

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