As the writer to the Hebrews points out, in no uncertain terms, the mountain top experience of their ancestors was a terrifying experience; the sheer stark physicality of it left them trembling. By contrast, we are invited to come to the Mount Zion where “the living God resides” and this becomes more of a spiritual ‘shaking’. We may not see angels but we know deep in our hearts when we have met God, and we know too, that we are forever changed.
It is not enough for us to know who we are and how we are in God, we also need to show it by our words and by our actions, in these times, and at all times. Like any good parent, God not only shows us his love, but he can also show us his disapproval.
We know God is not looking for a world built on the world’s standards, and I have deliberately chosen this translation as it is unrelenting in its words to the church ‘’a thorough house cleaning, getting rid of all the historical and religious junk”.
I hear God saying — what are the basic truths, and what are the scriptural texts that constantly bring us back? One of my favourites is “love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and energy and intelligence—and that you love your neighbour as well as you do yourself.” (see Luke 10: 27) Love, love, love. That’s what’s left when we get rid of pride, status, and privilege. And Jesus came to show us the essentials — a gospel in action —healing the sick, caring for the poor, loving the sinner. We need scripture to sustain us and friends to encourage us.
“Christ be with me, Christ within me
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me
Christ to comfort and restore me
Christ beneath me, Christ above me
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger
Christ in hearts of all that love me
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.” (From St Patrick’s Breastplate)
18-21 Unlike your ancestors, you didn’t come to Mount Sinai—all that volcanic blaze and earthshaking rumble—to hear God speak. The earsplitting words and soul-shaking message terrified them and they begged him to stop. When they heard the words—“If an animal touches the Mountain, it’s as good as dead”—they were afraid to move. Even Moses was terrified.
22-24 No, that’s not your experience at all. You’ve come to Mount Zion, the city where the living God resides. The invisible Jerusalem is populated by throngs of festive angels and Christian citizens. It is the city where God is Judge, with judgments that make us just. You’ve come to Jesus, who presents us with a new covenant, a fresh charter from God. He is the Mediator of this covenant. The murder of Jesus, unlike Abel’s—a homicide that cried out for vengeance—became a proclamation of grace.
25-27 So don’t turn a deaf ear to these gracious words. If those who ignored earthly warnings didn’t get away with it, what will happen to us if we turn our backs on heavenly warnings? His voice that time shook the earth to its foundations; this time—he’s told us this quite plainly—he’ll also rock the heavens: “One last shaking, from top to bottom, stem to stern.” The phrase “one last shaking” means a thorough housecleaning, getting rid of all the historical and religious junk so that the unshakable essentials stand clear and uncluttered.
28-29 Do you see what we’ve got? An unshakable kingdom! And do you see how thankful we must be? Not only thankful, but brimming with worship, deeply reverent before God. For God is not an indifferent bystander. He’s actively cleaning house, torching all that needs to burn, and he won’t quit until it’s all cleansed. God himself is Fire!