Date: September 2, 2018
Pastor Matthew Burt
Title: A Smoking Mountain and a Consuming Fire (Part II)
Text: Psalm 34, Galatians 4:21-30
Wellspring Church Springfield, Ma.
SCRIPTURE: Hebrews 12:18-29
18 For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest 19 and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. 20 For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” 21 Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” 22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly[a] of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
25 See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire.
BIG IDEA: A Smoking Mountain and a Consuming Fire (Part II)
PB preached this text on Sept 9, 2001. Two days later, the great tragedy that shook everyone in the USA happened; the destruction of the twin towers in NYC. It was a stunning bringing together of scripture and life events. But PB feels that he got the passage wrong then. This morning we will look at this same passage in the light of the entire book of Hebrews.
Last week we looked at a comparison of two mountains: the old covenant with the new covenant mediated by Jesus Christ. When we look at a covenant in the Bible, we have an agreement that God puts upon His people and basically says meet these requirements and you will know the favor/reward of God. If you do not meet them, there will be dire consequences. Do this and live; don’t do this and die. That’s the old covenant. No one was and no one is able to keep the requirements of the old covenant. You might think that you do a good job of keeping the commandments. We are reminded of the young man who was told by Jesus to go and sell his possessions and give to the poor and he went away sorrowfully. In all of his self-confidence in keeping the law, he had forgotten the first and tenth commandments. He did have a god above God, his possessions. There is no one that has been able to keep the stipulations of the old covenant.
So God having proven this to us, sends a second mediator to install a new covenant. That new mediator is Jesus Christ. The marvelous comparison is this: Moses was a sinful man – he was a rebel against God. But here we have Jesus Christ who was like us in all ways except no sin – he kept the requirements of the old covenant perfectly. No one else has or will. Yet, He has kept the law of God and at the end of his time on earth he suffers the curses of the disobedience. The new covenant is this: God says I will accept the perfect obedience of Jesus Christ as a substitute for your disobedience. I will give the consequence of your disobedience to my son Jesus Christ. IF you will accept this, then God will cleanse you and welcome you into His heavenly home forever and ever. We saw last week, these two mountains. The author of Hebrews is saying why would you go back to this thing you can not do when you have this offered to you. When we come to v 25, the author continues with his argument.
Point 1: There is a warning
Point 2: There is a reason for believing and accepting the warning- based on common sense.
Point 3: There is a second reason for heeding this warning –based on the unbreakable promise of God
Point 4: So What – application to our life.
Point 1: There is a warning
The warning comes in the first part of v25. “See to it that you do not refuse him who is speaking”. Look carefully at your life. This is the 5th warning in the book. The first one in Hebrews 2:1 is very similar. “Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it” It’s been changed a bit. It’s almost like a piece of classical music – the concerto or symphony is put together in a certain way. It gets squeezed and changed and it shows up again. Then at the end the same theme comes again. You find this theme with variations any time you listen to classical music. That’s what our author is doing here. He is doing a variation on a theme.
Who is speaking? Everything has pointed to the excellency of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ who is better than the angels, better than Moses, better than lambs and goats, etc He is the one who is the focus of the entire book of Hebrews. Do not ignore Him who is speaking. The first verses of Hebrews 1 say “ in these last days He has spoken to us by His son”. He who speaks today is Jesus Christ. That’s who’s speaking. He is very God of very God, begotten not created. He who came to the world and was reduced to a little baby born of an unknown peasant girl. He who lived a perfect life. He who walked off the field of battle victorious and unscathed. He who was rejected by the very people He came to save. They turned him over to the hands of their dreaded enemy, the Romans. Yet on the 3rd day, death could not hold its prey and He ascended into heaven. He speaks! He who ascended to the highest pinnacle of authority.
So when it says be careful that you don’t ignore He who speaks, you are dealing with a very important person. Many people want to reduce Jesus Christ to the role of a good man, a folk hero, someone who’s words can be rejected because we don’t like them. The world around us says I will refuse the one who is speaking from heaven and I will take Oprah Winfrey instead! See that you don’t refuse Him who speaks from heaven! He who created all things and is the only true authority.
People say “If only God would show Himself today as He did in days past”. That is not how God has chosen to reveal Himself. He has chosen to reveal Himself in His written Word and in the life of His son, Jesus Christ. This is what he says in 2 Cor 4: 4-6.
In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants[a] for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
It is He who speaks! Jesus was asked for a sign. Jesus said “a wicked and sinful generation seeks a sign”. How does He speak – out of His word through faithful preachers. When was the last time you sat under a faithful preacher of the gospel?
See that you do not refuse to hear Him. What does He say? He gives us the good news. Don’t turn back. There might be some of us today or this week who have been tempted to give up the promises of the gospel like Esau for a pot of red stew or a past enjoyment. He said don’t go back. Peter says it in vivid language in 2 Peter 2:21-22:
For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. 22 What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.”
It’s quite possible that there are those who have not yet heard and heeded and favorably responded to the call of the gospel. Why is that? Why would we refuse to hear it? The reason we refuse to hear the gospel is not because it doesn’t make sense or is too murky. It’s because people don’t like what it says. The gospel is basically two words: repent and believe. Those who will not have Christ and will refuse to hear Him have determined that they will not repent. Why? Primarily because they don’t agree with the need for repentance. They say “I am doing just fine on my own”. They refuse to believe that all have sinned. They don’t believe they need to change. There’s a TV program called Ross Poldark – he’s a good man compared to George and his uncle who are two of the most despicable characters. When you look at Ross he’s not really someone to emulate – he’s proud, rash, insensitive, he lies, he’s an adulterer. But if I compare myself to some really horrible person, I don’t see the need to repent. I am not all that bad.
The second word of the gospel is believe. Why can’t people believe that Jesus has done everything for me? Why do we refuse the free gift of God? France is a legally secular nation. One of their biggest national holidays is secularity day – where the entire country celebrates their independence from God! This woman had an opportunity to bring a TV program where a man gave his testimony. Everyone refused. It can’t be that easy. There’s got to be more to it. What do I need to do to inherit eternal life?
It’s so easy for us to become saddened or disappointed by the church or the way God has ordered our life. So we drift away or there are those who don’t believe the word of God. The warning is don’t refuse Him who speaks from Heaven
Point 2. There is a reason for believing and accepting the warning- based on common sense
If they who heard a voice from earth did not escape punishment, do you think it is less for you if you refuse Him who speaks from heaven? What kind of punishment did they receive who did not hear the voice from Mt. Sinai? Think about the curses that came from Mt. Sinai. Moses was on the mountain 40 days. The people did not know what had become of him. So they asked Aaron to make two golden calves. Immediately there was a death in the camp and 3000 died that day. There’s a consequence.
Moses sent spies to the land and they came back and reported that it has giants and we dare not go. God says you have not believed my word and the consequence is you will not enter the land. And for 40 years you will wander.
The entirety of the book of Judges show consequences because they broke the covenant.
Perhaps the most stunning is the end or 2 Chronicles (2 Chronicles 26:15) before the exile:
The Lord, the God of their fathers, sent persistently to them by his messengers, because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling place.
For 300 plus years God was speaking to them BUT they kept mocking the messengers of God until the wrath of the Lord rose against His people.
The author of Hebrews is saying see to it that you don’t refuse He who speaks from heaven. It would be easy to reject a human voice like PB. But the consequence of mocking the prophets of God is severe. Even after all of that Jeremiah tells them to stay in the land, obey King Nebuchadnezzar, do not go to Egypt. And their response at that time when they had suffered so much, was you to say to Jeremiah you lie – God did not say that. IF they did not escape judgement for refusing to listen to him who spoke on earth how will you escape judgement from He who speaks from heaven?
Perhaps you know salvation. You know that you are supposed to strive after peace and fight for holiness. You know God has given you grace and yet at some point in your life, perhaps at more than one point, you are choosing and living as though you can refuse the word of Christ without consequence and that you are safe. He says: see that you do not refuse Him who speaks from heaven for if they did not escape why would you?
Point 3: There is a second reason for heeding this warning –based on the unbreakable promise of God (next week)
Point 4: So What – application to our life (next week).
The gospel is more than having Jesus as Savior. The gospel is having Jesus as Lord who gives directions and demands obedience and the Lord who leads. Repent, believe and obey! We have a savior who speaks to us but we also have a savior who did not leave us without help. Never hear the gospel as a call to do it yourself. Always hear it in the context of the upper room – a helper comes to us. Do not leave here feeling overwhelmed or hopeless. Leave here knowing that He who began a good work in you will complete it! Nothing can ever separate you from His love in Christ Jesus. That’s the good news!