For you have not come to what could be touched, to a blazing fire, to darkness, gloom, and storm, to the blast of a trumpet, and the sound of words. (Those who heard it begged that not another word be spoken to them, for they could not bear what was commanded: And if even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned! The appearance was so terrifying that Moses said, I am terrified and trembling.) (Hebrews 12:18-21 HCSB)
The Old Covenant was an awesome and fearful thing. At the mountain of Sinai God seemed to be saying “This close and no farther!” God revealed himself in awesome power and there were two primary results; fear and separation. This God was so angry with sin that if you approached him in the wrong way or at the wrong time you would likely end up dead.
The LORD directed Moses, “Go down and warn the people not to break through to see the LORD; otherwise many of them will die. Even the priests who come near the LORD must purify themselves or the LORD will break out in anger against them.” (Exodus 19:21-22 HCSB)
No wonder that when Isaiah prophesied (Isa 7:14) that Immanuel would come “God with us” they must have thought of this blazing holiness.
Instead, you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God (the heavenly Jerusalem), to myriads of angels in festive gathering, to the assembly of the firstborn whose names have been written in heaven, to God who is the Judge of all, to the spirits of righteous people made perfect, to Jesus (mediator of a new covenant), and to the sprinkled blood, which says better things than the blood of Abel. (Hebrews 12:22-24 HCSB)
How different the picture of the New Covenant.
- Instead of a lonely mountain top, a city
- Instead of trembling in fear, a festive fathering
- Instead of one man, an assembly
- Instead of blood calling out for justice, blood calling out for mercy
I once met a man on the street. Being young and eager I started to share the gospel with him. He shut me down with one verse of scripture.
Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:48 KJV)
He said “I can’t be perfect” and walked away.
He was right. This was the message of the Old Covenant. Why did God reveal Himself to Moses as he did? Why the laws, the sprinkling of blood, of sacrifices? It was all for the realization that this man had. “I can’t be perfect.” Law cannot fix me. Discipline, effort cannot fix me. The thing that is broken in me is beyond my ability to fix.
For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are sanctified. (Hebrews 10:14 HCSB)
When Jesus said “Be perfect” he was saying that one day we would be perfected by Him through faith in the one offering. Under the law I would bring a lamb to be sacrificed to atone for my sins. In this act of faith I am justified but it is easy to be confused about why. It is not the sacrifice but the faith that matters.
Oh the pride of man! How we hate to be in such a weak position. To do nothing and receive everything by grace alone through faith alone and even that a gift. We hate to be revealed as weak and helpless and yet that is what we are.
Just give me a path, a rule, a mountain to climb and I’ll climb it. But this is a mountain that cannot be touched. There is a mediator on the mountain and blood crying out. The blood of Jesus speaks differently, better than the blood of Abel.
Then He said, “What have you done? Your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground! (Genesis 4:10 HCSB)
What does Abel’s blood say? It cries out for justice. Give him what he deserves. A life for a life!
And what does Christ’s blood say? Father forgive them.