Happy Turkey Day! Happy Football Extravaganza day! Happy Afternoon Nap on the couch day! Happy look at Black Friday advertisements day! Or how about just plain and simple… Happy Thanksgiving!
This is Angie and today, on this day of food, football and thankfulness, let’s take a few minutes to jump into Hebrews 12 together and consider how this chapter encourages a posture of thankfulness.
Who would have thought sitting around last year’s Thanksgiving table that things overall wouldn’t seem a whole lot different around this year‘s Thanksgiving table.
While it might not actually feel much different, it does look very different for many people—for those who are missing loved ones gone too soon, those suffering from serious illness, those navigating through financial and employment challenges, not to mention church and family splits over masks and mandates. How does one remain thankful in the midst of such brutal chaos?
I have struggled with this myself. As I look around and see hopelessness, anger and despair…it’s hard not to become discouraged, overwhelmed or even cynical about the ongoing pain and suffering around us. My head is spinning and my heart hurts.
Reading Hebrews 12 reminded me, though, that the only way forward is to look at the past to remember how God has been faithful, and how he will be faithful going forward. Hebrews 12 sneaks in this reminder in a way you might not have considered, specifically in verses 18-24.
That portion of Hebrews 12 contrasts the attributes of the old and new covenants, using Mt. Sinai and Mt. Zion as models. In the NIV, one is called the “Mountain of Fear” and the other the “Mountain of Joy.”
In the old covenant, Mt. Sinai represents “the law”; a barrier of fear and judgment. While it was a physical mountain that could be touched, no one was allowed to even draw near it. It was unapproachable, and even Moses was afraid, stating “I am trembling with fear.” If this represented the path to God, it only signaled a God who was cold, withdrawn, unfriendly.
We get a much clearer picture when we read Exodus chapters 19-20. The mountain was surrounded by angry storm clouds that churned out deafening thunder and aggressive lightning. As one commentator noted, “there were earthquakes and blackness from smoke, a trumpet sounded and Moses spoke and God answered. The people’s reaction was terror. They said, “Moses, please never let Him speak to us directly again. Would you always be His mouthpiece because it terrified us to hear the voice of the living God.”
They begged in essence saying “please God stay away, and only speak through Moses.” No wonder it was called “The Mountain of Fear.”
But praise be to God, as believers under the new covenant, we do not come to this mountain. Our relationship with God is not like Israel’s experience at Mt. Sinai. We are welcomed at another mountain – Mt. Zion—where Jerusalem sits.
In the new covenant, Mt Zion represents “grace”—the barrier is torn down and replaced by our mediator and always accessible King, Jesus. The promises of God became ours through Jesus Christ, who brings together in perfect unity God and man, who were once divided. We enjoy access to God, fellowship as the First Born who are registered in heaven because of the blood shed for us. Amen and Hallejuah!
The contrast between Mt. Zion and Mt. Sinai is extraordinary. As one pastor noted,
- “Mount Sinai was marked by fear and terror – Mount Zion is a place of love and forgiveness.
- At Mount Sinai, only Moses was allowed to draw near to God – at Mount Zion, an innumerable company, a general assembly – all of us are invited to draw near to God.
- At Mount Sinai, Moses was the mediator – at Mount Zion, Jesus is the mediator.
- Mount Sinai brings an Old Covenant, which was ratified by the blood of animals – Mount Zion brings a New Covenant, which is ratified by the blood of God’s precious Son.
So, if our kingdom – Mount Zion – is a greater kingdom, with greater glory, and it is accessible and unshakable, then the author of Hebrews is reminding its readers (that’s us) to not be so easily shaken by the trials and tribulations of the day, or even of the greater difficulties that may come. We have been given an unshakeable, completely accessible kingdom that should produce unshakable saints who are daily seeking a reachable, loving God.
Are you an unshakable saint? Are you, like me, incredibly grateful that we don’t live under the old covenant, that God provided a new way through Jesus, giving us a loving, active, relational God on the Mountain of Joy? We have so much to be thankful for, as we look at the past of God’s faithfulness to us. We are bought by the blood of the Lamb, who is with us always, who stands with us in these hard times, and never leaves or forsakes. Holy cowabunga, that is GREAT NEWS. That is news we should be thankful for on this day of thanks, and every day. Here’s a reminder about how we access this joy when things are in brutal chaos:
It’s asking this question: What am I looking at, what am I focused on? It’s as simple as it sounds, and something I have been forcing myself to do over and over lately: “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full, in his wonderful face, And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, In the light of his glory and grace.”
I’m thankful for Jesus and for you, my Bethel family! Sending love, hugs and a turkey leg through the airwaves today. To God be the glory, amen!