Thursday

03 February 2011

"But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem" (v. 22)

Background

Drawing on a knowledge of and love for what we call the Old Testament (and assuming that readers will know and love it too), the writer to the Hebrews now paints a vivid contrast-picture, between Mount Sinai and Mount Zion. 

Mount Sinai was the place where, on their journey from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the Promised Land, the Jews had received the law from God in the form of the Ten Commandments, written on stone by God's own hand and given to Moses (Exodus 20). Fire, darkness, gloom, tempests and trumpets were all, at various times, dramatic indications of the presence and majesty of God, such that all the people, even Moses himself, were afraid and trembled. 

But the new covenant is not like that - readers are assured that God's revelation was in the physical realm, which was tangible but also temporal. By contrast Mount Zion is not on any map, but is the longed-for peak which represents the place of God's presence to God's people. It is synonymous with the city of God, the heavenly Jerusalem, which was so much a part of the apocalyptic literature - that which and captured a longing for the world still to come. 

What has now been revealed, through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ cannot be touched; it is spiritual in nature, and it is eternal in its effectiveness. Whereas the old covenant was based on laws, on obedience and on the blood of animals, the new covenant brought in by Jesus is based on his own blood, shed on the cross, with its message of the true and lasting forgiveness of sin. 

Curiously the writer here compares the shed blood of Jesus with the blood of Abel (Genesis 4:1-16). The second son of Adam and Eve, Abel was murdered by his jealous elder brother, Cain, to whom God says, "Listen; your brother's blood is crying out to me from the ground!" (Genesis 4:10). The suggestion is, perhaps, that whilst the blood of Abel can only draw God's attention to the sin of humanity, only the blood of Jesus can deal with that same sin. 

Jesus is not a stopgap measure, but a permanent solution - so, stay faithful! 

To Ponder

What thoughts and images does the concept of Mount Zion conjure up for you?

To what extent do you sometimes still live as a child of the old covenant - of law and smoke and fear and trembling?

How far are you aware of the need for the blood of Jesus to 'speak a better word' (verse 24) for you?

Bible notes author: Jill Baker

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