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The Mountain of Fear and the Mountain of Joy

Hebrews 12:18-24

You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, because they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.” The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.”

But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn,whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

I love it when I stumble over Scriptures that are at once strange and yet familiar. Today’s passage is one of those for me. I don’t remember reading it closely before; at the same time, certain phrases jump out because of their association with things I do remember.

That mountain of fear was quite real for the Jewish people. They remembered what happened in the wilderness when Moses went up the mountain and spent time with God. It was a terrifying sight, so much so that they made a golden calf to worship instead. It’s something we all do – try to dumb down God to our level, make Him into something tangible and touchable. We’re so afraid of this God who is so far beyond us, so far above us, that we want to humble Him into our image, forgetting that we are the ones made in His image.

And yet we have a God who humbled Himself, brought Himself down to our level, in order to be tangible and touchable. There’s a reason that hordes of people pressed in around Jesus whenever He walked in public – they knew that one touch from Him was healing. He is, as the passage above says, the mediator of the new covenant. He took on all the responsibility and gave us all of the grace. We are part of a joyful assembly of believers, the Church-with-a-capital-C, and we are made perfect by the blood of Jesus. The final phrase brings to mind one of my favorite songs:

Your blood speaks a better word
Than all the empty claims I’ve heard upon this earth
Speaks righteousness for me
And stands in my defense
Jesus it’s Your blood.
Your cross testifies in grace
Tells of a Father’s heart to make a way for us
Now boldly we approach
Not earthly confidence
It’s only by Your blood.
What can wash away my sins?
What can make us whole again?
Nothing but the blood, 
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
What can wash us pure as snow?
Welcomed as the friends of God?
Nothing but Your blood,
Nothing but Your blood, King Jesus.