The Presence of the Holy

August 25, 2019 ()

Bible Text: Hebrews 12:18-29 |

The Presence of the Holy | Hebrews 12:18-29
Andy Lindgren | August 25, 2019

Good morning! Let’s go to the Lord together in prayer.

Heavenly Father, we come before you this morning so thankful that we can enter into your presence to pray to you, to worship you, and Lord, I ask now for your Holy Spirit to be with us as we open your word. Open the eyes of our hearts, Lord, that we would see glories in it, that we would be challenged, convicted, and comforted. In the name of Christ we ask these things, Amen.

One of my favorite Christian teachers is R.C. Sproul. R.C. passed away not too long ago, unfortunately, but I learned an interesting fact about him. In his office, above his desk (I believe it’s still there) is a large painting. This painting isn’t one of the great art pieces of Christian history, it’s not one of his five favorite theologians, either; it’s not Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, or Edwards. It’s a painting from his favorite novel. It is a painting of the whale Moby Dick. We have it on the slides for us.

The proportions of that ship are intentionally smaller to scale than the whale, but that painting is getting across an important point. R.C. loved the novel Moby-Dick; in fact, he wrote his senior philosophy research paper on the novel, examining the philosophical and the theological themes that are running throughout it.

The story, in brief, is about this crazy whaling captain named Ahab. On earlier expedition, this huge white whale named Moby Dick took off his leg, and Ahab begins a three-year expedition to go whaling to bring back oil, but instead he sabotages the mission. He wages a one-man war on this whale. He’s going to get revenge on this whale for taking his leg. He puts his ship at risk, his crew at risk, and his own life at risk in order to do this.

R.C. and others have seen in that story that this white whale, throughout the course of the story, takes this transcendent symbolism. He becomes larger than just a creature in nature; he becomes a symbol of the transcendent. In fact, in chapter 42 of Moby-Dick, called “The Whiteness of the Whale,” Ishmael, one of the main characters, just meditates on this, about how this whiteness of this whale disturbs him. It gives him this supernatural feeling, and he starts thinking about how whiteness is both a symbol of things that are pure and lovely, but also how whiteness is the symbol of the infinite and the terrible and the incomprehensible. People have seen in that a symbol of the transcendent, of the holy, even a symbol of God himself.

This morning we’re going to be looking at a text that deals with people encountering the presence of the Holy. We’re going to be in Hebrews 12, looking at verses 18-29, and we’re going to be examining:

I. Danger in God’s Presence
II. Joy in God’s Presence
III. Eternity in God’s Presence

Now, the book of Hebrews is a very early Christian document. It was most likely written before the year A.D. 70, so it was written before the temple was destroyed. It’s written to this group of believers, most of whom were most likely formerly Jewish in their faith. They turned to Christ, they experienced this wave of persecution, and now at least some of them are having second thoughts about it. They’re wanting to retreat to their pre-Jesus ways of doing spirituality, of doing faith, of doing morality. So throughout this letter, the author to the Hebrews is pleading with them not to do this. He’s setting forth why what they’ve come to is so superior to what they’ve left behind.

We’re going to jump in near the end of the letter, near the end of this long section, where he’s really hammering home the need for endurance in the faith, the need for perseverance. Now he’s turning to the experience of the Israelites receiving the Sinai covenant.

I. Danger in God’s Presence

Let’s look at the text in verses 18-21. “For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. For they could not endure the order that was given, ‘If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.’ Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, ‘I tremble with fear.’”

The author here in this section is really hammering home the terror of this experience the Israelites had at the foot of Sinai. He’s talking about the blazing fire, the darkness, the gloom, the storm, this loud trumpet blast, this frightening voice, and the death penalty for even an animal touching the mountain; and then, even their mediator himself, Moses himself, trembling with fear.

Now, this is not the first time in Scripture we see God’s nature, his theophany, represented as fire. Remember when Abram, when God cut that covenant with Abram that we learned a few messages ago, that Brian shared with us, he appeared as a smoking pot. Abram had horror and darkness and dread come over him at this experience.

When Moses himself first encountered this theophany of God’s presence, remember it was a burning bush that was on fire, and Moses had to be careful as he approached, he had to take off his sandals because he was approaching holy ground.

Remember, even when Adam and Eve, way back in the garden, when they were cast out of the garden, remember the sword that kept them out? It was a flaming sword. It was on fire.

That leads to the question, why this combustible encounter with the presence? God is good, so why this fear in his presence? Of course, the unanimous testimony of Scripture, again and again, is that this is because God is holy and people are not. God is sinless and people are sinful.

Now, theologians have really kind of broken God’s holiness into two different categories that I think are helpful for us in thinking about this. The first is what they would call his ethical holiness; in other words, his moral purity. This is simply the fact that God is sinless, he has no sin. He has never sinned. He is completely pure.

God, in his holiness, feels towards sin as a parent feels towards the cancer that is killing their child. He absolutely hates it. He has righteous indignation against it. It’s killing his creation, it’s a perversion, it’s a twisting, it’s a death to his good creation, to what he designed to be perfect and good and beautiful.

You know, at borders, a lot of times, borders of countries, they have these drug dogs waiting to sniff out cars. These dogs are trained to smell drugs when people can’t. A car will go by, and another car, and another car, and they don’t notice anything; but all of a sudden, this one car will come, and the ears perk up and the dog starts to act different. He starts to walk towards the car a little bit.

So the custom agents, you know, they have the car pull over, they look in the trunk, they don’t see anything; they look in the glove compartment, they don’t see anything; they search the car, and finally, when they unscrew panels, they find there have been drugs stuffed all over the place in this vehicle. Now, the customs officers weren’t able to sense that, but the dog could. He knew it the instant the car drove by.

That’s what God’s holy presence is like with sin. He can sense it even when we can’t. He knows that it’s there, it’s that cancer that’s eating away at his creation.

Isaiah 33:14 says, “The sinners in Zion are afraid; trembling has seized the godless. Who among us can dwell with a consuming fire? Who among us can dwell with everlasting burnings?”

However, there’s another aspect to God’s holiness which theologians would call his ontological holiness. This really deals with the idea of God’s separateness, the separateness of his very being.

We can see this by comparing humans and angels, right? The angels in God’s presence have never sinned, they are morally pure, just like God is in that sense, right? They’ve never committed a transgression against his law, they never partook of or spread this spiritual cancer that’s going throughout his creation. They’re morally pure. But yet we find angels and heavenly creatures veiling their faces before his presence. So if they’re morally pure and he’s morally pure, what’s the difference?

Well, both angels and humans have this in common: we were created. We had an origin. We had a starting point. We don’t give ourselves life. Life had to be given to us. We don’t sustain ourselves. “Only the Father has life in himself,” said Jesus, “and so do I,” and so does the Spirit.

This is the transcendent nature of God. He is separate in that sense. He is separate from every single thing he has made, because he is Creator, and everything else is creation. Psalm 89:6-7, “For who in the skies can be compared to the Lord? Who among the heavenly beings is like the Lord, a God greatly to be feared in the council of the holy ones, and awesome above all who are around him?”

The Israelites gathered at the base of Sinai were trembling with fear because that holy God was at the top of that mountain. Remember, this was before the Holy of holies was constructed, this was before the priesthood was instituted. The raw presence of God was there, and it terrified them.

II. Joy in God’s Presence

Now let’s look at verses 22-24. Now we turn a corner in the text. He says, “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, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.”

With these words, “you have come,” he is drawing a contrast, a contrast between the old covenant and the new covenant. There is a difference, a real difference.

One of my favorite illustrations that helps me kind of understand one of these main differences between the old covenant and the new covenant was one that A.W. Tozer liked to use, and that’s one of scaffolding. When construction workers want to build a skyscraper, it’s necessary to have the scaffolding there first. However, once that scaffolding has completed its purpose, once the skyscraper is complete, the skyscraper cannot be used as it was intended unless that scaffolding is torn away, unless it’s taken down, unless it’s removed.

There’s a lot of similarity with that with the old covenant and the new covenant. The old covenant wasn’t a mistake on God’s part. It’s not like he wasn’t thinking far enough ahead or something. In redemptive history the old covenant was necessary; it was the scaffolding that had to be there in order for the new covenant to be constructed. However, once the new covenant was initiated, once the new covenant was established, that scaffolding had to come down. It had to be done away with in order for it to function correctly. The author is showing the foolishness, to the believers he’s writing to, in trying to put that scaffolding back up, thinking that that’s better than the building that’s now been erected.

The author’s already reminded them that God already prophesied about this new covenant in the Old Testament, that he would clean his people, that he would give them a new heart, that he would put his own Spirit within them, causing them to be careful to obey his rules, putting his laws in their hearts, writing it on their minds, and that he would remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more. He knew that what Moses was carrying down from the top of Sinai engraved on stones did not match what was in their hearts. So he planned a new covenant to fix that.

So the author kind of takes the readers by the hand and he takes us through this whirlwind tour of these realities we’ve come to and the joy we find in his presence. He says, “You have come to Mount Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem.” We have been transferred to a different place. It’s invisible, yet it’s real. It’s not consummated yet, but it has been established. It’s really there. We’ve really been moved from one place to another.

He says we’ve come to “innumerable angels in festal gathering.” There were angels at the inauguration of the old covenant on Sinai, and it’s interesting to look at the place angels play in the New Testament, especially in the life of Christ. Angels are there announcing his conception, they are there heralding his birth, they are there strengthening him in his temptation in the wilderness, they are there with him in the garden of Gethsemane, giving him strength and comfort to endure what was to come. They’re there announcing his resurrection, they’re there at his ascension, comforting the disciples; and they’re there with the apostles. We find them in the book of Acts giving validation and help, showing that the apostles are continuing the ministry of Jesus himself.

These wonderful creatures, these angels, these ministering spirits who are sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation, these angelic beings that long to look into the mysteries of the gospel; we are there with them in a very real sense before the presence of God in worship. It says they’re not only there, there’s not only innumerable angels with us, surrounding us, but they’re there in festal gathering. They’re there in joy, they’re having a celebration.

You may ask, “Why is that?” I think the reason for that we find in Luke 15:10. Jesus said, “There is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” They’re there with a lot of sinners who have repented, and they’re really happy about it.

“You have come to the assembly of the firstborn, who are enrolled in heaven.” We are now a part of God’s people, with names enrolled on the most important list in the universe. This is joyful because of what we find in Luke 10:20. Jesus said, “Do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” You may have no importance to anyone else on earth, your name may be forgotten within a generation after you live; but what matters is if the Creator of all knows your name and remembers it and you are included among his people, among his assembly.

“You have come to God, the judge of all.” Peter O’Brien points out that the text here literally reads “to a judge, the God of all.” It’s really stretching God’s role as judge here. This is important, showing the contrast with Sinai. We’re joyfully assembled before the judge of all, but it’s not with terror, it’s in joy.

We’ve come to the “spirits of the righteous made perfect.” We are not only there with the other believers, with the church on earth right now, but we’re assembled with every believer that has ever lived, with their spirits, their spirits that are awaiting their resurrection bodies.

We’re not told this to pray to them or something, or to try to hold a seance to communicate with them, but on the other hand, we shouldn’t throw out the baby with the bathwater and go too far in the other direction. This is meant to give us comfort, that when those believers who have passed on, when they are looking at Christ and worshipping him in glory, and when we do the same thing here on earth, although imperfectly and dimly compared to the experience they have, we have a real bond with them. We really do participate in the communion of the saints.

This is possible because we come to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant. He’s the better mediator, who’s better than angels (the angels actually worship him); he’s better than Moses, the mediator of the Sinai covenant; he’s better than Joshua; he’s better than every high priest that ever served; and he’s better than every sacrifice that was ever offered on an altar.

He’s qualified to be this mediator because he is the eternal priest in the order of Melchizedek. He is truly man and truly God, and able to taste death on behalf of those who place their faith in him.

And we come to the “sprinkled blood of the new covenant.” That “sprinkled” word connotes the priestly sprinkling on the day of atonement. There’s a priestly function going on here. While Abel’s blood spoke condemnation, the blood of Abel, the first murder in the history of the human race spoke of the evil in man’s heart and the sin and the judgment that would rightly fall on him; the blood of Jesus speaks a better word, a word of forgiveness, a word of justification, of the one who willingly offered himself up to be murdered, to have his body torn and his blood spilled out for the sake of those he loved.

Now, looking at what the author of Hebrews has in mind here in this whirlwind section of these better realities we come to in the new covenant, I think it’s helpful to look at something similar that Paul does in the book of Colossians. In Colossians, Paul talks about being transferred to a different place. He says, “You have been transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of the Son,” that God is love. He said, “You have been raised with Christ,” so because you’ve been raised with Christ you need to set your minds on things above, you need to set your hearts on things above. You have been transferred to a different place.

Because you’re in a different place, your gaze should be in a different direction. Our place determines our gaze, where we live should determine where we look, and where we look impacts how we walk, how we live, how we endure in the Christian life, which is what he’s wanting to get at so strongly here, the endurance in the Christian life. I think another clue to this is the inclusion of angels in this experience.

Now, we see in redemptive history that God has a pattern of taking things from the future and bringing them to the present, right? He does this with the resurrection of Christ. As far as the Jews knew, there was only one resurrection, at the end of history, for everyone at once; but what God does, he takes the resurrection of the firstborn Jesus, picks it up from the future, and drops it into the middle of history for our sakes.

He does the same thing with the Holy Spirit. One day the knowledge of the Lord will flood the earth as water covers the seas. He takes this eschatological Spirit, takes it from the future, and gives it to us now in seed form. We have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us as a down payment guaranteeing what is to come, as a foretaste of the future reality.

We see here that God is doing the same thing with worship. You see, when Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, they not only alienated the human race from God himself, they not only alienated people from each other, people from themselves, but also from the angelic order, from this world of heavenly beings, these cherubim, these seraphim, these angels.

What we see in the book of Revelation is that people from every tribe and nation will be before the throne in the worship, adoring God, but there will also be heavenly creatures there, there will be angels there, there will be cherubim there. That future experience of worship is brought into the presence even now, when we worship in faith, when we worship in spirit and truth. We are participating in a foretaste of that eternal worship.

The author said in 11:27, “By faith Moses left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible.” That’s what he’s getting at, the importance and endurance of seeing the one who is invisible, this world that we’ve been brought into that is invisible. It’s hard to love someone who isn’t real to you.

God has given us the faculty of faith, new eyes, new ears, new senses, because there is a battle for our attention, if you haven’t noticed. I don’t know about you, but I could easily spend the rest of my life binging Netflix or YouTube videos or whatnot. For all of us that struggle looks a little different, but there is an enemy out there that does not want us to endure to the end, that wants to keep our attention focused exclusively on things that distract us away from this privilege we have of heavenly worship.

III. Eternity in God’s Presence

This brings us to looking at eternity in his presence, in verses 25-29. In verse 25 we find a warning. “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.” This theme of God speaking through his Son is introduced right at the beginning of Hebrews, and now, near the end of the letter, this theme is brought in again. God is speaking through his Son: “This is his last word, this is the last prophet. You must listen to him or suffer the consequences.”

Now, this is one of the many warning passages in the book of Hebrews, and of course throughout Christian history Christians have taken different views on what this means. Can a Christian lose their salvation? Can they not? I don’t have time to go into the reasons why here, but I don’t believe a true Christian can lose their salvation. I believe one of the reasons these warnings are in the text is because it can be easy to deceive ourselves if we are truly saved.

We see this all throughout Jesus’s parables; it’s really fascinating, if you look at his parables through this lens, that there are people who are a part of God’s people in one sense but not in the same sense. He says people will come to him on that day and say, “We cast out demons in your name! We did miracles in your name.” He will say, “I never knew you.”

There’s a parable of all these people gathered at the wedding feast, but there’s a man there without the right garments on. He thinks he belongs there, he got in somehow, he was in the midst of the crowd, but they find him and they say, “You don’t have a wedding garment. You don’t belong here.”

There are plants that grow up. The plants look like they’re all doing great, they’re all growing well; but there are plants that aren’t rooted correctly in the soil. Some of the plants who were growing up with the others, in the end will not make it.

This leads to this discussion of the future shaking in verses 26-27. “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.’ 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.”

That fire that came down on the top of Sinai that terrified that group of Israelites at the base, that same fire is one day going to come over all of creation, it’s going to come over the whole earth. There will be a great shaking, and only the things built on the rock will remain. Only the people of God and the things of God will last, the things that have been built on the rock and not on the sand. He’s coming to shake the earth, he’s coming to gather the fish in the nets and to separate them out. He’s coming to chop down the tree that is bearing no fruit. He’s coming to pull out the weeds that are mixed in with the wheat. He’s coming to burn the chaff with unquenchable fire.

Isaiah 2:18-19 says, “And the idols shall utterly pass away, and people shall enter the caves of the rocks and the holes of the ground from before the terror of the Lord and from the splendor of his majesty, when he rises to terrify the earth.” God’s holiness is the joy of the people who know him, who are in covenant relationship with him, and it is the terror and destruction of those who are in rebellion against him.

Remember, God will cut out that cancer that’s destroying his creation. The reason he’s waiting is for patience that as many would come to faith as possible; but there will come a day when it will be too late. There will come a day when he will cut out the cancer. There will come a day when all those harpoons, the unrepentant, are cast into that whale. That last harpoon is going to have a rope that’s wrapped around their leg, and they’re going to be swept out into the sea.

In 1 Thessalonians 1:10 Paul writes, “Jesus delivers us from the wrath to come.” Christ coming on the cross doesn’t mean that the wrath isn’t coming; it provided protection for those who place their faith in Christ, to be protected from it, but the wrath is still coming.

A.W. Tozer put it this way. He said, “God’s justice stands forever against the sinner and utter severity. The vague and tenuous hope that God is too kind to punish the ungodly has become a deadly opiate for the consciences of millions. It hushes their fears and allows them to practice all pleasant forms of iniquity, while death draws every day nearer and the command to repent goes unregarded. As responsible moral beings, we dare not so trifle with our eternal future.”

This brings us to a response in verses 28-29. “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, for our God is a consuming fire.”

We’re receiving something that can’t be shaken. Psalm 125:1, “Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever.” That new Jerusalem will one day descend from heaven as the apostle John saw in his apocalyptic vision. The new heavens and the new earth will be united, the kingdom will be the inheritance of the saints. We are grateful to have been found by the one who seeks worshippers. In John 4 we read that God seeks worshippers! It’s what he longs for. It’s the purpose of the gospel, to bring worshippers to himself.

It’s in the act of worship that he makes himself real to us. He longs for that to happen for us; it’s what we were created for, to worship him and to glorify him and enjoy him forever. So true worship brings with it this dimension of gratefulness, this safe place. We’ve been found by the good Shepherd and carried into the sheepfold with the other 99 sheep. We’ve been found by the woman with the lamp and put into the purse with the other nine coins. We’ve been accepted back into the Father’s house, and we’ve been given a robe and a ring and sandals on our feet, all for the purpose of worshipping him.

But, the author tells us, this is to be done with reverence and awe, because he’s a consuming fire. Once again we come back to this fire imagery we found at Sinai. One thing this tells us is that even though we change when we come to God through Christ, there’s a major change on our parts, there’s no change on God’s part. His holiness is still the same. The fire is still there, the fire is still burning. This is why we find the warning here.

Now, fire can be a great blessing or great danger, depending on our relation to it, right? You can put fire in a fireplace and it heats the home, you can cook food on it, you can dry your clothes in front of it; or, if you have the wrong relation to fire, it can burn the house down, it can damage your skin forever, it can ultimately even bring death. It all depends on our relation to it.

We will exist forever before the holiness of God in one of two ways: eternal life and blessing or eternal death and punishment. That’s why we find a warning here.

It’s interesting that in Scripture hell is both talked about as being away from God’s presence in one sense—in 1 Thessalonians 1:9 it’s talked about being away from his presence, and this seems to indicate being away from his presence and the source of his blessedness, of his grace, of his love, of his favor. However, it’s also spoken of as being in the presence of God. In Revelation 14:10, those suffering in hell and under his wrath are in the presence of the Lamb.

Roderick Finlayson said, “Hell is eternity in the presence of God. Heaven is eternity in the presence of God, with a mediator.” So, we’re to worship in reverence and awe, keeping in mind that God is a consuming fire.

This leads to the very real question of balance in the Christian life. How do we balance out these things? There’s to be some dimension of fear in the Christian life, manifesting itself as reverence and awe, but there’s also to be joy and comfort. You know, it’s almost like a bird, that we fly into the presence of God with two wings. One of those wings is fear, reverence, and awe before the Lord, but the other one is comfort and assurance and boldness that we have access to his presence. The healthy Christian life keeps both of those things in proportion.

You know, Martin Luther liked to use the illustration of the difference between a man fearing the executioner whose lawful duty it was to kill him for his transgressions and the child fearing the father, who is in a loving relationship with the father, who doesn’t want to displease the one who loves him so. I think that kind of gets at it.

The apostle Paul tells us that there is “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” so the fear of condemnation, the fear of judgment, that complete shaking of terror and desperation and dread and no hope, that’s the kind of fear that’s gone; but there’s always the fear that remembers the size of the ship compared to the size of the whale.

I think that’s one of the reasons R.C. kept that painting in such a prominent place, because in many ways worship is about correct proportions. We’re actually delighted the larger that we see God and the smaller we see ourselves, because we know that the larger he is, and as holy as he is and as transcendent as he is, for those who are in Christ he rejoices over us with singing, and he hunts after us, and he pursues us with his love, and longs for a relationship with us.

Jesus put it beautifully if you read through Luke 12. He’s essentially telling a crowd to “fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” That’s what we’ve been talking about this whole message. God has the power to destroy both the soul and body in hell. He will judge sin, he will come against us. So Jesus says fear him because of that, but later on in the same chapter we see him saying, “Fear not, for you are of more value than many sparrows,” and also, “Fear not, the very hairs of your head are numbered.” “Fear not, for it is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

In Acts 9:31 we see the balance this way. This is describing the early church. It says, “And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.”

Tozer summed it up this way. He said, “The greatness of God rouses fear within us, but his goodness encourages us not to be afraid of him. To fear and not be afraid, that is the paradox of faith.”

I want to close in talking about Jesus, our shaken mediator. We are accepted into that heavenly Jerusalem, the eternal Mount Zion, because Jesus was banished outside of the earthly Jerusalem. The gospel writers tell us that on the night that Jesus was betrayed, on the evening before he was to inaugurate that new covenant by pouring out his own blood, that he was greatly distressed and troubled, that he was sorrowful even unto death.

His emotional state wasn’t that different from those Israelites gathered at the base of Mount Sinai. He had terror, he had dread. That’s because he knew that for the very first time--remember, this is the one who had been in communion with God for all eternity, the eternal Word who had also known the light of his Father’s blessing and favor--he knew for the very first time he would be entering that presence, but bearing sin, and it terrified him.

So he ascended Sinai, so to speak, with his eyes squinting, adjusting to this darkness of God’s judgment that he had never known, realizing that he was wearing the hands of a murderer, that he was wearing the tongue of a blasphemer, that he was wearing the heart of an adulterer, and that he was about to encounter the fire of God’s holiness on the cross with no protection. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

On the cross that shaking of Sinai came down, the darkness of God’s judgment covered the land, the earth shook, and the rocks split. Jesus endured that terror, that dread, so that we wouldn’t have to. The author to the Hebrews says he did this “for the joy set before him.” You can almost picture Jesus straining his ears to hear in the future the angels celebrating in festal gathering with all the saints that have been brought in, rejoicing in the light of God’s holiness and reverence and awe, enjoying his presence forever.

What’s your relation to Jesus the mediator? If you are not united to Christ by faith, if you’re not a believer this morning, today can be the day of salvation for you if you place your faith in him. You can enter this wonder world of worship, of knowing God, of really knowing him, of really sensing his presence in your life and being forgiven of your sins and not having to suffer that fire of his judgment, because Jesus will shield you from it.

For those of us who are believers, this is an exhortation to encourage us in our endurance, that our new place determines our gaze, that where we live now determines where we look, to pursue God’s presence, pursue worship of him with all these amazing benefits that we receive in the new covenant, that we would enter in and live our lives in joy and in reverence and in awe before the presence of the Holy. Let’s pray.

Father, this is a heavy and a delightful word that we found in the Scriptures this morning. Lord, I pray for anyone in this room who does not know you. I don’t know who they are, but you do. Your eyes see, Lord, your eyes know. I pray if there’s anyone in the room this morning who falls into that category, Lord, that you would lay your hand heavy upon them, that they would know they can turn in repentance and turn towards you in faith and that they would be born again from above, Lord, even this very day.

I pray that our Christian lives would be characterized more and more by passionate pursuit of your presence, of relishing in this new reality we’ve been welcomed into, and that we would make use of our faculty of faith that you’ve given us to partake of your presence, and that you would give us strength and endurance to run the race till the end. In the name of Jesus we ask these things, Amen.