Saturday, September 22, 2012

Steadfast Thanks

The heading for the Fall Quarter is “A Living Faith.” The first Unit of the Fall Quarter looks at a five-lesson study descriptive of the sub-heading, “What is Faith?” Each of the five lessons is taken from a section of Hebrews 10-13. Three lessons have been reviewed thus far. We studied a description of the perseverance of faith (Hebrews 10:10-31), we were encouraged to find the assurance that comes with faith (Heb 11:1-3, 6; Psalm 46:1-3, 8-11), and we considered those who have gone before us as both witnesses and models for our faith (Heb 12:1-11). Today our lesson is entitled “Steadfast Thanks” and it serves as a reminder that faith is a gift for which we must give thanks. We find our devotional reading in 2 Thess 1:1-7 and the printed passage recorded in Heb 12:18-29.

Our lessons have been speaking to the steadfast characteristic a believer must have. ‘Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.’ 1 Cor 15:58 Steadfast is defined as immovable and not subject to change.1 Thanks is defined as to express gratitude, appreciation, or acknowledgement.2 We must always be thankful for the gift of God given us. We can not waver and believe Christ was not a gift. He gave His life that we might have the opportunity to eternal life. That is the best gift ever to be given. We must be grateful. Halleluiah!

‘For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, And the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard intreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more: (For they could not endure that which was commanded, And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart: And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:)’ Heb 12:18-21

The writer of the book of Hebrews assumed the readers had knowledge of the Old Testament Law. “For ye are not come…” Heb 12:18a The new believers had come out of the darkness of the Law into the marvelous light of faith in Jesus Christ. They did not need to return to the practice of Judaism under the Old Covenant. When God’s chosen people were delivered from the bondage of slavery in Egypt by the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea, they were exceptionally grateful. Ex 15:1-21 Within three days, however, they had begun to murmur for lack of water. Ex 15:22-27 Instead of continuing in a state of thankfulness, His children would continue to murmur. Num 14:28-30 This would occur even after God had supplied their needs and given them the Law. The purpose of the Law was not to provide them with knowledge of salvation and eternal life. Its purpose was to provide knowledge of sin. The reference “unto the mount” speaks of Mount Sinai (Ex 19) where God entered into the Old Covenant with Israel (Ex 20:1-17). The mountain was an actual mountain which could ordinarily be touched. Only God’s presence made it special. There was smoke and fire at the top of the mount which indicated His presence. It was described as a terrifying place where God was calling the nation of Israel to meet with Him. His voice was as a trumpet sounding louder and louder. It was as thunder creating great fear in the Israelite camp as they witnessed His presence. There was “no trespassing” on this mountain. God declared in an unnerving manner, “And thou shalt set bounds unto the people round about, saying, Take heed to yourselves, that ye go not up into the mount, or touch the border of it: whosoever toucheth the mount shall be surely put to death: There shall not an hand touch it, but he shall surely be stoned, or shot through; whether it be beast or man, it shall not live: when the trumpet soundeth long, they shall come up to the mount.” Ex 19:12-13 Their leader, Moses, would represent them in speaking with God personally. It is said that even Moses, who was appointed by God, may have had some fear because the children of Israel had provoked the Lord to anger while he was on the holy mount on their behalf. Deut 9:18-19

‘But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.’ Heb 12:22-24

“But ye are come unto mount Sion…”, the glorious city which is revealed as the dwelling place of the Almighty God, the saints, and the angels. It is the new Jerusalem where God invites His children to come Home and rest. The writer of Hebrew is reinforcing the doctrine the new believers had come to believe in God in faith through His Son, Jesus Christ. The New Covenant is now operative. The new believers no longer have to be terrified of Mount Sinai and the legalism it represented. Don’t look back! Under the New Covenant they can look forward to Mount Zion, a heavenly city. It is a spiritual and peaceful place to call home after they have completed their lifelong journey through faith in Christ. The veil to access the Almighty God has been lifted and we do not have to go to an earthly priest or call on a leader, such as Moses. We approach God in prayer, through Jesus Christ our Mediator who sits at His right hand on our behalf. When we get to Mount Zion, we will see it is also the home of an innumerable number of angels. (2 Thess 1:7) This general assembly is considered the messengers of God. They assemble around the throne and praise the Almighty God and His Son, but they never will be able to understand what salvation means to the believer. The church of the firstborn refers to those saved, (1 Cor 15:20,23) whose names were written in heaven. The Old Testament saints, known as “spirits of just men”, such as those named in Heb 11, will be included in the glorious heavenly Jerusalem because their faith in God made them perfect. The writer has fully contrasted Mount Zion as one that is approachable wherein Mount Sinai was one that indicated to the Israelites they must stay away or else death would result. Mount Zion offers access to God through faith in Jesus Christ, salvation, eternal life, and peace. Mount Sinai offered the Law, knowledge of sin, and fear. The writer went further in comparing human blood sprinklings. He compared the sacrifice of Abel, who offered to God the firstlings of his flock. His sacrifice was better appreciated by God than that of his jealous brother, Cain. For this Abel was murdered by Cain, (Gen 4:4-10) and his blood sprinkled on the earth. Abel’s blood cries out for revenge. In comparison, Jesus willingly became flesh in order that he might die for our sins. He had a purpose and that speaks better than revenge. That purpose was to give us the opportunity to live eternally. Yes, His blood was sprinkled on the earth. But the purpose He had was for the life of many souls rather than for the revenge of one who was murdered and, probably unwilling to give his life for an unknown cause. We have much for which to be thankful.

‘See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven:’ Heb 12:25 The writer of the book of Hebrews is making it very clear to the new converts. They must weigh their faithfulness to Christ versus the Law and the Prophets. He advised them that their refusal amounted to rejection of the love of God offered through Christ our Savior. They were reminded there were those who refused to accept God’s love expressed through the Law and the Prophets as spoken on earth. They did not escape the consequences of their actions. For example, God punished all adults of the age twenty and over (except Joshua and Caleb) for their constant murmuring in the wilderness and stated none of them would enter the Promised Land. (Num 14:28-30) How much more will He punish us today for rejecting His love as it is spoken through Christ Jesus from heaven? There will be no manner of escape for the consequences of our actions. Christ shed His blood for us so that we might join Him and have access to His Father in Mount Zion, the new Jerusalem. We have no excuse; we shed no blood. So why would some attempt to reject Christ? Ignorance. Some simply don’t understand, or they are not taught the truth. Believers need to spread the truth about Christ. Fun-filled fellowships are nice. But we need to be disciples teaching the truth. Matt 28:18-20 Another reason for rejection is pride. Some people have a fear of giving up their control of (a) situation(s) and are afraid of seeking (an) answer(s). Their pride is standing in their way. Still another reason is some people just prefer to be evil, or they believe there is time to convert later. Regardless of the excuse for rejection of the message of love spoken through God’s Son, there will be terrible consequences of eternal damnation unless Christ is accepted as the Savior. ‘Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.’ John 14:6

‘Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven. And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:’ Heb 12:26-28 On Mount Sinai, God’s voice shook only the earth in calling Israel to come forth and while speaking to Moses. (Ex 19:18) In the future He will shake not only the earth, but the present heaven. ‘But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.’ 2 Pet 3:10 A new heaven and a new earth will appear. ‘And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.’ Rev 21:1 The new heaven and earth are not able to be shaken and will remain for all times. Because we are receiving this Gospel kingdom that can’t be moved, all believers are encouraged to consider the majesty of God’s kingdom. There is only one appropriate response to God’s promises – to have an attitude of worshipful gratitude in reverence and fear.

‘For our God is a consuming fire.’ Heb 12:29 Our God is the same God under the Gospel as He was under the Law. Although He is God as accessed through Christ, He will avenge all unbelievers and those who scoff at His grace. His Son was a propitiatory sacrificial offering for the sin of humanity far beyond anything seen and heard on Mount Sinai. Sin is considered an abomination to God. Man must learn to serve God in reverence and fear, acknowledging God abhors sin. He will consume sin just as fire. If man is caught in that sin, he will be caught up in God’s all-consuming fire. It is best to serve God with steadfast thanksgiving and praise Him in reverence and godly fear.


Written by Deborah C Davis

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