Hebrewsby Robert M. Solomon
In contrasting the old covenant and the new, the author uses two striking pictures. He refers to two mountains: Mount Sinai and Mount Zion. Mount Sinai represents the old covenant, where the law of Moses was given (Exodus 19). It was the fearful experience of God's holy presence that made the mountain out of bounds except to Moses and a few chosen leaders. The mountaintop itself was restricted to Moses. Any infraction would be met with instant death. Such was the terror of the mountain (Hebrews 12:20). Even Moses trembled with fear (v. 21). Mount Sinai reminds us how far we are from God and how terribly fallen we are. That is the purpose of the law. There is no relief for us there.
The other mountain (Zion) represents the heavenly Jerusalem (Hebrews 12:22). It brings us to God's grace and glory, healing and salvation. When we arrive at Mount Zion, we have arrived at the city which Abraham longed for (11:10), where countless angels are joyfully present (12:22). We would have arrived where the ″church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven″ is (v. 23), made up of privileged sons and daughters of God through the work of Jesus the firstborn Son (Hebrews 1:6; 2:10-17; Romans 8:29; Colossians 1:18; Revelation 1:5). We would have ″come to God, the Judge of all″ (Hebrews 12:23). We would have come to ″the spirits of the righteous made perfect″ (v. 23), both the pre-Christian people of faith (see Hebrews 11:40) and Christian era saints.50 We would have come to Jesus, ″the mediator of a new covenant″ (12:24). We would have come to His ″sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel″ (v. 24); an invitation to forgiveness, not a cry for justice. While the blood of Abel seeks justice, the blood of Jesus seeks atonement to bring God's forgiveness, peace, and salvation. In so many words, and such a poetic flow of words and images, the author shows the striking contrast between the old and new covenants. The new covenant is centred in the Person and work of Christ. It is He who brings us to God and His redeemed and perfected people, and to an eternity filled with God's glory and peace.
This is reason enough for any Jewish Christian who may be contemplating leaving their faith in Christ to not return to the old Jewish religion. Why run to the law to find grace when we should run to grace to find the law? We will not be saved by trusting in our obedience to God's law. But when we trust in Christ and receive His grace, we can then be saved and given God's help to obey His law.
50Bruce, Epistle to the Hebrews, 376-377.
What does Mount Sinai remind you of? What is the difference between fearing God and being terrified of Him? What sort of religious experience will each produce?
What does Mount Zion remind you of? Reflect on how the writer describes it. Is there a place still for the law, or should we discard it?