Hebrews 12:18-22, “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:) 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.”
Sinai or Sion? There is a huge contrast between verse seventeen and verse eighteen. In the last chapter, we saw that Esau found no place of repentance. The word place is the Greek word topos, from which we get topography. Esau found no ground from which his circumstances could be changed. Now there are two options – two “grounds” that people can go to, and that is where verse eighteen picks up. Mount Sinai is in the Arabian Desert. God led the people there as a place of meeting. You can find the story of this momentous meeting in Exodus 19. God came down to the mountain of Sinai where the children of Israel were camped around the base. The people of God were afraid; because when God came down, there was lightning, thunder, and darkness. So, they asked if God would talk to Moses, and then Moses could tell them what God had to say. It was frightening experience. If someone even touched the mountain, they would be killed. Even Moses was afraid. He said, “I exceedingly fear and quake.” The people were at Mount Sinai so that God could give them the Law.
Law or Grace? Why would the author of Hebrews talk about that experience in the context of Esau seeking and failing to find repentance? Because Sinai is not the answer! If you have failed and need to re-enroll in Adversity University, you will not find a place of repentance there. The message here is: do not go back to Sinai. Do not go back to that mountain; but rather, move forward into the Promised Land and come to Sion. You will never make progress in your Christian life if you remain at Mount Sinai. In Galatians 4, Paul calls these mountains an allegory regarding Law and Grace. So, when we study them, we have to understand that God is describing and contrasting two different approaches to trying to grow spiritually and succeed the race. If you remain at Sinai in your spiritual life, then you are certain to become a miserable person and a failure. Students at Sinai fail because they refuse to move forward. Mount Sinai was only intended to be a temporary experience for the children of Israel. God only wanted them to go to Sinai for a short period of time; they were never meant to live there. The problem with living at Sinai is that it gives us an incomplete view of God. We need to understand how they got to Sinai. The Israelites had been in Egypt for the hundreds of years. God sent Moses to deliver them from bondage and slavery. After a series of plagues, God announced the final plague – the death of the firstborn. The oldest child in every home in Egypt would die, unless there was blood on the doorposts. God said that when He came through the land, He would pass over those houses. It is from this promise that we get the name “Passover”. How were the Israelites delivered? They were delivered through the blood on the side posts and the top of the door. They had to do that through faith; nothing like this had ever happened before. But, the blood saved those who responded to Moses’ instructions. This is such a beautiful picture of our salvation. Salvation is only through the shedding of the blood of the Lamb of God.
Rules or Relationship? The failure of Sinai students is vividly illustrated for us in Exodus 32. Moses stayed on the mountain with God for forty days, and the people began to think that he was not going to come back. They went to Aaron and demanded that he make them an idol that they could worship. New believers are very vulnerable to cults and false teaching. It is easy for them to be swayed from the truth. That is because they do not yet have a deep relationship with God. The Israelites thought that because God was silent, He was not present. That is not true. He is always there with you. God’s delays do not indicate God’s disinterest. But if you live at Sinai, where you are just trying to keep rules instead of worshipping God, which is what you are going to think. The end result of staying at Sinai is idolatry. You may not make a golden calf or join a cult, but there are many people who worship their rules. That always leads to failure. Your personal and corporate worship of God are the next step along the path God has laid out for you. Build a tabernacle and start to worship. Do not stop at Sinai!