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Warning Against Refusing God June 7, 2015

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on Hebrews 12:14-29.

Summary: The author begins by exhorting his readers to seek peace with all other people and be universally holy. He warns them against the following evils:

  • missing God’s gracious favor and acceptance in Christ
  • those in their midst whose hearts are turning away from the Gospel – as they could contaminate others with abominable errors
  • living in sexual immorality and godlessness – like Esau, who could not cause Isaac to change his mind in conferring his blessing on Jacob.

The author then reminds his readers that their forefathers went to Mount Sinai; at that time:

  • their fear was heightened by words that came straight from God, including the command in Exodus 19:12-13
  • consternation fell on Moses, as seen in Deuteronomy 9:19.

In contrast, the author tells his readers that they have been called to a glorious state through the Gospel. In this glorious state:

  • they see an innumerable company of angels
  • they see God’s elect, who have been called, gratuitously adopted, and made fellow-heirs with Christ of the whole heavenly inheritance
  • they have favorable access to God whenever they wish
  • they see the souls of people who have departed and are totally delivered from all sin
  • they see Christ’s sacrifice, which is superior to the sacrifices before the law.

The author then exhorts his readers to believe and obey God. He reminds them that Christ has revealed the mysteries of the will of God – and those who refuse to believe His revelations will be judged for their sins. To reinforce this point, he quotes from Haggai 2:6, where God promises to destroy the earth – leaving a new kingdom where believers receive spiritual things.

The author infers that since his readers will receive this heavenly, spiritual state under the rule of Jesus Christ through a gift from God, they – and their worship – should be well-pleasing to God. In particular, their worship should stem from a due sense of His majesty and glory along with a due sense of their own vileness. The author concludes by quoting from Deuteronomy 4:24 to drive home this point: God will consume and destroy sinners whose worship is not well-pleasing to Him.

Thoughts: In verses 16 and 17, the author presents the story of Esau as a cautionary tale for his readers. Owen offers some insights on this point in his commentary:

The second evil is godlessness. There are very few people in Scripture about whom more evidence is given of being a reprobate. This should warn everyone not to trust in the outward privileges of the church. Esau was Isaac’s eldest son; he was circumcised according to the law and took part in all the worship of God in that holy family. Yet he became an outcast from the covenant of grace.

I can definitely understand the rationale for Esau’s actions, as it is human nature to focus on short-term needs at the expense of long-term needs. Since Esau was famished after his hunting trip, he was in immediate need of sustenance; most likely he did not ponder the consequences of surrendering his birthright to Jacob. His story should compel believers to consider the consequences of their daily response to the Gospel message. Indeed, believers have short-term needs that they may prioritize over developing their eternal relationship with God, including aiming for a promotion at work, visiting the newest Michelin-starred restaurant in their city, and cheering for their favorite sports team in the midst of a championship run. We must be certain that our actions reflect our long-term focus on God and the eternal inheritance that he has prepared for us.

In verses 18-21, the author reminds his readers of the time when God gave the Old Testament law to their forefathers at Mount Sinai. Owen offers some insights on this point in his commentary:

The giving of the law was so full of terror that the people could not bear it but realized that they would die if God carried on speaking to them. The sinner is overwhelmed when he has a sense of the voice of God himself in the law. When he finds God himself speaking in and to his conscience, he can no longer bear it.

This passage caused me to ponder God’s greatness and awesome power, especially compared to my standing before Him. Indeed, I know that:

  • I am one person living in one city
  • this city is part of one county
  • this county is part of one state
  • this state is part of one country
  • this country is part of one continent
  • this continent is part of one planet
  • this planet is part of the Solar System
  • the Solar System is part of the Milky Way Galaxy
  • the Milky Way Galaxy is part of the Local Group
  • the Local Group is part of the Universe.

While I have omitted some of the intermediate classifications such as the Local Interstellar Cloud and the Virgo Supercluster, the basic point should be clear: I am just a tiny part of God’s creation. I cannot even begin to fathom God’s infinite nature, yet somehow He has chosen to have a relationship with me as one of His adopted children. God’s infinite condescension to His children is truly an amazing concept.

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