Hebrews chapter 12 is a comparison between Mount Sinai and Mount Zion. The Book of Galatians speaks to the comparison in a similar manner. The Bible is also divided into Old and New Testaments. Hebrews 12:18 reads “For you have not come to what may be touched…” This mountain is Mount Sinai where God gave the commandments, and established a covenant called the old covenant. People of Israel treasured this covenant very much. There were other covenants such as the covenant God made with Abraham. We were originally strangers to all these covenants, but now it is different because we have believed in the Lord. The comparison between Mount Sinai and Mount Zion is a contrast between the laws and grace; the old covenant and the new covenant established by the blood of the Lord.
Hebrews 12:18-21 describes the experience of those who don’t believe in the Lord: “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.’”
I encourage you to read Exodus, which records how terrifying and fearful it was when God established this old covenant. Even Moses, the person closest to God at that time said that he trembled with fear. Without the Lord, we might still act like the people of Israel, boastful of the laws and the old covenant. Yet, they did not live out the law. This is the reason why they were condemned. God showed His holiness, righteousness, and judgement on Mount Sinai. The Book of Hebrews was written for the Jews, some of whom may not have been saved yet. Some of them might not have been steadfast in faith and were tempted by Satan to return to Judaism and the law. 3:57-4:01 delete.
These Jews used to be proud of the beauty of the temple, the prestigious look of priests in white robes, and all the rituals. In contrast, after they believed in the Lord, the meetings were held at home and there were not many people. They had experienced worship in the temple and synagogues. The congregations were larger. Celebrations on major festivities were observed a few times a year, and pilgrimage was made to Jerusalem. Indeed, God had prepared for the Jews very precious experiences in their long history. Those who knew God and loved Him were very joyous. But after they believed in the Lord, they experienced persecution and rejection from their fellow kinsmen, who didn’t believe that Jesus was the Saviour. Compared to the old days, they had lost their status and were even rejected. They no longer had a prestigious meeting place nor priests in beautiful white robes. Their meetings were modest.
Hebrews tells us what we have gained now is more excellent. This excellent covenant has begun, for Christ the Son of God has come. We should not simply value outward appearances and practices. We do not worship in Jerusalem or Samaria. Jesus told us to worship in spirit and truth (John 4:23). It’s so different now. It’s no longer mere beauty on the outside but desolation inside, continuous struggle in sins. In old times, the Israelites’ hearts were far from God, and they felt condemned and they didn’t have the peace of having sins forgiven. They couldn’t enjoy the spiritual blessings of the new covenant, because they held onto the outward practices and appearances.
During this trip to Israel, we learned that everything has been prepared to rebuild the temple in a short time, including the necessary vessels, the priests and the Levites. But are the Jews happy? Are they close to God? Do we need to pray and mourn at the Western Wall (Wailing Wall) like the Jews?
Instead, we can shout for joy. We are a lot happier because Christ has come and changed all things.