International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday September 23, 2012
Purpose: To foster trust in and thanksgiving for a God who strengthens us for whatever trials we may face
Scripture Text: Hebrews 12:18-29
Hebrews 12:18-29 (CEB)
(18) You haven’t drawn near to something that can be touched: a burning fire, darkness, shadow, a whirlwind, (19) a blast of a trumpet, and a sound of words that made the ones who heard it beg that there wouldn’t be one more word. (20) They couldn’t stand the command, If even a wild animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned. (21) The sight was so frightening that Moses said, “I’m terrified and shaking!”
(22) But you have drawn near to Mount Zion, the city of the living God, heavenly Jerusalem, to countless angels in a festival gathering, (23) to the assembly of God’s firstborn children who are registered in heaven, to God the judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous who have been made perfect,(24) to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks better than Abel’s blood.
(25) See to it that you don’t resist the one who is speaking. If the people didn’t escape when they refused to listen to the one who warned them on earth, how will we escape if we reject the one who is warning from heaven? (26) His voice shook the earth then, but now he has made a promise: Still once more I will shake not only the earth but heaven also. (27) The words “still once more” reveal the removal of what is shaken—the things that are part of this creation—so that what isn’t shaken will remain. (28) Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that can’t be shaken, let’s continue to express our gratitude. With this gratitude, let’s serve[d] in a way that is pleasing to God with respect and awe, (29) because our God really is a consuming fire.
My Thoughts by Burgess Walter
It is important to remember to whom this letter was written, and the circumstances they were facing. Many believe the letter was originally written to the churches where there were a large number of converted Jews, such as the church at Alexandria in Egypt, and the church in Rome. Those in Rome were facing heavy persecution from Nero.
One of the primary reason scholars are hesitant to attribute the letter to Paul, is because Paul was always considered to be the Apostle to the Gentiles, while Peter was the Apostle to the Jews. However, Clement of Rome at the end of the 1st century was the first to use the letter in his writings, which is why many think the church at Rome was the original recipient and he attributed it to Paul.
The writer begins with another illustration of faith. The writer is saying faith is not something you can see and touch, like a burning bush, or a shadow that passed by Moses or the whirlwind. The writer recalls how those around Mt. Sinai preferred Moses to speak for God rather than God himself. They were uncomfortable with God's bluntness, and did not want to hear what he had to say. Even Moses was “terrified and shaking.”
Being a believer and follower of Jesus Christ, only requires belief, faith and trust in what Jesus accomplished both with his life and with his death and resurrection. Forget about Mt. Sinai (and the law)and think rather about the New Jerusalem, or as the writer calls it “Mount Zion.”
The writer then addresses the whole community or the church, all of those that are part of the great assembly. Jesus has done his part and given to us believers a new covenant, sealed by His blood, which is better than any sacrifice made by men including Abel's blood sacrifice, which was better than Cain's grain offering, but Jesus' sacrifice was perfect and eternal.
It is one thing to ignore what men say, but we need to make certain we do not ignore the very words of God. Our faith should withstand whatever trials and tribulations we may be facing. God has promised that His kingdom will stand forever and will never be shaken and we have access to that kingdom now through Jesus our mediator.
Because of all of this we should try and serve God in a way that brings glory to Him. Always remembering the power that a creator God has, and that he will be our final judge.
Christ offers a better covenant, than Moses offered on Mt. Sinai. Our lives need to show our appreciation for this opportunity we have of simple faith, forgetting all of the rites and rituals followed by the Jews of old.