Text: Hebrews 12:18-29
“Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe.”
– Hebrews 12:28
When I read much of the Old Testament, I’m filled with awe. I think that is an appropriate response to Yahweh, the God of the Old Testament (and really, also the New). I read of our God who led men into battle, who overcame a giant using the faith and diligence of a shepherd boy, who burned in a bush. I see God who used majesty, and miracles of nature, and a whole lot of the Law to get His point across.
When I see the Law in the Old Testament, I am held in awe, as well. When I imagine living in Old Testament times, I guess that I’d try to follow every rule to a T and I’d probably pat myself on the back for getting it mostly right.
I think most people, when faced with a shiftless standard, either end up on the side of pride or the side of despair. They are either blind and filled with self-love because of their good work, or they are filled with self-loathing because they’ve never been able to get much of anything right. Both responses are antithetical to the Good News of Jesus.
The Good News of Jesus comes for both the ones who are drunk on their love for themselves and also those drowning in their own shame.
The Good News is sweet, that Someone who is purely holy stood to bridge the gap between lowly you—who can’t stand up to the Law—and the High King who calls you loved. He makes you new with His strength and His power, and you get to live forever with your loving Father.
This passage in Hebrews transposes the Law with the Gospel. Verses 18-21 speak to that trembling fear we see so often in the Old Testament. This is the God who demanded Abraham sacrifice Isaac, who turned Lot’s wife to salt, who conquered whole armies to make His name great.
Then verses 22-24 speak to the gracious love of God illustrated in the New Testament (love that truly was apparent all along, with God’s wooing of Israel, His pardoning of Isaac, and every rescue in the Old Testament).
Both of these are God. He demands awe and fear, but that awe and fear is also satisfied in Jesus. Our awe and appreciation is more for His great love and knowing that from which we’ve been pardoned. The Law allowed us to defeat ourselves, to break ourselves under the weight of the expectation, and to show us our sin.
Jesus graciously shows up where we fall short. He satisfies that chasm of shortcoming that we could never hope to leap. Our God is still the same God of the Old Testament, full of power and might. He has chosen to consume death through Jesus and there will be a day when He conquers it once and for all. He is a consuming fire.