I don’t travel much - especially outside of Texas. But several years ago, on a whim, I decided to go spend the weekend with my cousin in Colorado. We were both in college at the time, and were much more adventurous then than we are now. So I packed a bag, hopped in the car, and set out from my small apartment in Canyon, TX. I traveled across the northwestern Panhandle and into New Mexico. I climbed the steep incline through Raton Pass and continued toward Colorado Springs. As I approached, I saw something that I’d never seen before. There, towering in the sky, was the snow-capped mountain known as Pikes Peak.
I’ve been skiing at Red River, sightseeing in Santa Fe, and honeymooning in Ruidoso so I’ve seen a few mountains, but Pikes Peak stands out in my memory. Having grown up in the Permian Basin, I am used to the land being flat. When I was younger, my family visited the Davis Mountains in west Texas, but they didn’t seem very tall. A few years ago I took my kids camping at the Wichita Mountains, which are really just large hills. Pikes Peak is different though. At over 14,000 feet, it is a beautiful and majestic mountain. To this day I can still remember the awe-inspired feeling that came over me as I beheld its grandeur.
In this morning’s message, we are going to consider and contrast 2 differing mountains described in the Word of God. As he has done previously with others, the writer uses this comparison to again demonstrate the supremacy of Christ. This is the 25th sermon of our series through Hebrews, and after today only 3 more remain - the end of this study is growing near! The title of today’s message is, “A Better Mountain”.
I. MT. SINAI (v18-21)
When Pharaoh finally let the Hebrew Children go, Moses didn’t immediately lead them toward the Promised Land. Instead, they crossed the over barren wilderness, walked through the Red Sea, and ended up at the foot of Mount Sinai. God had instructed Moses to go there first, to worship Him and receive additional instructions (Ex. 3:12). Sure enough, while they were camped at Mount Sinai, God established His covenant with Israel and gave them the Law.
Shortly after arriving, God called Moses to meet Him on the mountain top. The LORD instructed Moses to prepare the people, as He intended to speak to them directly. In three days time, He was going to descend upon Mount Sinai in a thick cloud. When they heard the blast of the ram’s horn, they were to come and gather before Him. The people were to stand at a distance, behind pre-marked boundaries, and were not permitted to touch the mountain as they listened. Moses shared this information with the congregation, they consecrated themselves, and got ready for the LORD’s appearance.
When the 3 days had passed, the trumpet (ram’s horn) sounded a the people came to meet God at the base of the mountain. Thunder boomed and lightning flashed as a thick cloud fell upon Mount Sinai. The mountain was in smoke, because the LORD descended on it in fire, and it quaked violently. Then God began to speak out of the cloud in the hearing of all the people, and delivered to them The 10 Commandments. They were terribly afraid and trembled at His voice. Thus, they asked Moses to speak privately with God on their behalf from that point forward and he did so.
II. MT. ZION (v22-24)
Zion was originally the location of the Jebusite stronghold that David captured during his conquest of Jerusalem. It was an elevated hilltop upon which he built his royal palace. Later Solomon built the temple there as well. Thus, the name Zion is sometimes used in Scripture to mean the city of Jerusalem in its entirety and other times its refers primarily to the temple area. In addition to this, it is also used figuratively to represent the people of Israel and spiritually to describe the kingdom of God.
In the last days, the nation of Israel and its capital city Jerusalem will be restored. Christ will reign over the new heavens and earth from there. The nations will stream to Mount Zion and bow before Him. An innumerable multitude of angels will be present worshiping and serving Him. The church - those who accepted Christ as their Savior and received a greater inheritance as “firstborn” children - will be there also. So will the saints of old, who trusted in God and were credited with righteousness. Of course God the Father will be present there, “the Judge of all”. From this heavenly mountain, Jesus will mediate the new covenant established in His blood. While Abel’s death speaks of jealousy, bitterness, and sin Jesus’ death speaks of forgiveness, salvation, and grace.
III. A DIFFERENT EXPERIENCE
The Jewish people drew near to God differently than the Christians did. Their experience and relationship with Him was shaped and influenced heavily by their perception of Mount Sinai. They approached the LORD in much the same way as their ancestors had done centuries earlier. In contrast, those who placed their faith in Jesus and trusted Him for salvation had a completely different experience.
At Mount Sinai, the people were terrified by the voice of God. They trembled and shook before Him. This uneasy, unsettling feeling characterized the nation at large in the centuries that followed. To a large degree, Israel served God out of fear throughout the Old Testament. They carefully kept His commands because they dreaded the dire consequences of disobedience. Conversely, Christians come to Mount Zion cheerfully to serve the Lord with gladness and joy. They are motivated by love and thankfulness, rather than fear.
Furthermore, at Mount Sinai the people asked Moses to be their go-between. They weren’t allowed to touch the mountain. Moses became the intermediary between the people and God. This developed into the model for their religion, as it continued through the priests. The people did not enjoy direct access to God, but rather had to approach Him through a representative. However, all born again believers may come to the LORD confidently and directly. They may approach Mount Zion through their divine mediator, Jesus Christ.
Isaac Watts was an English pastor and hymn writer who lived from 1674 to 1748. During his lifetime he wrote over 750 hymns, some of which Christians still sing today. One of his most enduring hymns applies to our message this morning. It is called, “Marching To Zion”. I want us to close our discussion by examining a few lines from this marvelous song.
The first verse invites those who love God to joyfully come and join together in a sweet song surrounding His throne. The second verse forbids those who do not know Him from coming, but encourages the children of the heavenly King to speak their joys abroad. The third verse explains that Zion is sweet presently even as it will be eternally when we “walk the golden streets”. The last verse bids us to dry our tears and march onward to “fairer worlds on high”.
You can come to Zion today by accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior. Immediately you will be adopted into His family and become a citizen of His kingdom. Then, one day, you and all of the redeemed throughout the ages will see Zion, the city of God, beautifully restored and together we will dwell with Him on “a better mountain” for all eternity.