Hebrews – Chapter Twelve XXXV

by Ed Urzi

“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” (Hebrews 12:18-19 ESV).

Just as we have seen throughout the Biblical book of Hebrews, our passage from Hebrews 12:18-19 carries a great deal of Old Testament symbolism. In this instance, our text from this passage chronicles God’s engagement with the people of Israel as He presented them with the Old Testament Law at Mount Sinai…

“On the morning of the third day, thunder roared and lightning flashed, and a dense cloud came down on the mountain. There was a long, loud blast from a ram’s horn, and all the people trembled. Moses led them out from the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. All of Mount Sinai was covered with smoke because the Lord had descended on it in the form of fire. The smoke billowed into the sky like smoke from a brick kiln, and the whole mountain shook violently” (Exodus 19:16-18 NLT).

This imagery was undoubtedly familiar to the members of our author’s first-century audience. It also forms the basis for a comparison that will follow later in verse twenty-two. But for now, we can say that this awe-inspiring scene had a profound effect upon the people of Israel …

“When the people heard the thunder and the loud blast of the ram’s horn, and when they saw the flashes of lightning and the smoke billowing from the mountain, they stood at a distance, trembling with fear. And they said to Moses, ‘You speak to us, and we will listen. But don’t let God speak directly to us, or we will die!'” (Exodus 20:18-19 NLT).

Moses subsequently explained God’s purpose behind His appearance to the people in this manner: “…God has come in this way to test you, and so that your fear of him will keep you from sinning!” (Exodus 20:20 NLT). While the fear of God will certainly help keep us from sin, one type of fear is emotionally affirming while another type of fear serves a different purpose.

The first type of fear grows from our love and respect for Jesus and intimacy with God through His Word. Just as we are fearful of hurting those whom we love, our love for Christ should prompt us to fear those actions or behaviors that bring Him pain. The other type of fear grows from our reverence and recognition of God’s holiness and His position as the all-powerful, sovereign Creator who holds our lives in His hands. We’ll explore this latter aspect in greater detail next.