Remain at the Mountain of God’s Grace!

September 11, 2022

Pastor Gunnar Ledermann

Hebrews 12:18-24

Hebrews 12:18-24

18 You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; 19 to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, 20 because they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.” 21 The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.”

22 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

Queen Elizabeth II reigned for 70 years, the longest of any British monarch. Last week she passed away at 96. During her lifetime, she saw many things both good and bad. She saw World War II and the many wars since then along with riots, financial crises and outbreaks of disease. She also saw the Polio vaccine created, manned space missions, the Berlin Wall fall and her great grandchildren be born. Few people have the kind of strength it takes to serve in a role for 70 years and to live into their 90s.

Regardless of a person’s strength, God does great things through miracles. In our Old Testament reading from Judges 7, a man named Gideon needed strength. He was facing an army of over 130,000 soldiers with an army of about 30,000 soldiers, meaning each of his men would be against four of the enemy. Then we hear in Judges 7, 2 The Lord said to Gideon, “You have too many men. I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me, ‘My own strength has saved me.’ These were not the words Gideon would have liked to hear. Instead, the news that another 100,000 Israelites were on their way would have been the kind of news he wanted to hear. Yet, the Lord had planned a miracle. The Lord wanted Gideon to rely on the Lord’s miraculous strength to win this battle. So, the Lord widdled Gideons army down to just 300, changing the odds from one to four to one soldier from Israel’s army against 450 of Midian’s. Despite the odds, God was faithful to his word to Gideon, and he delivered Israel from the Midianites as we hear in Judges 8, 28 Thus Midian was subdued before the Israelites and did not raise its head again. During Gideon’s lifetime, the land had peace forty years. As with Gideon, God has also delivered you from overwhelming odds.

The odds against you were even more overwhelming than those against Gideon’s army. The overwhelming odds that cause you to tremble in fear are recorded in our New Testament reading from Hebrews 12:

18 … a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; 19 to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, 20 because they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.” 21 The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.”

This is a description of Mount Sinai when God gave the law to Israel. God’s law strikes the same fear into your heart as it did Israel because you have not kept it and the punishment for breaking God’s law is death and hell. If you had been standing at the base of Mount Sinai among the Israelites, you would have said the same thing that is recorded in Exodus 20, 19 … [the Israelites] said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.” Moses speaking God’s law to Israel may have kept them from facing judgment immediately, but in the end each of them died and experienced standing before God, the final judge. You will have the same moment standing before God to answer for your sins.

The only way to survive God’s judgment is through Jesus, so the temptation you face as a believer is to abandon Christ. This temptation creeps into your life when you distance yourself from hearing God’s law. If feels right to distance yourself from a message that makes you uncomfortable, but you cannot run from God. Also, Jesus does not seem so important when you avoid the Bible losing yourself in work, family, society, etc. Sin does not seem so important if you avoid the subject, but no one has ever avoided the results of their sins as we read in Ezekiel 18, 20 The one who sins is the one who will die. You and I sin, so you and I will die. Those odds of zero survivors to billions of deaths are guaranteed regardless of your strength.

God alone overcomes your impossible odds. Your sins, death and hell were overcome by Jesus. I left a few words out earlier when I read from Hebrews 12. Those words were, 18 You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm.” You have not come to the mountain of fear. Instead, Hebrews 12 continues with the description of the mountain of God’s grace:

22 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

You are at the mountain of eternal life through Jesus. No longer do you stand in fear of God, but in love and thanksgiving. No longer do you live by the law, but by the gospel. No longer do you live in unbelief, but faith, hope and trust. No longer do you live thinking you can keep God’s law for salvation, but you trust Jesus’ kept the law perfectly so that he could give you his righteousness. No longer does the law crush you, instead you have been raised up as we hear in Ephesians 2, 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus. Through Jesus you will live in the “heavenly Jerusalem” forever because of 24 … “Jesus the mediator of a new covenant.” Jesus suffered your death and experienced your hell on the cross. Jesus is the one out of all people who died and rose. You are free from God’s judgment through Jesus. His blood cries out that you are saved, unlike Abel, who was murdered by his brother Cain, whose blood cried out for judgment.

Through Jesus, you have not come to the mountain of God’s judgment, but God’s grace. So, the encouragement from Hebrews 12 is to remain at that mountain of God’s grace. Stand in the presence of your Savior Jesus. Do that by remaining in his Word as we hear in 2 Timothy 3:

14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

You must remain connected to Jesus, to God’s Word, to the power of the Holy Spirit working through God’s Word, to the sacraments because your strength will fail, but God’s remains. God’s strength and power will outlast even the highest, grandest mountains on earth. In our Gospel reading from Luke 13, Jesus was asked, 23 … “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?” He said to them, 24 “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.” Jesus wants you to remain at the mountain of God’s grace. You remain there because of Jesus’ sacrifice to take away your sins and give you the gift of his righteousness. With Jesus’ righteousness, his goodness, you have no fear of God’s judgment. Through faith in Jesus, you have kept the law and are without sin. Through Jesus you do not stand trembling before God but singing his praise with joy and thanksgiving along with the angels as we hear in Revelation 5, 12 In a loud voice they were saying: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!”

It took a kind of strength that few have for Queen Elizabeth II to serve in her role for 70 years and to live into her 90s. Regardless of a person’s strength, it is God who saves us from the overwhelming odds of sin. Both the havoc sin causes in our world on a global scale with war, famine and disease, and the fear, guilt and certain death we all face on a personal level is overcome by God. Jesus is the mediator of a new covenant by his blood. He died and rose. He rules as our eternal king in heaven. He rules the heavenly Jerusalem of which you are all citizens by grace. Remain in his Word and remain at the mountain of God’s grace. Amen.

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