I wonder who the writer of Hebrews was and what his relationship with the church that received the letter by that name, was. When I sit down and read the book all at one sitting, it seems like a sermon and a whole lot like a sermon preached to a church with which the preacher is very familiar. I wonder if he hadn’t worked with the church as their preacher for several years and for whatever reason was now away from them and heard of the challenges that had come their way by those trying to lead them back into Judaism and away from Christ. All through the book, he pleads with them to stay with Jesus who had come from the Father and lived among us to make a way for our salvation. He constantly stressed the fact that Jesus is better than the angels that delivered the Old Law, better than Moses, a better priesthood than Aaron, a better sacrifice than offered under the law and a better covenant to live under.
With each step he took he pleaded with them to give close attention to Christ and to stay with His way. He warned them of the danger of starting down the right road and turning back as the Israelites had done after leaving Egypt. His amazing question to all of these Christians was “How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation as that spoken by our Lord and confirmed to us by those who heard him?” (Hebrews 2:3) He warned of the danger of falling away in chapter six and the danger of intentional sin in chapter ten. Chapter twelve offers some “Therefore’s” that seems to be bringing the sermon to a conclusion and pleaded for how to put the whole thing into practice. Notice three big “Therefore’s” that we might call “Take away’s” in our day. In verses 1-2 He said, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.” In verse twelve “Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. Make level paths for your feet, so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.” Finally, in verses 29-29 he said, “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe. For our God is a consuming fire.”
Focus on the last of these. In the whole second half of this chapter he compared what it was like to live under the old law and the kingdom of Israel with living as part of the new Jerusalem, to the general assembly of the thousands of angels and to the church of the firstborn whose names are written in heaven, to God the judge of all and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect. He said we have come to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. It is important to notice that this whole segment is about the greatness of the church, the way of God that is available to us through Christ. The whole thing continues the point of how much better we have it in Christ than was true under the Old Law as Jews who were without the blood of Christ and the gracious covenant we are now under.
It is part of the whole comparison to say, “Therefore we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken.” Unlike the kingdom that seemed so powerful under David and Solomon, but were shaken by division, by conquering armies and by moral and spiritual decline, this kingdom that we now are receiving cannot be shaken or brought down. It’s roll of citizenship is kept in heaven. We are added to that role book, known as the book of life, at the point of our conversion into Christ. In the sense of being called out of the world into a relationship with God we are the church. In the sense of being under the reign of Jesus as the king of kings and Lord or Lords we are part of a kingdom. Being in this kingdom isn’t part of belonging to a particular congregation but into the relationship with the Lord as our king. Our mission is to spread that kingdom of the Lord not build our own little kingdom. It is to bring glory to God, not to ourselves.
When we think of the kingdom of the Lord and the joy and wonder of being part of it, we must be thankful. Praise the Lord, God cares enough about us as the ones who are saved from sin that we can belong to him as our king and savior and Lord. Our job is to bow humbly before Him in worship and devotion. We will never be worthy of the privilege. We should stand amazed that God loves and offers grace to even us. The real question about our worship to God isn’t about how popular it really is, how many young folks think it is wonderful or how it appears to everyone. It is to be “Acceptable to God whom we worship.” Often we think of worship as though the one to be pleased is us. We ask about how much we like it or someone else like it. We should be ask how much God likes what we do. God is pleased when we worship with “Reverence and awe.” When I read Revelation especially in chapters four and five it is obvious that those who worship the Lord worship him with great awe. The creatures were constantly crying, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty.”
“Our God is a consuming fire.” What a wonder that we can be part of his great kingdom!