This morning we have gathered together on the top of the mountain of God. Indeed, what the author of Hebrews says is true in a special way for us right this moment. That New Testament book says, “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. For they could not endure the order that was given, ‘If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.’ Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, ‘I tremble with fear.’ But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel” (Hebrews 12:18-24). Now you may want the music or the message today to make you feel like you are on that heavenly mountaintop surrounded by angels and all the rest, but Scripture says that you are on that mountaintop in Christ whether you feel like you are or not. Indeed throughout Scripture we are encouraged not to believe our feelings but to put our faith in the Lord. There is so much more going on right this moment than you can see with your eyes. And yet so often people long for experiences like the one in our passage today, one that pales in comparison to what God has done for you.
(The altar and the people were sprinkled with the blood of animals brought for sacrifice, but your hearts have been sprinkled with the blood of Jesus Christ.)
Let me draw your attention first to how the blood of animals brought for sacrifice was sprinkled on the altar and on the people. This mirrors the two kinds of sacrifices that were done – burnt offerings and peace offerings. The burnt offerings like the blood that was sprinkled on the altar has to do with atonement of sins. The peace offerings and the blood that was sprinkled on the people has to do with fellowship with God. They were afraid of God’s judgment and they were far away from God, and thus they were not allowed to come up the mountain, only the priests and elders of Israel were able to come part of the way up the mountain in order to fellowship with God a little more intimately, and only Moses could ascend all the way up. So this bloody experience very graphically displayed for Israel that He will atone for the sin of His people and fellowship with them. (Now as exciting as having blood sprinkled on your Sunday clothes might be, I’m guessing that is not the experience you have in mind. But something far better has happened.)
The altar and the people were sprinkled with the blood of animals brought for sacrifice, but your hearts have been sprinkled with the blood of Jesus Christ. Not only has the blood of Jesus been poured out for your sins on the cross, but your hearts have been sprinkled with it. Hebrews 10:22 says that our hearts have been sprinkled clean from an “evil conscience” or the NIV says a “guilty conscience.” He is not referring to a guilty conscience in terms of the feeling you should get when you do something wrong. Hebrews is referring to something much more fundamental – He is saying that your hearts have been cleansed from a guilty conscience despite what you might feel to be the case. You never need another dose of this blood sprinkled on your heart when you sin again. Jesus sprinkled his blood once and for all on the cross. You may feel like it or like the people that the author of Hebrews was writing to you may not feel like it but don’t trust your feelings, believe the gospel which says you are really and finally “OK” with God. (The blood of Jesus has been sprinkled on your hearts so that you can fellowship with God–or to use the language of Hebrews 10:22 again—so that you can draw near to God.)
Your hearts have been sprinkled so that you might behold God and live!
The priests and the seventy elders saw the feet of God and lived. Later in Exodus Moses will ask to see the glory of God, but God says that Moses cannot see His face, “for man shall not see me and live” (Exodus 33:20). But God let Moses see His ‘back.’ Here the priests and seventy elders of Israel saw God, but they too only saw Him in part – they saw His feet and what was under them (v.10). The fact that they lived is worthy of special note as verse 11 tells us, “And He did not lay His hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; they beheld God, and ate and drank.” The priests and seventy elders would have been eating meat from the peace offerings at this covenant meal. So they were able to behold God in part and live.
But you have seen God in Jesus Christ and in loving one another. This is far superior to seeing the glory of God like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain or to seeing the feet of God on a surface that Moses has a very difficult time describing but looks like the clear blue sky, or even seeing His back. Sure those must have been great experiences but as the Gospel of John says, “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, He has made Him known” (John 1:18). In other words, you see God in Jesus Christ as He has been revealed in the Scriptures. Truly Jesus after being raised from the dead said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29). You may not feel like you are beholding God in all His glory but the reality is that you are beholding God in all His glory because the name of Jesus is being proclaimed. As Jesus told Philip, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). If you want to know what God is like, look at Jesus Christ! And because the true altar in heaven has been sprinkled with His blood and your hearts have been sprinkled with His blood your sins have been atoned and you have fellowship with God. In other words, you get to behold God and not just survive like the 70 elders but to live eternally. Now I understand that you might still feel far from God and want to behold His glory. So consider this: the apostle John also wrote, “No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us” (1 John 4:12). Thus while no one has seen God, if we love one another then we see God in each other. Indeed, if you feel distant from God don’t wait for others to love you but go ahead and reach out and love others for God lives in you. We don’t need a mountaintop experience where we see with our eyes the heavens parting and a bright light shining and such to see God. We see God as we behold Jesus Christ and also in a practical way we see God in the love that we show to one another. Your hearts have been sprinkled with the blood of Jesus so that you might behold God and live. Thanks be to God. Amen.