Thirst for the Word
The Bible is an intimidating book. It’s big; it can be difficult; and it says many things that can make us deeply uncomfortable. Knowing and understanding it requires thirsty desire, desperate effort, and a heart humbled enough by God’s power and grace to be willing to obey it.
Within the book itself, we find that the God of the Bible is intimidating as well, and not just to us who are reading it thousands of years after the facts. The Israelites themselves, though they were rescued by God from slavery, witnessed miracles beyond our imagination, and walked with the visible presence of God leading and protecting them, were terrified by his word when he spoke to them from Mt. Sinai. “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” (Heb. 12:20-21).
Israel’s response to the commands of this awesome God was refusal. They crafted for themselves a new god, a golden, voiceless calf whose only words would ever come from the voice of their own imaginations, and they celebrated it in the name of Yahweh. Many people died as a result, but God did not give up on Israel. He gave them his commands and continued to warn them through his prophets. Through the years, with the exception of a faithful remnant, they continued to refuse him. But “in these last days he has spoken to us by his son” (Heb. 1:2).
Hebrews tells us that Christ is “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Heb. 1:3). The God who spoke to the people from Sinai, now speaks in the person of his son. We are sometimes tempted to think that in Christ we have a new version of God. But that is not the argument of Hebrews. Rather, if the people shook at the sound of the voice from an earthly mountain, we should hold in even higher reverence the word of Christ who warns from heaven (Heb.12:25). If it was a sin for Israel to refuse the word of God on Sinai, it’s an even greater sin for us.
It’s easy to dismiss the warnings of Hebrews, as if they are only for Jewish Christians who want to go back to Judaism, or for people who want to walk away from the faith entirely. But remember what the Hebrews did at the foot of Sinai. They balked at God’s word, but kept the name of Yahweh. In doing so, they became idolators. And when we refuse to press on through the intimidation of God’s word, and instead opt for lighter fare, easy explanations, or even our own imaginations, to find out who he is and what his plans are for us, we are in danger of doing the same.