18 For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest 19 and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. 20 For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” 21 Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” 22 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, 23 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, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
Over the years my wife has developed a bit of a green thumb raising plants and flowers that decorate the front walkway of our house and back porch. So other folks we know are quite gifted and dedicated to their own backyard gardens which are filled not only with flowers but with fruits and vegetables.
As beautiful as they are, these personal gardens are nothing compared to Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square Pennsylvania.
In 1906 Pierre S. du Pont purchased the property that became Longwood Gardens. Longwood Gardens is a botanical garden that consists of over 1,077 acres of gardens (4.5 acres of which are heated greenhouses), woodlands, and meadows and it is one of the premier horticultural display gardens in the United States.
I was thinking about the contrast between personal gardens compared to Longwood gardens as I was reading this passage as Hebrews compares Mt. Sinai with Mt. Zion.
Mt. Sinai represents the old covenant and the picture the passage paints is from Exodus 19. It’s an awe-filled and terrifying sight as the people of God approach Mt. Sinai. Thunder, lightning, a thick cloud, and loud trumpet blast, the mountain shaking, and the voice of the Lord. Strict instructions were given that no one, not even an animal was to come upon the mountain because it was considered holy.
Contrast the terrifying unapproachable holiness of Mt. Sinai with the holiness of Mt. Zion. Holiness matters just as much with Mt. Zion, but now, through Jesus, the lavish grace of God does a work of transformation to all who entrust their lives to Jesus. For those who entrust their lives to Jesus, they are cleansed through His death on the cross, they are made holy, and the incredible thing we find in verse 22 is that they have come to Mt. Zion—in other words, they are already citizens of the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and have access to the throne of Grace.
All who entrust their lives wholeheartedly to Jesus belong. You belong.
And here’s the challenging thing for us to consider as we think about our heavenly citizenship. I love how N.T. Wright frames it, “Does your life of prayer and worship, whether alone or with your fellow believers, carry the sense of joy and excitement that comes bubbling out of these verses? If not, why not?”
God bless you and know that I am praying for you constantly.