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, 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, 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, verses 22-24.
One of my favorite Christian songs is “Days of Elijah.” There’s a particularly good version of it by Twila Paris that’s not saccharin, not too rock & roll, not too corny. It’s just uplifting, and one of the verses in the song says “out of Zion’s hill salvation comes.” Look up the geography of Jerusalem and you see that Zion is the hill on which the first and second temple’s were built. It was literally God’s home address on terra firma. It’s where the Temple was located, where King David reigned and is buried, where the Last Supper was held, and it’s not far from Calvary. In contemporary usage, Zion refers to the land of Israel itself, and to the cause of establishing the modern nation of Israel. Yet in days of old it was where God lived.
That’s a lot to draw from just a few verses. Then again, Jerusalem has been ground zero for most of human history, and Zion is the spiritual heart of Jerusalem. There’s a lot to consider with it.
The writer of Hebrews invoked Zion to symbolize heaven made possible by Jesus. It is the new heaven, the new dwelling place of the living God. You and I get to go there, to worship in His true temple, to make our home with Him (to tabernacle with Him). Where Sinai symbolizes our need for Jesus before heaven, Zion symbolizes our heaven with Jesus both here in this world and in the next. Sinai was a place of power and fear: Zion is a place where the greatest power in the universe – God’s love – took root and grew. Sinai was law: Zion is love. Sinai was remote: Zion is connection.
I can hear Twila singing about “righteousness being restored.”
Read, too, about Abel. The writer recalls Abel, invoking that the sacrifice of Christ means more than the sacrifice of Abel (both the blood of the animal Abel sacrificed as well as his own as the victim of history’s first murder). Abel gave a representation of divine blood in a sacrifice about his personal faith; Jesus actually gave His own blood as the faith sacrifice for all persons.
Read, too (again) about the firstborn. Recall the story of Esau and Jacob (or, for that matter, Cain and Abel, or any of the first-born sons of the patriarchs). Jesus makes us all as if we are first-born. We ALL get to inherit the best of the family. We all get to be treated as special because of what Jesus did in dying on that rugged cross.
“These are the days of Elijah declaring the word of the Lord.” Elijah declared God’s word to an unbelieving world. You and I get to do the same, thousands of years after Elijah, thousands of years after the Word of the Lord Himself.
Finally, there is the new covenant. We’ve discussed how a covenant is more than just a contract or an agreement. It’s a blood oath, a God-affirming vow made in faith and justice. God had made covenants with humanity all through the age of the patriarchs yet all of them were made to point us to our need for His redemption. When Jesus came, He delivered that redemption and made it possible for men to speak directly with God. He restored balance by making the perfect atonement. He made a path for us to spend both now and eternity in God’s presence. The Old Testament covenants pointed us to our need for God, yet the covenant made by Jesus points us to God in our lives. God has always judged all people yet now we get to see His judgment more clearly, more as an act of loving justice instead of punishing vengeance. We get to see that God’s holy law from Sinai was made perfect by His holy sacrifice from Zion. That the covenant Jesus made by Zion is one to which we can still be bound today.
Go download Twila’s song. I guarantee you’ll like it.
For further reading: Isaiah 24:23, Revelation 14:1, Galatians 4:26, Exodus 4:22, Revelation 20:12, Genesis 18:25, Psalm 94:2, Philippians 3:12,Galatians 3:20, 1 Peter 1:2, Genesis 4:20, Hebrews 11:4.
Lord, thank You for so many messages in so few words. In these days of Elijah, help me to declare Your Words to those around me.